Tag Archive | "Made"

Google shutting down Allo, where Google Assistant made its debut

The company is investing in Duo and Android Messages, where it says it’s seeing consumer traction.



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The Biggest Mistake Digital Marketers Ever Made: Claiming to Measure Everything

Posted by willcritchlow

Digital marketing is measurable.

It’s probably the single most common claim everyone hears about digital, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen conference speakers talk about it (heck, I’ve even done it myself).

I mean, look at those offline dinosaurs, the argument goes. They all know that half their spend is wasted — they just don’t know which half.

Maybe the joke’s on us digital marketers though, who garnered only 41% of global ad spend even in 2017 after years of strong growth.

Unfortunately, while we were geeking out about attribution models and cross-device tracking, we were accidentally triggering a common human cognitive bias that kept us anchored on small amounts, leaving buckets of money on the table and fundamentally reducing our impact and access to the C-suite.

And what’s worse is that we have convinced ourselves that it’s a critical part of what makes digital marketing great. The simplest way to see this is to realize that, for most of us, I very much doubt that if you removed all our measurement ability we’d reduce our digital marketing investment to nothing.

In truth, of course, we’re nowhere close to measuring all the benefits of most of the things we do. We certainly track the last clicks, and we’re not bad at tracking any clicks on the path to conversion on the same device, but we generally suck at capturing:

  • Anything that happens on a different device
  • Brand awareness impacts that lead to much later improvements in conversion rate, average order value, or lifetime value
  • Benefits of visibility or impressions that aren’t clicked
  • Brand affinity generally

The cognitive bias that leads us astray

All of this means that the returns we report on tend to be just the most direct returns. This should be fine — it’s just a floor on the true value (“this activity has generated at least this much value for the brand”) — but the “anchoring” cognitive bias means that it messes with our minds and our clients’ minds. Anchoring is the process whereby we fixate on the first number we hear and subsequently estimate unknowns closer to the anchoring number than we should. Famous experiments have shown that even showing people a totally random number can drag their subsequent estimates up or down.

So even if the true value of our activity was 10x the measured value, we’d be stuck on estimating the true value as very close to the single concrete, exact number we heard along the way.

This tends to result in the measured value being seen as a ceiling on the true value. Other biases like the availability heuristic (which results in us overstating the likelihood of things that are easy to remember) tend to mean that we tend to want to factor in obvious ways that the direct value measurement could be overstating things, and leave to one side all the unmeasured extra value.

The mistake became a really big one because fortunately/unfortunately, the measured return in digital has often been enough to justify at least a reasonable level of the activity. If it hadn’t been (think the vanishingly small number of people who see a billboard and immediately buy a car within the next week when they weren’t otherwise going to do so) we’d have been forced to talk more about the other benefits. But we weren’t. So we lazily talked about the measured value, and about the measurability as a benefit and a differentiator.

The threats of relying on exact measurement

Not only do we leave a whole load of credit (read: cash) on the table, but it also leads to threats to measurability being seen as existential threats to digital marketing activity as a whole. We know that there are growing threats to measuring accurately, including regulatory, technological, and user-behavior shifts:

Now, imagine that the combination of these trends meant that you lost 100% of your analytics and data. Would it mean that your leads stopped? Would you immediately turn your website off? Stop marketing?

I suggest that the answer to all of that is “no.” There’s a ton of value to digital marketing beyond the ability to track specific interactions.

We’re obviously not going to see our measurable insights disappear to zero, but for all the reasons I outlined above, it’s worth thinking about all the ways that our activities add value, how that value manifests, and some ways of proving it exists even if you can’t measure it.

How should we talk about value?

There are two pieces to the brand value puzzle:

  1. Figuring out the value of increasing brand awareness or affinity
  2. Understanding how our digital activities are changing said awareness or affinity

There’s obviously a lot of research into brand valuations generally, and while it’s outside the scope of this piece to think about total brand value, it’s worth noting that some methodologies place as much as 75% of the enterprise value of even some large companies in the value of their brands:

Image source

My colleague Tom Capper has written about a variety of ways to measure changes in brand awareness, which attacks a good chunk of the second challenge. But challenge #1 remains: how do we figure out what it’s worth to carry out some marketing activity that changes brand awareness or affinity?

In a recent post, I discussed different ways of building marketing models and one of the methodologies I described might be useful for this – namely so-called “top-down” modelling which I defined as being about percentages and trends (as opposed to raw numbers and units of production).

The top-down approach

I’ve come up with two possible ways of modelling brand value in a transactional sense:

1. The Sherlock approach

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
-
Sherlock Holmes

The outline would be to take the total new revenue acquired in a period. Subtract from this any elements that can be attributed to specific acquisition channels; whatever remains must be brand. If this is in any way stable or predictable over multiple periods, you can use it as a baseline value from which to apply the methodologies outlined above for measuring changes in brand awareness and affinity.

2. Aggressive attribution

If you run normal first-touch attribution reports, the limitations of measurement (clearing cookies, multiple devices etc) mean that you will show first-touch revenue that seems somewhat implausible (e.g. email; email surely can’t be a first-touch source — how did they get on your email list in the first place?):

Click for a larger version

In this screenshot we see that although first-touch dramatically reduces the influence of direct, for instance, it still accounts for more than 15% of new revenue.

The aggressive attribution model takes total revenue and splits it between the acquisition channels (unbranded search, paid social, referral). A first pass on this would simply split it in the relative proportion to the size of each of those channels, effectively normalizing them, though you could build more sophisticated models.

Note that there is no way of perfectly identifying branded/unbranded organic search since (not provided) and so you’ll have to use a proxy like homepage search vs. non-homepage search.

But fundamentally, the argument here would be that any revenue coming from a “first touch” of:

  • Branded search
  • Direct
  • Organic social
  • Email

…was actually acquired previously via one of the acquisition channels and so we attempt to attribute it to those channels.

Even this under-represents brand value

Both of those methodologies are pretty aggressive — but they might still under-represent brand value. Here are two additional mechanics where brand drives organic search volume in ways I haven’t figured out how to measure yet:

Trusting Amazon to rank

I like reading on the Kindle. If I hear of a book I’d like to read, I’ll often Google the name of the book on its own and trust that Amazon will rank first or second so I can get to the Kindle page to buy it. This is effectively a branded search for Amazon (and if it doesn’t rank, I’ll likely follow up with a [book name amazon] search or head on over to Amazon to search there directly).

But because all I’ve appeared to do is search [book name] on Google and then click through to Amazon, there is nothing to differentiate this from an unbranded search.

Spotting brands you trust in the SERPs

I imagine we all have anecdotal experience of doing this: you do a search and you spot a website you know and trust (or where you have an account) ranking somewhere other than #1 and click on it regardless of position.

One time that I can specifically recall noticing this tendency growing in myself was when I started doing tons more baby-related searches after my first child was born. Up until that point, I had effectively zero brand affinity with anyone in the space, but I quickly grew to rate the content put out by babycentre (babycenter in the US) and I found myself often clicking on their result in position 3 or 4 even when I hadn’t set out to look for them, e.g. in results like this one:

It was fascinating to me to observe this behavior in myself because I had no real interaction with babycentre outside of search, and yet, by consistently ranking well across tons of long-tail queries and providing consistently good content and user experience I came to know and trust them and click on them even when they were outranked. I find this to be a great example because it is entirely self-contained within organic search. They built a brand effect through organic search and reaped the reward in increased organic search.

I have essentially no ideas on how to measure either of these effects. If you have any bright ideas, do let me know in the comments.

Budgets will come under pressure

My belief is that total digital budgets will continue to grow (especially as TV continues to fragment), but I also believe that individual budgets are going to come under scrutiny and pressure making this kind of thinking increasingly important.

We know that there is going to be pressure on referral traffic from Facebook following the recent news feed announcements, but there is also pressure on trust in Google:

While I believe that the opportunity is large and still growing (see, for example, this slide showing Google growing as a referrer of traffic even as CTR has declined in some areas), it’s clear that the narrative is going to lead to more challenging conversations and budgets under increased scrutiny.

Can you justify your SEO investment?

What do you say when your CMO asks what you’re getting for your SEO investment?

What do you say when she asks whether the organic search opportunity is tapped out?

I’ll probably explore the answers to both these questions more in another post, but suffice it to say that I do a lot of thinking about these kinds of questions.

The first is why we have built our split-testing platform to make organic SEO investments measurable, quantifiable and accountable.

The second is why I think it’s super important to remember the big picture while the media is running around with their hair on fire. Media companies saw Facebook overtake Google as a traffic channel (and then are likely seeing that reverse right now), but most of the web has Google as the largest growing source of traffic and value.

The reality (from clickstream data) is that it’s really easy to forget how long the long-tail is and how sparse search features and ads are on the extreme long-tail:

  1. Only 3–4% of all searches result in a click on an ad, for example. Google’s incredible (and still growing) business is based on a small subset of commercial searches
  2. Google’s share of all outbound referral traffic across the web is growing (and Facebook’s is shrinking as they increasingly wall off their garden)

The opportunity is for smart brands to capitalize on a growing opportunity while their competitors sink time and money into a social space that is increasingly all about Facebook, and increasingly pay-to-play.

What do you think? Are you having these hard conversations with leadership? How are you measuring your digital brand’s value?

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5 common mistakes made by B2B paid search novices

Looking to incorporate paid search into your B2B marketing mix? Columnist Pauline Jakober provides some advice for starting off on the right foot.

The post 5 common mistakes made by B2B paid search novices appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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The Career-Expanding Discovery Many Profitable Writers Have Made

"This skill enables your professional life as a well-paid writer." – Stefanie Flaxman

The struggle when I started my freelance writing service business looked like this:

  • I was fascinated with crafting words that accurately conveyed a message.
  • I hadn’t extensively studied journalism or entertainment writing because those weren’t career paths I wanted to pursue.
  • I knew that offering basic content writing services for businesses — filling up pages with words — would not pay high rates.

And I completely understood why filling up pages with words was not valued. Nothing is worse than paying for a service that doesn’t produce results.

When writers charge low fees for content writing that doesn’t persuade prospects to take action, two dangerous things happen:

  1. It’s difficult to support yourself through your writing services.
  2. Your clients don’t make new sales.

If a client thinks that the money they paid you was a waste because they didn’t make it back in sales, they’ll view you as interchangeable with any other writer — and there’s probably someone else who charges even less than you for a comparable lack of results.

This situation perpetuates the cycle of writers thinking that making a living off of their craft is unrealistic and businesses devaluing writers because they aren’t familiar with the power of the right words.

When clients see what the right words can do, though, everything changes.

Smart businesses value copywriting

To end the disappointing cycle, you need to offer the proper balance of content marketing and copywriting.

As Jerod wrote yesterday:

“Copy’s for closers.”

Once I learned about copywriting, my writing business benefitted in two main ways:

  1. I was able to write copy that persuaded people to hire me.
  2. I had a skill set that justified competitive rates and delivered a return on investment for clients.

If the work you do for a client makes them a profit that exceeds the cost of paying you, everyone wins. You get paid what you’re worth and they are happy to pay high rates for your services.

Copyblogger’s Certification program teaches you how to be the kind of writer that businesses value.

If you’re interested in joining our list of Certified Content Marketers who we recommend to businesses, make sure to add your email address at the end of this post. You’ll be the first to know when the program reopens to new students.

3 resources to help you take control of your writing career

If you’re anything like I was, you’re looking for enjoyable, artistic writing work, but you’re also disciplined and practical.

So, you’re asking yourself questions like:

  • What types of new clients would I like to retain in the next year?
  • Am I open to learning new skills to attract those types of clients?
  • How can I prioritize the different steps I need to take?

You may even be thinking about possibilities down the road like becoming a different type of entrepreneur or joining a larger organization. (I joined the Copyblogger team after running my freelance business for six years.)

Here are three resources that will help you bridge the gap between the writing career you have now and the one you want in the near future.

7 Real-World Ways to Think Like an Artist for Better Content Marketing

"We make good sentences by starting with awful sentences." – Sonia Simone

Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that marketing was another word for lies. Don’t buy it.

Smart marketers don’t accept the excuse of “It’s just marketing” to hide the truth or produce crummy work that benefits no one.

Wise marketers embrace art as integral to what they do, as much as strategy and execution are.

5 Writing Techniques that Stir Your Audience to Action

"You’ve got to stir something in them before they’ll do something." – Brian Clark

Emotion moves us to act.

In fact, the Latin root for the word emotion means “to move,” because emotions motivate what we do. We don’t necessarily want to make them seethe with anger or burst into tears, though.

The goal is not necessarily to get someone to feel, but rather to want — and to act on that want.

How to Run a Sustainable Writing Business (Where the Backbone of Success Is Simply … You)

"Knowing the business of writing and content marketing gives you an advantage over other (directionless) writers." – Stefanie Flaxman

The success of a writing business depends on so much more than your ability to write.

It’s often difficult to balance writing for your existing clients and attracting new clients. Consequently, your writing income may vary at different times throughout the year and the work you love to do never quite feels sustainable.

Whether you’re just starting your writing business, or you’ve been building it for a while and are hoping to make it more financially secure, these 15 tips support a healthy, productive solopreneur venture.

Writers: Looking for even more proven ways to position yourself for greater success?

Our Certified Content Marketer training is a powerful tool that helps you learn new writing strategies and position your business for greater success.

We’ll be reopening the program to new students very shortly — add your email address below to get all the details. Registration will be open for a limited time, so procrastination is not advised. :)

Find out when our Certified Content Marketer training program reopens:

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One Formula to Rule Them All: SEO Data Analysis Made Easy in Excel

Posted by Jeremy_Gottlieb

Working in SEO, I always find myself poring over data and looking for ways to expedite the analysis process. Analyzing data can often be tedious, mind-numbing, and boring work, so anything that can be done to speed up finding that needle in the haystack is almost always a good idea. A few months ago, I began using a formula in Excel to categorize data and I’m constantly finding new ways to use it.

It took a little bit of time and practice to remember the formula, to understand how it works and how to troubleshoot it if it breaks, but the time and energy put into learning it have been dwarfed by the rewards I’ve seen from employing it successfully. If you take the time to learn this formula, I promise that it will be worth it — you’ll easily be able to cut down thousands (or more) of rows in Excel into bite-sized chunks for easy insight-pulling and data presentation.

Without further ado, I present to you:

=if(isnumber(search(“string 1”, [beginning cell])),”Category 1”, if(isnumber(search(“string 2”, [beginning cell])),”Category 2”, “Other”)

I apologize if I’ve confused you already. I’ll dive into the formula deeper, explaining its meaning and providing 3 different use cases for how it can help you speed up your work.

Use Case #1: Keyword research

When I’m doing keyword research for a client and I’m staring down a list (likely thousands of rows long) of potential keywords to analyze and their search volumes, I try to lump similar ones together to see patterns of similarity. At Distilled (we’re hiring, btw!), I might use a tool like Brightedge or SEMrush to see the queries a website has visibility for. Additionally, I could just put a topic into Google Keyword Planner and receive an output of similar terms per Google. Export your results in a CSV file and you’ll have your starting point for data analysis. You might even wonder how the formula I mentioned before could even be useful because Google Keyword Planner provides an “Ad Group” column, so one should easily be able to know how to divide up the provided keywords.

Problem is, the output is often divided up between “Seed Keywords” and “Keyword Ideas”, neither of which is helpful for segmenting keyword cohorts. The screenshot above captures the queries and search volumes around related terms for “workout supplements” (note the “Seed Keyword” in cell A2 compared to all others.)

But what if I want to break down this entire list (681 queries, obviously all not shown in the screenshot) to find out how many queries include the word “supplement?” Or perhaps I want to know how many contain “muscle”; I can do that too.

The first thing I’m going to do is remove column A (Ad group) because it’s completely useless. I’m then going to add a column to the right of our search volume column and label it “Category.” At this point we’ll come up with our initial ideas for categorization, so let’s go with “supplement” and “muscle.” In cell C2 we’ll type the formula:

=if(isnumber(search(“supplement”,A2)),”Supplement”, if(isnumber(search(“muscle”,A2)),”Muscle”,”Other”))

Translated, this formula says: Search cell A2 and if “supplement” is found, return the category “Supplement.” If “supplement” is not found, look for “muscle,” and if that is found, return “Muscle” as the category. If neither “supplement” nor “muscle” are found, return “Other” as the category.

I can continue to add specifications to the formula as I see fit; “other” would just keep getting pushed back as other strings get searched for. The screenshot below shows this formula in action:

The real power of this formula is that it can be used across the entire dataset, removing the need for someone to manually go through and categorize each keyword. Double-clicking on the bottom-right corner of cell C2 (where our sheet now says Supplement) will apply the formula to all cells in column C, as long as there’s a value next to it in column B (this is a rule of Excel, not the formula). The screenshot below shows the effects of applying the formula to all of the data. Notice how the formula has changed from analyzing cell A2 to cell A19 within cell C19, where the formula is being applied.

“Muscle” isn’t listed as a category in the screenshot, but it is listed as a category later in the dataset. I also need to point out a deficiency in the formula at this point. Where a particular query includes more than one of the strings we’re trying to categorize for, it will return a category for the first positive string match it finds. Row 29 is a good example of this. In this particular scenario, the query is “muscle supplements,” but because the formula looks for “supplement” before it looks for “muscle,” and it found a positive match in “supplement,” it categorizes the cell as “Supplement.”

In the cells where neither “supplement” nor “muscle” were found, it returns “other.” At this point, we add a filter to the data set and can filter out all “muscle” and “supplement” queries to reveal exactly what makes up “other.”

Looking at this list, queries containing “protein” seem to be a sizable percentage of the list, so we can add that as a category as well. From here we can add in a pivot table and sort by search volume and count of keywords. Click here to learn more about pivot tables.

From here we can gain a perspective of where we should be targeting our efforts and where we need to focus more. “Other,” at this point, is still too large a category, so I’d go in and refine it further to create more categories to find out how we can make this even more actionable.

Use Case #2: Disavow work

Google claims that a new Penguin update is “getting closer and closer,” but the actual release date is still unknown. What is known is that monitoring your backlink profile for spammy and manipulative links is a pretty smart idea. I recommend being proactive and analyzing opportunities to disavow certain links if you think they could be a potential liability. My colleague Sergey Stefoglo recently wrote a piece on how to do a backlink audit in 30 minutes, but if you plan on manually inspecting your referring domains (and you should), this categorization formula can help.

Depending on the size of your site, you could potentially be dealing with thousands or millions of linking root domains, so you’d need to start somewhere and cut your list down. One way is to sort the domains by some sort of metric (I often use trust flow from Majestic). I use the formula to look for common words that are associated with spammy domains like “submit,” “seo,” “directory,” “free,” “drugs,” and “articles,” though there are certainly many more (“.xyz” is another I’ve seen frequently). The formula finds any of the specified queries within your list of linking root domains, allowing you to quickly identify those as spam and add them to your disavow list. The screenshot below shows a sample site’s link profile sorted by “Spam,” using the filters above as criteria and then by ascending order of trust flow. The formula used in this case is slightly longer than our previous example, but follows the same pattern.

=IF(ISNUMBER(SEARCH(“submit”,A2)),”Spam”,IF(ISNUMBER(SEARCH(“seo”,A2)),”Spam”,
IF(ISNUMBER(SEARCH(“directory”,A2)),”Spam”,IF(ISNUMBER(SEARCH(“free”,A2)),”Spam”,
IF(ISNUMBER(SEARCH(“drugs”,A2)),”Spam”,IF(ISNUMBER(SEARCH(“articles”,A2)),”Spam”,
IF(ISNUMBER(SEARCH(“.xyz”,A2)),”Spam”,”Other”)))))))

In many cases, your link profile will have spammy links that come from legitimate-sounding domains. This formula won’t be able to filter out all of the spam, but it often helps remove at least some of the domains from your list. Also, it’s possible that some of the domains now flagged as spam by the formula may actually be legitimate websites. You should always analyze the output of this formula just to make sure it’s worked properly. Again, it serves as a starting point for your disavow work and can hopefully cut down on some of the domains, but it is by no means the only thing you should be looking at.

Use Case #3: Parsing Analytics

Another really cool use case for this categorization formula is data analysis from Google Analytics. For my clients, I’m often analyzing information about traffic to a client’s site from organic channels. I’ll change the displayed number of results from 10 to 2,500 and export the data. Once exported, I may want to know which types of pages tend to get the most traffic, convert at the highest rate, bring in the most money, or the opposite of all of these.

As each client’s site is different, you’d be looking for different things on each site. Ideally, the site will have an established subfolder structure like example.com/blog/article-1, example.com/supplements/product-1, or example.com/toys/gadget-1. With these common features in the URLs, you’d be able to label them whatever you’d like, perhaps “blog” or “supplements” or “toys,” and use this categorization to break down what types of pages work best and where can improvement be made.

For one client, I exported their data from Google Search Console and broke out their pages by “comparison,” “reviews,” “alternatives,” and “other.” From this, I was able to identify where we could possibly improve, establish what was working, and have more concrete data to show the client.

Conclusion

Categorization will not solve any SEO or digital marketing problems for you, but it can make data analysis much faster and visually compelling. The faster you can identify opportunities, the more time you’ll actually have for making recommendations and an impact for your business or client.

This formula is so versatile that it can be used for nearly anything. I hope that you find clever ways for it to make your data analysis easier and less tedious. As each site is different, it’s impossible to say exactly which strings you should be looking for in any given scenario, but if you can take away from this post an understanding of the power of this formula and how to re-create it, you’ll find quite quickly it can be used for more tasks than you can dream up. Please comment or share your ideas for how to use this formula in the comments section below or at my Twitter handle, @mr_jeremyg.

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Where Did Google+ Local Go? The Google Places API Change Made Simple

Posted by MiriamEllis

Earlier this month, I was standing on an 8,000’ pinnacle of the Sierra mountain range at the precise moment when winter arrived.

A few miles and minutes back down the highway, it had been golden fall with aspens, oaks, and big leaf maples in peak color. Then the sky darkened, showering hail. Right before my eyes, hail turned to snow, wildly whirling, salting the evergreens into obscurity.

Winter had come.

It’s a rare, exhilarating thing to witness patient Nature change in the blink of an eye, but returning to work from my time in the mountains, I met with another sudden change – one that took me by surprise, even if it shouldn’t have: the Google Places API had stopped delivering Google+ Local page URLs and was rendering Maps-based URLs, instead.

If, like me, you’re a Local SEO, you’ve learned what Google is like this in the space we call our work. Overnight, familiar packs change, crazy carousels appear, branding upends, functions disappear.

And you’re the one who has to explain all these shifts to your clients and co-workers.

I’m hoping this article will make it a bit easier for you to do so. With Google+ Local pages all but invisible to the public now, here’s how to describe the features you work with and the value of the work you do.

What’s the Google Places API? What happened to it?

Google describes this API as drawing from the same database as Google Maps and Google+, and it’s part of what powers tools like Moz Local and Michael Cottams’ Google+ My Business Page Finder. Plug in a query and the Places API previously returned direct links to the Google+ Local pages of millions of businesses. These URLs looked like:

https://plus.google.com/102761177822287678547/about

Now, the same queries return a Maps-based result instead, the URL of which looks like this:

https://www.google.com/maps?cid=7676087051067575200

While this in no way detracts from the usefulness of a tool like Moz Local, it does prove that Google is definitely, absolutely parting Plus from Maps and it means we Local SEOs have to walk a new talk. It just doesn’t work anymore to tell clients that they need a “Google+ Local page.”

This comes as no surprise if you’ve been following the ongoing industry discussion of the gradual removal of visible Google+ links from nearly every Google interface. Likely you’ve already started trying to use new terminology in talking to customers, but if you haven’t, the sudden sea change of the Places API URLs is a clear signal that it’s time to do so.

What do these changes look like?

In the recent past, you ­­were telling your clients that they needed a Google+ Local page, powered by their Google My Business dashboard, and looking something like this:

Because SERPs and tools are no longer returning Google+ Local pages, like the above, clients and users are unlikely to ever see these anymore and may not even know what they are. Instead, right now, they’ll mainly be seeing one of two different interfaces when searching for a local business.

Interface 1: The Local Finder Knowledge Panel

A typical local search — like “sporting goods store Denver” — will bring up a 3-pack like this, with a link at the bottom to click for more places:

If you click that link, you’ll be taken to what is commonly being termed the “Local Finder” view, with a list of businesses on the left and a map on the right. Click on one of the businesses in the list and you’ll get a Local Finder Knowledge Panel result on the right, like this:

https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=sporting+goods+stores&rflfq=1&rlha=0&tbm=lcl&rlfi=hd

Interface 2: The Maps Knowledge Panel

Instead of going through the 3-pack, this is the interface I now see being reached via both branded searches and tools that use the Places API. It’s also the interface you’ll reach if your search starts in Google Maps instead of in the main search display. Let’s look up “Dick’s Sporting Goods Denver” (or set your location to Denver, provided that’s still working for you):

This brings up a branded result with a clickable teardrop icon (note, no link to Google+) on the left and a SERPs-based knowledge panel on the right. Click on the teardrop and you’ll get to the Maps-based knowledge panel:

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Dick’s+Sporting+Goods/@39.593903,-104.9672887,17z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x6a86f080d7dbcba0

This interface contains the business name on a blue background, the rest of the NAP below, as well as additional information.

So, in sum, in addition to the now-familiar in-SERPs knowledge panel you get for many branded searches, you now have the Local Finder Knowledge Panel and the Maps-Based Knowledge Panel – at least, this is what I’m calling them, but you might think of something better! And, of course, the panels and packs may have special features for restaurants, hotels, car dealerships, and the like.

Making it as simple as possible for clients

The main thing to convey to clients is that all of these different displays have the majority of their origins in just one place: the Google My Business dashboard. That’s where they need to get their NAP right, add their photos, set themselves as SABs or brick-and-mortars, and all of that other stuff you’ve been doing for years. If the client can get it right there, this data will feed all of the various interfaces.

Signals of claiming?

It used to be easy to tell, at a glance, whether a business listing was claimed or not. The checkmark shield would appear next to the business name on the Google+ Local page. Unless I’m somehow missing it, I am not seeing a checkmark shield on any of the newer interfaces. However, I did come across something in the Maps-Based Knowledge Panel that may be of assistance. There appears to be a “Claim this business” link on some of the panels I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks, and my guess is that this is now our indication that the business hasn’t yet been claimed.

Still want to see a Google+ Local page?

Okay, even if no one else is still seeing these, maybe you’re feeling a bit nostalgic and just want to take a look at a good ‘ol Google+ Local page. Here’s how to do it:

1. Sign into your Google account.

2. Perform a main engine search structured with quotes like this:

“site:plus.google.com” “dicks sporting goods store” “denver” “about”

That will get you to this:

https://plus.google.com/102761177822287678547/about

There could be reasons you’d want to do this. Those of you who specialize in duplicate listing detection may already be figuring out how to use these commands to be able to continue surfacing those pesky duplicates — but let’s keep that for another post, written by someone more wizardly than me in that department.

Head hurting over all these changes?

Yeah, I know. I find it helps to take a short hike – maybe up in the mountains nearest you. In the meantime, it can help to remember that, as the Local SEO in your agency, you bring your greatest gifts to both team and clients in being the one who’s on top of all of these shifts. Mike Blumenthal puts it this way:

“Google’s rate of change is so many times greater than the rate of adoption that no SMB has a clue what they should [be doing] with Google these days.”

Whether this bodes well for Google’s ultimate future, I won’t comment, but I do know it ensures that Local SEOs will have a vital seat at any marketing agency table for some time to come. So, put on those snow chains and keep churning up this road. Your dedication to research and study will continue to fuel your greatest value.

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An Island made from plastic bottles by Richart Sowa

Where some see a simple garbage Richard Sowa saw a way to make his dream. More than 150,000 plastic bottles used to create this magical floating island, talk about creative recycling! Watch this video to learn more about your almost completely sustainable development now calls home. This will make you think twice before just throwing a lot of things we consider trash.

 


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How a Minimalist Design Made an Unexpected Impact on Book Sales

no-sidebar-results

Once in a while, you make a decision that affects your business and 100 percent of your revenue stream.

Such was the case with Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, except that he had someone else to share the blame with when things fell apart — Brian Gardner.

Nearly a year ago, Brian redesigned Joshua’s website, and along the way Brian insisted he remove the sidebar … which was where Joshua was selling his books. In the spirit of minimalism, they felt it was necessary, and the impact it had was something neither one of them expected.

In this 18-­minute episode of No Sidebar, host Brian Gardner and Joshua Becker discuss:

  • The prequel to Joshua’s website, Becoming Minimalist
  • The burden of our possessions
  • How Becoming Minimalist began
  • The story of how Brian and Joshua met
  • Thoughts on Becoming Minimalist’s redesign
  • Removing the sidebar on Joshua’s website and how it affected book sales
  • Leo Babauta and selling your readers’ attention
  • The Proxima Nova typeface
  • #brocation in Breckenridge and our ski run down Briar Rose

Click Here to Listen to

No Sidebar on iTunes

Click Here to Listen on Rainmaker.FM

About the author

Rainmaker.FM

Rainmaker.FM is the premier digital marketing podcast network. Get on-demand business advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.

The post How a Minimalist Design Made an Unexpected Impact on Book Sales appeared first on Copyblogger.


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How to Face Unafraid the Plans That You’ve Made

image of footsteps in fresh snow

Later on, we’ll conspire,

As we dream by the fire

To face unafraid,

The plans that we’ve made,


Walking in a winter wonderland.

Have you caught yourself at any time over the past few days and weeks daydreaming about what you plan to do in 2015?

Maybe you have a new website idea you want to launch, or an old idea you want to complete. Maybe you want to double your number of clients. Maybe you have a new plan for positive personal habits you want to implement.

So you look to the new year.

It’s a blank slate. Anything and everything is possible. The upcoming year represents a wonderland of potential where your best-laid plans are sure to become your proudest wins and successes.

Thoughts like these keep us warm, like a fire, on winter nights, while we conspire.

But warm and fuzzy thoughts eventually have to turn into bold and consistent actions. Otherwise, what good are they?

That means facing unafraid these plans that you’ve made.

Which means taking the first step.

No more New Year’s resolutions

Every new year is a blank slate where everything is possible and plans can become proud successes.

Of course it is. Every day is exactly that too. Every moment exactly that as well.

Which is why waiting for January 1, 2015 to begin executing on a plan already in your head is arbitrary at best, fearful and self-defeating at worst.

Why are you waiting? Why not take the first step, no matter how small, right now.

Face unafraid, these plans that you’ve made.

Because if you’re waiting for the “fresh start” of 2015 to get started on some new idea, initiative, or plan, what you’re really doing is letting fear get the best of you. And you’re better than that. We all are.

You have a fresh start tomorrow, December 25, if you want it. You have a fresh start as soon as you finish reading this article, if you want it. Heck, if you’ve already read enough, you can stop reading this article right now and get a fresh start immed–.

You get the idea.

Only fear, family, or egg nog are preventing you from taking the first step on your new year journey right now. Once the egg nog wears off, just find a few private moments away from family at some point over the next week … and then all you have left to do is vanquish the fear and step into the new year (a week early).

That’s how you face unafraid, these plans that you’ve made.

What one little step can you do right now?

So what is your biggest goal or initiative — personal or professional — for 2015? What plans are you waiting for the first day of January to get started on?

And what one step can you take over the next week to get started now? To start building positive momentum immediately?

Don’t worry about thinking beyond that one step. It will inevitably lead to a second, then a third. Just take the first one. You’ll already be way ahead of the alternative — which was waiting for the new year.

Don’t do that. Don’t wait. Instead, embrace the new here. Embrace the now.

Face unafraid, the plans that you’ve made.

And walk into your winning wonderland.


Want a place to publicly declare your biggest goal for 2015 and the step you’re taking now to get started on it? Hop on over to the LinkedIn discussion and share it with the group.

Also, a tip of my winter cap to our Manager of Editorial Standards, Stefanie Flaxman, for inspiring this post. She sent me the lyric from “Winter Wonderland,” bold part included, with the explanation, “Perhaps extract that bolded lyric and apply the sentiment toward fearlessly seeing your business goals through to completion.” Great idea. Teamwork FTW.

Happy holidays everyone, from the Copyblogger family to yours. We’ll be back Monday.

Flickr Creative Commons image via Sean J. Connolly

About the author

Jerod Morris

Jerod Morris is the VP of Marketing for Copyblogger Media. Get more from him on Twitter or . Have you gotten your wristband yet?

The post How to Face Unafraid the Plans That You’ve Made appeared first on Copyblogger.


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How Business Listings Are Made – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by David Mihm

As a local business owner, it’s important for your business to be
listed in Google’s search results. But how do you fix your business
listing if the information is incorrect? 

In this week’s edition
of Local Whiteboard Friday, David Mihm sheds some light on the
complicated process that Google uses to create its business listings.



For reference, here’s a still of David’s whiteboard diagram.

Video Transcription

“Hey everybody. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard
Friday and in particular a local edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m David Mihm,
the Director of Local Search Strategy for SEOMoz, and I’m here to answer one of
the most common questions that we get asked which is:  “Hey, how come my business information
is showing up incorrectly at Google?”

So they type in the name of their business, and there’s
either a phone number wrong or their address is wrong or sometimes the marker
for where their business is, is in the wrong place. So I want to try to answer
how Google generates its business listings.

So the first step that a lot of business owners take, which
is a great step to take, is they go directly to Google. Google offers a
dashboard for businesses that Google Places as well as Google+, there are kind
of two ways into it right now. A business owner goes and he enters his business
name, his address, his phone number, some categories, maybe the hours that he
operates his business, and he tells that directly to Google. Of course the
expectation is, “Oh well, I’m the business owner. I’m telling Google this
information. That’s how it should show up when Google spits out a search
result.” But in reality that’s not actually how Google assembles a business
listing. So I’m going to erase these lines, and I’ll try to walk you guys
through how this process actually happens.

So for many of you, if you’re business owners, you go to one
of these places, the Google Places dashboard or the Google+ local dashboard,
and you tell Google about your business and you find before you even get there
Google knows about your business. It can guess at what your address and phone
number are for example.

So you might wonder where Google is finding that
information. Actually in the United States
there are three companies that aggregate business data for United States
businesses. Again, this is the United
States only, but in this country those guys
are Infogroup, Neustar and Axiom. So Google buys or leases information from at
least one of these companies and pulls it into its index. But it doesn’t go
right into Google’s index. It actually goes into a massive server cluster that
takes it into consideration as one data source.

So not only is the business owner one of these data sources,
but you would have one data provider, maybe Infogroup is another data source.
Neustar might be another data source and so and so forth. So imagine this
graphic going quite far to the right, even off of the whiteboard just with some
of these data aggregation services.

That all gets assembled at a server cluster, somewhere in Mountain View let’s just
say, that compiles kind of all of this information. These however, aren’t even
the only places that Google gets data. These guys, these data sources actually
also, in addition to sending information to Google, they send data out to a
whole bunch of other sites across the web. So Yelp, for example, gets
information from one of these sources. Yellowpages.com gets information from
one of these sources. Many of you guys have seen my local search ecosystem
infographic that kind of details a little bit more about how this process
works.

Then Google goes out, and it crawls these sites across the
web and again throws that information into this server cluster. So again,
imagine this table here going off basically to infinity, kind of off this page.

Additionally, in addition to these data aggregators, in
addition to websites, Google looks at government information. So if you’re
regional, like your county has a place of businesses that are registered in a
particular county or maybe your secretary of state, Google is either probably
going to crawl that information. In some cases the government publishes this in
PDF format or something like that, and that gets pulled into this cluster again
as one of these data points in this huge spreadsheet.

Another place that Google might get information believe it
or not is Google Street View. Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea recently gave a
keynote at Local University in Baltimore, and there’s information in Google’s
patents that suggest that street view cameras from these cars that they go out
and they drive around trying to find driving directions are taking photos of
storefronts with business name signage, with the address numbers right there on
the storefront, and that information gets pulled into this, what we call the
cluster of information.

So there are all these different sources pulling in, and you
as the business owner, you are only one of these data sources. So even though
you tell Google, “Hey, yes this is my address, this is my phone number,
this is where I’m located,” if Google is seeing bad information, at any of
these other places from these data aggregators, from websites, from government
entities, Google pulls data in from everywhere. So if every other source out,
there or a lot of other sources out there that Google trusts, especially major
data aggregators or government entities, if they have your information wrong,
that could lead to misinformation in the search results.

But there’s one final step actually before Google will
publish the information, the authoritative information from this cluster. Google
actually has human reviewers that are looking at this information. They are
calling businesses to verify things like categories, the buildings that certain
businesses are located in, and these reviewers will again call a real business
offline. So if you get a call and it says, “Hey, Mountain View is calling you, it might
actually be Google.” So pay special attention if your business receives
those kind of calls. They might be trying to validate information that they’re
finding from across the web.

The other thing to keep in mind is that Google accepts data
from other reviewers, from other human reviewers via a website that it operates
called Google Map Maker. So if you’re having trouble with your information from
one of these sources, you might check Google.com/mapmaker. It’s like a
Wikipedia for locations. Anybody in the world can go in there and update data.
So it’s really, really important if you’re a business owner and you’re having
trouble with Google publishing bad information about your business, you can’t
just go into the Google Places dashboard or the Google+ dashboard and fix this
information. You really need to go to all of these different sources. So these
major data aggregators, they’re different in every country. So if you’re from
somewhere else in the world besides the United States, you need to do some
research on who these guys are. You need to update your information at Internet
yellow pages sites. You definitely need to update your information with
government authorities, and you probably want to check your information at
least on this Google Map Maker site, because all of these feed into this
central data cluster that then feeds into a Google search result for your
business.

So I hope that explains a little bit about this very
complicated process that Google has to assemble business listings. If you want
more information in the text part of the page on which this Whiteboard is
published, I’ll reference one of my colleagues at Local University,
Mike Blumenthal. Mike has a great sort of text based layout of what I just
explained visually, and Mike is actually the inspiration for this idea of the
data cluster at Google Local.

So hope you enjoyed that Whiteboard Friday, and again for
more information I’ll link to Mike Blumenthal’s blog down near the comments.

Thanks guys.”

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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