July 17th, 2012 @ // No Comments
As SEOs, we know that any outgoing links from our site on which we use nofollow will not be counted; they don’t pass link juice. It’s a common practice with links in blog comments. But what if nofollow links point TO your website? Could they actually hurt you…especially in these post-Penguin days?
DarrenHaye, one of our new moderators on the SEO Chat forums, posed the question in a new thread. “Google doesn’t use NoFollow links in terms of SERPs, but does it use them in identifying webspam?” he wondered. The idea was this: would Google assume that a nofollowed link leading to your site was dropped as part of comment spam, and that therefore the site it led to was spammy?
This question incited quite a bit of discussion among our regulars – including some that departed from the traditional “no incoming link can hurt you” stance. Long-time SEO Chat member tstolber stated “I believe that Google does use them to some extent when looking at a back link profile…I do believe that having too heavy a nofollow back link profile with irrelevant links CAN devalue” the authority of your website. He noted that “recent evidence (lots of analysis on Penguin) shows that there is some correlation between nofollow low relevance back links and sites being devalued.”
DarrenHaye continued his research and found a quote on the Google Webmaster Forums that indicated using the rel=”nofollow” attribute is as good as deleting a link for purposes of the Penguin update. The sense I get from this is that if the nofollow was added later, you lose whatever link juice you got from it – but if you’d been penalized for that link (for it being “unnatural,” perhaps), you’d also lose the penalty. It’s as if the link no longer exists, for those purposes.
Another long-time forum member, gazzahk, brought his perspective to the discussion. While he noted that Penguin did change the way link juice was valued, nofollow links pass along no link juice to begin with. So owners of websites who think they’ve been affected by having too many nofollow links pointing to their sites might be deluding themselves. Say site A sees a drop in its rankings and traces it to Penguin. The owner checks his back link profile and spots a lot of nofollow links. He blames those. But he’s wrong in this case.
Sites B, C, and D are linking to site A. These are not nofollow links; they’re passing link juice. However, a whole bunch of spammy websites are linking to site B, and at least a significant number are also linking to site C. Google spotted those spammy sites, and devalued their links. So sites B and C lost a lot of the link juice they were getting from those links. That means they have less to pass on to site A. So their links are worth correspondingly less…and site A loses some of its rankings, not because of all the nofollow links, but because links that don’t even connect to it directly got devalued.
Other issues that gazzahk noted in reference to Penguin include changes to the benefit from anchor text, “and it appears there may also have been a significant devaluation of what type of links to and do not bring juice any more. It also appears that there was a significant change to geo relevance around April as well.” If you saw your website’s ranking drop in April, Google’s Penguin update may be to blame.
Not surprisingly, SEO Chat forum member fathom also weighed in on the issue. He noted that “According to Google, any link with the nofollow attribute in the element is categorically dropped from the link graph.” Additionally, “a dozen or so Google staffers have suggested if you have been devalued by PENGUIN you do not need to delete webspam; simply add[ing] the nofollow attribute will undo devaluation while allowing you to keep any referral traffic from ‘paid links,’ ‘traded links,’ ‘link wheels,’ or any other webspam links.”
This is a little different from worrying if nofollow links pointed to your site are hurting you; it’s more a question of managing your outgoing links, and making sure that the ones that get dofollowed are relevant. Google assumes websites can control their outgoing links, after all. Still, simply slapping nofollow on the links in your blog comments might not be enough.
Consider this: a number of spammy comments on your pet-training blog talk about cheap drugs and drop links. You have them nofollowed, so you figure you’re covered and don’t bother to actually clean up the comments. Well, Google crawls that page of your blog, takes a look at the content, and its algorithm gets confused. Is this page about pet training or cheap drugs? Moreover, all those spammy comments might look like keyword stuffing to a computer algorithm.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of this discussion. How do you handle the rel=”nofollow” attribute for your website? What kind of role does it play in your link building campaign? Feel free to answer in the comments below or join the discussion at the thread, linked above.
July 17th, 2012 @ // No Comments
She’ll be the fifth CEO at the beleaguered search company in five years, but that doesn’t seem to have dampened Marissa Mayer’s enthusiasm for her new post. Formerly employee number 20 at Google, Mayer will need to bring all of her considerable skills and talents to bear if hopes to save her old company’s venerable competitor.
Mayer arrived at Google back in 1999 with a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford. A math whiz with a photographic memory, she managed the launch of more than 100 features and products at Google, including Google News and Gmail. If you like Google’s clean, uncluttered look and feel, you can thank Mayer.
One would expect someone with that kind of energy and ability to get tapped for a “C” level position, but about a year and a half ago, Google moved her to mapping and location services – away from search. Many saw this as a demotion. As the NY Times explains, the year after she became vice president of that group, “Google promoted another executive, Jeff Huber, to be the senior vice president for local and commerce, putting him one level above Ms. Mayer’s post.” To Mayer, that must have felt like a slap in the face.
So now she’s bringing her energy and ability to Yahoo. With the challenges she’s going to face, she’ll need everything she can bring to bear. Wish her luck; today is her first day on the new job. She resigned from her post at Google yesterday, by phone.
The company and position she’s moving into brings a lot of agonizing history with it. The Associated Press offers a timeline of Yahoo’s pain, starting with co-founder Jerry Yang agreeing to step down as CEO in late 2008 – something that many shareholders had been demanding ever since he refused to sell the company to Microsoft. What followed was a parade of CEOs, layoffs, reorganizations, unhelpful (at best) deals, and lies. In the midst of it all, it seemed as if no one really understood what Yahoo was or what unique value it had to offer the world.
In point of fact, Yahoo started out as a product and service company. It offered the best directory on the web. If anyone can help it reconnect with this shining past and bring it up to date for the future, it’s Mayer; she’s a products innovator herself. Going forward with Yahoo, the NY Times notes that Ms. Mayer wants “to focus on the Internet company’s strong franchises, including e-mail, finance and sports. She also hopes to do more with its video broadband and its mobile businesses, tapping into its significant base of users.”
But could this challenge be too much even for Mayer? Shar Van Boskirk, an analyst at Forrester Research, notes that “Yahoo has too many products. I fear the challenge, is that by putting a former product person in the C.E.O. Role they won’t have somebody who has the ability to create a clear, unified vision and strategy for the Yahoo brand.”
It’s true that Mayer has never been a CEO before. But at least one co-founder seems to think she’s exactly what Yahoo needs. “In the last few years, given the turnover, there has been a lack of attention on the user experience,” observed David Filo. He should know; unlike fellow co-founder Jerry Yang, he still works at the company. “We need to get back to basics,” he continued, adding that he was very excited about the new CEO.
Steve Jobs proved that one person can make a difference in a company’s destiny, if they’re the right person in the right position with the right skills and vision. If Yahoo is very, very lucky, Mayer could be that person.
July 17th, 2012 @ // No Comments
I’ve executed a lot of failed link building strategies.
Some of these strategies I created. Others were handed to me. Over the years, I’ve discovered that the same reasons for failure kept cropping up. Thus, I thought it’d be helpful to outline the mistakes I’ve made and seen. Hopefully this helps you avoid the stress and headaches I’ve experienced along the way.
Here are the ways in which I’ve seen link building strategies fail and how you can make sure you don’t get duped by these common pitfalls.
Let me break it down…
The content strategy is the road map designed to create epic pieces of content. The link building strategy is how you plan on getting links. Sometimes you use content from your content strategy to get links, but sometimes you don’t. Sometimes the content from your content strategy helps generate links all by itself, such as when people find it easily in search engines and start sharing it on their own sites. This process is not part of the link building strategy.
Producing a piece of link bait isn’t a content strategy, either. Link bait is a piece of content that is created with the hopes of attracting a load of links. Link bait creators hope their content will go viral, and let me tell you, it is really difficult to churn out link bait after you produce a piece that goes viral. You’re lucky if one goes viral, let alone multiple. Thus, link bait isn’t a content strategy as it’s not really sustainable.
In addition, link bait can create a bad user experience, say in the case that you are churning out infographic after infographic all hosted on your company blog. Frequent visitors to that blog might become alienated, especially in “boring” or small niches where you often need to think of tangential topics and audiences to make a successful piece of link bait.
Why should you know (and care about) the difference? Because getting link bait and content strategy confused can set your team up for failure. It often results in expectations not being met, as they will be unrealistic from the start. Plus, each of these strategies answers different questions as they are being created — such as the target market, goals, and metrics — all of which are vital to success. Miss one part and you could be missing an important piece of the big picture.
Create a content strategy that includes link bait (isn’t all link bait) and figure out where you can leverage the content for link building. Simultaneously, create a link building strategy that drives additional links above and beyond what your content can do. For even more win, consider how you can coordinate with your social strategy to really leverage both your content and link building efforts.
The key here is collaboration and integration, which will ensure you don’t miss opportunities for a win. Think you only have the resources to pursue one strategy (which I will call BS on)? I love this controversial article on content marketing being better than link building. I’m not saying I agree or disagree, I just love when authors take an aggressive stance
Trusty old Wikipedia defines a strategy as, “A plan of action designed to achieve a vision.” Unfortunately, a lot of times the planning and designing parts are left out, leaving a grandiose vision but no real road map for getting there. I see this a lot with companies who pride themselves in being agile. Sometimes they are just too agile, too shotgun and reckless, saying “let’s go, go, go” and hoping to see some wins later on.
No brainer here: create a strategy. Know that executing one campaign after another with no connecting thread is not a strategy. Here are the top-level pieces both a winning content and link building strategy should have.
Rather than re-invent the wheel, here are some useful resources for how to create link building and content strategies:
Part of a strategy is having a vision, but to achieve that vision you need to set goals. Typically, the best strategies have a number of goals, broken into both short term and long term. Some will argue that “ranking #1 for [insert highly competitive short tail keyword here]” is a goal, but since it is pretty lofty you need to ask yourself what short term goals can your team action in order to be number one.
Set up both long-term and short-term goals. Generally, the short-term goals will be stepping stones for reaching long-term goals, creating a tree of goals with actionable milestones. I found an acronym from a UK government agency that I thought was wonderful. It says that all goals are SMART:
In my experience, in-house link building teams tend to fall victim to this more often than agencies. Just as a link building strategy should have goals, there should be some urgency in reaching them. This is where tracking comes into play. I see a lack of urgency is often correlated with not having a system in place for inspiring that urgency. To be clear, what I mean when I say “urgency” is a timeline for reaching goals – essentially deadlines.
Every link builder is going to find a way to track how many links he/she is getting. It’s human nature – we’re out trying to get something and we want to see if we won or not. While I still find that the market struggles with developing a completely automated and instant way of tracking incoming links, there are manual processes that can aid in tracking how many links are received. However, this isn’t the only tracking that’s important.
Knowing the number of links is great, but what are those links doing for rankings? How have those incoming links fluctuated over the duration of the project? What does the anchor text spread look like? These are bigger picture questions that some teams fail to answer in tracking. It makes it very difficult to measure the effectiveness and ROI of your link building team if you aren’t looking at tracking data over time. And what is more important is making sure you share these results with everyone on the team. The first set of people who should know the results should be the ones doing the work. Too often the link builders are left out of the loop and given indirect feedback like “we need to get more links.”
Here is a top-level road map for implementing tracking procedures:
Everyone is going to have his/her own opinion, from the bosses to the link builders themselves. Those who own the project need to set a realistic bar and constantly communicate what everyone can expect. Keep in mind that some people won’t be as forthcoming with their expectations, so the key is to ask, and preferably have their expectations documented somewhere for reference to hold everyone accountable.
It’s safe to set the bar low so you can exceed expectations, but the key in that is just generally setting the bar. If you want to go even further, epmphasize constant and clear communication. A good workflow includes:
I see this all the time. Let’s put it in perspective with a hypothetical story.
The boss decides the company should try it’s hand at some link building, so he designates one person to give it a go. Let’s say it’s Susy the copy writer. Off the cuff, the boss decides he wants Susy to start getting 30-50 links a week, and of course to complete all the other copy writing tasks required of her. With a pat on the back he tells new link builder Susy good luck.
It’s not difficult to guess that Susy the link builder comes back with less than stellar results. Not only is the boss disappointed, but he also decides link building isn’t good for the company. Susy is left feeling like she failed, disappointed in herself, and aggravated at her boss.
Link building isn’t a get rich quick scheme..or at least it shouldn’t be viewed as one.
Devote ample resources to your link building project. This can be easier said than done, especially when you operate a small business. A good start is to hire one person whose sole job function is link building. Susy the copy writer shouldn’t also be dabbling in link building as nobody simply dabbles in link building.
Make sure to monitor everything he/she does in order to make a case study for obtaining more people and resources for link building. Especially when just starting out, companies can see a lot of big wins so make sure to track before and after progress to prove your case.
Depending on which strategy(ies) you pursue, the ideal team consists of:
This feels like it should be a no-brainer, but plenty of companies fail to make epic content. Sometimes this caused by looking for quick wins, resulting in not enough effort or resources devoted to content creation. However, a more common reason is not due to lack of experience, but falls on the fact that people just don’t know. People tend to fall in love with their own ideas (often which are too promotional) and have trouble seeing whether or not the idea will really speak to anyone.
First, know that the content creation process is not a sweatshop. Content should be made with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. A case study from Salon.com illustrates this concept well. Essentially, the webiste was able to increase traffic to the site by 40% by creating 33% less content. This supports the idea that content isn’t a numbers game; it’s a quality game.
Second, your content strategy should define accountabilities and create a workflow that implements a checks and balances system to ensure that you are creating epic content. If your content strategy is lacking, make sure you really understand how people are using the Internet and get the link builders involved with brainstorming, even if it’s just to ask them. If you have minimal content building experience, it’s important to have the people in the trenches involved in the discussion.
To make content creation even easier, I’ve created this checklist for what I believe all epic content should have. If you can’t say “yes” or provide a compelling answer for each, you might need to go back to the drawing board. Print it out and put it next to your desk right now (high res version available up request).
This section might be a bit misleading as link building can still be successful without being integrated into other channels. However, a lack of integration can be a serious glass roof on the ladder to link building awesomeness. There is only so much traditional link building can do. Big wins often encompass other divisions, such as PR, social media, the product team, and more. This is acknowledged well in Jon’s link building strategy list – in the top filter notice the checkboxes under “Dependencies on Other Resources.” The bigger your ideas, more departments will need to be involved. Without a seamless plan for integration and collaboration, working together is going to be one big mess (if it’s even possible at all).
Besides being able to work harmoniously, another big reason you want integration is because you can capitalize on what everybody else is doing and make sure you capture all the wins possible from a particular campaign. A lot of the initiatives your PR team is running can be easily tweaked to fit into the SEO team’s agenda as well. It’s called “looking for low-hanging fruit“, and it is impossible to implement this idea if you don’t know what the other teams are doing.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Especially at first, you are going to have to stay relevant by constantly communicating with the different marketing teams. I’ve found that taking the initiative and including these teams’ interests in your link building initiatives shows them a clear example of how you can work together.
For example, if you are running contests with bloggers, looking out for the social media team’s interests can help you make a case for why your teams should work together. It’s the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” philosophy, and you are initiating the “scratching”. By laying out a work flow through example, you will inspire these teams to get you involved with their projects.
To do this, include them in every step from inception to execution and make it clear how you are addressing their goals. Ask questions and ask for input. Consider it internal egobait. Pretty soon, you’ll have an open line of communication and your requests for regular cross-team meetings will be taken seriously. Before you know it, you will all be in the loop of what other teams are doing and collaborating on your different project calendars. Tread lightly so as not to step on any toes, and encourage hosting these calendars on a collaborative platform, such as a simple Google Doc. In the end, communication turns into collaboration, and that is where you will gain the most wins from your marketing efforts.
Just as marketing channels can be siloed, so can the different teams involved with link building. I mentioned above the different concentrations that should be represented in a complete link building team. Smaller teams tend to have no trouble including everyone in the strategy, as they all typically sit in the same room. But what if you have a large team? Maybe with offices in different locations?
It’s easy to leave people out of the link building funnel; people figure the process will ship quicker if there are less chefs in the kitchen. However, this is the easiest way for a link building campaign to fail. Not every person on your team can be an expert in everything, so drawing from the experience and know-how that all team members have to offer will help you succeed.
Know each person(s) or teams core competencies. By knowing what each person/team can bring to the table, you’ll be able to figure out where they fit into a particular link building campaign. The skills that each team member can bring to the table include:
Without the help from all of these people, you are much more likely to create a piece that:
Ensure your teams work collaboratively and communicate to create an inherent checks and balances system for creating winning link building campaigns.
I’m a big proponent of link building being renamed relationship building. The lines between traditional PR and link building are being blurred, and to get a link you need to bring it back to basics: networking. People do things for people they know. Bloggers and journalists get solicited to build links all the time, and you need to make sure you are among the people they come to know if you want that link.
The “relationship” part is left out because link builders are constantly pressured by numbers. Those who aren’t in the trenches don’t understand how much goes into link building. I would argue that with some link building campaigns, the back and forth with a prospect takes up to 75% of the time. That number is often lost when looking at metrics like number of hours worked versus number of successful link placements.
First, educate your team and manage expectations. If you are the boss, understand that link building should take time. iAcquire wrote an article on the effort required to build links and I don’t think it’s far off.
As far as measurement, make sure that the time spent negotiating is taken into account. If you have a large team and sense a problem among your link builders of not knowing when to let go (which I think is a big beginner pitfall), sit down with them and role play. Have them fill out a time log to capture back and forth if you have to. Host a link building hack day and get in the trenches to see for yourself just how much back and forth you’ll do. No matter the method, make sure that this is taken into account and encourage relationship building. It’s what makes link building scalable — as you can go back to the same people and be introduced to new contacts — so don’t give up. Pretty soon they’ll get to a place where they can manage a relationship quicker and more efficiently.
Disclaimer: this is a #tellmehowyoureallyfeel moment and is my #1 gripe with link building. I think the term has been bastardized – it is so overused that people forget where it came from in the first place. It’s not about the number of links. Link building was a means created to increase conversions. Conversions should be what you care about. Not the number of links. Not even how well your SERP positioning improves. If you are increasing the number of links, improving your SERP positioning, and seeing more traffic, absolutely NONE of this matters if that traffic isn’t converting.
Because of this misconception, I think a lot of SEOs will say a big part of their job is educating their clients/bosses. It’s quite easy to get caught up in the minutiae; counting the number of links and watching rank changes are easy to hold onto because they are the easiest to see. These are great short-term goals, but they are not the end goal.
My co-worker Carson Ward said this well:
Constantly remind yourself/your team of the end goal. Do this by measuring changes in conversions that are a result of the smaller wins. Especially while educating your clients/bosses, if they aren’t constantly reminded of conversions, they will easily forget. This is where defining goals and managing expectations are super important.
Second, remember that link building — and SEO as a whole — is only part of the inbound marketing puzzle. The only reason people have an online business is to capture new customers on the web. SEO is only one way to do this, and link building is only one way SEO makes this happen. Know the big picture and understand how your efforts contribute to the grand vision.
July 17th, 2012 @ // No Comments
Since launching my personal blog I have been bombarded with guest post requests, with very few of them being worthy of reading, nevermind responding to. Thus, it was literally one in 267 emails that inspired this article about what makes an email that webmasters and bloggers will respond to.
This never ending stream of poorly constructed requests helped highlight what makes an excellent email. We will follow the same process my inbox and brain went through to examine common outreach mistakes and how they can easily be fixed.
For those curious about what purchasing a “SEO Gold” package gets you, here is an unedited email outreach I recently received –
I have attached 2 of my article with this mail. Please review those article if you going to publish those article then please send me the link back url to me.
As a search engine optimization professional, these types of outreach emails make me laugh. As a passionate blogger, these types of emails make me rage for three main reasons:
And 24 hours later, before I got time to read the article, here is the mind blowing follow up!
What happens anything problem with my article. Please let me know.
I am waiting for your responses.
Real business operations cannot be automated. Hence, packages do not work!
The SEO Gold package, which after researching the company is what this email literally is, is at least persistent at being annoying! This package actually cost someone $499… should’ve spent it at the bar.
There was a single link in the article pointing to a Fortune 500 Company… not only should this be an easy client steal, we could all use another Penguin’d website to write an article about!
I recently launched my own website with little to no content, a non-existent link profile, and was still getting 10-14 guest post request per day… imagine the poor Webmaster with a populated blog. Thus, your goal as an Internet Marketing professional is simple – stand out with a personalized outreach message. Something which makes the Webmaster feel like this:
The following is another unedited example:
Great blog. I enjoyed your recent article about business communication on social media platforms. I was hoping I could publish something on your site. I have several ideas I am working –
I look forward to hearing your feedback.
It isn’t perfect, but the sender did receive their beloved link. Here are the reasons to why I responded to this email:
Here is how they could guarantee a response the next time:
In addition, do not tip toe your way around what you really want. Being direct has its benefits, and it is hard to trust someone online who you’ve never met.
Be genuine. Bloggers smell a fishy outreach a mile away.
III. Outreaching For Real People
It was 7:30am, and I was doing my usual email/coffee routine, when I stumbled onto this outreach gem. In fact, I ALMOST replied before realizing that the sender was non-other than Distilled’s Rob Toledo.
Yes, it took me eight days to write this
Here are the reasons I “insta-replied”:
Rob was an excellent source for this article, and also provided information about this specific campaign’s success! Without further ado:
We were in the middle of a Distilled Outreach “Hack Day” where the outreach team locks ourselves in the conference room and puts our full focus on one specific project — I think we ended up with about 25 linking domains that day. These hack days have started to prove themselves to be quite fruitful.
Getting it on Search Engine Journal helped the social aspect out a ton, as it got over 200 tweets from there.
I think in the 60% range of people approved the post ideas
I think the obvious one is just how impersonal some people make the whole outreach process. Spamming hundreds of people might get you 2-3 approvals from sites that might not be worth your time to begin with.
There is so much value in personalizing your efforts; truly getting to know a blogger, what they normally post, what their readers enjoy the most, etc. And besides, if you build up that relationship, and make it mutually beneficial, it can quickly turn into long term value for everyone involved.
I know for a fact that so many outreach emails go unread, so keeping that in mind, I never want to overwhelm an editor with a giant block of text. Keeping that in mind, I always adjust my approach based off of the vibe of the blog owner’s writing style. If they keep things short and to the point, I would reach out in that way. Conversely, I might write more if the blogger tends to be wordy.
For the PPC infographic, I targeted marketing blogs, SEO blogs, etc. I knew the end goal would ultimately be to find sites that have hosted similar content, so searching for things like “PPC infographic” worked pretty well. I almost always try to add phrases like “write for us” and “guest post” to make sure I’m not contacting a blogger who really wants nothing to do with outreach.
I strongly suggest you all follow Rob on Twitter, for great SEO and inbound marketing insights!
James is an Internet Marketing specialist, who regularly breaks the web and has his colleagues show him how to put it back together. You can find him on Twitter, or visit Vector Media Group, the company that occasionally feeds him.
July 17th, 2012 @ // No Comments
The world is changed (Galadriel)
The world has changed a lot. I don’t mean compared to last year (while it is true that many things have changed), but compared to ten years ago.
Ten years ago the Internet existed, but it was quite different. Google was still in it’s early childhood, WordPress wasn’t invented yet, and social was still synonymous with Yahoo! Messanger. IRC, AIM, and Forums existed along with a few experimental social media platforms, but they usually failed due to being too forward-thinking for the time.
In 2003, the first version of WordPress was released, soon followed by a relaunched Blogger which was acquired by Google that same year. Blogging was created, and communities began interacting through the “secrecy” of IRC before it started to become public.
Ten years ago, the now concept of Web 2.0 was a great novelty; people, rather than websites themselves, were what the web was made of. People who loved to share their perspectives, opinions, thoughts, and experiences online. That was the Linkerati Golden Era.
Fast forward a few years and, thanks to technology and a higher penetration of use of the Internet, the world was ready for a new concept of website: the social network. MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn (which were all created around 2003/04), and then Twitter (2006) became popular and started creating the concept of the web as we know it today.
Like it or not, the Internet now is intrinsically linked to the concept of social, so much that it is obvious that even the weirdest niche must have a social and community based network has a home online.
The most recent “revolution” is within the mobile realm. We cannot deny how the Internet mobile penetration has reached mainstream use during the last couple of years, so much so that we must declare that the future is in mobile. A future that – and maybe because of – will see social media as its main marketing arena. An arena were brands still struggle due to the uncertain “monetization” of social media and the neverending disquisitions about the ROI of social.
This posts covers all of the above topics and more with the speakers of this year’s MozCon. They will discuss the relation between social media specialists and SEOs, and about Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. We’ll also cover the importance of blogs and forums, and the risk of relying solely on social media as web marketing channel. And, yes, they will even voice their opinions about social media ROI.
Before diving into Social Media Marketing, let me ask you a more personal question:
What is your relationship with social media outside of your profession as a web marketer, and how has it changed over the years?
Mike Pantoliano: Like many, I didn’t see the value in Twitter as it started. I think my first tweet was I’m Hungry. 3 months later, I don’t get it. So, yeah that one took a bit to catch on. As I was just getting into SEO, Twitter was instrumental. These days, I’ve found it less useful and can go days without opening it.
Facebook started early at my college, and I wasn’t surprised by its viral growth at the time.
I don’t care for Google+.
Peter Meyers: Personally, my relationship with social media is rocky. On the one hand, Twitter is responsible for a large part of my professional success and direct revenue. On the other hand, it can be a massive distraction and time-sink.
I’ve quit social media cold turkey for 30 days twice – both times, I was incredibly productive, and yet I lost something by pulling myself out of the stream. It’s not an easy balance, and we’re not good at finding it yet.
Cyrus Shepard: I didn’t start using Twitter until I got a job working at SEOmoz in late 2010. It was awkward, embarrassing, and I wasn’t a very good Tweeter. I’m naturally a recluse about half the time, but social media has helped me to come out of my shell.
The greatest inventions of the past 10,000 years have evolved from advancements in communication: written language, the printing press, telegraphs, telephones, radio, television, the Internet, cell phones, etc. Social media advances the sharing of ideas on a both a personal and macro level. When we let it into our lives, it’s a very powerful tool.
Ian Lurie: I guess you could say I started in social media back in the days of BBS’s and modems. I had one of those modems that looked like two big suckers. I’d stick the handset into it after I heard the modem on the other side start chirping, and like magic, we’d get text on the screen. That was 1982 in or so.
But I’m very skeptical of the term ‘social media.’ All media is social to some extent. There is no ‘anti-social media.’
So you could say it’s the oldest friend I have that doesn’t actually exist .
Aleyda Solis: I’m a very engaged user of Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, LinkedIn and Facebook. I’m a geek so I’m always testing new online services, networks, apps… I’m always connected not only for professional reasons but also because of personal preferences. Nonetheless, for me it’s obvious that my online social activity has been growing much more during the last couple of years, since I have owned a more powerful smartphone (an iPhone4, where before I owned an iPhone2) that has allowed me do much more things on the go.
Jonathon Colman: I remember seeing Friendster back in 2002 and thinking Yes – this is how the future will look! While Friendster didn’t last, it was part of the original group of social networking sites that kicked off the user-generated content/connection/curation movement that continued with MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
I used to use my social network presences exclusively for marketing my employers, but now I’m much more focused on engaging with and learning from the folks I care about most. I feel like social media is part of the fabric of how I interact with people. Don’t you?
Rand Fishkin: I’ve always used the social portions of the web – forums, blogs, commenting, etc. It started as a way to ask questions and learn more and evolved into a way to build relationships and even do marketing directly with my personal and company brand.
Marty Weintraub: So far as my own habits, I’d have to say my favorite channels are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Mainstream, yes, I know, but that’s where most of my friends congregate. I also dive into niche content communities, like those that surround Moz. I use social media in order to stay connected to lovely people I meet in life, wherever that may be.
“Social media” simply means remarkable online channel-tools for people to do what people have always done. Though feed aggregation technology is much more advanced, my standard “social” operating procedures are similar to eras gone by (I.E. newsgroups, IRC, early email, early web, etc.). The same social principles and hooks apply because people are the same. Generations of tools don’t change human nature.
AJ Kohn: I’ve enjoyed social media platforms that encouraged real conversation. I’m not the biggest fan of Twitter for personal use, but do find it to be one of the best Internet megaphones out there. I have never enjoyed Facebook because it feels too much like preening for the past.
Instead I fell in love with FriendFeed and was crestfallen when it was purchased by Facebook. And now I am immersed in Google+ because it lets me have diverse conversations and give people a better sense of who I am outside of just marketing and SEO.
Jen Lopez: Long before “social media” as we know it today, I used to spend hours and hours in IRC, Yahoo! Chats (yea that used to be a thing) and using AIM. As an op in many IRC channels, I suppose I was managing communities even back then, but for fun. In college I used to get kicked out of the computer lab all the time for spending too many hours in IRC, which was forbidden (which made me do it more of course).
Over time, I pretty much jumped into any new social site that came up as I really loved being able to make new friends and keep in touch with people through the internet. My roommate in college and other friends pretty much thought I was crazy for always being on my computer.
Of course, that part hasn’t changed, now I just get paid to do what I’ve always loved.
Richard Baxter: “Social media” is a channel via which I seed content designed to attract coverage via likes, shares, +’s, tweets to make people aware of the resources I create for links, popularity and profit.
Talking about relationships… Why do so many SEOs still look at Social Media as a “pitiful necessity” and vice versa? What would you tell an SEO about the value of Social Media and to an SM Specialist about the advantage of an “alliance” with SEO?
Mike Pantoliano: As for the first question, I’d say it’s because we’re talking about two channels that are long-term plays. The reward is high, but so is the effort. So, a single person (generally) has to choose a side. That said, they both make each other better. A good organization facilitates true cross-discipline communication and planning between the teams.
Peter Meyers: I’d tell people to stop thinking about SEO for a minute.
Social media is about building relationships – it blurs professional and personal in a way that makes it possible to cross barriers more easily and meet people you’d never have a chance to meet in the offline world. Working from home with a baby, I’ve forged dozens of connections with real people that later became productive, in-person relationships. If that never got me a single link, it’d still be well worth the effort. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s gotten me hundreds of links.
Cyrus Shepard: Classic SEO focuses on concrete actions – often the end part of the conversion cycle: the sale, the lead, the click. Everything is recorded and measurable. If I pay X for this keyword I can expect X return. This mindset doesn’t lend itself well to social media channels, which has longer cycles and the relationship between awareness and end goals is harder to track. That’s why with social media we often fall back to correlation data to bring awareness to these complex relationships.
Ian Lurie: Social media is just good, smart marketing. So is SEO. I don’t feel that one’s superior to the other – they’re both absolutely essential to any good campaign, and yes, they boost each other. So I’d tell the SEO and the social media specialist: You’re both marketers. Suck it up and work together.
Aleyda Solis: To the SEO I’d say: with the help of SM is how you’re going to maintain visibility in the SERPs and earn authority / popularity in the long run.
And to the SM Specialist: with help of SEO is how you’re going to earn much more visibility to the presence you create and help to achieve a higher ROI.
Stop whining. Become friends. You both will learn from each other and help each other to achieve your respective goals more effectively… Start having fun together.
Jonathon Colman: SEO and social media must learn to “Live together or die alone,” like Jack says on Lost because you can accomplish far more as a team than you can working apart in silos. If you find yourself fighting against a social media specialist for budget or attention, then you’re both doing it wrong.
Instead, structure your groups to focus on shared goals for both traffic and meaningful engagement. This just shouldn’t be a zero-sum game in an Inbound Marketing world. If your supervisors or directors don’t understand that, then change their minds with data, just like SEOmoz’s own Jen Lopez suggests.
Rand Fishkin: I have no idea! Social media marketing is, in my opinion, the most fun, easy and immediately rewarding parts of marketing on the web. The relationships, when built authentically, and the traffic, when earned through organic means, result in a vast wealth of other positive signals and metrics that influence dozens of inbound channels.
I’m actually unaware of this negative opinion being held broadly. In fact, I think many SEOs from the early 2000’s feel that their industry and practices spurred the rise of social media marketing as a separate channel and endeavor.
AJ Kohn: I think this is an easy one. Social media is just another form of marketing. Better marketing leads to more impressions and that leads, inevitably, to more links. In short, good things happen when your brand is seen by more people.
Conversely, an SEO can help provide a lot of data on what people are searching for, why and how. All of these things can help a good social media professional find the right message and platform for their efforts.
Jen Lopez: It’s quite sad really, but in QA we often times see questions from people where the only reason they’re using Social is for SEO gain. But there is so much more to it than that! When SEO and Social are used in combination you don’t just get higher rankings, but you start to build a community, you increase your brand awareness, you help customers quickly, you build trust and authority… need I go on? It’s such a winning combination!
Richard Baxter: They’re the SEO’s that don’t get it. I’m not sure if everyone will like this but, if you can’t create something that gets popular on a social channel – I don’t know if this job is right for you. You’re creating for an audience, that audience is represented in social – so you need to understand what works! In any case, I buzz like crazy off a popular post
Relationships, again… but this time from the Brand point of view. In fact, Brands (small and big ones) embraced Social Media very quickly but, or at least that is what seems to me, many of them have felt a disillusion after the initial excitement. Most of the time the ultimate reason is the misunderstanding of what Social Media Marketing really is. What are Brands doing wrong when it comes to Social Media?
Paddy Moogan: I think that many brands make the mistake of setting up social media accounts because they either hear it is the next big thing, or they see their competitors doing it. I’ve sat in several meetings where a Director of a company has said “Yes, we need a Twitter account.” But when you ask why, they struggle to answer. When you ask if Twitter is a platform where their audience hangs out and interact, they usually do not know.
Mike Pantoliano: They don’t devote the necessary resources. For SMBs, I think social media is all-or-nothing. Either you’re going tp make efforts to create a real following via branding exercises, outreach, and community building, or you should probably stay out social until you’re ready to do so. And that’s okay!
Cyrus Shepard: Brands make the same mistakes on Twitter and Facebook that regular people do. They’re boring, post too much about themselves, don’t post enough, and they don’t understand their audience. I have many friends who are social media professionals, and their personal accounts usually rock. The average Joe doesn’t care if you’re a brand. If you deserve to be in his stream, he just wants you to be excellent like everyone else.
Ian Lurie: Brands looked at social media as some brilliant new revenue source, which is a little ridiculous. They saw it as a channel, when in truth it’s a technique. Social media is about being smart when you communicate with your customers. It’s about understanding that you can talk to each customer individually with everyone else watching. It’s not about adding a multiplier to revenue – it’s incremental.
I notice that late entrants to the social media game are far happier with their results, because they’re more realistic about goals.
Aleyda Solis: The issue is that they don’t research well at the beginning to focus their Social Media strategies and activities by identifying aspects like:
Instead they try to build a “standard” presence in the main networks and end-up spending resources where they shouldn’t.
Jonathon Colman: Brand’s marketers think: I need a Twitter channel or I need to post videos to YouTube, when what they should be thinking is: I need a content strategy. And so you end up seeing a lot of brands who start channels and then find themselves unable to listen, monitor, engage, respond, and feed new content assets into the network after a few months. They’re thinking only for a season, or for a few lives of Men.
The good news is that you don’t have to make this mistake! A strong content strategy takes into account everything from creation, curation, management, and distribution to governance, standards, workflows, and policies. It gives you an enterprise-level perspective on all your content assets and how they work to fulfill your audiences’ needs as well as the mission of your organization.
Rand Fishkin: Many measure it incorrectly, but many also have false expectations. A lot of popular media portray social media as merely “getting into the conversation” but organizations and individuals who approach the practice (or any marketing discipline) in this way are doomed to failure. Both careful strategy and smart tactics are required, as well as a very strong ability to pivot and learn from mistakes.
Marty Weintraub: Brands are getting back to basics. For about a generation, in marketing lifetimes, businesses seem to have forgotten that the ultimate goal here is positive ROI. Sure, social media communities are just that…community which marketers can’t abuse. They’re destinations where users, from every day to fanatical, cluster surrounding mashed up themes. Still, whether a community manager represents him/self outside of work (user) or a business concern (company), or an agency representing companies, social media means big business to someone.
If you’re a rank and file user (just some schmo hanging in Twitter, LinkedIn, a blog, or FB) “Business” means those community owners monetizing you, the user. Facebook sells ads. Twitter has promoted tweets, etc. Facebook, Twitter, Google/YouTube, StumbleUpon, nearly every, even vaunted Wikipedians all sell out or beg from users to somehow make money. Ka-freakin’-ching! Before you object, users really don’t have much to complain about. In order to use Facebook’s free software (Facebook.com), users submit to the rules by accepting FB’s terms of services (TOS). The same type of TOS holds true in pretty much every social channel users can use for free.
If you’re company community manager, then ultimately the business that matters most to you is making money. Don’t get all hoity toity on me now. Think about it. Like it or not, even 5013C charitable organizations (like the United Way and Men As Peacemakers) all need money.
The good news is that skillful participation by companies in social media can result in positive, even superlative, business results without bothering users much. To companies Skillful participation means community managers report measurable metrics illustrating how social media efforts contribute to the overall success company’s overall marketing. This much must be as empirical as possible.
Business to you may mean yourself, if you’re a solo entrepreneur or being part of a department of 20 for a multinational division. Either way, first step to winning is to know what you’re shooting for. It’s a time to ask point blank questions like:
By far the largest common #FAIL denominators we see amongst social marketers are:
AJ Kohn: There are numerous ways that brands can go awry with social media. Most often I see brands wanting to have a ‘me me me’ relationship with users. Many brands don’t understand the value of curation in social media and how that can build a long-term relationship instead of a very short-term ‘here’s a new sale’ message pounded out through Twitter and Facebook.
In addition, I don’t think people really want to have a conversation with a brand.
Jen Lopez: Often times brands don’t have a clear purpose for using Social Media and this can cause them to ultimately “fail.” Another thing that can often hold back a brand is not having the right person in charge of their social efforts. If you’re a huge brand, do you have someone from marketing in charge of Social, is it customer service or is it possibly sales? First you have to figure out why you’re there, and then it’s easier to figure out who should manage it.
When it comes to finding the right person to manage Social, that person needs to have the backing of upper management to make quick decisions. In Social media you don’t have time to get sign-off from the big guns any time a response is needed. The person in charge must be in charge and be able to make quick decisions. So many times we see big brands hiring interns to run their social accounts, which without clear management can be a huge failure.
Now back to having a purpose… every brand is going to be different and that’s ok. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Figure out how your community works, how your customers deal with social (are they heavy on Twitter, do they spend all day playing games on Facebook), make a plan and change it up when needed.
Richard Baxter: They create a Facebook page, register a Twitter account and then do nothing. For a small business I always say, let’s do one thing really well (be it, a great blog, a funny twitter stream, whatever). Most small companies tend to start with a blog – so the thing I think they do wrong is around content strategy. We sit down and identify the different audiences we’re targeting, work out who and where they are, what they like, what they don’t – and form a content strategy around that.
As it happens with Search and Google, when we talk about social media we tend to think immediately of Facebook. But social media is much more than just one social network, since it’s so large and important. For instance, blogs and forums were the places where social existed before the networks, and still play a role in the game, even though there are voices telling them to abandon them, favoring the “social profiles.”
How important are blogs and forums to the success of a social media strategy?
Paddy Moogan: For me, social media is about engagement – not just having accounts or being active on Facebook or Twitter. If your audience hangs out in forums and on certain blogs, go there and engage with them. Don’t just setup a Facebook account and expect them to flock across to you and start talking to you. Many people use Facebook for personal stuff and will not engage with a commercial entity regularly unless they have good reason.
Mike Pantoliano: Actually, for the SMB that can’t get anything going on Twitter and Facebook, blogs and forums are a fantastic alternative. Your reach is diminished, but the community will be tighter-knit and more devoted to your niche. You’re more likely to have an impact and grow your brand sustainably by communicating directly with your niche, even if it is a small one.
Peter Meyers: Put simply, you can’t promote nothing. Blogs still tend to be the go-to for housing the kind of content that’s promotable on social media. Unfortunately, like any marketing activity, too many companies just say Let’s build a blog! and never get any more strategic than that.
In some ways the curse of modern blogging is that it’s way too easy. Anyone can slap up a decent-looking WordPress template and start writing. It’s seems like magic, but it’s not. It’s hard work, done right.
Cyrus Shepard: Synergy is the key. I have a bad habit of writing mini blog posts on Google+, instead of my own blog, which suffers from a dearth of content. By doing so, I’m giving all my best content away to Google for virtually free, and wasting free traffic to my site. A better strategy instead would be to put all content on my personal blog, and then promote it through various channels.
Damn Google+ for making it so easy to post.
Ian Lurie: Social media is about mattering to your customers. If you don’t provide good information, you don’t matter. Blogs are one of the best tools for doing this. Forums are older, but can still be powerful. While I would never say Your campaign won’t work if you lack a forum or blog, I would say your life will be a lot more difficult.
Aleyda Solis: It depends on the industry and the behavior of the online consumer. Nonetheless I think that in general we tend to underestimate blogs and forums.
I’ve seen industries with a very strong and web savvy community that is highly engaged in forums they have had for many, many years where Twitter and Facebook don’t get close to having the same activity. This is why it’s fundamental to do a complete research at the beginning to identify the behavior of the target market: Where and how is the specific consumer sharing.
Jonathon Colman: They’re hugely important. Assuming that they’re self-hosted and managed, a strong blog or forum can be the foundation of a great community that shores up the authority of your brand. Better still, you control the content, appearance, and the overall experience of how people interact with you rather than assigning all of those crucial components over to Facebook or some other company’s brand.
But your challenge is to keep community participants engaged, facilitate their interactions with (and learning from) one another, and constantly listen to – and then act upon – their feedback. After all, remember that your community members tend to be your strongest and most fervent supporters. They’re the ones who determine what your brand is all about – not you.
Rand Fishkin: Because they’re often ignored by those who focus exclusively on the popular networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc), they’re a great opportunity. Participation and coverage by these sources can also lead to a lot of awareness and attention from those other networks; I can’t encourage this enough.
Marty Weintraub: They’re absolutely crucial. The end goal of all social media should be to assist in the goal of sending users to content on websites we own, for conversion. Blogs and niche forums you own are the authority content you own and build in social.
AJ Kohn: I think blogs are incredibly important. Engaging with blogs in your community through valuable comments is still the best type of social ‘media.’ There’s no quicker way to introduce yourself and contribute than by diving headlong into blogs and forums.
I’d also argue strongly for the strength of email as a social network. Make sure you’re making it easy for people to email your content.
Jen Lopez: Blogs specifically are hugely important to the success of a good social strategy. Usually (but not always), it’s content that you’ve created on a blog, or a similar type of content area, that you’re pushing on Social. Sure you can use social media as a way to handle customer service questions, but it’s also a way to get people to know your brand. You create content (posts, videos, images, etc.) and social sharing helps bring people to your site, get to know your brand and luckily help with SEO.
For me, blogs and forums, in the appropriate niche, are as important as Facebook and Twitter. Of course there are times when it might not make sense, and that’s the joy of social. There isn’t just one right strategy. What works for one brand or person, may work differently for another.
Richard Baxter: I think they’re still huge. Nine times out of 10 it’s extremely powerful to have your core marketing messaging coming from your blog. That’s not to say that you can’t write a post (or make a video) just for Google+ or concentrate on a Youtube channel or create something unique for any other platform – but I do think blogs remain the way to go if you’re trying to add value and build links back to your own site.
Ok… let’s talk about Facebook.
Last summer, Facebook launched its new Open Graph, and then there was the long preparation for its IPO, which has left many doubts since its outcome. In addition, there were a long series of acquisitions (Gowalla, Friend.ly, Instagram, Face.com …), some logical, others to “eliminate” potential competitors. Finally, we assisted in its conquest of Brazil but its slowdown in the USA.
Has Facebook perhaps lost the momentum that has made it so great?
Mike Pantoliano: I don’t think so. In the US, I think we’re just seeing Facebook move from the growth face to maturity. I’d assume internal KPMs have shifted from activations to engagement, as they’d get more value out of increasing time-on-site than grabbing what’s left of non-users. Their acquisitions and App Center are all about improving and increasing the size of the walled-garden.
Rumors are that we’ll see a Facebook phone, and that’s not a surprise to me. In fact, 5 years from now I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see a Facebook browser, Facebook OS, more Facebook hardware, and yes, a Facebook search engine.
Peter Meyers: I don’t think anyone knows that answer yet. I’ve been skeptical many times, but the IPO really doesn’t tell us anything. It was overblown by people who have no concept of this emerging market and then bashed by those same people when their original delusions didn’t pan out. Both extremes are a mistake.
Facebook, from a usage standpoint, is alive and well. It’s monstrous, in fact. Whether they can turn that into long-term profit or whether something new and better will come along is really tough to say, but I wouldn’t count them out.
Cyrus Shepard: 90% of everyone I know is on Facebook. The only way to maintain their incredible growth rate is to give away free computers to those that don’t have them, or expand into different markets such as search, email, gaming, entertainment or web browsing. Facebook and Google with start to look more and more alike, and not just because they each have double ‘oo’s in their name.
Ian Lurie: No. I really think what you’re seeing is a badly-managed IPO with some really greedy people involved. Expectations were set far to high. How can a company with a $70B valuation be losing momentum? It’s not likely. There is one huge threat, though: Facebook is trying to make itself into a walled garden, and as I like to say, walled gardens wither. Remember AOL, Facebook – don’t do what they did.
Aleyda Solis: It’s normal that once a product or service has already most of the market share, like Facebook in the US and many other countries, its growth starts to slow down. Nonetheless, Facebook has quite a challenge by keeping its users happy –with new functionalities and improved experience-, getting stronger in still a few markets and monetizing its platform better, providing a higher ROI for its advertisers without being intrusive.
Jonathon Colman: Full disclosure: I did not invest in the Facebook IPO.
I’m using Facebook less than I used to, but I’m still bullish on its overall prospects. Their sheer size (remember that they have nearly one billion users) and level of daily engagement alone makes them a strong platform. So does their ability to innovate and evolve their offerings, whether they’re developed in-house or acquired. Not to mention the truly ginormous amount of personal data they’ve collected from their users.
All that said, they’ve obviously having difficulty in advertising to those users and monetizing their activity. But once they figure that out, Google is going to have some real competition. But building an ad marketplace and an audience for those ads is no easy task. They’re going to have to pivot quite a bit on their current offerings if they want to grow their revenue. Even more importantly, they’re going to have to figure that out in a way that doesn’t spam their members, drive down their engagement, or offend their privacy.
Rand Fishkin: Momentum? Perhaps. But their network effect is so strong and their monetization so under-performing compared to where it could be at the moment that I’d still say they’re going to be an Internet giant for a long time to come. Like Google in 2006 or 2007, they may not be rising as fast as they were in their pre-IPO days, but that doesn’t mean they won’t continue to thrive.
AJ Kohn: Yes. Facebook still has a massive hold on a large chunk of attention so it’s not going to suddenly disappear. But … a new generation views Facebook as uncool. They’re on platforms like Tumblr instead.
They’ve also been a little late to capitalize on mobile in all sorts of ways. There’s no doubt Facebook can catch up and that it’ll remain a large part of the ecosystem.
However, the business trends that helped Google post-IPO are not there for Facebook. They won’t benefit from a surge of new Internet users. The question is how Facebook will handle a maturing platform in the face of a pressure from Wall Street.
Jen Lopez: I don’t think so.
Open Graph and websites, how well and how many businesses are fully taking advantage of the integration between their own sites and Facebook?
Ian Lurie: Not well, and not many.
Aleyda Solis: Not so much as I had thought at the beginning. For sites directly providing services and products or even, more sensitive information – not the typical blog or news site -, I think there is still resistance not only because of the technical work it carries but also due to privacy concerns versus the possible benefits. So Facebook needs to think a way to overcome this by easily showing the value that this integration can provide to each type of sites in a way that it also minimizes possible privacy issues.
Jonathon Colman: A recent study found that 22% of Web pages contain Facebook URLs and 8% of Web pages implement Open Graph tags. Open Graph isn’t the newest metadata kid on the block; it’s older than Schema.org but gets its lunch money taken by the older microformats (hCard, hProduct, etc.) and RDF.
I think its strength is in its transparency, immediateness, and ease of use/implementation. Marketers can see immediately how their content renders on Facebook when it’s marked up with Open Graph. And they get a count of shares/likes that they can use as part of their analysis. This is not the case with something like hProduct or Schema.org – which of course you should absolutely do anyway – where you lack critical data on how it’s working for you and the effects are not immediately perceived.
Still, it’s clear that using metadata for interoperability between systems and platforms is the way of the future. Smart organizations consider metadata (like Open Graph, Schema.org, or RDFa) to be just as important a business asset as their content.
Rand Fishkin: Some are doing a good job, but I would agree with the general assessment that integration isn’t right for everyone and there may be advantages to owning the entire experience on your own website. Take advantage of those opportunities Facebook provides, but don’t go overboard making your site reliant on their terms (or worse, switching your marketing efforts to focus on their platform over your own).
AJ Kohn: I think most brands focus far too much on the Page over the Open Graph opportunity. Facebook has slowly taken more and more functionality away from Pages and brands should be asking themselves why.
Instead, I’d invest in the Open Graph, in verbs and action links. The latter two can be very powerful and scale far better than Page management.
Richard Baxter: I shared the thank you page from Just Giving the other day. Love that they could show me who of my friends were running campaigns for charity. That’s just one tiny example.
What would you tell those ones who are considering abandoning their websites and relying only on Facebook for their online marketing efforts? As absurd as it may sound, I have seen many business owners or Marketing VPs moving in that direction.
Paddy Moogan: I don’t think that any business should rely on only one source of traffic online. It is hard to not rely on Google alone but you can offset this by building permission assets with the traffic you get and building the brand.
I’d be comfortable with a business putting extra resource into Facebook if they can justify the costs but I’d be very wary about moving so much onto a single platform.
Mike Pantoliano: I’m sure Facebook brass loves this trend. I don’t like it because there’s so much more a business can do on its website, and also… come on, own your stuff!
Anyway, I’d tell business owners that it’s dangerous because you no longer own the key tech behind your web presence. There’s still a place for a Facebook page and a full website.
Peter Meyers: You’re not a business owner if you don’t own your business. If you put everything into Facebook, they make the rules and they can pull the plug. It might work out great for some people for a short while, but it’s a huge risk. If you’re a company like Zynga and your revenue is built on Facebook, that’s one thing (that’s a calculated risk). For the average business, though, I don’t see what the point is.
You can capitalize on Facebook and still have your own presence. If you don’t want your cake, I’ll eat it.
Cyrus Shepard: It’s a bad idea, because you’re not investing in your own online properties. By promoting your own website or blog through social media, you can raise the visibility of your business across all social media platforms in a synergistic fashion. At the end of the day you have something that you own. Seven years ago, would you have advised a company to rely on MySpace for all their marketing efforts?
Ian Lurie: It’s a huge, huge mistake. Facebook is its own world, and no matter how well they’re doing right now, users are fickle. They can change their mind any time. Plus, content you put on Facebook, the users you accumulate there and the comments they make are all Facebook’s property. Do you really want to put most of your marketing equity in someone else’s hands? I don’t think so.
Aleyda Solis: They’re losing the focus. Facebook (or any other specific popular site or online service) can provide you additional visibility, visits and conversions and it’s great to create presence there but it will never substitute your own site.
Your site is yours. You control it. You can do whatever you want with it. Is the extrapolation of your physical office or store in the online world. Facebook (and any other site o network) is a third party that has its own rules, policies, and business model that above nothing else will look for its own benefit. So if you can improve your business through them it’s great and you should do it as long as you can but as an additional channel (along with many others) not as a substitute of your own site.
Jonathon Colman: Even now in mid-2012, not everyone can build a web site or hack together their own e-commerce system. So for the right kind of business or community – particularly one that’s just getting on its feet and that doesn’t have a lot of technical expertise or budget resources – Facebook is a pretty compelling platform. It’s free, it works, it offers a lot of compelling features alongside a huge (and highly engaged) audience.
If you don’t have a lot of money, time, or know-how, Facebook is much easier to leap into (and has far more immediate ROI) than, say, even a WordPress blog. But of course that potential value tops out pretty quickly and it’s a far, far better prospect for nearly all brands to build, maintain, and grow their own platforms and communities over the long term. In this scenario, Facebook is likely just a part of their overall enterprise growth and engagement strategy rather than the end-all/be-all of their existence.
Rand Fishkin: INSANITY! I’ve seen this, too, and I agree that it makes no sense. Unless your net worth is entirely tied to Facebook’s success (and you have no desire for diversification), this strategy is foolish.
Marty Weintraub: Get a fucking life
AJ Kohn: Remember MySpace?
Jen Lopez: It is a bit absurd to think that someone would completely abandon their own site, however I can see why it might be easier to build a community there. Imagine you’re a major Brand that probably has many levels of red tape and it could quite possibly take 6 months just to get a simple poll up on your site. However, you as a marketer, can go to Facebook and create one without the need of a developer, and you can make it happen within days. On top of that, you don’t have to worry that the site might go down if you get too much traffic, or that a change can’t be made quickly if it’s needed. That right there is pretty damn enticing.
It’s a bit crazy to think that people spend millions of dollars on TV ads that send you to a Facebook page, instead of to your own website. However, if having a campaign (or whatever) happen on Facebook means that you can reach more people, handle more visitors, and not have to bother the dev team, then it could make all the sense in the world.
Again, the reason I could see this happening is to help build community and brand awareness and not for SEO.
Now, let’s talk now about Twitter.
Even though it is expanding its user base, and it seems to be the preferred social platform to use for news and newsworthy content, still it is struggling to find a real advertising platform, which could help better monetize its value. Perhaps from this perspective it is easier to understand on the one hand the increasingly large restrictions for developers of apps and other changes made in its interface to go beyond the 140 characters (rich media, video, picture, etc.).
What are your thoughts about Twitter, its present and, especially, its future?
Mike Pantoliano: I’m a bit worried about their recent restrictions and dealings with third-party developers. The community that helped Twitter expand now appears to be being stifled. Twitter seems to be trending toward a more walled-garden approach, not unlike Facebook. And that’s not what made Twitter what it is. I’m not sure where it goes from here. I think we’re seeing the beginnings of a pretty substantial change for the platform. I’m sure they have a plan, but I don’t think it’s really gotten going yet.
Peter Meyers: I love Twitter, and I’m probably addicted to it, but the simplicity of it sometimes makes it hard to see how advertising will fit without alienating the audience. I’d say that they’ve done some interesting things in the past year, and they have a chance to make real money, but it also costs a small fortune to run a social network. I’m honestly not sure what happens when they run out of other people’s cash, and the leadership at Twitter doesn’t seem very concerned about that (which is either admirable or alarming – I’m not sure which).
Cyrus Shepard: I don’t want to second guess the folks at Twitter, but their ad targeting has always seemed off to me. More than other social networks, Twitter is largely a mobile platform, which presents special problems in generating ad revenue. Both Facebook and Google have struggled with mobile advertising. So maybe if Twitter can figure it out, they can lead the way.
Ian Lurie: I have to be honest: I love Twitter, but I can’t figure out how they’ll ever make money. They’re going to have to come up with an entirely new way to advertise that’s performance-based (like Adwords is click-based) and super-measurable. They’re going to have to really re-invent advertising for their platform. Things like sponsored Tweets aren’t going to do it.
Aleyda Solis: Twitter can be great as a platform for short and two-way interactions, –like customer support or news / offers releases- but can restrict other type of deeper activity, so I think this is its main challenge in order to gain popularity and improve its monetization. They will need to overcome this restriction in order to make its platform more appealing and useful for a broader audience and beneficial for companies to be there.
Jonathon Colman: RANT Of all the major social networks, Twitter has iterated the least on its initial offering. I’ve been on Twitter over five years (proof: here’s my first tweet – warning: it’s lame) and the quality of their tools for brands and power-users, in particular, is incredibly weak. What do their staff do all day – tweet to each other? From the slow frequency and poor growth/scaling of their releases, it sure seems like it. Heck, they’re still having trouble not crashing for hours at a time! #FAIL /RANT
OK, so all that said, I love Twitter. I think they’ll have a bright future if they can figure out analytics and the needs of brands and authoritative/active users. It kills me that I have to use so many third-party tools to figure out Twitter metrics. That said, a few of my favorites are CrowdBooster, FollowerWonk, Shared Count, TwitterCounter, and TrueSocialMetrics.
Rand Fishkin: I love Twitter’s openness, it’s simplicity and the current lack of intrusive monetization. I also believe this is why the vast majority of the world’s influencers, particularly in fields with robust communities, thrive there (rather than Facebook or other networks). Twitter’s done a reasonable job of not breaking its service, and I hope that rather than force advertising to be their sole method of income, they offer some analytics, metrics or more data options as a way to support the platform.
Marty Weintraub: Well, Twitter is my favorite channel. It’s the only place in my life where users can talk all at once and have it be perfectly organized. Twitter is the ultimate real-time news feed and microblogging the definitive creative crucible for melding incredibly rich messages with few words. The fledgling D.I.Y. platform shows great promise. Followers gained are expensive and worth it, because they’re highly focused connections. Look for Twitter to grow for some time to come.
AJ Kohn: Well, I’m in the process of blogging about this but the short version is that Twitter needs to be a destination instead of a conduit. The acquisition of Summify, restricting third-party development and enriching the experience is about capturing attention.
For advertising to work, Twitter needs users to stay on Twitter longer. The future of Twitter is Twumblr.
Jen Lopez: As you know, I love Twitter and am quite active both personally and professionally. For SEOmoz it’s a huge traffic driver, a way to respond to customers quickly, and a place to promote our content. We use Twitter differently than we do Facebook and I think is where many people and companies get it wrong. They don’t have the time or resources (or possibly are lazy) and don’t want to post different things to different sites. But, they are different.
Over the past few years Twitter has definitely changed the way people reach brands, whether that be a company, a celebrity or some other type of organization. I think about the time that I tweeted to the NYC Hilton about their wifi not working and the next afternoon, THEY EMAILED ME. So, I had tweeted them, then they looked me up, found my email address (since I was currently staying there and had booked online), and they EMAILED ME to let me know it was fixed.
Or, how about another time when I accidentally flushed my phone down the toilet (it was in my skirt pocket, don’t be gross), and then I tweeted T-Mobile asking what I should do. Well, they gave me a new phone! WHAT THE WHAT?!
That stuff didn’t happen before. You couldn’t reach brands in that way previously. Twitter brings the brand or even the celebrity (who remembers my Tweets with MC Hammer about SEO? HOLLA.), to a “normal” person’s level.
I think people will find new ways to use Twitter and I hope to have years of tweets in my future.
Google+ – we talked about it in the previous post (The State of SEO in 2012). Personally I consider it a profiling platform and something that goes beyond just Social Media. But, undoubtedly, it is also a Social Network. Without needing to tell names, do you have first-hand experience with brands on Google+. If it is so, what conclusions do you do?
Paddy Moogan: I haven’t seen many companies outside of SEO really do a good job on Google+ yet. However I did read one case study of a travel website growing the number of people in their circles massively.
Ian Lurie: Google+ is in trouble. It’s in danger of becoming a distant 4th or 5th-tier player, where only marketers really go to play. Google can mix stuff into their rankings all they want, but if consumers really, truly never go there, they’ve got issues.
Aleyda Solis: As a social network (besides the additional benefit it can provide at the moment through Google SERPs visibility (with Google Plus Your World) it still doesn’t have the user penetration or the engagement needed for a company or brand to compensate an activity there.
People who are at the moment registered there are not really active and this is a huge challenge for Google – a much harder in my opinion than making them to register – that it will need to overcome to make it successful.
Jonathon Colman: Using Google+ is a necessity for most big brands, especially those that also have physical brick-and-mortar outlets (due to Google+ Local). I’d love to see Google continue to iterate on Google+, particularly in reporting out analytics and insights. That said, it has an incredibly low barrier to entry for most brands and offers a great array of tools – Hangouts, in particular, are crazy awesome – especially at the massive scale at which Google’s implementing them.
We’re building up a slow presence in Google+ and trying to learn where our users there would like to see us go in the future. That helps us offer better feedback to Google, which I hope that they take into account as the grow and evolve the platform.
Rand Fishkin: Google+ is still a niche network but because it’s trying to appeal to such a broad group, it’s having identity troubles. It’s also plagued by expectations – the media seems to be pushing the story that if G+ isn’t as big and engaging as Facebook, it must be a “ghost town.” This is self-reinforcing and problematic for perception.
I’ve had a ton of personal success using Google+ and I see a lot of activity there amongst high tech and marketer folks. I’ve also found my first “real-life” non-techy friends (a couple in Seattle with kids) that has moved their personal network over to Google+ and it’s fascinating to see them interacting with friends and family through G+. As you might expect, once their baby pictures start showing up there, the rest of their family and friends suddenly engage with Google+, even though they’d never used it before. To me, that spoke to the power of photos and the reason Facebook paid $1B for Instagram.
Marty Weintraub: Snooze. Well. You have to do it because it’s an SEO play to Qualify users to consume your SEO. I doubt Google+ makes anyone feel emotional and believe that few consider it their home community.
AJ Kohn: A savvy brand can have a large search footprint across a wide variety of terms if they’re investing in Google+. Imagine one million people (your target market essentially) have circled a brand. What’s it worth to know that you’ll come up higher in relevant search results for those one million people?
Jen Lopez: Personally, I feel like most brands don’t do a great job on Google+. There is so much you can do with it and people have already invested in Twitter and Facebook. I remember when G+ first came out and my first thought was “Well damn, Google just went and changed my job on me.” Because I knew that as the Community Manager I’d need to start spending time monitoring our brand, responding to questions, thanking people for sharing our content, etc. Google just sort of threw this on us and some people have adapted quickly, and others have not.
LinkedIn… I like to call it the silent player in the arena of social media. Nobody really talks about it as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+ seems more “sexy”, but – finally – it is maybe one of those social sites every business should look at as a real place where to stay, especially when considering Social Media as a tool to increase a business relevance and authority as thoughtful leader in its niche.
What is your take on it?
Paddy Moogan: One of my clients does very well on LinkedIn and gets a lot of traffic from their account. It is a very B2B client though and their target market are usually active on LinkedIn. I do think it is underestimated a little which is a bit ironic given that most SEOs will probably have a LinkedIn account and know exactly how it works!
Peter Meyers: Well, I thought their IPO would be a disaster, and it wasn’t, so maybe I’m not the one to ask .
Cyrus Shepard: Linkedin is a marketer’s secret weapon that goes way beyond job seekers and recruiters. I’d tell you how it works, but it’s a secret.
Ian Lurie: LinkedIn focuses on one thing – business networking – and does it very, very well. They’re a strong player that has worked well for my company as a marketing tool, as well as for our clients. So I see them continuing to grow in the next few years.
Aleyda Solis: I really like and have had good experiences with LinkedIn both as a marketer and user. It’s a very focused professional network that has known to scale, provide the right functionalities to its users while monetizing effectively. Nonetheless, because of its nature the type of interaction and visibility obtained is much more restricted than in more general networks.
Jonathon Colman: LinkedIn is an essential tool for recruiting and is worth every penny of investment. Since my company will soon be hiring a new in-house SEO to take my old position, the first place they’ll look is LinkedIn. And marketers who have built powerful personal/corporate brands definitely stand out.
Regarding the “sexiness” factor, I honestly think that strong communities can pop up anywhere, not just on Facebook or Pinterest or in forums. It occurs to me that LinkedIn (despite the spam connection requests we all receive) has one of the highest-authority bases of professional users in the world – so community-building is bound to look a lot different there than elsewhere. And that’s OK – marketers shouldn’t expect it to be anything besides what it actually is.
Rand Fishkin: It’s a solid network for B2B and it will always have a great business model because it’s how recruiting, professional networking and business-based connections are done. It also has no real competition. I’m long on LinkedIn, but I do hope they work on the platform more. It’s pretty broken when you get to 1,000+ invitations to connect.
Marty Weintraub: LinkedIn is the only platform where you can easily and empirically correlate specific users (found by advanced organic search) and LinkedIn PPC. To me that is a priceless build out for the mashup of social networking and PR. LinkedIn is here to stay. I just wish it was more personal and had better hooks built in to share in other communities. It’s normal in life to share things that happen at work with family and other friends. We share promotions, events, etc… Yet LinkedIn’s tools for outbound cross-pollination are weak and barely existent.
AJ Kohn: LinkedIn is a strange beast. I still find it to be far better for business intelligence, sales prospecting and hiring. It’s certainly wise to care for and optimize your profile but I find the groups maddening and QA to be less than useful.
But I know other peopled do use it. I wound up using LinkedIn as one of my personal share buttons because people used it. Many seem to treat it as a business feed, free from all that social puffery and gaming that exists on other platforms.
LinkedIn is Joe Friday.
Jen Lopez: I think you’re right, in that it’s the silent player. The thing is, many people aren’t thinking about their business networks every day like they think about their personal networks. I seriously forget it even exists for weeks on end. (Which is why Erica and Keri are in charge of managing it for Moz and not me!)
The issue with it is though that there are lots of spammers there, because they know people don’t maintain their groups like they should. So it makes real people not want to spend time there in a group when it’s full of sales junk.
Pinterest, Instagram… the last beloved kids in social media have one common characteristic: they are extremely visual. Is that a sign of a change or is it simply correlated to a trend I see, where social media and mobile (and local, in some cases) are going to be key in the incoming future?
Cyrus Shepard: The web is becoming entirely more visual. Facebook posts with pictures are shared much more than those without. I read somewhere that Tweets with photos are much more popular, even when folks don’t look at the photo. Perhaps Google’s Project Glass means that someday, social media will mean sharing visual snippets of your life, like Instagram on steriods.
Ian Lurie: It’s about more than them being visual – they’re focused on a very specific kind of media sharing. I’d actually put Twitter in the same category. Twitter is short messages; Pinterest is images you like from other sources; Instagram is images you take yourself. And they’re all very, very easy to use. That’s the key – even Facebook is a bit complicated. Sending a Tweet, though, is a two-step process: Write. Send. So is uploading an image to Instagram or pinning something. I think we’ll see more and more 1-click participation tools.
Aleyda Solis: Not only Pinterest and Instagram but also Facebook –since its photo sharing functionality is one of its most attractive features- are all extremely visual.
On the other hand, the “So-Lo-Mo” mix is getting stronger and will be bigger in the future. Foursquare, Twitter, Yelp and Facebook have all – in greater or less extent – localization features. These networks then need to build a consistent, device independent platform that works well in desktop and mobile too.
Jonathon Colman: Yep – as mobile capabilities and (especially) connection speeds and the proliferation of Wi-Fi continue to accelerate, I think we’ll see an explosion of slick, highly-visual networks like Pinterest and Instagram (or their unholy abomination of an offspring). Path is another great example. I think we’ll also see Foursquare and similar services migrate more toward photography and beautiful experiences as they continue to evolve.
Rand Fishkin: I’m not sure whether it’s because visual is sexy and compelling or because the other opportunities are taken. I do think there’s more niche social platform opportunities out there, but I also see that human beings can only realistically handle a few simultaneously.
AJ Kohn: Both. The web is increasingly becoming a visual medium and SoLoMo is definitely a key to future success for any brand.
Jen Lopez: Someone asked me the other day what was the best way to get in touch with me… and I laughed. There isn’t just one way. With my phone on me at all times it means that you could reach me via phone call (but please don’t, I hate talking on the phone), email, text message, IM, Twitter, DM, Facebook message, LinkedIn message, SEOmoz private message, Google+, Instagram, Foursquare, and I’m sure there’s something I’m missing.
So yes, mobile and the apps that people can easily use from their phone are going to flourish.
Not all social media means Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn. Social sites like StumbleUpon, Reddit, or Yelp are there to show us how the concept of Community is maybe the most powerful one to come out in the last few years.
How much has the life of a Community Manager changed and how strategically important has it become now, especially for administering delicate issues related to ORM?
Ian Lurie: I’m not sure it’s a huge change. It’s just more places to watch. And community managers now really need to watch traffic reports, so that they can see when a service like StumbleUpon is driving traffic, because these services don’t show up in a search result, and may not show up in a monitoring tool.
Aleyda Solis: The role of the Community Manager has become more fundamental during the last years to leverage your presence in social networks since it’s usually the first contact with online users / clients, the one who can easily identify users trends, evangelize about the brand or product, be a leader and encourage the community to interact. It’s a shame that in some companies this role is not seen as important as it should.
Rand Fishkin: Community manager is a role we’ve depended on for many years at Moz, and I think many organizations are finding it critical to their success in a more socially-connected world. It’s an interesting job because it combines aspects of personality and a personal nature that was previously viewed as a negative in the business world. I think it will be many years before bigger enterprises and less forward-thinking organizations can embrace this role intelligently.
Jen Lopez: Honestly, from what I’ve found, every community manager’s role is different. Sometimes they only manage things happening on their site (forums, blogs, etc.). Other times, like my role, it’s to manage on-site, social and other sites, in-person, and on and on.
For me, I watch for mentions of SEOmoz anywhere and everywhere. Although we also have an SEO, someone doing Business Development and even a PR Agency, I see it as my role to know what’s going on in the community pretty much all the time.
Unfortunately I’m not sure most community managers have the time to also monitor the brand’s ORM. CMs do a LOT of things every day. Speaking of that, have you hugged your community manager today? No? You should!
Now… as last question I left the one million dollar one: what is the ROI of social media? Why is it so difficult to define it or, maybe, is it correct to try to define it firmly?
Paddy Moogan: For me, there is no blanket rule for social media ROI. Even number of tweets, likes etc may not work for some companies, but may work for others. I feel quite strongly that no matter what, activity on social needs to have an over-arching goal of tying back into the goals of the business. Ultimately, you should use social media to engage with customers, getting them to take the action you want. This action should matter to the bottom line of the business. I may not matter straight away, it may be a long term play, but social needs to be tied to goals, or there is no chance of getting ROI.
Mike Pantoliano: It’s incredibly difficult because social media isn’t a closer in the sales process. So unless you’re doing attribution modeling, you’re going to have a real hard time quantifying its impact. AND IT JUST SO HAPPENS that I’ll be discussing attribution modeling at MozCon.
Peter Meyers: I think part of our mistake is trying to define one type of ROI that applies to everyone. I can track relationships I formed on Twitter to direct revenue, because I’m a one-man shop. It’s taken a lot of time and effort to build those relationships, but I don’t think it would’ve been possible without social media. So, for me, it’s a no-brainer to keep pushing that effort forward. For a large organization, I think it’s different, and I do think they need to at least try to quantify it. Just calling it “brand-building” is a bit too much like voodoo to me – if that’s your goal, fine, but pick a number and try to make that number go up.
I think the other big mistake companies are making right now is to not really count the cost of social media. They just add it to the plates of a handful of employees and then call it “free” – if it’s taking time and effort by people you pay, it isn’t free. Something else is losing when you add more work to people’s to-do list. I think most big companies would be much better off being honest about the costs and having dedicated people to handle social media. If that means taking a loss in the short-term, fine, but give those people real accountability.
Cyrus Shepard: Asking about the ROI of social media takes all the joy out of it. That said, Facebook has some good case studies on the subject.
Ian Lurie: I do think you can measure the value of a follower/fan in social media. There’s not one ROI – it’s different for everyone. What you can’t measure, and will never be able to measure, is the value of simply being there.
At the same time, the ROI obsession drives me insane. Just 10 years ago companies threw millions of dollars into magazine ads and TV, basically burning the money, in the hopes that someone might see it. It wasn’t measurable. It’s still not measurable. In social media, we can at least quantify part of the result. Even at its worst, it’s far superior as a measurable resource to traditional marketing channels. And anyone with a shred of common sense understands how important social media is. So I can only say get over it, people. Measure what you can – but don’t tell me you’re not doing social media because it’s not measurable. At least don’t tell me that if you’re spending money on any traditional media.
See. You got me ranting now. I’ll stop.
Just keep it simple: At a minimum, social media is reputation insurance. You don’t ask about the ROI of business insurance. You shouldn’t ask about the ROI of social media.
Aleyda Solis:It’s difficult since with Social Media we cannot only achieve conversions –as with other online marketing strategies- but also increase our brand awareness, reputation and customers’ loyalty among other benefits that are harder to track, measure and assign a specific numerical value to.
So the ROI of social media will depend on the goals we have set to achieve through it (from online sales to branding) and our ability to effectively track them and assess the net benefit we have gotten from them.
Jonathon Colman: The ROI is easy to get a sense of, but impossible to measure exactly and always will be. The benefit to brands of participating in social media is that they can monitor and influence the discussion about them. But like it or not, these discussions are going to happen regardless. They happen all the time, even right now – people are talking to each other about your brand right at this very moment while you read this blog post. And guess what? You can’t measure (or even monitor!) that word-of-mouth activity.
Brands shouldn’t expend a huge amount of budget and human resources to measure social media ROI down to the last iota. Much like chasing perfection at any cost, that’s a fool’s errand and a waste of precious money and time. Instead, they should work with agility to develop (and evolve, as necessary) a handful key performance indicators that make sense for measuring their progress toward their mission, knowing that it’s just a small sample of the overall conversation about the brand.
Rand Fishkin: I think the complexity of multi-touch attribution and marketers’ classic addiction to last-touch attribution for conversions is probably at the root of the problem. Someone – MixPanel, Google Analytics, Kiss Metrics, etc. is going to solve it and over time, the market will change and social media ROI will be a given. Today, that barrier is an early adopter’s best friend.
Marty Weintraub: The ROI of social media is all about attributable contributions to traffic and conversion, on sites we own, in aggregate from the entire social ecosystem.
Clearly you have to measure effort versus result and there are a number of ways to do that. What I think is often missing is that the return can be cumulative. When you start, the return seems small but it compounds over time if you’re doing it the right way.
I also think that too often we get caught up in measuring it by quantity instead of quality. It’s not about the number of Friends, Fans or Followers but the level of engagement. It’s not about the volume of traffic but what they did when they got there.
In the end, I think there’s a lot to be said for Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans concept.
Jen Lopez: I believe it’s so difficult to define because it’s not the same for everyone. SEO PPC = traffic (yes, yes this a way too simplistic view of SEO, don’t yell at me). CRO = money. Social = uh… whatever you make it to be?
SEOs want to use Social to increase rankings but may not consider all the other great benefits social engagement provides. A Community Manager may not realize that they could be helping the company’s rankings and SEO by making a few tweaks to their processes. An Analyst may hate Social because it doesn’t look like they’re sending any direct conversions. The Customer Service rep loves Social because it means many customer questions can get answered quicker. The CEO is now confused as to why they’re doing social… is it for SEO or branding or Customer Service or Community or fun or simply because it’s the cool thing? Whew. This is why it’s so difficult to define.
July 17th, 2012 @ // No Comments
First, I’m making the assumption that you’re reading this article because you either have a website in WordPress, and you want to make sure people can find it from the search engines, or you are about to embark upon, or are interested in building and launching a site in WordPress, which can be easily found via the search engines. If you don’t fit either of these categories, I encourage you to read on anyway so you’ll be converted to the glorious content management system (CMS) that is WordPress.
Another assumption I make when talking about search engine optimization: that you have truly awesome content, and not just because your mother says it is. If your content is written such that your average customer would understand and find it useful and enjoyable, then you’ve got awesome content. Notice the adjective: awesome. ‘Good’ just doesn’t cut it anymore. You’ve got to ROCK the content department. In order to do that, you really ought to have an awesome content strategy.
But after you’ve considered your content strategy, there are number of additional considerations to make as you build, tweak and optimize your WordPress site. Let’s dive in.
WordPress handles canonical URLs properly, the way Google and other search engines like it, and the way most people would like it! Rather than appending ugly file names at the end of URLs like .aspx, .html, or .php, WordPress makes these URLs ‘pretty’ and makes them very simple. This is both user and search engine-friendly.
WordPress is also structured in such a way that it encourages theme developers to use clean, organized code. When search bots can easily crawl or parse your site, it means they can process it easily, and if they can process it easily, they’ll be more likely to continue processing it as you make changes, add pages, etc. There are still some things you’ll want to alter or add to WordPress, however, so don’t sit back and relax just yet!
First, install these two plug-in:
Now you’ll want to set your permalinks so they use the titles of your posts and pages. By default, WordPress will use its database query system, which populates the URLs of your pages and posts something like ?=359, for example. Each page and post has a specific number assigned. This serves the very practical purpose of quickly serving up pages and posting content from the database, but makes it more difficult for Google and your users to know what they’re looking at until the page fully loads. To make things easier on users and search bots alike, we recommend ‘pretty URLs.’
You’ll enable pretty URLs by going to ‘Settings’ then ‘Permalinks’ within the WordPress dashboard. When you arrive, you’ll see something like this:
Click on the structure you would like (the fewer directories before the title the better), and then click to save. A word of caution: if you have a ton of pages or posts (several hundred, or more), or if you intend to have a lot of pages or posts (i.e., you’ll be blogging more than once per day), then you may consider at least including the year and month in the URL as well. Otherwise, this structure will slow down your database queries, which slows your load time, which can also have a negative impact on search rankings, and it’s a big pain to go back and change this later.
Now we’re to the part where you’ll want those plug-in!
To make life easier for Google and friends, you should provide them with a sitemap. The best option for search engines is an XML sitemap, which is entirely unusable and invisible to your users, but makes things easier for the bots (and happy bots = more visitors!).
There is more than one way to create a sitemap, but here in WordPress Land, we enjoy plug-ins that automate things for us. Make sure you have the WordPress SEO by Yoast plug-in installed, then go to ‘SEO,’ then ‘Dashboard’ within the WordPress Admin dashboard. Here, if you haven’t done so already, you can enter the meta data to verify your Webmaster Tools accounts with the search engines. If you don’t have accounts, setup your Webmaster Tools accounts first, then verify using this tool or some other method.
By installing that plug-in, it will automatically generate an XML sitemap for you, and place it properly in the root directory of your site (http://www.mywebsite.com/sitemap.xml). But you’ll want to have things verified with Google and Bing to make sure they have accurate information. Within the ‘XML Sitemaps’ option of the plug-in, you’ll also be able to customize things even further if you need additional options.
If you have an existing site and need to alter your URL structure for some reason (for example, moving to WordPress from a ASP-based CMS, whose URLs generally end in .aspx), or if you are changing your domain name (rebranding, trademark dispute, etc.), you’ll want to make sure you redirect old URLs to the new location of those pages. The plug-in we are going to use only works for the domain on which it is installed, so you’ll have to either set up WordPress on the old domain for the sole purpose of redirecting, or you’ll want to get those redirects entered at the server level. This tutorial may help you if you have an understanding of PHP and system administration, but hire someone to do it right if you’re unsure on how to set up those redirects.
WordPress does not use file extensions in its URLs, so rather than http://www.mywebsite.com/about.html, that page will now be located at http://www.mywebsite.com/about/. This will cause a problem with search engines and anyone else who clicks on a link from a website somewhere else expecting to find that page. In order to make sure they arrive at the new location of that content rather than a 404 error page, you will want to set up what is called a ‘301 redirect,’ also known as a permanent redirect. There is another type of redirect called a ‘302,’ but we won’t get into that because we’re keeping things simple–302 Redirects are slightly more controversial and can cause some serious SEO problems if you don’t know why or when to use them.
301 redirects are usually performed on the server inside. This isn’t super easy though… so to make things easier for the uninitiated among us (myself included), we’ll use the Simple 301 Redirects plug-in to set things up. Just realize that if you need to redirect an old domain to a new domain, this plug-in won’t help you, and you should definitely perform those redirects on the server side to ensure permanency (in case something goes wrong on WordPress, which, though rare, happens on occasion).
Back to Simple 301 Redirects. First, go to ‘Settings’ then click ‘301 Redirects.’ Here you’ll find a place to enter the old URL as well as the new location. In the ‘old’ section, you’ll only need to enter everything following the domain name, but on the ‘new’ section, you’ll need to include everything, from http://www.mywebsite.com to everything following the domain name: /new/.
After you have them entered, click ‘Save,’ and within a few seconds your new redirect will be live and functioning!
Another aspect of optimization is meta descriptions. These will not help your rankings, as search engines largely ignore this data anyway (and have for many years). Search engines do use meta descriptions as the site description in search engine results pages like this:
These meta descriptions should be optimized with the searcher in mind. We recommend doing the following in your meta description:
To update the meta description on each page and post (which you should do!), go to the page or post editor for the page or post you would like to edit, and below the content editor you’ll find the WordPress SEO editor (because you installed the plug-in, right?).
If your title is optimized the only thing you’ll need to edit is your meta description. Simply find the field marked ‘Meta Description’ and enter the text you’ve developed for that page. Click ‘Update’ on the right side of the editor (usually a blue button), and you’re all set!
Check your theme to ensure that you’re using H1 tags at the top of each page and post. The vast majority of themes will do this by default, but just in case, you may want to spot-check a couple of pages. The title of your page or post should appear as the H1 tag for the page. You can check this in Chrome by right clicking over the title, click “Inspect Element,” and in the window that opens at the bottom of the browser, you should see highlighted HTML code starting with h1 and ending with /h1. If it does, you’re golden. If not, have a developer check your theme and alter the page template file if needed.
Also make sure all images are using ‘alt text’ in the ‘alt attributes’ part of the page. This important for three reasons:
To set the alt text, go to the Media Library, and go to the ‘Edit’ function of an image you wish to optimize. Once there, find the alt text field and enter your text. Keep it to only a few words because search bots, blind people, and disgruntled visitors won’t have the patience to listen to your thousand words describing a picture. They want a quick description so they can move on. If the image is relevant to your keyword, it doesn’t hurt to include the keyword as PART of the alt text, but do not shoot for exact matches in your alt text. Search engines want to believe you are optimizing for users, not bots, and exact-match-text is usually a red flag of over-optimization.
Google also considers site load time as a small, but nonetheless important ranking factor. Joseph Scott, a friend of mine and an employee of Automattic, the company behind WordPress, has spoken long and often on this topic. Here’s a video of Joseph speaking at WordCamp Utah 2011 on the subject.
Hire a SEO firm to audit your site if needed to make sure you’ve got your ducks in a row. Even if you’ve done a lot of the work yourself, this is often a good idea to make sure you’ve got everything taken care of properly.
And last, but not least, produce AWESOME content.
Here are some additional resources:
Article source: http://www.seo.com/blog/tips-to-optimize-your-wordpress-site/