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Posts from July 2007

July 29, 2007

Gone Fishin'

One Degree folks are taking a  mid-summer vacation.  We'll be back to our regular schedule August 13.

In the meantime, if you are looking to get caught-up on what's popular here at One Degree, check out July's top ten articles:

     
  1. How Can a Facebook Group Complement Your Current Community? A Real-Time Case Study
  2. Personalization and Universal Search Engine Optimization (Part 1 of 4) 
  3. Personalization and Universal Search Engine Optimization (Part 3 of 4) 
  4. How I Ended Up Doing Social Media Marketing for ABC TV’s Traveler - Part 2
  5. Optimizing Your PPC Quality Score - Part 1 
  6. Affiliate Marketing - Part 2: The Networks 
  7. Chasing the Dramatic Chipmunk 
  8. Personalization and Universal Search Engine Optimization (Part 2 of 4) 
  9. My Facebook Coach House Experiment 
  10. Social Network “Joiners”, the New Pig in the Python
     
  11.  

July 26, 2007

A New Way of Looking at the Social Web ... Through a Cartoon Lens

Rob Cottingham, social media strategist, shares his insights about the social web through his cartoon series "Noise to Signal".  Starting this week, we're pleased to bring you a sneak-peek of one of his cartoons each week here on One Degree.  Enjoy!

20070723corecompetency

**UPDATE: We asked Rob the following 1.5 Questions: **

One Degree:  Where does cartooning fit into Web 2.0? And how does that mesh with your online community work?"

Rob said:

In a way, you could think of cartoons as the original viral media. Think of all those "Keep On Truckin'" t-shirts, or kids covering school books in doodles of comic strip characters, or even those cartoons that used to be faxed from office to office back in the 80s -- the three guys rolling around laughing and saying "You want it WHEN?!"

For me, cartooning is a whole lot like blogging. Many blog posts -- most blog posts -- are quick little one-offs: an observation, a vignette, a heard-in-passing exchange. They're basically cartoons. And just like most bloggers, when I cartoon, it's not for the ages. These are just snapshots about living at the busy intersection of the social web and organizational communications.

That intersection is a funny, often weird place. And remembering that is actually very important to us at Social Signal. When we're building a strategy for an online community, we need to put goals, participation and people ahead of technology, wizardry and our own awe over whatever bright shiny object last caught our eyes ("ooh, Twitter!" "ooh, mashups!") So maybe a little irony and a little wry detachment can help keep us all honest that way.

July 24, 2007

One Degree Makes Global Marketing Power 150! Congrats to All of You!

Power150globeblocksb

If your feedreader or email-newsletter inbox is anything like mine, it's cluttered and all over the map in terms of quality.  We've seen a number of ranking schemes for blogs lately that I think help with the information overload.  Some people call them link bait and yes, there is a certain truth to that - but then I see efforts like Jason Oke's from Leo Burnett's fruits of imagination blog and the Social Media Index recently devised by some smart folks from Edleman - and I see a genuine effort to bring a level of professionalism to these rankings.

One of the more prominent ranking systems has been Todd Andrlik's Power 150.  It initially ranked only US marketing blogs, but it now has a global roster of English-language marketing and PR blogs.  Todd was one of the first to use a combination of factors to arrive at a ranking including Technorati ranking, Bloglines subscribers, Google PageRank and a subjective factor "Todd And Points".  His ranking system was used as the basis for Jason's as well as for the Social Media Index, which takes it a step further and looks beyond the blog to overall influence in the social media arena including Facebook, Digg, Twitter, LinkedIn, delicious and Flickr.

To me, this kind of ranking process, while certainly ego gratifying, also helps us work through the difficult issue of measuring social media in general.  Clients consistently ask me, "How do we measure?"  Throw all of the above technologies and opportunities into the pot, stir in a couple of widgets and it could give the most stalwart of web analysts a headache.  So I'm excited about these efforts to try to bring a level of rigour and discipline to our seemingly wild-child social media mix.

That being said, One Degree is listed on the Power 150 - currently in slot #45.  Congrats and thanks to all of you who have contributed to One Degree.  It's gratifying to see our Canadian take on the world, well, take on the world!  And kudos to other Canadian bloggers listed in the Power 150: CanuckFlack, AdGoodness, Twist Image, Blogging Me Blogging You, Pro PR, Craphammer, Buzz Marketing with Blogs, Common Sense PR, the fruits of imagination, and my own blog, My Name is Kate.  Keep up the great work!

Todd has also just announced that Advertising Age is going to be using the Power 150 as an editorial benchmark when referencing bloggers in print and online.  Jonah Blook, editor of AdAge says ...

"We've been trying for a while now to work out how to point our readers towards the best of the media and marketing blogs. To that end we've done some linking out from our Out of Site blog, but don't have a comprehensive resource for our readers. Of course we could have put something together based on our own opinions or bloggers' traffic numbers, but Todd's brilliant creation goes way beyond that and creates a ranking that combines traffic, influence and quality into a ranking of the best out there. We're excited to be able to bring that to our readers. We also hope it'll be a great thing for all bloggers listed. Ad Age already provides our readers with the definitive rankings of the country's leading advertisers; the leading agenices in most disciplines; and the leading traditional media companies. The fact we'll now also be ranking the media and marketing blogs says a lot about how important that community has become in a very short time."

Very exciting to see the influence that bloggers are able to exert on established media like Advertising Age and to be recognized for it.  Congrats to all of you on the list as well as to those of you who contribute to One Degree.

Speaking of contributing, if you're interested in writing for One Degree, please contact me ... we're looking for contributors, especially from voices we haven't heard from here often on One Degree: business to business, non-profits, and regions outside our larger metropolitan areas!

Social Network “Joiners”, the New Pig in the Python

Back in the mid 90’s, David Foote used the metaphor of a “pig in a python” to describe the impact that the retiring baby boom generation was going to have on fabric of Canadian society.  It was a powerful and useful metaphor that helped his national bestseller, Boom, Bust and Echo, widely communicate its useful core messages on demographic shifts.

 

I thought of David’s bestseller last week when I saw this chart produced by Business Week based on Forrester research, which outlines in startling detail the next “pig in the python”, the generational usage of social networks.

Business_week_online_users

I’m often asked in investor meetings how important we see social networks being in our marketing strategy for the company going forward.  I’ve always answered with a simple response, “essential”.  This chart makes that response even more salient.

 

I see Forrester’s chart being unequivocal in its lesson.  If you are focused on the under 30 crowd for your company’s product or service, you have to be looking to social networks as a destination for some of your marketing attention.  The good news is that these sites are becoming increasingly easy to become part of and will likely continue to be so in the future given how successful this strategy has become.

Editor's note: The Forrester research mentioned above is available for purchase on their site.

My Facebook Coach House Experiment

With all the hype about Facebook in the media these days, some people may be inclined to dismiss it as the flavour of the month. That would be a mistake.

I think we, as marketers and consumers, have barely scratched the surface of what Facebook is capable of. Here's just one example of another Facebook marketing experiment I conducted a few weeks ago.

My friend Jane was trying to rent her beautiful coach house in Toronto's Cabbagetown district. She placed an ad on Craigslist and sent around an email message to her friends, but she didn't get too many nibbles.

So I offered to help. Using Facebook's status line feature (which tells your friends what you are up to), I told my network of Facebook friends, "Bill is looking for someone to rent a friend's Cabbagetown coach house." I did this for about a week, and I updated the status line several times during the course of the week.

Continue reading "My Facebook Coach House Experiment" »

July 19, 2007

Links From The Backchannel

Here are some links from the Backchannel our readers found interesting.

The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun - thanks, candureactor
Meaningful Relationships With Social Networks - thanks, Kate
CBC.ca Arts - Michael Winter plans novel teaser on Facebook - thanks, Kate
Come on Canada, It’s Time to Clue into Search! -  thanks, Derek

Remember, you can participate in the backchannel!  It’s super easy – read our initial post on how to get involved and get tagging!

Also, how about a little poll – do many of you use social bookmarking tools?  We had a request to add Ma.gnolia to our use of del.icio.us.  Have any of you tried Mister Wong?  It seems to be the latest in social bookmarking.  Are there any others that you’re using?

UGC in the World of CPG

What fun! Nestlé Canada launched a great little interactive micro-site on July 17 where Canadians are invited to go online and redesign the iconic Smarties package.

The Gimme Colour contest invites Smarties fans to use the tools of the site to create a new design for the 50-gram box. Contestants can enter until December 12, after which time 10 winners will be selected (February 2008). Those 10 winning designs will be used on Smarties boxes throughout Canada.

I would love to see the results of this campaign -- site usage, integration and more -- as well as hear about how it all came to be. Perhaps Nestlé Canada marketing manager, Paul Hodges, could be enticed to come out to the next CaseCamp as a presenter…

Reflecting on Simon Smith's recent One Degree post, Chasing the Dramatic Chipmunk, success in viral marketing almost always requires losing control. I admire the amount of design control Nestlé Canada is giving over to consumers through this campaign. It remains to be seen if it is enough for users of Smarties to take ownership and run with it.

As a side note, it is interesting to see conflicting acronyms emerge around the notion of generated content. For the tech-savvy, the tendency is to refer to 'users' of content and now 'generators' of content (UGC). Whereas the more traditional media seem to be promoting the notion of 'consumer' generated content (CGC) -- more in line with the consumer packaged goods (CPG) phrase. Does that reflect a fundamental difference in approach? I hazard to say, yes.

Visit the site for full contest details: www.smarties.ca

July 17, 2007

Optimizing Your PPC Quality Score - Part 1

The PPC market has seen several changes over the past few years. Among the most significant changes have been those made to the bidding model. Originally, the bidding system was very easy to understand; to obtain a desired ad position, you simply needed to bid one cent higher than the advertiser in that spot.

When Google AdWords arrived, it introduced a new performance-based pricing model using what they refer to as “quality score” to determine cost per click (CPC) and ad position. Initially, quality score was determined by click-through rate (CTR) and maximum bid. However, today Google uses a much more complex formula to determine quality, including the following factors:

* Click-through rate * Maximum bid * Ad text relevance * Ad performance * Keyword relevance * Keyword performance * Landing page relevance * Landing page performance

Performance-based bidding models are now being used by each of the first tier search engines (Google, Yahoo! and MSN). We are provided with guidelines on how these scores are calculated, but the exact formula is proprietary information. Generally speaking, they use a different combination of these and other undisclosed variables based on performance relative to one another.

The important thing to note is that in order to maximize the ROI of your PPC campaigns, you must address each of these variables in your strategy. Lower quality scores can lead to higher click costs, lower ad positions and fewer ad impressions.

There are several different tactics that you can use to optimize your quality score. They typically involve modifying campaign settings, editing ad copy, adjusting bid and match options, refining keyword lists and enhancing landing page content. In this post I have outlined some suggestions that have been proven to work for our clients.

Create a Focused Campaign Structure

The way that you set up your PPC campaigns is one of the most crucial aspects of a successful project. Quality score is partially based on a combination of relevance and performance; therefore, it is important that you create a highly focused campaign structure. Having large keyword lists containing unrelated terms and/or overly generic ad copy can cause your quality scores to decrease. Take the extra time to create targeted ad groups with highly relevant keywords and ads that are based on a common contextual theme.

If you are working with very large keyword lists, think about ways to break them up into smaller, more targeted groups. To help you organize your keywords, AdWords Editor offers a tool called the Keyword Grouper. The Keyword Grouper will organize your keywords based on common themes found in your list.

When structuring your campaign, target your ads by location and language (where applicable) and never include the same keywords in more than one group. After your campaign has been launched, and you have some data to work with, another good tactic is to separate your top performing terms into their own ad groups. This will allow you to further improve the performance of these keywords while testing different ways to improve the relevancy and performance the less successful ones.

Take Advantage of Negative Keywords

Although they can significantly increase ad performance and reduce overall costs, negative keywords are often overlooked and under-used. You can use negative keywords to improve the performance of your ads by restricting them from being displayed for unrelated searches.

If you were advertising a DVD sale, for example, you wouldn’t want your ad displayed for searches related to “rental” or “burning”, because neither term is inline with the focus of your campaign. Using these terms as negative keywords will stop your ads from being shown for searches that include them. Reducing ad impressions for irrelevant searches will improve your overall CTR and strengthen both the relevancy and performance of your keyword list. This will help you achieve a higher quality score, lower your cost per acquisition and increase your ROI.

Use Targeted Ad Copy

Once you have segregated your keyword lists and selected negative terms, you can then create unique ad copy for each ad group. Do not use the same ad copy across all of your ad groups. Come up with ads that are as specific and relevant as possible to the contextual theme of the keywords being targeted.

A common PPC best practice is to include your keywords in your ad title, ad copy and display URL. A good way to approach this is to use dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) (which is probably a good topic for a future post). In addition to improving your CTR and conversion rate, using keywords in your ad copy will increase your ads relevance to each term. All of these factors can contribute to achieving a better quality score.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post when we will discuss more ways to optimize your PPC quality score, including ad testing and landing page optimization.

Chasing the Dramatic Chipmunk

For me, it started innocuously. A friend forwarded a link described as “the best 5 second clip on the internet.” Given all the scandalous things celebrities can do in five seconds (not that I’ve personally seen those clips, and I have the clear cache to prove it), that’s saying a lot. So I clicked and saw a rodent snapping its head round and glaring at the camera to the sound of a cheesy 50s-style murder-mystery soundtrack.

Enter "Dramatic Chipmunk." It’s no Paris Hilton sex tape, but this YouTube video, added in mid-June, has been no less sensational. Viewed more than 1.7 million times on YouTube alone, it has spawned countless spinoffs (see, for example, "Darthmatic Chipmunk") and even clothing items. Hell, a creative director I work with even sent a dramatic chipmunk Facebook gift. “Unbelievable,” he noted. “Let’s remember this when someone needs a viral campaign.”

Ah, yes, the viral campaign. Who in interactive marketing doesn’t watch in awe as a five-second clip of a misnamed chipmunk (it’s actually a prairie dog) becomes the internet’s hottest item, while their quarter-million-dollar supposedly viral website goes nowhere? “Viral” is one of the most overused terms in interactive marketing. It’s also one of the most elusive goals. And the case of our over-acting rodent friend helps explain why: true virulence requires losing control, and few marketers are willing to take that risk.

Hotmail Ain’t So Hot

Exuberant talk about viral marketing has been around for several years, with Hotmail often given as the consummate example. The company pioneered by promoting its service in a single line at the bottom of each outgoing email. So every person who sent an email also advertised the service, helping it grow rapidly.

I used to take it on faith that Hotmail’s tactic marked a dramatic departure for marketing. But now I side more with critics who question whether it was really that different. After all, people buy Nike shirts and promote the company every time they get dressed. So was Hotmail that radical? Maybe in the speed of conversions, but definitely not in the underlying principles.

To me, a truly viral campaign is one in which consumers participate in the mutations. It’s this attribute that keeps a campaign going long after the spend. But it’s also this attribute that makes virulence so risky for brands and keeps so many so-called viral marketing campaigns confined to their initial hosts.

An Immutable Law of Virulence

Probably the most fundamental problem with so-called viral marketing, from a brand perspective, is that success almost always requires losing control. This, I believe, is an immutable law of virulence. After all, what makes viruses so dangerous to humans is their ability to rapidly mutate. If they didn’t have this ability, either our immune systems or our vaccines would halt them before they spread. The case of the dramatic chipmunk demonstrates this beautifully. Punch Dramatic Chipmunk into Google and see where our furry friend has traveled.

Now imagine that Dramatic Chipmunk was a brand, and you were trying to manage its image. Would you want it chopped, mashed, spliced and twisted every which way, just to achieve mindshare? Would Nike want people tweaking its swoosh, even if it sold more clothes, risking damaging mutations such as, say, a Swooshtika?

In my experience, when clients ask for a viral campaign, they’re often not thinking of the impact on their sales, the relationship to their strategy, or the long-term impact on their brand. Rather, they’re often looking for an end-run around the hard work required for effective marketing. “Viral” is often synonymous with “low budget.” How can we get the most bang for our buck? People too often think that the answer is to give consumers the ability to distribute their explosives. But that approach often blows up in their face.

This isn’t to say that virulence isn’t a desirable attribute. But we shouldn’t forget that one of the most infectious things in the world is a useful idea that’s clearly communicated. And that has less to do with network effects and stickiness than with good thinking, writing and design. Those efforts can’t guarantee a dramatic chipmunk. But they can guarantee a profound message that informs, engages and influences.

July 16, 2007

Crossing 10,329 Miles with Communication Consultant Lee Hopkins

Last week I had the honour and pleasure of being interviewed by Australia's Lee Hopkins for his provocative Better Communication Results podcast. Despite the fact my Skype connection kept disconnecting us every 6 minutes or so, Lee and I had a lively 30-minute discussion about search engine optimization, business blogs, and social media.

One of the questions Lee asked me triggered me to tell the story of a friend who recently launched an online store and was looking for help with the search engine optimization.

Continue reading "Crossing 10,329 Miles with Communication Consultant Lee Hopkins" »

Affiliate Marketing - Part 2: The Networks

In Affiliate Marketing - Part 1: It’s Quiet Up Here. Too Quiet, I talked about how far behind Canadian retailers are when it comes to affiliate marketing.

For Part 2, I’ve made a few calls and sent out a few e-mails to gather some more specific information for anyone interested in exploring affiliate marketing further. ROI is always a concern, so general pricing information (hint: negotiate) for the most popular networks is included along with my experience as a Canadian publisher.

Commission Junction

Of the four most popular networks, Commission Junction has done the best job of making Canadians feel at home. You can sort advertisers by targeting country and all commissions earned for Canadian, US, or international advertisers can be converted into Canadian dollars (if you choose) to keep your accountant happy. The interface is the most elegant and easiest to use. It’s a breeze setting up and managing multiple sites with multiple account logins - which can’t be said of the others. Commission Junction definitely has the largest selection of Canadian targeted programs of any of these networks.

Initial setup costs for Commission Junction is $2,250, with ongoing monthly charges of 30% of the commission paid out and a monthly minimum of $500. For instance, a $100 sale with a 10% publisher commission rate would mean the merchant pays $10 to the publisher and $3 to Commission Junction.

Notable Canadian advertisers:

  • eBay.ca
  • HomeDepot.ca
  • WestJet.com

DoubleClick Performics

Performics still has a fairly small but well-recognized stable of Canadian advertisers with HBC leading the pack. There are fewer than 10 Canadian-specific programs but many more US ones that Canadian affiliates can participate in. Performics is not making much of an effort to tailor the experience to Canadians; they have no Canadian dollar payment options or direct deposits into Canadian accounts. Price wise, they’re on the high side with a $5,000 setup fee, 3% of sales, and a $2,500 monthly minimum.

Notable Canadian advertisers:

  • YvesRocher.ca
  • HBC.com

Intact Earnings

Intact Earnings is a Canadian company with a Canadian office, something that none of the other networks can claim. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have very many advertisers on board yet. What they do have is a price advantage. For $1,000 you’ll be up and running. A $500 setup fee and a $500 deposit into an escrow account for future affiliate commissions is all it takes. Intact Earnings, like Commission Junction, generates a 30% fee of every dollar that the advertiser pays out to their affiliates.

Notable Canadian advertisers:

  • MastermindToys.com
  • TheSource.ca

LinkShare

Inside the LinkShare interface you’ll find a separate LinkShare Canada group which can make it easy to find Canadian-based advertisers. There aren’t many, but LinkShare has big brands like Canadian Tire and Roots. Advertisers in the LinkShare Canada group will pay commission in Canadian dollars and a direct deposit option is available for Canadian publishers. Setup is $5,000, with 3% of ongoing net sales going to LinkShare and a minimum $1,000 monthly minimum.

Notable Canadian advertisers:

  • Canada.Roots.com
  • CanadianTire.ca
  • Dell.ca

Of course, you don’t have to go to a network at all. Lots of companies work directly with their affiliates, the most famous being Amazon.com. Those companies can roll their own code or just buy, install, and run with any of affiliate marketing packages out there. AffiliateWiz.com ($699 US) is one that seems to be working well for sites like CoastalContacts.ca and BossToolSupply.com.

I would like to hear from the affiliate marketers in the One Degree community - which option did you choose and why?

July 15, 2007

Personalization and Universal Search Engine Optimization (Part 4 of 4)

Search Personalization and PPC

Personalization should not be viewed only in the silo of organic search. It can have a major impact on all aspects of the web.

Personalization in search is designed to make organic and algorithmic search results more relevant. However, natural search does not exist in isolation. It co-exists with paid results. As a result, search personalization can affect the PPC market as well.

Search engines have been trying to make their paid results as relevant as possible through introducing factors such as Quality Score and Quality Index in their paid ranking algorithms. As a result, SEO and SEM best practices are getting closer and closer. Now a well-optimized page can help you improve your quality score, reduce your cost per click and increase your return on investment.

For years there has been a myth that paid search advertising can help your organic ranking. However, this concept has been denied by search engines and SEO experts including myself. This is because organic and paid engines use different algorithms, crawlers and data centres.

What I am going to bring up here is going to be a little bit controversial. I would like to argue that with the new developments in search algorithms and the introduction of personalized search, this myth is becoming a reality!

I still believe that organic and paid results are using two different algorithms. However, paid traffic can help your organic traffic in few ways:

* You send traffic to your site that cannot find your site organically. This audience might find your site interesting and: - link to it - this will help you increase your page rank - bookmark it – this will bring you repeat visitors and help you with personalized search - recommend it to their friends – this will attract new visitors to your site. * Increase document traffic – this is a relatively new factor in calculating a document’s page rank.

However, in paid advertising you need to make sure that you only send relevant traffic to high quality landing pages. Having high bounce rate on the landing pages not only means you lose hard earned traffic but also could negatively affect you in this personalized search era. So while designing PPC campaigns, keep in mind that personalized search and Quality Score can complement each other.

Personalized Search and the Rise of Branding

Personalized search can make the branding exercises even more important. We all know that brand names usually create the highest click-through rates and conversion rates due to the trust factor.

If you develop a strong brand in your niche, you will make sure that you get a higher CTR, attract more traffic and generate loyal customers. These loyal customers will act as your raving fans who bookmark your site, recommend it to their friends and talk about you in social networks. These all translate to a higher search ranking in a personalized search environment.

As Google innovates to make the searcher's experience even more relevant, SEO professionals will need to rise to the challenge by using all the tools available and using them effectively. The most innovative and aggressive SEO's will focus on providing their clients with a comprehensive strategy that will deliver targeted and motivated traffic.

July 10, 2007

Personalization and Universal Search Engine Optimization (Part 3 of 4)

In Part 2, we talked about "being everywhere your audience is" as a key strategy when optimizing your site for personalized and universal search. Here are two more important pieces to consider:

1. Be Persuasive Enough to Attract Your Audience

Even though it is crucial to ensure you are everywhere your audience is, your campaign or site will not succeed unless your presence is relevant and compelling enough for your audience to select your listing over of those of your competitors. Here are a few ways to increase your click-through rate.

Title and Meta Description Tags

I talked about being persuasive enough to lure visitors to your site. Even though it is important to have a high ranking on search results, it is more important to make sure your Title and Meta tags are relevant and enticing enough to encourage searchers to click on your listings.

You will get an edge over your competitors if searchers select your site as their destination. Because you are already selected by those searchers once you will have a better chance of getting high ranking for their future queries.

First Frame of Videos

Before a video gets played, audience will only see the first frame. No matter how interesting and brilliant your video is, unless your opening frame is an exciting, informative and inviting one, the chances of it getting viewed will be slim.

To make sure search engines understand what the video is all about it is important to use keyword reach and a descriptive file name and caption for the video.

Search engines are going to use the popularity of videos as an indication of their importance. So, after creating an appealing video, it is important to upload it to YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo Video and other video sharing sites. Then try to create viral campaigns around it to make sure more people view, tag and recommend it.

2. Be Sticky Enough to Keep Them Coming Back

It is great to generate new traffic to your site. However, as it is usually more expensive to acquire a new customer than keep one, it is important to make sure that you take advantage of your traffic by making your site content-rich, user friendly, searchable and efficient.

The key to success is creating a great user experience that encourages visitors to come back. Time is a luxury and visitors are usually in a rush online. They want what they are looking for right away. If they can’t find it, they will leave your site and find it somewhere else. So, don’t waste your visitors’ time by making them think!

The site structure should be designed in a way that makes sense to your visitors. It should contain different scents based on various personas to guide visitors through the conversion funnel.

Internal Search

In a mortar and brick business, the conversion rate is anywhere between 20-80% (e.g., a general bookstore such as Indigo has a conversion rate around 30%). As you may appreciate, this is much higher than any online store. This is mostly due to two reasons: First, competition is one click away and secondly, there is no salesperson online to help people find what they are looking for.

To make sure your site is self-serve and has a high conversion rate and visitors can easily find what they need (particularly with sites that have large number of products and pages) provide visitors with a search box. An internal search engine has two advantages. First, it makes sure you do not lose a customer because they cannot find the information they came to your site for in the first place. Secondly, you can analyze the search queries people use on your internal search engine to optimize your site’s content, design and linking structure.

Bookmarks

To make sure that your audience find their way back to your site and optimize your site for the personalized search, make sure you take advantage of book marking and social tagging tools such as Google Bookmarks, del.icio.us and Digg.

Link Bait

If you provide useful, interesting and viral content on your site people will love it and link to it. As a result, you will get new traffic, higher page rankings and positive points for personal search.

Universal Search and Web Analytics

I have been advocating the use of Web Analytics for the last few years. With so many elements entering the mix, it is as important as ever to use Web Analytics to understand which strategies, media and content works best for you and which ones need further optimization.

Stay tuned for Part 4, where we'll talk about Search Personalization and PPC.

July 09, 2007

Personalization and Universal Search Engine Optimization (Part 2 of 4)

Optimization for Personalized Universal Search

Now as a flashback to Part 1 of this article, consider the fact that Google is going to incorporate personalized search into its Universal Search. With this in mind, the following strategies will be key when optimizing your site for search:

1. Be Everywhere Your Audience’s Eyeballs Are

It is important to make sure you have a strong presence wherever your audience is. Here are some tactics to consider:

Using the Long Tail of Search

By implementing the long tail strategy, you will make sure that you are targeting the majority of possible phrases that your audience might use to search for your products and services. Because it is usually easier to get higher rankings for the long tail keywords, this strategy will ensure that you reach a large number of diverse audiences.

By gaining high ranking and clicks for a large number of keyword phrases, you will have an opportunity to influence the future results of more general queries for these long tail visitors due to the personalization effect.

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

In order to provide more accurate results based on the searchers’ intents, search engines are using LSI technologies. By keeping LSI concepts in mind when doing keyword research and writing content, website owners can help search engines understand their site more accurately and return their site as the relevant result. This will increase the click-through rate for your search listings, which in turn helps listings in the long term in a personalized search world. Furthermore, LSI will help you rank high for a wider variety of keyword phrases which can help expand your reach.

Adding Images and Videos to the Mix

Even though optimizing images and videos for search engines (by selecting the right file name, size and format) has been a recognized best practice from the early days of SEO, images and videos still tend to be ignored during the optimization process.

With the presence of Google Universal Search and the growth of social media and popularity of programs such as YouTube and Flickr, not only is overlooking the optimization of images and videos not an option anymore but you also have to take a proactive approach towards marketing these media.

Communicating with Your Audience through Blogs

In addition to providing the tools and opportunity to communicate with your audience directly, blogs help you generate valuable keyword-rich content for your site. By keeping your blog interesting, interactive and informative, you can attract new visitors and keep the current ones engaged and coming back to you.

As Google incorporates its blog search into its Universal Search, blogs will be even more important in the years to come.

Google Local

Google local/maps was among the first verticals which was incorporated to the Google SERPs. Given the fact that results from local search are usually placed on top of the organic results, it is vital for companies with a local presence to optimize their listings in Google Local to make sure they find their way to the top of the search engine results.

Google News

Similar to Google Local results, contents on Google News also find their way to the top of the search engine. So it is important for organizations to make sure their newsworthy content and press releases are optimized and distributed so that they would reach search engines’ large audience.

Viral Campaigns

It is crucial to put your creative hat on and come up with viral campaign ideas that transcend your reach from your current visitors to new audience. Social media and user generated content are great ways to generate hype, word of mouth, brand awareness, back links and targeted traffic.

A successful viral campaign can have a huge reach and can guarantee your success in a personalized search environment.

So you've reached the top of the search listings - now you want to make sure your audience actually visits your site. Stay tuned for Part 3, when we'll talk about strategies to increase your click-through rate.

July 04, 2007

Personalization and Universal Search Engine Optimization (Part 1 of 4)

In their quest to provide high quality search results on an ongoing basis, major search engines are trying to better understand their searchers’ intents, interests and search habits. Google has been leading the way by offering personalized search results based on your past queries.

There are two main ways to track people’s actions and behaviours. The first is to use cookies associated with each computer. However, this approach is not very accurate and scalable. The second approach is to get users to log in to an account where you can track them more accurately and efficiently.

When Google launched GMail as part of its product mix, many people saw it as just another free web based e-mail platform with very cool features and a huge mail storage capacity. However, this was Google’s first major step toward making search personalization a reality.

Shortly after introducing GMail, Google came up with the concept of the Google Account which could be used as your authentication path to all products/services offered by Google. Different products that spring out of Google Lab or are added to the mix through business acquisitions help Google build a diverse user base who frequently log in to their Google Account.

Google can incorporate its users’ search history as a variable/lever in its algorithm and provide personalized search results. Even though there are so many obstacles in generating an accurate single view of all searchers (e.g., business account vs. personal account, sharing the same account, shared computer), this is a great step in the right direction.

Impact of Personalization on SEO

It has been argued that search personalization spells the death of search engine optimization as it is going to be virtually impossible to know how you rank on each and every user’s search results.

In my opinion, personalization does not hurt SEO, but it does make a comprehensive and aggressive SEO strategy a necessity. Without a doubt, personalization makes optimizing your site for search engines more challenging. However, with any challenge comes an opportunity for those who learn how to adapt. To succeed you need to get more creative and take a 360◦ approach to your SEO initiatives.

Before I get into some of the old SEO techniques that are now golden rules, let’s have a look at Google Universal Search and how it might be incorporated with personalized search.

Google Universal Search

Google recently launched its ambitious and long anticipated project: Universal Search. According to Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Products and User Experience, this project, which she first introduced as an idea in 2001, is Google`s approach to bring down the walls between their various vertical search properties and provide users with more diverse and robust search results.

To better understand the implications of this initiative by Google, we need to have a closer look at the various verticals Google owns. Some of these verticals (e.g., code search, patent search) are very niche and might not affect many businesses. However, other Google search verticals such as local, news, finance, blog, video and image search are more mainstream.

As a result, the comprehensive and all inclusive SEO approach, which used to be considered as a best practice, is now considered a necessity. Web owners can no longer rely on simply optimizing their text content and links. They should produce and optimize images, videos, local listings, blogs and news.

Coming up in Part 2 ... Being everywhere your audience's eyeballs are.

How Can a Facebook Group Complement Your Current Community? A Real-Time Case Study

I attended an industry meeting recently where we discussed the ridiculous popularity and ubiquity of Facebook.  In particular, one individual (shout out to Max from redengine) asked me, "Why doesn't One Degree have a Facebook group"? And I said, "Because I don't know what we'd do with a Facebook group".  I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now, and I still don't know.  People like Maggie, Mitch and Michael all have Facebook groups for their podcasts - why shouldn't One Degree have one?

Continue reading "How Can a Facebook Group Complement Your Current Community? A Real-Time Case Study" »

July 03, 2007

Marketing Effectiveness Summit - July 24-25 - Chicago

Mes The brightest minds in marketing will attend the upcoming Marketing Effectiveness Summits, July 24-25 Chicago. Will you be among them?

"Register now to get certified in Demand Generation Marketing!" The Marketing Effectiveness Summit is a boot camp for marketing professionals at B-to-B companies. The two day agenda covers all aspects of marketing to optimize demand generation. Individual Action Plans are developed on each discussion topic during the workshop, providing both strategic and implementation guidance to you and your organization, so you can quickly apply what you’ve learned to your marketing initiatives. Take this opportunity to do something remarkable for yourself and your company. Visit www.summit.eloqua.com for more information and to register for the Chicago summit, or another summit in your area!

Email Deliverability Woes? Help is on the Way!

I don't really consider myself an email expert.  However, I have been asked email-related questions by clients who are using it as part of an integrated strategy.  My biggest concern is generally whether or not a legitimate email make it into the customer's inbox and not the dreaded spam folder.  And with email, sometimes the issue is marketing-related (like not using "FREE FREE FREE!!!!" as the subject line) and some are technical (like authenticating your domain with domain keys).

Continue reading "Email Deliverability Woes? Help is on the Way!" »

How I Ended Up Doing Social Media Marketing for ABC TV's Traveler - Part 2

Who is Will Traveler?

I don't know, and apparently Facebook (or someone) doesn't want you to know either.

Last week, I wrote a blog post about how I found myself briefly running the social media marketing campaign for ABC TV's new show, Traveler.

As you may recall, after watching the first episode of the series, I realized that ABC and the producers of the show had completely missed the social media boat. I logged in to Facebook to search for "Will Traveler," the missing character at the core of the show, and found nothing. Not even a basic Facebook profile. Talk about a lost opportunity.

So I did what should have been done in the first place. On May 31, 2007, I created a Facebook profile for Will Traveler.

I tried to make the profile as realistic and as 'in character' as possible, based on the facts I was able to gather from the show. I identified the school he apparently attended. I listed his interests (electronics, politics) and favourite movies (The Manchurian Candidate, The Conversation). I even cited a quote from Jack Kerouac, one of the character's favourite authors, and had Will join a Jack Kerouac Facebook group.

I was particularly proud of the photo I chose for Will; I thought it was suitably ambiguous and mysterious:

Will_traveler_01_2

In other words, I created a Facebook profile for Will Traveler that fans of the show would instantly identify as his.

The next day, June 1, I began finding friends for Will. I started with me (Bill Sweetman) and my colleague Collin Douma (of Radical Trust fame). I had let Collin in on my little experiment, and he was all in favour of it.

Since there were already a half-dozen or so 'unofficial' Facebook groups devoted to the TV show (created by fans of the show), I had Will add the creators of those groups as his Facebook friends.

By June 4th, Will Traveler had a growing collection of Facebook friends and was starting to get unsolicited Friend requests and messages from fans of the TV show.

Clearly I was on to something. And fans of the show were having fun.

Continue reading "How I Ended Up Doing Social Media Marketing for ABC TV's Traveler - Part 2" »

July 02, 2007

I'm a Marvel, I'm a DC

I just stumbled upon this amazing example of User Generated Content driving people to actually see the new Spiderman movie. And there's no connection to Marvel!

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