The Down & Dirty On Facebook’s New Premium Ads

February 29, 2012 marked an earth shattering change in the marketing world… well in Facebook’s eyes at least.  That was the day that Facebook announced big changes to its platform, most notably changes to its Fan pages and its Premium ad offerings.  Almost all old ad units are going away, the exception being the standard ads to an external website.  New ad placements are also available.  Additionally, Facebook lowered the barrier to entry by decreasing the minimum spend from $30k to $25k to get premium ads.

The New Premium Ads Placements

  • News Feeds Ads – Appears in user news feed
  • Premium Homepage Ads – On Home Page right hand
  • Mobile News Feed  Ads- In the news feed but on the mobile device
  • Log Out Experience Ads-  that appear on log out page
  • Premium Page Post Ads- appears as a page post

There will be six types of premium ad units: Video, Photo, Event, Question, Status, and Link. They must all come from a page post (posted by yourself or a fan) before being turned into an ad. The changes come from Facebook’s obsession with user experience. They believe it should be less about advertising and more about telling a story that connects your brand with their users.

See Facebook’s Official Slide Deck Overview

As mentioned before the standard ad unit is still available is you wish to drive Facebook traffic to an offsite page. Engaging Faceook users offsite is a chore, but there are some tools to help your conversions. If doing lead generation or list building and you are an AWeber customer, try using the AWeber Facebook app to increase optins.

While these ad changes may be great for branding and engagement, the ROI remains to be seen. Coming from a PPC results based focus, I have my doubts in terms of an ecommerce play. Clearly these ads change the game in terms of marketing strategies on Facebook.  List builders who use Facebook will likely see value through content based engagement driven ads to build their fans and list.

New Time Line Business Pages

New Branding focused pages versus the fan page are now on Facebook, where the layout feels more like a website rather than a profile.  Also, there is no more “Fan Gating” internal Facebook traffic to collect likes.  But you can change your external urls, such as the Facebook link from your website, to land on your Fan Gate app url.  This feature is a move to further cement Facebook’s shift on the timeline profile style that it has already implemented in profiles.

There are a lot more changes than we can cover in one blog post, but there are several great articles floating around on the web if you need more knowledge. Only time will tell if Facebook’s gamble is right and these ads bring an increase in results and user engagement.  Ultimately it’s up to the Facebook users to decide.

Is Your Site Ready? Google Is About to Drop the Hammer on Over Optimized Sites

In our last Leverage Lowdown our Search Director Matthew Hooks, who attended this year’s South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) here in Austin, recapped the most interesting SEO panel of the event.  The panel was all about ranking better in 2012 and was a chat with three of the biggest names in Search, Danny Sullivan, Google’s Matt Cutts, and Bing’s Duane Forrester.  Matt Cutts said something in that panel that captured the attention of many in the search world.  His exact quote was

“What about the people optimizing really hard and doing a lot of SEO. We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there is something we are working in the last few months and hope to release it in the next months or few weeks. We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.”  [emphasis supplied]

Audio at SXSWi (it’s about 1/3rd of the way in).

Matt Cutts’ remarks about Google’s ranking algorithm become all the more intriguing when you consider another recent comment from Cutts & co.  On their official blog at the very end of February, Google wrote:

“We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.”  [emphasis supplied]

Hm, what’s that rumbling sound…

Is That A Bear?!!

Around this time last year, the so-called Panda update really shook up the Search world.  Many thin content and affiliate sites saw their traffic drop tremendously, as Google demonstrated its seriousness about unique and quality content.  What we are seeing now are indications that Google will continue down that path and will be isolating other methods that people use to game the system.  Sites that can’t stand on their own two feet without their gaming techniques will most likely fall.  Is it too early to pick out the baby’s name and call this the Grizzly update?

What are the targets of this potentially major update?  Both of Google’s clues point to at least one technique, and that is the over-optimization of link anchor text.  In other words, if Google looks at your site, and the links pointing to your site, and 90% of them say KEYWORD1, Google will rightly ask how you got those links and why they are all so similar.  What is the probability that 90% of the people that link to you would only use that one variation of one word?  Even “KEYWORD1,” “KEYWORD2,” and “KEYWORD3” as your anchor text looks more natural than that.  A link profile with identical anchor text over and over is like listening to someone repeat the same few words over and over – it’s annoying, and it may incur Google’s wrath in 2012.  Google estimates that 16% of searches they see every day are brand new.  So a link profile with nearly uniform anchor text is not going to look natural.

How to Be A Happy Camper in the SERPs

So, you may be wondering, how do I go about linkbuilding and still have it look natural?  How can I be a happy camper in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages)?

Respect Your Environment

First of all, do remember that there is nothing unnatural about promoting your site – if you have a website with great content, of course you want people to look at it!  Google does not have a problem with linkbuilding per se.  What Google wants is for the links to your site to reflect the editorial intent of the site linking to you.  If someone thinks your site is awesome, they’ll be more likely to link to you with “awesome site” than “KEYWORD 1.”  Or with anchor text like, “My friend’s business,” “eco friendly company,” “great sale,” or even, “click here.”  Don’t try to mow down natural linking patterns with manipulative anchor text requests.  Pursue anchor text, but don’t raze the forest.

Clean Up Your Trash

If your link profile DOES contain too much of the same anchor text, now is the time to vary your linking patterns.  Link to different pages than you usually do, and link with branded terms or variations of your keyword, or even, “click here.”  And if you have a really egregious batch of bad links, clean them up!  Perhaps the #1 cause of bear attacks is leaving trash and food out – clean that stuff up and don’t feed the Google Grizzly!

Don’t Start Forest Fires

Is there a little batch of bad SEO going unattended on your site?  Maybe some duplicate content, maybe it’s just keyword stuffed?  Put it out!  Too many pages like that could spread to Google devaluing your site as a whole.  This advice works for cleaning up after Panda, and it’s also just good advice for preparing for any Google update – stamp out bad SEO on your site wherever it may be.

Don’t Forget The Marshmallows!

The final thing to remember for being a happy camper in the SERPs is to not just avoid producing bad or mediocre content, but instead actively produce good content!  Content people like to talk about, content that makes people want to gather around and share your site naturally.  Being a happy camper in the SERPs is not about roughing it in the extreme wilderness, although it may feel like it sometimes – the most important thing is to make your site a natural, fun, social site that people want to visit.  Follow our tips to avoid the dangers and have a better site than before.  Happy camping!

2012 SEM Trends & How They Affect Your Business

At the beginning of the year, several bloggers and SEOs made predictions for the top SEO, PPC, and Social Media Marketing trends we could expect for the New Year, and while several of them have been eerily prescient in their forecasts, some newcomers are on the rise! Our SEO experts weigh in on some of the most effective and popular new SEO trends as witnessed in the first quarter of 2012:

1.  Community Is The New Content

For years, SEOs and marketing specialists have been hounding us about the importance of original, relevant content, and while this is still crucial to a site’s search health, it’s no longer sufficient to simply place content on your site without optimizing it socially. We are seeing that it is becoming ever more important to engage in a two-way dialogue with your customer base – whether that’s providing them the option to comment on your blog and responding, or sharing your content in the social sphere, or developing communication on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Engaging with your community will build stronger brand loyalty, allowing you to quickly resolve any potential issues and keep your company in tune with what your customers want and need.

2.  Location, Location, Location!

We’ve been seeing geolocation begin to creep into the social sphere – Google’s integration of maps on the search page, Twitter’s optional location stamp on tweets, etc. More localization will not only boost visibility for smaller, local companies in the online sphere but it really tailors results to the searcher’s needs.

We’re only going to continue to see more location-based search integration with the rise of mobile search so making that information readily available on your site is crucial, as Google uses this information to identify your location and return your business for relevant searches.

3.  Rich Media

We’re thrilled to see the development of rich media ads and snippets in the search network as it opens up myriad new options for our clients and great opportunities for search. Earlier, we blogged about rich media in Yahoo! and Bing (MSN) search, which include the incorporation of video, images, maps, forms, and much more.

Many of the search engines have also expanded their rich snippet inclusions for search engine results pages; Google, for example, has begun to include reviews, music, links to other pages on a site, and much more.  This detailed blurb provides more information for the searcher which may help determine whether or not they opt to click through to your site! Between rich media ads and snippets, there are many new venues through which we can provide information and increase visibility for our clients.

4.  Page Load Speed

It’s become evident in the past few months that Google’s recent algorithm updates have come to include page load speed as a ranking factor. Recent data shows that delays as short as a half-second can impact business metrics, and although this shouldn’t scare business owners into sacrificing content or revamping their entire site, it is important to consider what elements of a page may lead to a slower load time and if any of these elements could be edited or removed.

Some examples of elements that lead to slower load times include flash, huge images, several plug-ins, etc. It’s also important to note that your site may load differently in different browsers (Firefox versus Chrome versus Internet Explorer) so testing is an important component. Why is Google now factoring in page load time? Because slower pages result in less user engagement – those searching online, especially on mobile, want information immediately if not sooner. Data shows that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load, and even a 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.

A slow page may just be the thing that makes visitors hit the back button and go to another site.

Clearly we’re seeing a continued move towards more social integration and the merging of multiple marketing initiatives. As mentioned earlier, the combination of tactics is ultimately the most effective way to see successes in online visibility – a well-rounded marketing campaign involving optimized ads, rich media ads, social media presence and engagement, clean site structure and HTML, geolocation optimization, a mobile presence, etc. will be the ultimate way to improve online presence and search traffic.



SXSW SEO Chat Recap

While there are plenty of panels at least broadly related to the world of SEM and Social Media at the Interactive portion of the 2012 SXSW Festival, there is only one panel that I marked as a ‘must see’ related to the SEO space.  That panel was Saturday’s “Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better!” with Danny Sullivan – editor of Search Engine Land, Matt Cutts – head of Google’s Webspam team, and Duane Forrester – Sr. Project Marketing Manager at Bing.  If you weren’t able to be a part of this panel, below is a quick recap of the bits that I found to be especially interesting/useful.

How do small businesses compete in the search results with large competitors spending thousands of dollars and spending huge numbers of man-hours on SEO?

Cutts pointed to the fact that Google wants to even the playing field somewhat and either has and will continue to address this topic or that they will be addressing this topic with upcoming updates to their algorithms.  Duane responded by saying that social indications were quite useful and important indicators of a site’s value.  And that it’s hard to argue with a site’s/company’s value if other people are indicating the site’s value.  My take:  In addition to agreeing that social cues are very important, I would add that user experience on the pages of the site plays an important role as well.  Especially when working with new clients that are not yet well established in the search engines, we often see that after our initial optimizations, our client’s rankings jump from nowhere-to-be-found to the first or second page of results rather quickly – even for highly competitive terms.  The staying power of the rankings, however, appears tied to how well searchers interact with the newly ranking site.  When the page new to ranking is highly relevant and user friendly, it tends to remain ranked well but if the page is not user friendly or is not providing something that other ranking sites offer, the page’s ranking falls significantly.  The search engines appear to test a site’s validity for ranking well before committing any sort of long-term high rankings.

Can buying links really help a site get ahead in the search results?

All three panelists agreed that buying links is a huge no-no that could have drastic consequences.  My take:  This, of course isn’t news.  This has been the ‘word on the street’ for years and has caused some SEOs to change their tactics to be in compliance.  Not so long ago, the SEO company hired by JC Penney was very publicly outed as having bought links on a large scale and there were consequences for JCP.  However, I can personally attest to the fact that paid links have worked in the past and that the sites that benefitted from them then are still benefitting from them now.  And we see that many of the top ranking sites for terms that our clients are seeking top rankings for are acquiring paid links on a continual basis.  They keep purchasing links and they continue to rank very well.  While we can compete without buying links, the sites that purchase links benefit more than Google and Bing like to admit.  Sure, in the long run, it’s probably not a good idea to throw money at links (which is a big part of why we avoid this practice) but it’s hard to prove that buying links isn’t at least somewhat beneficial in the short-term.

Follow your SEO’s advice and redirect error pages to valid pages of your site

All three panelists again agreed and were emphatic about recommending that error pages not be left untended to and that 301 redirects should be put in place.  My take:   I couldn’t agree more and I’d love to have the responses to this topic from all three panelists in a video that I could send to all of our clients who aren’t willing to push (generally) simple redirects through.  I think we on the SEO team at LMA are great about pushing for permanent redirects when necessary but if a client isn’t willing or able to implement redirects on their own, we need to push more for the second best solution which was pointed out by Matt Cutts:  using the canonical tag in a page’s meta data.  Placing a tag indicating which version of a page the search engines should pay attention to is a recommended practice especially for sites that do not have the ability, for whatever reason, to implement 301 redirects on their site.

This was a great panel with three well humored panelists that provided practical advice for common questions in the SEO space.  While there wasn’t anything particularly novel about the content covered, there were some great takeaways.  We’d love to hear from you if you attended or if you have any particular questions about SEO!

Microsoft adCenter Goes Local

Shortly after the launch of Rich Ads in Search (RAIS), Microsoft adCenter made available two additional ad offerings: location extensions and click-to-call. While both of these features have long since been available within the Google Adwords interface, the new ad formats are a welcome addition to Bing and Yahoo! Search advertising and a useful supplement to geo-targeting efforts.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, a location extension is an ad format that enables advertisers to display the business street address information alongside text ads; particularly effective for local businesses that rely heavily on foot-traffic. In Microsoft adCenter, up to 1,000 business locations can be uploaded to the interface and a business location will be displayed to users within a 50-mile radius. In the instance where several business locations exist in close proximity to each other, the business address closest to the user’s location will be shown.

Furthermore, when location extensions are implemented and smart phones are included in devices targeted, search ads will automatically have the click-to-call functionality on Bing for Mobile (currently unavailable for Yahoo! for mobile, but rumored to be coming soon).

Set up is free and can be implemented by following these simple steps.

1. From the Campaigns tab, select “Manage your business locations”.
2. Add locations by either of these methods:
• Add a single location by clicking “Create location” and completing the form.
• Add multiple locations by filling out and saving an Excel template as in the example below, and click “Import” to upload the excel file to the platform.

Apply the location extensions to either 1 or multiple campaigns.
• To add location extensions to a single campaign:
i. Select the campaign from the campaigns tab and click “Edit your campaign settings”.
ii. Under Advanced settings, select the Location extension option under Ad extensions and click “Save”.
• To add location extensions across multiple campaigns:
i. From the campaigns tab, select the campaigns you wish to apply extensions to and select “Make bulk changes”.
ii. From the dropdown menu, select “Ad Extensions”, and check the location extension box.
This new offering is but one of several recent Google-esque enhancements that Microsoft adCenter has recently implemented to improve upon their services. While they still lag behind Google in terms of innovation and interface functionality these new ad formats show progress in the right direction, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

Be more Real Time

Social Networks is part of the program at SXSW Interactive, and during one session “Marketing’s Shift from Waterfall to Agile”, leaders of Beckon, Dell, Disney, Mindjet, and PepsiCo shared some of their rationale behind the need for marketers to adopt and incorporate Agile methods and be more real time in decision making. This shift is mainly due to the need for marketers to demonstrate ROI in a shorter period of time.

The concept of Agile came from software developers in 2001 with the publishing of The Agile Manifesto. Agile methods include adaptive planning, continuous development and delivery, with time-sensitive iterations focused on rapid and flexible responses to change through collaboration of self-organizing, cross functional teams.

So as software developers have been implementing these methods for over 10 years, marketers are now seeing the need to adopt them within their organizations to demonstrate their value to the bottom line.

The panelists discussed the need to accelerate the process of taking a concept to market. Traditional processes are now being considered barriers and friction points as we now utilize technological advancements with real time data, monitoring, analysis, and marketing. The old way of doing things and “staying the course” is irrelevant in the space.

As one of the panelists stated, “We live in real time. We should be responsive in real time”.

However, the shift is easier said than done. What is required for a shift to occur within advertising and marketing departments is adopting an Adaptive Process, which allows for more flexibility to quickly respond to changes in the market. And the adoption must be adhered to and integrated among all channels including offline as well as online, which can be challenging due to internal “turf wars”.

Integrated content distribution across all channels is a must to enhance user experience and connecting with them at the right place and time. After all, during key times in peoples’ lives is when they need connections for a product or service. And if you are not clearly visible when that time comes, you are missing out on opportunities to engage your audience and earn revenues for your business. “Compelling content is going to rule the day. Our brand is being owned by our customers, and it is our job to provide them with content that is educational and entertaining with a purpose” said a panelist.

Another challenge is really getting down to the nitty-gritty of what is driving the conversion path with all the various points of connection – from TV to radio to billboards to print to display to email to paid search to organic search to mobile to social. Values for each point of engagement must be discussed and assigned to directly attribute credit where it is due when revenues are earned. Further demonstration of this challenge was apparent among the panelists when 2 of 4 stated they still do not know the value of a “fan”, “follower”, or “like” or how to attribute revenues in social media for their organizations. The other 2 said they knew, but would not share those
findings. Can you really blame them for that?

But all were in agreement that “Last Click Attribution Modeling” is not the way to go, and the need for a collaborative effort in an Agile teamed-environment is necessary to identify the right KPIs and metrics to truly demonstrate ROI across all advertising and marketing efforts.

Change is happening in real time. Making decisions need to happen in real time too.