Not Quite the Final Frontier

One of my favorite games to play in my youth was Oregon Trail. Loosely based on the experiences of frontiersmen, this game taught me the meaning of chasing the American dream and the importance of rationing! In a recent article, a columnist pointed how there is no longer a frontier and this has a lot to do with the stalemate in business growth in modern America.

While we can no longer easily exploit natural resources, shear ingenuity has created a new frontier–the web. More recently, millions of savvy net users have been able to access the web at any point using their smart phones. According to the Pew Research Center, over one third (35%) of American adults own a smart phone.  

Smartphone owners use their device in a variety of ways, from searching for the nearest food deals to shopping for a pair of rain boots after stepping into a giant puddle (personal experience). The question is, “Is your mobile site optimized to capitalize on the resources of this new frontier?”

Adhere to traditional SEO practices. For example, optimize your meta description, title tags, content, and alt tags.

Let Google know that you have a mobile site. Create a mobile sitemap and submit it using Google webmaster tools, just like a standard sitemap.

Verify that Google can recognize your mobile URLs.  If it is determined that your web page is not viewable on mobile devices it will not be included in Google’s mobile site index. Check that your URLs are mobile-friendly.

These few steps can ensure that your business is on the frontlines of this new frontier. While this is a great place to begin, there is still much more an advertiser can do to increase the results of mobile SEO. For more information visit Google’s starter guide

Right Brained SEO

SEO can be a very nebulous and frightening concept, especially with all that talk about spiders and robots.  During the seminal stages of an SEO campaign, it is much easier to regard the big picture before even considering the meticulous pixels. Starting with the latter can lead to confusion, and possibly dramatic increases in blood pressure, so slow your roll, tap into your brain’s bored and lonely right hemisphere, and prepare yourself for search engine enlightenment.

There are three high level disciplines that ought to be pondered at the inception of any SEO campaign:

Content

Content is the ruler, and it will remain so as long as the relevance party is in power. When examining the content discipline at a high level, the first step is to find peace with the fact that if you do not commit to creating original, useful content, then your SEO efforts will be vitiated from the start. All you have to do is identify some opportune keywords that you want to rank for and implant them within your unique content in a concentrated way that does not take away from the user reading experience. Don’t forget that you are going to have to conjure up some keyword rich, fresh content for all of your online outlets, not just your company site. But that’s a little too granular for this overview so breathe easy.

Code

Search engine algorithms follow certain protocols when crawling sites, and there are plenty of ways to optimize your site’s source code to acquiesce to those algorithmic impulses. The key here is to understand that you will need to alter the underlying structure of your website so that it is properly optimized to be found and completely indexed by search engines.

External 

Your online authority will be search engine scrutinized and appraised, which will of course have an effect on your site’s rankings. Online authority is measured by how much of a presence your site has across the internet and the quantity (but more importantly quality) of other sites linking back to you. Google uses an evaluation called PageRank, which can be regarded as a link popularity score. See to it that your site has shed the appropriate pounds, applied the most auspicious amount of makeup, and schmoozed the right individuals (or in this case websites), because these judges can’t be paid off.

See, SEO is easy! Upon diving into all of the tiny tweaks and specifications that make up a successful SEO campaign, if you find yourself drowning in a sea of augmented reality, just think back to these three simple disciplines. Take a sip of coconut water, center your chi, and get back to it – the site isn’t going to optimize itself.

Add Google’s +1 Button to Your Website

Great Day!! We have talked at length about the rapidly growing social media tool that is Google Plus. Rumor has it that Google is allowing a select few companies to begin building profiles. What if you aren’t one of these behemoth marketers? Start by adding a Google plus one button on your site so Google Plus users can begin to spread the word about your business.

In order to add the button to your site follow the instructions below. There are also a few helpful videos on YouTube. Read more

Myopic Foresight

What does the remainder of 2011 hold in store for us humbly enraptured internet peoples? Well, I’m no Miss Cleo but I do have a few inklings as to what kind of exciting and further reality shrouding online fun is on the horizon. Read more

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Neighborhood?

A social network for neighbors? At face value that may not sound all too interesting but think about it from a homeowner’s perspective: your dog is lost and you want to post some signage, you are planning a garage sale and want to get the word out, or you want to find out if the neighborhood hoodlums are connected to the recent trend in car break-ins. For these reasons, and many more, you can understand why YaTown could be really useful for those in need of a neighborhood forum or network. Read more

Online Ad Spend on the Rise

Online advertising spend is continuing to grow and it shows no sign of ever slowing down. eMarketer forecasts that by 2015, total online ad spend in the US will be around a whopping $50 billion. Search and display ad dollars have seen solid growth over the last few years and the positive trends are only getting stronger. Video is the newest heavy hitter and it is increasing at a faster rate than all other online ad formats. Read more

Google Offers

In my opinion, if you are familiar with Groupon, you are familiar with Google Offers.  At least this is the feeling I get from the limited information currently available on the beta version of Google Offers.  A few items that are uncharacteristic of Google’s usual level of support are that Google will write the content for your offer, they will help you create an ‘attractive offer,’ and they may even send a photographer out to your business to take some photos of your business.

Google mentions that they will highlight your offer on their ‘main site,’ so if they are putting the offer on Google.com or even a geotargeted version of Google.com, that would be amazing and could mean tons of potential traffic and buyers for a business. Depending on how the Google Offers program is rolled out (of which Austin is one of the soon to be beta cities), I wonder how this will influence different businesses to use offer type text/ landing pages in their paid search marketing.

More info can be found here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQFDRaKvcvQ&feature=player_embedded

http://www.google.com/offers/business/google-offers-fact-sheet.pdf

Also check out Google Latitude, which allows you to unlock offers in the Austin area:

http://www.google.com/latitude/checkin/austin.html

As the Video Spreads

Back for another installment of ‘As the Video Spreads.’ Sorry, that was bad even for me….

Anyway, we left off last week by taking a closer look at how important emotion is to viral videos. Last week’s exercise in making the user feel something is a great reminder of Advertising 101. Here is another reminder: Have something novel to say! Or at least deliver the message in a novel way!

The concept of having a unique message is one that most advertisers support. Though the concept is admirable, most do not actually pull this off in their video content.  Let’s take a look at another viral video that is actually a commercial for a popular men’s product: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJ3oHpup-pk

Analysis of Video

I chose this video because a common objection to creating great video content is production budget. Many will say that this is the ‘worst commercial ever.’ I say to those people, “7 million views” and countless residents of Montgomery disagree. With obviously little budget, this advertiser delivered his message in one of the most novel ways, a furniture rap.

The message here is simple.

(Funky rap beat)

Standout, be novel.

Don’t put you message in a bottle.

It’s just like, the video, for a Mini Mall!

(Sorry)

Pandas Bite

The recently unleashed, and then even more recently rehashed, Google Panda algorithm update works at identifying low-quality pages and sites that are deemed not useful to searcher experience. These sites include “content farms” – sites that generate robust amounts of content about various topics that are designed to exploit search engine algorithms. The primary objective of content farms is to produce advertising revenue from searchers that navigate to these pages through search results. These sites blatantly place search engine optimization goals over factual relevance; and therefore, Google sees them as less relevant to the user, and thus, penalizes them in the search results. These are some signs as to what Google may deem a low-quality site (from Search Engine Watch):

  • Lots of ads
  • Lack of quality content
  • Lots of content but low traffic
  • Lack of moderation

SEO must always focus on quality, rather than quantity, when it comes to link building. The links that we seek for our clients are typically high-level links from legitimate sites, not the types of sites that Google would be prone to penalize. That being said, Google is by no means perfect, and some useful sites with high amounts of traffic have seen drastic degradation in search visibility. With Panda in the wild, optimizers should shift focus more to incorporating unique content into client sites as much as possible while making sure to only pursue quality links from legitimate and authoritative sites.

Panda has not had much of an impact on our practices as an agency, as we have always used strictly white-hat, authentic SEO techniques. Panda is simply an effort by Google to crack down on improper exploitation of its search engine algorithm, and those companies and sites that do not use unscrupulous methods should not be affected.

StarStar Numbers

Adage’s B.L. Ochman wrote an interesting article, “Why Apple, Ford and Zappos Have All Invested in Branded Mobile Codes,” in which Ochman discusses that these companies, plus a few others, are at the leading edge of the next mobile marketing trend.

Why you ask? They all have branded StarStar Numbers, or vanity short codes, which enable consumers to connect and interact with a brand by linking to games, contests, videos, registering, making mobile payments, amongst numerous other applications.

What is it? StarStar Numbers are simply common short codes (CSC), which are customized five- or six-digit numbers that people request information from by sending a text message.

Ochman continues by arguing that these CSC’s will become very common in mobile marketing campaigns over the next two years and that all mobile campaigns should include the following:

1.       Messaging Strategy

2.       Mobile Website

3.       Mobile App

Unfortunately, these StarStar Numbers can be quite costly, ranging from $1,500 to $7,500 per month.

The following quotes Ochman’s top eight reasons, explaining why mobile campaigns should include a CSC:

  1. Both inherently offer the holy grail of marketing: precisely measurable ROI statistics including consumer participation per the dollar spent.
  2. Branded vanity codes and StarStar codes are easy for consumers to use and understand.
  3. Texting is mainstream. I think vanity text codes will become the dominant marketing technology. In fact, according to a January 2011 Nielsen study, text message use continues to grow while mobile phone calls (remember them) have been relatively static for the past five years.
  4. Mobile marketing is here to stay. Today, people not only have text-enabled phones, but in the U.S. and Western Europe, 90% of mobile subscribers have an internet-ready phone. Gartner last year predicted that in 2011, over 85% of handsets shipped globally will include some form of web browser.
  5. “Text messaging is the key communication tool of the modern era,” said Neil Strother, practice director at ABI Research in Oyster Bay, NY. “It is a great place for marketers to communicate with consumers.”
  6. Both technologies are brilliant ways to unify internet, print, TV, and billboard ads, making them more interesting and actionable for the consumer.
  7. An advantage of a dedicated vanity short code is that you have unlimited keywords and you maintain control over routing inbound and outbound messages. Since you own the code and all of the data captured, you can map directly into your existing database without having to input information from a different source. (A keyword is the first “word” that is sent in a text message, for example “Go” or “Join.”)
  8. Both technologies are cost-effective. They include web-based content management system that brands can use to upload their digital assets for their campaigns, and they provide metrics on call volume, etc. Because consumers want and request brands’ information, engagement is generally exponentially higher than with more traditional forms of advertising and marketing.

To learn more about how to attain a StarStar Number, continue reading here: http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/apple-ford-zappos-invested-branded-mobile-codes/227920/.

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