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Social Engagement Triggers: Why the Facebook Like Button is Important to You
Monday, April 25, 2011
You know the world works in mysterious ways. What's old is new again. Popularity seems to run in cycles. Take for instance a band who comes on the scene through years of playing clubs and opening for larger music acts then catches a break writes a great song and gains their own popularity in a relative short period of time. After hitting mainstream they become complacent and stick with their formula only to become passe and ignored by mainstream. Sometimes it's the curse of being too popular, or sometimes it is just not having the ability to roll with change, whatever the case, for better or worse, it is good to be popular.

The same holds true for websites. If your content is of high quality and your web properties are "popular", you should experience online success. However if your content is well... typical or has too much fluff and not enough stuff, people will not pay much attention to it. They sure as heck will not link to it and there is a good chance that the search engines will not rank it. Enter something that happened in early 2011. Facebook debuted their "Like" button. This is a huge step in determining the popularity of a website.

Ever since search engines started oh back about 15-16 years ago, and even as the Web began increasing in popularity, the search engines placed a lot of weight on links and link popularity. Now as you know it became very easy to manipulate link popularity and enjoy prime rankings and thereby high amounts of traffic from search. This continues to happen today with complex link schemas and the artificial inflating of link inventories. There are a lot of companies around the world who continue to drown your and my email inbox with link requests... yawn. However in 2010 a simple "Like" button from Facebook began to change things.

We all know how popular Facebook is, but just in case you didn't know about Facebook, here are some facts:
  • Facebook has more than 500 million active users
  • There are more than 250 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.
  • People on Facebook install 20 million applications every day
  • The average user has 130 friends
  • The average Facebook user creates 90 pieces of content each month
  • About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States
  • Google who? People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook.
So when Facebook launched their like button, they allowed their users to share their "opinion" with but a simple click. You want to know what is popular? See how many people on Facebook like something. You will get a truer sense of what people are buzzing about. Link popularity, in my opinion, is overrated. It can be gamed too easy. Having users appreciate your content through a "like" button is something not as easily gamed. In this day and age it is still a little difficult to clone yourself into multiple beings. Facebook likes are legit as they come from real people who have an affinity for a given item. If they truly like something whether it be a review of a restaurant, an experience with an airline or a link to a cool website, they will let us know about it.

So just like back in gym class when you had to choose sides for team events, the Facebook Like button has become an important mechanism for identifying popularity. Here is a marketing tip for both the near and long-term future. Your website need to feature social engagements triggers. What is a social engagement trigger you ask? Well let's define that here and now:

Social Engagement Trigger - any feature on a website that allows a visitor to share their opinion.

That is it plain and simple. People are busy and when they are looking for information or opinion they want it fast. Internet speed is tremendously quick, and social engagement triggers provide people with a quick opinion. In fact, if we use the Facebook Like button as an example, there are three key benefits for your website as it pertains to your content:

3 Benefits of Leveraging the Facebook Like Button

Perception - The number of Facebook "likes" that a piece of content has can create a definite perception about how great, or not so great, that piece of content may be. Adding a Facebook Like button to your website can be one of the single most important things you do as part of your online strategy in 2011. Whether it is for brand promotion, or just to promote your content, allowing people to "like" your content can be a major influencer in how future visitors to your site react.

Feedback - Facebook Likes can provide great feedback about your content. You might think that your content is the best out there, but ultimately your audience will decide if that is the case. You can have the most talented team of writers, but if people are not engaging with your content, then something is not right with your content. While your content may be well written, is it driving quality visitors to your site? Is this reflective in your bottom line?

Trust - nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd and having people like your content can go a long way in building trust with your audience. Sure not everybody clicks on the "like" buttons, but then again not everyone links to you either. Social engagement triggers, not links, will provide a more accurate assessment of how the audience feels about your website.

Social engagement signals are the way of the future. There is no easier social engagement signal than the Facebook Like button to implement or monitor.

Resources

How to get a Facebook Like Button
Facebook Like Button Celebrates First Birthday


Editor's Note: Ironically enough, we have temporarily had to remove our very our Facebook Like button as it was causing technical issues. Look for it to reappear soon.

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posted by PlanetNim Caretaker @ Monday, April 25, 2011   4 comments
Free Keyword Research Kit from Wordsream
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Wordstream has launched a free keyword research kit that acts as a guide to analyzing keyword competition, with contributions from industry thought leaders like Aaron Wall, Rand Fishkin, Michael Gray, and 32 other search experts.  The kit features:
  • Two white papers on keyword research, one on keyword grouping and one on keyword research for social media
  • A Keyword Cheat Sheet (a quick refresher document on keyword research best practices, tools, and myths)
  • A Keyword Monitoring Worksheet (a preformatted spreadsheet to help you calculate opportunities from a traffic, rankings, and conversion perspective). 
  • 4 Steps to Better Keyword Grouping – This white paper explains how to organize your keywords into actionable, Google-friendly groups in an easy four-step process. This tool allows you to plug in your keyword data every month and monitor trends in your rankings, traffic from SEO, and ultimately how your organic search engine marketing efforts are helping to drive your business.

 You can find the kit here: http://marketing.wordstream.com/KeywordResearchKit.html 


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posted by Jody @ Saturday, April 16, 2011   0 comments
The Personal Side of Search
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
I have said it a few times before, but the past year in Search was been one of great change. We saw the merger of Bing and Yahoo. We saw Google launch Caffeine allowing them to crawl the Web more quickly and effectively.  We have seen Google make ever increasing changes to their results pages.  More recently we have seen Google attempt to clean up web spam and low quality search results (although the verdict is still out on whether this has improved results or not) with their Panda algorithm update.  Search is continuing to evolve.

Gaining visibility via Search is no longer about links or meta tags.  It is more about engagement, quality content and clean architecture.  Most importantly it is about providing the information that searchers are looking for and being in the right time at the right place.  Gone are the days when a site can rank number one in Google for a given search query.  The days of placing in the top spot for a key phrase for an extended period are numbered.  Personalization of search results, social engagement signals such as "likes" or "re-tweets", and blended/universal results offering a richer experience have made the search results pages (SERPs) a dynamic jungle with ever increasing competition roaming around.  To add further difficulty is that engines such as Google are displaying multiple results (sometimes four, five, six or more) from the same domain.  So it is becoming increasingly difficult to climb into the prime real estate of a results page.  Organic search is really becoming a difficult means of driving traffic to your site.


We Are All at the Mercy of the Algorithms

Google's ranking algorithms contain hundreds of factors and Google tweak their algorithms as many as 400 or 500 times a year.  For those relying on traffic from natural search you need to know that we are all at the mercy of the all mighty algorithm.  Except that is if you are lucky enough to get on a whitelist.  If Google decides to place more weight on quality links and you do not have many, you can expect to kiss some of your traffic goodbye.  If Google decides to place more weighting on "quality" content and you have a lot of filler pages or duplicate content, there is a chance that you will lose rankings and as a result traffic.  The point is that for those optimizing for organic search results you are at the mercy of the algorithms.  Google has a lot of power, perhaps too much when it comes to online traffic potential.  However Google is not the only game in town.  To be successful in today's online universe, you cannot be entirely dependent on Google or even on Search.  There are other avenues such as social highways such as Facebook or Twitter where you can generate quality traffic and engage with your desired audience.  You just have to know what that audience is.

I titled this post the personal side of search because there are people, site owners and businesses that can have a personal connection with Search.  For the past eight years I have been employed as a search strategist.  I have been referred to as a "SEO" but I dislike being called an SEO.  I am much more than that.  My focus is not just on "search optimization" but on helping people find the information that they are looking... searching for.   I am well versed in usability and on developing and understanding personas and identifying opportunities to meet business objectives.  Yet this week I lost my job because of Search, more specifically because of a series of Google algorithm updates.  As a search strategist, I put myself in a position where I could not use my skills to get the changes required in place in order to deal with plunging organic search traffic numbers.  I simply ran out of time.

The largest asset that an organic search strategist can have is time.  It takes time for natural search progress to occur.   A large part of organic search is trial and error.  You can apply best practices for a dozen tactics and see little or no immediate return.  Then with the next major crawl of your site or with the next algorithm update you can obtain a great boost from a traffic perspective.  Time can be your biggest asset or your biggest foe when it comes to natural search.

Google's Panada update has had a dramatic impact on many site owners, webmasters and online marketers.  As I was reading all of the forums and hearing stories of site owners whose business' were on the verge of folding I thought to myself, wow how can one company (i.e. Google) have this dramatic of an impact on people with but a single algorithm update (although the update actually consisted of two updates)?  Reports suggest that the Google Panda update changes anywhere from 12-20% of all searches conducted on Google.  Even at 12%, this number is huge.  This shift, in part, caused me to lose my job.  Search became personal for me.

There is no question that Google is having issues, but they will sort themselves out.  There is a new era starting at Google, just as there is a new era in Search.  I have never seen my career as a search strategist as one where I was trying to manipulate the search engines or was trying to reverse engineer the algorithms.  If you have looked at Google's search results as of the past few months, you will see that the problem is with Google and their ability to deal with a larger index of web pages, their ability or lack-there-of to address real-time search and keep up with the increasing popularity of Facebook and Twitter.

I am fascinated by Search and understanding how people search for their information.  I personally use search to find information but lately it has been difficult to find the information that I am seeking, which is why I go to places such as Twitter or my bookmarked sites.  To me Search is a personal experience and for the past few months, trying to figure out where search is going has proven interesting.  It has been a tough year for Google and for searchers in general.  This week Search had a dramatic impact on myself.  Onward and upward....

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posted by Jody @ Wednesday, April 06, 2011   2 comments
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