Ten Search Marketing Awards You Should Know

“A person will work for a living, but they’ll die for recognition.” �I’m not sure who I heard that from first, but it’s just as true for agencies and companies as it is for individuals. �One common way to recognize excellence is through awards. There are awards for just about every industry from software to design to public relations. What about search marketing?

Awards are like lists. They’re valuable in part, because they include, but mostly exclude. The motivation for organizations to run award programs varies greatly from being a source of revenue from entry and sponsorship fees to seeking to advance the industry by recognizing it’s finest to something in between. Many SEM awards focus on paid search and attract large agencies in that space. Others offer a variety of categories.

Here are 10 awards opportunities for in-house and agency professionals in the Search Engine Marketing industry.

DMA International ECHO Awards > Search Marketing Category
The Search Marketing Award recognizes the most creative and strategic use of Internet search technology to achieve a direct marketing objective. Includes Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

Entry fee: $225 to $350 depending on date of entryNote: (Disclosure: TopRank has been a judge for several years)Next call for entries: Approximately�April 2010

OMMA Awards > Online Advertising Creativity Category > Search Marketing
OMMA Awards recognize the year�s best ads, promotions, campaigns and websites in online media, marketing and advertising with 28 award categories for Online Advertising Creativity, one of which is Search Marketing.

Entry fee: $195 per single ad/execution entry and $325 per campaign or website entryNote: Award site is in Flash, no dedicated page for SEM you can point to.Next call for entries: Approximately�August 2010

IAB MIXX Awards > Search Marketing Category
As part of Advertising Week, the MIXX Awards stats that it is the only international interactive awards competition judged by an all-star panel representing the entire interactive advertising ecosystem�brand marketers with direct control over many of the largest advertising budgets in the country, major media company executives and advertising agency experts who create campaigns for the world’s most powerful brands.

Entry fee: $295 per campaign and includes entry into one category; the entry fee is $150 for each additional category.Note: There are two phases, screening and finals.Next call for entries: Approximately July 2010

ad:tech Awards > Search Marketing Category
For more than a decade, the ad:tech awards program has recognized talented visual and technology designers who demonstrate excellence in interactive marketing with submissions in the following categories: Interactive Ads, Interactive Campaigns, Optimization/Search Strategy and Web Sites.

Entry fee: $255.00/category for�each ad or campaignNote: Award site is in Flash, no dedicated page for SEM you can point to.Next call for entries: Approximately�January 2010

PROMO Interactive Marketing Awards > Search Marketing Category
The program honors the best and brightest in effective interactive marketing�and recognizes the valuable role that interactive tactics play in motivating consumer response and creating strong, exciting brands.

Entry fee: $200 per entryNote: For this magazine sponsored award program, you have to register to see the winners & register again to see the webinar announcing the winners.Next call for entries: January 1, 2010

Econsultancy Innovation Awards > PPC & SEO Categories
New in 2009, the Innovation Awards are a natural progression from our commitment to recognizing innovation in the industry, as demonstrated by our regularly updated Innovation Report and a chance to receive acclaim as an innovator, be recognized by your industry peers and stand out from the crowd.

Entry fee: $195Note: While this is a new Awards program, Econsultancy has a community of 80,000 members worldwide.Next call for entries: Deadline 23 October 2009

Search Engine Watch Awards > Various Search Marketing Categories
The mission of the SEW Awards is to recognize excellence, as well as inspire innovation and encourage new ideas in search marketing. The SEW Awards honors 14 outstanding search marketers, search engines and technology providers.

Entry fee: $145 per entryNote: (Disclosure: TopRank was a judge this year)Next call for entries: Approximately July 2010

Yahoo! Searchlight Award > Search Marketing
The Yahoo! Searchlight Award represents Yahoo!’s commitment to the best and most creative search advertising ideas and executions recognizing advertising agencies that develop search marketing applications outside of the tried and true direct response mindset.

Entry fee: �?Note: It doesn’t say a Yahoo Paid Search campaign is required, but probably a great idea to include in your submission.Next call for entries: Early December 2009

ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards > Search Ad Management
ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards recognize the technologies, and companies that made a positive difference in the online marketing industry.

Entry fee: $49 per nominationNote: These awards are not for campaigns, but rather the technologies that enable best of breed online marketing execution in the areas of paid search, analytics, email, mobile and social media.Next call for entries: Approximately�March to April 2010.

Business Marketing Association Pro-Comm > Search/Blog/Online Mindshare Campaign Category
Pro-Comm is ranked as one of the advertising industry�s premier award programs, drawing hundreds of entries annually from b-to-b marketing agencies and clients from all around the U.S.

Entry fee: $150 – $225 depending on early bird rate and member/non-memberNote: This award is specifically for BtoB marketing.Next call for entries: Approximately�March 2010

There are also various regional awards programs from marketing related associations such as the�EIMA (Excellence in Interactive Marketing Awards)�run by the Dallas Ft Worth Interactive Marketing Association plus�other kinds of awards such as the SEMMYs (TopRank is a judge), which recognizes the top search marketing blog posts each year and the Marketing Pilgrim Search Engine Marketing Scholarship (TopRank is a judge), which is a contest to create and promote quality SEM content.

Promotion World and a few other similar sites promote top SEO/SEM awards, but judging isn’t done by a panel of industry verterans as with the other awards programs listed above and without 3rd party scrutiny or detailed judging information.

Have we missed any? What influential Search Marketing Awards should we add to this list? Do you have experience with any of the above awards programs? Good or bad, our readers would love to learn more.

Web Directory Submission Danger: Analysis of 2,678 Directories Shows 20% Penalized/Banned by Google

Hi, my name's Kurtis and I'm relatively new here at Moz. My official title is "Captain of Special Projects," which means I spend a lot of time browsing strange parts of the web, assembling metrics and inputting data in Google Docs/Excel. If you walk past my desk in the Mozplex, be warned, investigating webspam is on my task list, hence you may come away slightly traumatized by what you see. I ward off the demons by taking care of two cats and fondly remembering my days as a semi-professional scoundrel in Minnesota.

Let's move on to my first public project, which came about after Google deindexed several directories a few weeks ago. This event left us wondering if there was a rhyme to their reason. So we decided to do some intensive data collection of our own and try to figure out what was really going on.

We gathered a total of 2,678 directories from lists like  Val Web Design, SEOTIPSY.com, SEOmoz's own directory list (just the web directories were used), and a few others, the search for clues began. Out of the 2,678 directories, only 94 were banned – not too shabby. However, there were 417 additional directories that had avoided being banned, but had been penalized.

We define banned as having no results in Google when a site:domain.com search is performed:

We defined penalized as meaning the directory did not show up when highly obvious queries including its title tag / brand name produced the directory deep in the results (and that this could be repeated for any internal pages on the site as well):

As you can see above, the directory itself is nowhere to be found despite the exact title query, yet it's clearly still indexed (as you can see below by performing a domain name match query):

At first, the data for the banned directories had one common trait – none of them had a visible toolbar Pagerank. For the most part, this initial observation was fairly accurate. As we pressed on, the results became more sporadic. This leads me to believe that it may have been a manual update, rather than an algorithmic one, or at least, that no particular public metrics/patterns are clear from the directories that suffered a penalization/ban.

That is not to say the ones left unharmed are safe from a future algorithmic update. In fact, I suspect this update was intended to serve as a warning; Google will be cracking down on directories. Why? In my own humble opinion, most of the classic, "built-for-SEO-and-links" directories do not provide any benefit to users, falling under the category of non-content spam.

Some directories and link resource lists are likely going to be valuable and useful long term (e.g. CSS Beauty's collection of great designs, the Craft Site Directory or Public Legal's list of legal resources). These are obviously not in the same world as those "SEO directories" and thus probably don't deserve the same classification despite the nomenclature overlap.

Updated Directory List!

In the midst of the panic, a concerned individual brought to my attention that “half of our directories were deindexed” and wanted to know when we would be updating our list. If by half he meant 4 of the 228 we listed were banned and an additional 4 just penalized, then I’d have to agree. ;-) In any case, our list is now updated. Thanks for being patient!

Let's look at the data

We've set up two spreadsheets that show which directories were banned and/or penalized, plus a bit of data about each one. Please feel free to check them out for yourself.

SEOmoz Directory List

Directory Maximizer, Val Web Design, & SEOTIPSY Directory List

Additional Data Analysis

Given the size and scope of the data available, we're hoping that lots of you can jump in and perform your own analysis on these directories, and possibly find some other interesting correlations. As the process for checking for banning/penalization is very tedious and cumbersome, we likely won't be doing an analysis on this scale again in the very near future. But we may revisit it again in 6-12 months to see if things have changed and Google's cracking down more, letting some of the penalties/bans be lifted or making any other notable moves.

Changes were made to the list on Friday, June 1, 2012.

I look forward to your feedback and suggestions in the comments!

p.s. The Mozscape metrics (PA, DA, mozRank, etc) are from index 51, which rolled out at the start of May. Our new index, which was just released earlier today, will have more updated and possibly more useful/interesting data. If I have the chance, I'll try to update the public spreadsheets using those numbers.

Google Places Is Over, Company Makes Google+ The Center Of Gravity For Local Search

When Google+ and Google+ Pages for business were introduced a little less than a year ago many people in the local search arena began anticipating the day when Google would merge or integrate Google Places and Google+ Pages. Well, today is that day.

Google Places pages have been entirely replaced by new�Google+ Local�pages.�As of this morning roughly 80 million Google Place pages worldwide have been automatically converted into 80 million Google+ Local pages, according to Google’s Marissa Mayer. It’s a dramatic change (for the better) though it will undoubtedly disorient some users and business owners.

(See our related Google+ specific coverage,�New Google+ Local Tab Unveiled, Will Replace Google Places, at Marketing Land.)

A Range Of Changes Implemented

Here’s a brief overview of what’s new and what’s changing:

The substitution of the new Google+ Local pages (as mentioned) for Google Places pagesThe appearance of a “Local” tab within Google+The integration and free availability of Zagat reviews (its entire archive across categories)The integration of Google+ Local pages across Google properties (search, Maps, mobile)Integration of a circles filter to find reviews/recommendations from friends/family/colleagues

Static Places now give way to more dynamic Google+ Local pages. Google’s star ratings are also being replaced by the Zagat 30-point rating scale (for user reviews as well).

Below is an example SERP for “burgers near Seattle.” The top screenshot reflects the “old” Places look and feel. The second is the new search results, sans stars.

Marissa Mayer argued to me that Zagat scores can express much more differentiation and nuance because they contain separate scores for food, service and atmosphere vs. a five star scale, which is forced to factor all those considerations into a single rating (read: Yelp). The greater, 30-point spread also prevents everything from converging at 3.5 stars.

Consistent Experience, Several Doorways

Users will be able to discover the new Google+ Local pages in several ways: through a search on Google.com or Google Maps, in mobile apps or through a search on Google+. The image below an example of a local search result within Google+.

As a result, Google+ becomes another local search destination within Google, arguably with richer content and more functionality than Google.com offers at the SERP level.

Not unlike some similar functionality offered in Foursquare, users will be able to sort and filter search results by several criteria, including “your circles,” which will reveal places “touched” by friends. Currently this means reviews and posts, but could extend to check-ins later.

Google had originally hoped to make Places into interactive content pages that merchants would use regularly to communicate with customers and prospects. However that didn’t happen in part because of the�limitations�of Places pages themselves. Google+ Local pages are much more versatile and “social.” Indeed, it gives Google a local vehicle with functionality equivalent to Facebook and Twitter.

Below is a Places/+ Local “before” and “after” comparison for a restaurant in the Washington DC area, “Mio.”

Google+ Local pages are much more visually interesting. They also enable the presentation of a wider variety of information types than Google Places allowed. They will permit local merchants to develop followers and message them, and to have the kinds of social interactions now available on Facebook and Twitter.

Google says there will be many more merchant features to come, in a post on the�Google and Your Business Blog (formerly the Google Small Business Blog):

We know many of you have already created a Google+ Page for your business, and have been hosting hangouts and sharing photos, videos and posts. We�re excited that we�ll soon extend these social experiences to more Google+ Local pages in the weeks and months ahead.

Below is another example Google+ Local profile page. The design and functionality essentially match but seek to improve upon Facebook Pages.

Discovery . . . And Search

If you click the new “Local” tab in Google+ you’re taken to a personalized local home (discovery) page, which�offers�a mix of popular, social and recommended content. There are several variables that go into the content that appears on this page. The same two people in Seattle won’t see the same page, though aspects of it may be the same.

What’s also interesting is that Google has returned to a two search-box approach for Google+ Local.

Users can browse this “home page” content or search as they normally would on Google or Google Maps. As I said, the integration of Zagat content, plus the other social filters and features make Google+ now an arguably better local search destination than Google.com or Google Maps.

Below is what the new experience looks like on Google Maps. It’s largely the same as what exists today except for the replacement of the star ratings by Zagat scores (and of course the underlying new Google+ Local pages).

Rather than being asked to rate businesses along a 4 or 5 point star continuum, users are now asked to fill out a more structured form (food, service, atmosphere/decor) and leave additional comments. Some of those online reviews may also make it back into Zagat proper, at the discretion of Zagat editors I was told.

Mobile A Bit Less Straightforward

All these changes will show up almost immediately on Android handsets in what was the Places layer on Google Maps for Mobile and in the Google+ app. (The images below are Android shots from Google Maps for Mobile.) Google has submitted app updates to Apple for review and approval. They should be out very soon but will look and be accessed in a different way than on Android handsets.

It’s quite likely that Apple will replace Google Maps in June with its own Maps and so none of this experience will probably ever show up on the iOS map. Instead, Apple users will be able to access this Google+ Local experience through the Google Places app and the Google+ app on the iPhone. There was no discussion of other smartphone platforms.

Overall this should present a stronger and more useful local-mobile search experience for consumers, in large measure because of the Zagat content, but to a lesser degree the social and recommended content.

Google+ Local Pages Will Be Indexed!

The conversion of Places pages to Google+ Local pages is taking place�regardless�of whether Places pages were claimed by business owners or not. However nothing on the back end will change immediately for merchants. Google says this in its�Google and Your Business�post:

If you are a business owner, you should continue to manage your information in Google Places for Business. You�ll still be able to verify your basic listing data, make updates, and respond to reviews. For those who use AdWords Express, your ads will operate as normal as they�ll automatically redirect people to the destination you selected, or your current listing.

Despite this temporary calm, business owners are effectively being dropped into the social fray with more customer-interaction potential but also greater demands to learn how to use Google+ to their full advantage. Those who do will be rewarded. There’s a ton of SEO potential here. Most notably, unlike Google Places pages, these new Google+ Local pages will be indexed.

We asked about management of multiple locations from a single page. Google said that there’s no news for the time being but that’s the ultimate goal:

A single page through which businesses can manage their online presence is a top priority, and we’re committed to ensuring business owners have a clear voice in how their business is represented on Google, via Google+.

In its SMB-focused blog post Google provided example businesses that were invited in early to enhance their �Google+ Local pages. I’ve reproduced only a partial list here:

Oh! SushiNorth BowlChicago Music ExchangeDelfina RestaurantMezze RestaurantMuseum of Making MusicNick Strocchia PhotographyMio RestaurantA Few Preliminary Final Thoughts

These are major changes that Google is making in the fabric of local — for both consumers and marketers. They will enhance the consumer experience with a relatively small adjustment and learning curve. People will be able to go on using Google as they have but get the benefit of the richer pages and Zagat ratings. They won’t be forced to use Google+ to get the new content.

By the same token Google probably hopes that millions of local merchants creating and enhancing dynamic pages and content can bring additional usage and greater engagement to Google+. We’ll see how it plays out.

Business owners will probably have a somewhat more difficult transition than consumers, as they’re compelled now to pay attention to Google+ — in a big way. They now ignore Google+ at their own peril.

Overall local search also just got a lot more social for Google, as it has recently in a different way for Bing. We’ll explore the social dimensions as well as the SEO implications of Google+ Local pages in companion articles and during next week’s SMX Advanced, especially in the�Hardcore Local SEO Tactics�session.

Google Searches Surge After Knowledge Graph Launch

If one of Google’s goals in launching the Knowledge Graph was to increase the number of searches being conducted, then it seems the mission has been accomplished. Google reports an unspecified surge in search queries since it launched May 16.

“Early indications are that people are interacting with it more, learning about more things…and doing more [search] queries,” Google’s Senior VP Amit Singhal told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s stoking people’s curiosity.”

A Google spokesperson backed up Singhal’s claims, saying people are “doing more searches as a result.” But the WSJ couldn’t pry out any specific numbers.

The Knowledge Graph shows a large box (or “panel”, as CEO Larry Page described it) to the right of Google’s organic search results on certain queries for noteworthy people, TV shows, sports teams, places, books, and other entities.

In addition to pulling some basic biographical or factual information from Wikipedia, Google links to related searches. Say you search for [aerosmith], Google links you to searches for the individual band members, popular songs and albums, and other rock bands that other people search for.

A Wikimedia spokesperson said Google’s heavy use of the Wikipedia data is “suitable” but didn’t indicate whether the site is seeing more or less Google traffic since the Knowledge Graph debuted for all English language users. Considering Wikipedia data is featured in the box, in addition to its prominent visibility in Google’s search result pages, it’s pretty unlikely Wikipedia is hurting for Google traffic.

As Google continues building its “next generation of search,” Singhal noted the Knowledge Graph has some shortcomings, such as featuring inaccurate information (e.g., listing the wrong New York Knicks coach) and that it is “weak in many areas”, which the WSJ then notes means “products.”

Singhal also discussed the affect on PPC ads, noting that Google is “experimenting” with page designs for searches where numerous paid search ads appear for a search query in addition to the Knowledge panel.

Currently when this happens – for example, a search for [lake tahoe] – users see a map with the option of clicking on a down arrow to see more Knowledge Graph information, which pushes the PPC ads further down the page.

This has been a big month of changes at search engines, with Bing revamping its results to highlight website snapshots and social data beside its organic results, while Yahoo just rolled out Axis, its attempt at visual search.

You are invited to participate in a ClickZ-Google Analytics industrysurvey for trends in mobile marketing and apps. You'll also be enteredto win a free iPad or 1 of 2 free passes to SES Conference &Expo.

Google Hypocrisy: This Post NOT Sponsored by Google

Over the holidays, Google Chrome “sponsored” a campaign that paid hundreds of bloggers to write glowing reviews about how Chrome can help small businesses. The sponsored posts, which were primarily posted by somewhat influential �mommy bloggers,� included a promotional video of Chrome and neglected to mention factual details on how Chrome can actually help small businesses.

Aaron Wall of SEO Book, who initially discovered the marketing campaign, showed that a simple “This post is sponsored by Google” search query uncovers over 400 pages of content related to the �sponsored� marketing campaign. Although each of the posts clearly states that it was “sponsored by Google Chrome,” some of the paid posts include followed links instead of the Google required nofollow attribute, which violates Google�s own rules.

The Google Webmaster Guidelines is clear that purchasing links that pass PageRank is a direct violation:

��However, some SEOs and webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links that pass PageRank, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.�

Since Google requests that web users inform them of sites attempting to manipulate search engine results with paid links, maybe we should let them know about Google Chrome purchasing links that pass PageRank. Considering that just last year Google penalized JC Penney, Forbes, and Overstock for similar violations, it will be interesting to see if Google penalizes their own browser!

Since the story broke, some of the links have been removed and Google has not responded to requests for more information.

[Sources Include: SEO Book & Image by�Search Engine Land]