Poll: How Do You Measure Business Blogging Success?

I recently completed developing and recording 2 modules for a business blogging program with the DMA. �One of the most interesting portions (in my opinion) of the material addressed measuring blog success. There’s no one right answer because the purpose for business blogs can vary from branding to sales.

Since bloggers often read other blogs, I’m counting on Online Marketing Blog readers to take this quick poll to identify what the most common goals for business blogging are. There should be enough options to address whatever purpose you have for your blog. You can pick up to 3 choices.

Pick your top 3 measures of success for business blogging

Engagement: comments, links (36%, 65 Votes)Improved brand recognition (31%, 56 Votes)Build thought leadership (31%, 55 Votes)Search engine rankings (31%, 55 Votes)Better communicate with customers (30%, 53 Votes)Traffic to the blog (27%, 49 Votes)Coverage by media and other blogs (18%, 32 Votes)Traffic to the corporate web site (16%, 28 Votes)Sales leads (16%, 28 Votes)Industry Recognition (13%, 23 Votes)Sell products (12%, 22 Votes)Improved customer satisfaction (11%, 20 Votes)Page views (9%, 16 Votes)Time on Site (6%, 10 Votes)Ad revenue on the blog (5%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 179

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A bit of Online Marketing Blog trivia: This is our 51st poll!

Google Plans for 3D Cities, Trekker View & Offline Maps for Android

While Google's Street View service is undoubtedly useful and one most people online have used, enjoyed and benefitted from, for the firm itself it has caused many headaches, as it has faced numerous lawsuits and privacy scandals over its Wi-Fi sniffing capabilities.

However, this has done little to deter the firm after it unveiled a series of new plans to further increase the scope and coverage of its mapping tools, including flying planes over cities to create entire 3D maps of the buildings below.

"By the end of the year we aim to have 3D coverage for metropolitan areas with a combined population of 300 million people," it said in a blog post.

You have been warned.

As if photographing our homes and then taking to the skies wasn't enough, though, Google also announced a portable version of its photography equipment that can be worn when walking or skiing so no terrain to remote or arduous is off-limits – perhaps inspired by the April Fool's Google Street Roo?

"There's a whole wilderness out there that is only accessible by foot. Trekker solves that problem [why is that a problem?] by enabling us to photograph beautiful places such as the Grand Canyon so anyone can explore them," it added.

In some more worthwhile news, the firm also said that it will make its Map tool available to download to Android devices so users can access information offline.

"Users will be able to take maps offline from more than 100 countries. This means that the next time you are on the subway, or don't have a data connection, you can still use our maps," it explained.

This could be particularly useful if you're trekking through a remote location with one of Google's cameras mounted on your back, perhaps.

This post originally appeared on V3.

Register now and receive the low Pre-Agenda Rate for SES San Francisco 2012, taking place August 13-17. Marketers and SEO professionals attend SES San Francisco each year to network and learn about topics such as PPC management, keyword research, search engine optimization, social media, local, mobile, link building, duplicate content, multiple site issues, video optimization, site optimization, usability and more. The conference offers 70+ sessions, intensive training workshops, and an expo floor packed with companies that can help you grow your business. While you're at it, network with peers and leading industry vendors.

How to Choose Web Hosting Service: Customer Reviews

Your website hosting service choice is crucial: it’s the foundation of your website success. A web host delivers your web site to the world. In case you make a bad choice, you risk getting into trouble:

Uptime: Apart from obvious damage to your website performance, frequent crashes often negatively affect SEO. Google won’t rank your website high if it is often unavailable or down (see tip #2 in the list of the ways of increasing Google crawl rate);Security: Improperly managed web hosts are often attacked by hackers, so your website will often have troubles being labeled as one “that may harm your computer” (which also dramatically decreases the click through as well as damages your web resource reputation).

Now, there are plenty of web hosting services available and here’s a basic checklist I often turn to when choosing one for myself or my client:

My project budget (how much money am I able to spend on web hosting?);Service reputation (I perform a few Google searches to check what people say about the service provider);Basic features (no more than I need for the future project, some extra features I will never need won’t encourage me to choose one particular service provider);(Very important) 24/7 customer support (I usually contact them prior to subscribing with a few basic (stupid?) questions to see how responsive and helpful they are).

To decide whether one particular service provider is compliant to my very basic requirement listed above, I usually turn to customer reviews. To properly search for “real” customer testimonials, I usually use the following tricks:

1. Google “Reviews”, “Forums” and Date Search

Before Google introduced side search help, I had used inurl:forums or intitle:review (and the like) search operators in combination with date range search within advanced search to find what people say about the service. But now it is even easier:

2. Hosting Comparing Services

There are a few helpful services that let you compare various services and packages as well as look through user reviews. WebHostingGeeks.com is one of those: it compares web hosting services in multiple categories (free web hosting, dedicated server hosting, vps hosting … etc) in a handy table containing:

Web hosting provider;Basic features (space, traffic, price);Bonus features;Reviews rating.

If you click the link in the last column, you will be taken to the whole list of independent reviews about the chosen hosting provider and package:

3. Twitter Search

One cool hack that I often use to find negative reviews on Twitter is :( search. Just add it to the search query and you will have the list of dissatisfied customers tweeting about their poor experience:

And how do you decide if the hosting provider is worth a try?

Google Does Away With “Sponsored Links” Label, Now Ads Are Labeled “Ads”

A month ago, Google began testing labeling the AdWords ads as “ads”. Prior, Google labeled those AdWords ads as “sponsored links,” which is how they have been named for as long as I can remember.

Today, it seems like everyone should now be able to see the AdWords listings labeled as “ads” as opposed to “sponsored listings.” Google has yet to confirm this, but based on my tests and asking around – the AdWords listings appear to be “ads” for all searchers. Google did however confirm the test a month ago. I’ll update this post with additional details as I get them.

Here is how the ads look now:

Here is the old “sponsored listings” label:

I should note, Gmail ads are still labeled “sponsored listings,” as well as on other properties.

Hat tip to Ben Edelman for spotting this.

Postscript: Google has confirmed this rollout. The rollout is only on English language domains for now, but will roll out to additional languages in the future. A Google spokesperson said:

Yes, I can confirm this rollout. We are always experimenting with the look and feel of our search result pages, including the delivery of relevant advertising. This is on English language domains now and rolling out to all languages and domains.

See Your Impact, The Non-Profit Rand Fishkin Supports is Amazing

We contacted Rand Fishkin (@Randfish) CEO of SEOmoz, about the non-profit he supports and I personally found the organization very inspiring. Please read on and learn more about it.

Also, Rand is currently at SMX Advanced so if you get a chance try to meet him. He is an outstanding guy.

See Your Impact – What They Do

See Your Impact helps make recurring donations more scalable, accessible and rewarding for those who give. It’s a platform that’s been highly successful in helping donors feel connected to the people they help, and likewise, gives a voice and a record to those who receive and use the donations.

How did you get introduced to them?

Their CEO and founder, Digvijay, was connected to me through several other folks in the Seattle startup world.

Why you are passionate about this particular cause, and this organization specifically?

I love scalability. I love how technology can improve the impact that an organization or an idea will have by leveraging the power of the web’s reach.

Hence, SeeYourImpact is a great fit for me – it’s not specific to any one cause, but about making the web work to power communication by people who should be talking – those who donate and those who receive assistance.

How do you support them?

We’ve donated some corporately and I have personally as well, but these are relatively small. Much of our help has been through contributing on their advisory board, on their website and helping them build better performing channels, particularly with social media.

What’s the best way for others to get involved?

Just visit their site – www.seeyourimpact.org – find a story that speaks to you, and sign up. It’s powerful to see how fast you can make a difference for lives around the world.

I Took Rand’s Advice…

I checked out See Your Impact and learned some very interesting things about the organization that I really liked:

100% of the donations for to the gift you select.The gift options are broad: Put a child through school for a month, buy a girl a month of computer training, buy food, provide vitamins, buy mosquito nets, give 50 children the chance to see a doctor…Contributors get to see how their donations have helped others.There are many inspirational stories about the people that have been helped by the contributions.

I want to thank Rand for taking the time to answer our questions and also for introducing us to such a fantastic organization.

Matt Cutts On Penalties Vs. Algorithm Changes, A Disavow-This-Link Tool & More

Is it a penalty? Or is it just a change to Google’s algorithm? That’s been one of the hot topics in search marketing in recent months thanks to the Panda and Penguin updates, and it was one of the topics of discussion tonight at our SMX Advanced conference in Seattle.

During the annual “You & A with Matt Cutts” keynote session, Google’s web spam chief told Search Engine Land Editor-In-Chief Danny Sullivan that Google’s definition of a “penalty” is when manual action is taken against a site — and that Google doesn’t use the term “penalty” as much as they say “manual action.” Cutts went on to say that neither Panda nor Penguin are penalties; they’re both algorithm updates.

He also mentioned — and this will be good news to many search marketers — that Google is considering offering a tool that allows web masters to disavow certain links, but that may be months away if it happens.

Other topics included why some spam reports aren’t acted on, whether Google+ and +1 votes are a strong SEO signal right now and much more. We’ll have separate coverage of those topics in future articles, but for now you can read my full (and largely unedited) live blog below.


We’re just moments away from our annual “You & A with Matt Cutts” keynote at SMX Advanced in Seattle. The room is packed like sardines in a can and, with all of the recent Panda and Penguin news buzzing around the search marketing industry, this conversation should be interesting, to say the least.

Search Engine Land’s Editor-In-Chief Danny Sullivan will be handling host duties, and I’ll do my best to keep up with the discussion below. So, stay tuned, hit your Refresh button every few minutes if you want, and follow along with all of us here in Seattle.

So we’re actually starting out with that hysterical video by Sam Applegate in which Matt Cutts explains how to rank number one on Google:

Danny and Matt have arrived to a penguin-filled stage and we’re getting started. And Matt has just thrown one of the stuffed penguins right at me, nearly taking my head off. But he missed, which is proof that he’s better at fighting web spam than at throwing stuffed penguins.

Danny: What’s the deal with Penguin. Is it a penalty?

Matt: We look at it something designed to tackle low-quality content. It started out with Panda, and then we noticed that there was still a lot of spam and Penguin was designed to tackle that. It’s an algorithmic change, but when we use a word like “penalty,” we’re talking about a manual action taken by the web spam team — it wasn’t that.

We don’t think of it as a penalty. We think of it as, “We have over 200 signals, and this is one of the signals.”

DS: So from now, does “penalty” mean it’s a human thing?

MC: That’s pretty much how we look at it. In fact, we don’t use the word “penalty” much, we refer to things as a “manual action.” Part of the reason why we do that breakdown is, how transparent can we be? We do monthly updates where we talk about changes, and in the past year, we’ve been more transparent about times when we take manual action. We send out alerts via Google Webmaster Tools.

DS: Did you just do another Penguin update?

MC: No.

Danny references the WPMU story and Matt says that the site recovered due to the data refreshes and algorithmic tweaks.

DS: Now we hear a lot of people talking about “negative SEO.”

MC: The story of this year has been more transparency, but we’re also trying to be better about enforcing our quality guidelines. People have asked questions about negative SEO for a long time. Our guidelines used to say it’s nearly impossible to do that, but there have been cases where that’s happened, so we changed the wording on that part of our guidelines.

Some have suggested that Google could disavow links. Even though we put in a lot of protection against negative SEO, there’s been so much talk about that that we’re talking about being able to enable that, maybe in a month or two or three.

DC: asks about different types of links

MC: We’ve done a good job of ignoring boilerplate, site wide links. In the last few months, we’ve been trying to make the point that not only is link buying like that not doing any good, we’re turning the dial up to let people know that certain link spam techniques are a waste of money.

DC: Danny asks about messaging.

MC: If you roll out a new algorithm, it can affect millions of sites. It’s not practical to notify website owners when you have 500 algo changes every year, but we can notify when there’s been manual action against a specific site.

One thing I’d like to clear up — the news earlier this year about 700,000 warnings. The vast majority of those were because we started sending out messages even for cases of very obvious black hat techniques. So now we’re completely transparent with the warnings we send. Typically your website ranking will drop if you don’t take action after you get one of those warnings.

DC: Anything new related to paid links?

MC: We’re always working on improving our tools. Some of the tools that we built, for example, to spot blog networks, can also be used to spot link buying. People sometimes think they can buy links without a footprint, but you don’t know about the person on the other side. People need to realize that, as we build up new tools, paid links becomes a higher risk endeavor. We’ve said it for years, but we’re starting to enforce it more.

I believe, if you ask any SEO, is SEO harder now than 5-6 years ago, I think they’d say it’s a little more challenging. You can expect that to increase. Google is getting more serious about buying and selling links. Penguin showed that some stuff that may work short term won’t work in the long term.

DS: Affiliate links. Do people need to run around and nofollow all that?

MC: If it’s a large enough affiliate network, we know about it and recognize it. But yes, I would recommend no following affiliate links. (That’s a paraphrase! Not an exact quote – sorry.)

DS: Do links still work, or are social signals gonna replace them?

MC: Douglas Adams wrote “Space is big. You have no idea how big space is.” The web is like that. Library of Congress, the biggest library in the world, has 235 terabytes of data. That’s not very big compared to the way the web grows.

The actual percentage of nofollow links on the web is a single digit percentage, and it’s a pretty small percentage. To say that links are a dead signal his wrong. I wouldn’t write the epitaph for links just yet.

DS: You do these 30-day challenges, like “I’m gonna use Bing for 30 days.”

MC: I have not done that one, and I’m afraid to try! (huge laughter from audience – Matt then says he’s joking and compliments Bing team)

Danny challenges Matt and Google to do something to see the web from an SEOs shoes, and says that SEOs should try to see things from Matt’s perspective, too.

DS: What’s up with your war on SEOs? (laughter) Or is it a war on spam?

MC: It’s a war on spam. If you go on the black hat forums, there’s a lot of people asking, How do I fake sincerity? How do I fake being awesome? Why not just be sincere and be awesome? We’re trying to stop spam so people can compete on a level playing field. I think our philosophy has been relatively consistent.

DS: What about tweets earlier today about using bounce rate? You don’t look at how quickly someone bounces from a search result and back to Google?

MC: Webspam doesn’t use Google Analytics. I asked again before this conference and was told, No, Google does not use analytics in its rankings.

And now we’re going to audience questions.

DS: What percent of organic queries are now secure?

MC: The launch was a little backwards, because we didn’t want to talk about being able to search over different corpi/corpuses. It was a single percentage of traffic in the US, and then we rolled it out internationally.

I think it’s still a minority of the traffic now, but there’s things like Firefox adding SSL search in the browser. There’s a lot of things aimed at helping users with privacy. I recognize that’s not good for marketers, but we have to put users first. We feel like moving toward SSL, moving toward encrypted, is the right long-term plan.

DS: (reading audience question) How come WordPress didn’t get penalized with all the blogs that have WordPress links in their footer?

MC: If you look at the volume of those links, most of them are from quality sites. WPMU had a pretty good number of links from lower quality sites.

DS: How come AdWords isn’t being blocked from keyword referrals?

MC: If we did that, every advertiser would do an exact match for every phrase and then the ad database would grow exponentially. He adds that he wishes Google might have reconsidered that decision, though.

(I missed the next question.)

Matt explains that web spam team has been working together with search quality people and other groups. He’s using it to further explain different between penalty and algorithm adjustment.

DS: So we have positive ranking factors and negative ranking factors?

MC: Yes.

DS: asks question about rich snippet spam

MC: Used to be that people wondered why it was so hard to get rich snippets, now it’s the other way around. We’re looking at ways to handle the abuse � missed the exact quote, but he said something about maybe removing ability for a domain to have rich snippets if there’s abuse.

DS: asks question about link removing after getting an alert in Webmaster Tools

MC: We want to see an earnest effort to remove the links. When you do a reconsideration request, we’ll look at some of the links and see “how much progress have they made?” We’ve talked about the idea of adding a disavow-this-link tool.

DS: What if you can’t get rid of bad links pointing to a page, should we get rid of the page?

MC: If it’s not an important page, you could. Or you could at least document the effort to remove the links and share it with us.

DS: What percent of spam reports does your team take action on?

MC: We have a good list of leads ourself. We’ve shut down tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of domains involved in link buying. When you get a spam report, you want to take action, but it may not be as high impact as doing something about one of our own leads. We use a factor of four — we measure the potential impact by four and if it still shows up near the bottom of the list, we may not take action on it.

DS: asks question about Google+ and SEO

MC: When we look at +1, we’ve found it’s not necessarily the best quality signal right now.

DS: You have to be on Google+ if you want to rank well in Google.

MC: No!!!! It’s still early days on how valuable the Google+ data will be.

DS: Why’d you call it Penguin, by the way?

MC: For Panda, there’s an engineer named Panda. For Penguin, we thought the codename might give away too much about how it works, so we let the engineer pick a name.

DS: If you were hit by Panda and Penguin, should we just give up? (audience roars with laughter)

MC: Sometimes you should. It’s possible to recover, but if you’re a fly-by-night spammer, it might be better to start over.

DS: What’s the deal on paid inclusion? Is it coming to web search?

MC: You call it paid inclusion, but it’s a separately labeled box and it’s not in web ranking. Google’s take on paid inclusion is when you take money and don’t disclose it. Google’s web rankings remain just as pure as they were 10 years ago. We have more stuff around the edges, that’s true, but that stuff is helpful. Matt mentions using Google Flight Search to book his trip here to Seattle. “You can’t buy higher rankings. That hasn’t changed. I don’t expect it to change.”

DS: Mentions that some people have been really mean to Matt recently.

MC: I’ve had a lot of people yell at me over the years. I’ve developed a thick skin. People aren’t striking out because they’re vicious, they’re striking out because they’re hurt or they believe Google isn’t doing the right thing. You want to listen to that. Some of our best launches have come from some of the most passionate criticism.

DS: What are you most excited about right now in search?

MC: I like some of the stuff we’re doing that hasn’t launched yet. I do like the Knowledge Graph a lot. I’m really excited that we’re pushing for more transparency. If you’d told me 10 years ago that we’re going to tell every spammer when we catch them, I would’ve said you were crazy.

And with that, we’re done. Thanks for tuning in!