Victorious Over Google & AOL, Vringo Targets Microsoft in Search Patent Suit

Microsoft has become the latest company to face a suit from Vringo subsidiary Innovate/Protect (I/P) engine over search patents.

The suit is based on two online search patents owned by the Vringo subsidiary. Patent numbers 6775664 and 6314420 are based on a technology that allows search engines to work concurrently with advertisement systems.

I/P Engine alleges that Microsoft has, and continues to, infringe on the two patents. The firm is seeking damages for past and future revenues potentially gained from the two search patents.

Vringo made headlines last November when it successfully sued Google and AOL for damages based on online search-related patents. The jury in the case awarded Vringo $30 million in damages. Vringo was originally looking to score some $696 million in damages from the consortium of infringing companies.

Vringo was founded in 2006 as a mobile software firm. Last year the company merged with I/P Engine, an intellectual property firm that makes money by licensing patents.

It was following the merger that Vringo received the patents involved in the current lawsuits. Both patents were originally created by employees of the internet search firm Lycos.

This article was originally published on V3.

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Google Panda Update Version #24; 1.2% Of Search Queries Impacted

Google has announced a new Panda refresh, making this version number 24.

This refresh has a noticeable impact 1.2% of English based queries according to Google.

The previous confirmed update was #23 and it impacted 1.3% of English queries on December 21, 2012. Prior to that was a refresh on November 21st that impacted 0.8% of queries. It seems like Google is now rolling out these updates every 4 weeks or so.

Last week there were significant reports of a Google update, which Google denied.

Here are all the releases so far for Panda:

Panda Update 1, Feb. 24, 2011 (11.8% of queries; announced; English in US only)Panda Update 2, April 11, 2011 (2% of queries; announced; rolled out in English internationally)Panda Update 3, May 10, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)Panda Update 4, June 16, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)Panda Update 5, July 23, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)Panda Update 6, Aug. 12, 2011 (6-9% of queries in many non-English languages; announced)Panda Update 7, Sept. 28, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)Panda Update 8, Oct. 19, 2011 (about 2% of queries; belatedly confirmed)Panda Update 9, Nov. 18, 2011: (less than 1% of queries; announced)Panda Update 10, Jan. 18, 2012 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)Panda Update 11, Feb. 27, 2012 (no change given; announced)Panda Update 12, March 23, 2012 (about 1.6% of queries impacted; announced)Panda Update 13, April 19, 2012 (no change given; belatedly revealed)Panda Update 14, April 27, 2012: (no change given; confirmed; first update within days of another)Panda Update 15, June 9, 2012: (1% of queries; belatedly announced)Panda Update 16, June 25, 2012: (about 1% of queries; announced)Panda Update 17, July 24, 2012:(about 1% of queries; announced)Panda Update 18, Aug. 20, 2012: (about 1% of queries; belatedly announced)Panda Update 19, Sept. 18, 2012: (less than 0.7% of queries; announced)Panda Update 20, Sep. 27, 2012 (2.4% English queries, impacted, belatedly announcedPanda Update 21, Nov. 5, 2012 (1.1% of English-language queries in US; 0.4% worldwide; confirmed, not announced)Panda Update 22, Nov. 21, 2012 (0.8% of English queries were affected; confirmed, not announced)Panda Update 23, Dec. 21, 2012 (1.3% of English queries were affected; confirmed, announced)Panda Update 24, Jan. 22, 2013 (1.2% of English queries were affected; confirmed, announced)

Twitter Upgrades Search With Autocomplete & New Filters

Twitter’s search tool has just undergone a slight makeover with a number of new features that should help get users to the information they’re looking for quicker than before.

The most noticeable upgrade is the addition of autocompleted search suggestions that appear below the search box as you type. The dropdown will show terms that you might be searching for, as well as Twitter accounts — whether you follow them or not — that may match what’s being typed in the search box.

After completing the search, Twitter has added a new filter to the tweet results. In addition to being able to see “top” or “all” tweets, users can now see tweets from “People you follow.” This is a very welcome filter that you’ll use a lot when looking for a tweet from your stream that’s a day or three old.

Other upgrades include:

spelling corrections for misspelled termsrelated suggestions real names and usernames in search results — tweets that include either a person’s name or his/her Twitter handle will appear in results when searching for that person

Twitter says the upgrades are already available on, while its iPhone and Android apps are getting autocomplete, spelling corrections and related search suggestions.

Capturing Unrealized Revenue Through Keyword Order Analysis

As search engine marketers, our job is to maximize profits while minimizing dollar spend. Impressions and clicks are important, but it is the return on investment that truly demonstrates whether our efforts have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.

Today, let’s focus on one specific strategy to identify unrealized revenue: keyword order. In my experience, SEMs are more likely to bid on “blue suede shoes” than “suede shoes blue.” The former is the “primary keyword phrase” and the latter is an example of a “secondary keyword phrase.”

Is it worthwhile to bid on secondary phrases such as “suede shoes blue” and "shoes blue suede,” etc.? Can secondary keyword phrases produce revenue and a similar profitability as primary keyword phrases?

My pre-analysis hypothesis was “yes” based on the rationale that it’s the combination of keywords that matter, not the order in which they are expressed. The analysis is revealing on a potentially significant source of revenue.

To test my hypothesis, I analyzed six campaigns in two different verticals. In total, I analyzed over 78,000 primary keyword phrases and the related secondary keyword phrases. Since these results were based on exact and phrase match functions, there was zero redundancy in the impression and clicks generated by the primary and secondary search phrases.

Impressions, Clicks and CTR Percentage Analysis

As expected, primary keyword phrases garnered a big percentage of impressions and clicks, but what surprised me is that secondary keyword phrases yielded 15 percent of impressions. Additionally, secondary keyword phrases had very good CTRs: phrases with three keywords had similar CTRs, and those with four keywords had slightly higher CTRs.

Next, I asked, “Do secondary keyword phrases drive enough revenue to produce an attractive profit?” To do this I analyzed the return on ad spend (ROAS) for the same primary and secondary phrases as above.

ROAS Analysis

This analysis tells us that secondary keyword phrases bring in a similar margin as primary phrases.

When viewed holistically, the above analysis on impressions, clicks, and margin for primary and secondary keyword phrases reveals interesting insights and actionable strategies for SEMs:

Even when multiple consumers have the same search intents, they will use varying keyword phrases when conducting a searchBidding on secondary keyword phrases can produce a positive ROAS that can materially add to your campaign’s performanceSEMs should take all high-volume keywords with multiple keywords, rearrange them, and run them through AdWords or adCenter on exact/phrase match to determine the number of impressions; this data will help inform your strategy for bidding on secondary keyword phrases

While it is unlikely all keyword combinations will produce similar margins, this analysis suggests it is worthwhile to explore various combinations. I hope you use this analysis to expand your campaigns and discover unrealized revenue.

The next installment in our Search Engine Watch exclusive series will analyze call to action keywords and how they impact performance, including impressions, clicks and conversions.

2012 was a key year in Digital Marketing. How will 2013 compare? Find out in London.

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Why Content Marketing is a Great SEO Strategy, Not a Short-Term Tactic

Content marketing is a great SEO strategy – even better better than link building. Shifting your strategy from search marketing to content marketing is increasingly leading to higher search rankings and more organic traffic.

Some tests in May that looked at the impact of Google+ to organic search performance produced some interesting results. I analyzed two sets of clients I was working with and categorized them as:

Websites with strong social profiles.Websites with weak social profiles.

What this analysis showed was:

Websites with weak social profiles saw a 19.5 percent reduction in organic traffic.Websites with strong social profiles saw a 42.6 percent increase in organic traffic.

Google is now valuing authorship, natural links, and social signals far more highly. So the next natural step is content marketing.

With many SEO campaigns, it can be easy to over-analyze, often at the expense of the most important ranking factor: doing. Yes, analysis and auditing is important, but if you don't take action and change anything, your results aren't going to change. If anything, they'll probably get worse because your competitors will be out there doing instead.

Every site will have different SEO needs and requirements – but too often the actionable outcome of SEO audits and analysis is that a website needs more great content and it needs more high quality links. In these cases, why not just get on with building great content and attracting high-quality natural links?

Why Link Building is a Short-term Tactic

If your main focus for achieving search success is via SEO-based link building, then I think this can only ever be a short-term tactic at best.

The algorithms are looking to catch anything that appears unnatural – so when the next Penguin or Panda updates come around (or Platypus or Pigeon, whatever stupid name they give it next!) you're unlikely to be in a defensible position where you can expect to see a benefit rather that a drop. In fact, you're probably going to be pretty scared and concerned about what's around the corner, even if you haven't been hit yet.

Link Building Should be a Byproduct of Great Content

The main difference is that link building is a tactic, while content marketing is a strategy. What I mean by this is that if you're just trying to build links for SEO purposes and nothing else, you're basically just chasing Google's algorithm and making the most of what works while it's still getting you results. It can still work, but it's not a long-term strategy.

Great content, however, can send you targeted traffic for years. And I don't just mean search traffic, but referral, social and viral/word of mouth traffic.

Getting a great link shouldn't be your only end goal – you should think about other target metrics such as audience reach, traffic, mentions, citations, eyeballs, rankings, followers – or, more importantly, revenue!

What Happens if Links are no Longer Valued by Search Algorithms?

I can't see this happening in the near future – certainly with Google, but who knows what's ahead of us. The 2011 ranking correlation factors from SEOmoz showed that Facebook likes/shares had the highest correlation to rankings out of all factors. This is correlation not causation.

Google has said that they don't use this data for rankings - but it showed how powerful social data can be in terms of identifying the best content. So what happens if Google change their mind and start using it? Or what if Facebook/Twitter search becomes a real threat to Google?

You need to have something else to fall back on.

If a piece of content has 100 or more links and no social footprint, it's a clear sign that those links have been built to a page – they've not been naturally generated. Likewise, if you have many social votes for a piece of content, yet no links, it's also not the best sign that this is a high-quality page that demands trust and relevancy from the search engines. You need a mix of both – and it's becoming much more difficult to fake and make shortcuts.

Where to go From Here?

Whether it's content marketing, inbound marketing, earned media or just online marketing – what it's called is largely irrelevant. What's important is that you've got a great content strategy in place and you're able to make the most of this by promoting your content to generate attention online.

If you've got great content and you can attract/build an engaged audience, you don't have to rely on search. And even if you don't notice your organic traffic rising straight away, I would be confident that this is the best method right now for achieving long-term success.

 More Content Marketing Strategy10 Ways to Get Your Content Marketing Strategy in MotionWinning the Content Marketing RaceStrategies to Market Your Content for LinksOptimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers

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Google’s New Indexing Infrastructure “Caffeine” Now Live

Google first mentioned their new indexing infrastructure, Caffeine, back in August 2009 in order to solicit feedback, then launched it at one data center in November. �Finally, it�s live everywhere. The Google blog calls it a “whole new web indexing system” that�s “more than 50 percent fresher than our last index and it’s the largest collection of web content we’ve offered”.

So what is Caffeine and what does its launch mean for searchers and content owners?

Maile Ohye, of Google�s Webmaster Central told me “the entire web is expanding and evolving and Caffeine means that we can better evolve with it. As the ecosystem improves, we improve too and return more relevant content to searchers.” Google�s Matt Cutts added that “Caffeine benefits both searchers and content owners because it means that all content (and not just content deemed “real time”) can be searchable within seconds after its crawled.”

Caffeine is a revamp of Google�s indexing infrastructure. It is not a change to Google�s ranking algorithms. �It is live across all data centers, regions, and languages.

Content is available to searchers more quickly

Previously, Google�s crawling and indexing systems worked as batch processes. Googlebot would crawl a set of pages, then process those pages (extracting content from them, associating data about them, such as anchor text and external links, determining what those pages were about), and finally add them to the index. While this system was continuous, all the documents in the batch had to wait until the whole batch was processed to be pushed live. Now, when Google crawls a page, it processes that page through the entire indexing pipeline and pushes it live nearly instantly. This change has already resulted in a 50 percent fresher index than before.

Note that the introduction of Caffeine doesn�t necessarily mean that pages will be crawled on a faster schedule than before. It simply means that once those pages are crawled, they are made available to searchers much more quickly. (Remember, you can estimate how often your pages are crawled by taking a look at your server logs or checking the cache dates in Google.)

Google�s storage capacity has greatly increased

While Google�s index is not significantly larger than before at the moment, the new indexing infrastructure makes that possible. Which only makes sense. If Caffeine is intended to help Google better evolve as the web does, then it needs significant storage capacity. The web grows by leaps and bounds every day, certainly much faster than anyone could have imagined back when Google first launched.

Google�s flexibility in storing information about documents has greatly increased

Google has always associated a variety of details with documents it stores. (In this context, a “document” refers to any piece of web content, such as a web page, image, or video.) For instance, when Google indexes a web page, it also stores information about what external pages link to that page and what anchor text is used in those links. The Caffeine infrastructure provides more flexibility in the type of details that can be stored with a document. As the web changes and new valuable data about web content emerges, Google won�t have to build new code to take advantage of it. This means that while Caffeine itself is not a ranking algorithm change, it could impact ranking in the future (as new signals are associated with pages).

Matt Cutts told me “It�s important to realize that caffeine is only a change in our indexing architecture. What�s exciting about Caffeine though is that it allows easier annotation of the information stored with documents, and subsequently can unlock the potential of better ranking in the future with those additional signals.”

Update: In Matt’s keynote at SMX Advanced, he gave an example of additional data that Google can now store for documents. He said, “you might imagine that before we could associate a page with only one country, whereas now, we could potentially associate that page with several countries”. (Note that he wasn’t saying this was something that Google does now; just that it was an example of what is possible with the new infrastructure.)

How can content owners best take advantage of the new infrastructure?

Content owners will reap the benefits of Caffeine without doing anything at all. In fact, there�s really not much, if anything content owners can do. Some may wonder if this change means that existing best practices around crawl efficiency matter more than before. Is page speed, which Google has focused on more lately, more important? Nope. Google told me that this change doesn�t make any of the crawling, indexing, or ranking factors more or less important than before. It simply makes crawled content available in search results more quickly before and paves the way for added flexibility in taking advantage of the whatever may come as the web evolves.

Google: Sites With More DMCA Takedown Requests Will Rank Lower in Search Results

Google has announced an update to its search ranking algorithm that will demote sites serving pirated content, in a move that should please copyright holders who have long called for this move.

The company said that it would be adding a number of criteria to its ranking process which will take into account the number of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown requests a site has received.

With the new system, sites which have in the past received a higher number of DMCA takedown requests will be placed lower in a user's Google search results.

The company said that only valid takedown requests will be considered in the ranking.

"Since we re-booted our copyright removals over two years ago, we have been given much more data by copyright owners about infringing content online," Google senior vice president of engineering Amit Singhal said in a company blog post. "In fact, we are now receiving and processing more copyright removal notices in one day than we did in all of 2009, more than 4.3 million URLs in the last 30 days alone."

The company noted that it will only penalize sites which have received valid takedown notices from rights holders and that Google itself will not be judging whether a site is infringing on copyrighted content.

"Only copyright holders know if something is authorized, and only courts can decide if a copyright has been infringed: Google cannot determine whether a particular webpage does or does not violate copyright law," Singhal noted. "So while this new signal will influence the ranking of some search results, we won't be removing any pages from search results unless we receive a valid copyright removal notice from the rights owner."

Google has often been asked to stop prominently displaying links to sites thought to offer pirated content, and the news it is overhauling its search results was welcomed by the creative industries.

The BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said it was a good first step in the ongoing battle against copyright infringement and that it would be assessing the impact of the change overtime.

"We have argued for some time that sites with a lot of illegal content should feature lower in search rankings, based on the notifications we send to Google," he said. "We will look carefully at how much impact this change will have in practice, but we welcome the announcement from Google and will be pressing other search engines to follow suit."

This post originally was posted on V3.

This article was originally published on V3.

2012 was a key year in Digital Marketing. How will 2013 compare? Find out in London.

Improve your Online Marketing Skills at SES New York!

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Content Marketing: Curation, Repurposing & Collective Social Wisdom

One of the great talents of an effective content marketer is the ability to re-create or as my pal Ann Handley says, “reimagine” content. �This is a topic we’ve covered many times in the context of SEO, PR and blogging. As the popularity of content marketing becomes an essential component of many business marketing plans, interest in the right mix of creation, curation and re-purposing has justifiably skyrocketed.

Many companies don’t have the resources to create anything new or don’t believe customers need anything more than product features and benefits pages. Optimizing archived newsletters, press releases, images, video, PDF spec sheets and MS Office docs was born out of the need to diversify what constitutes marketable content for search and consumers.

Many companies are sitting on all types of content and digital assets that could repackaged, re-purposed or curated into usefulness as a marketing asset. �We recently worked with a Fortune 100 company to bring over 140 videos online using topical themes according to specific vertical markets and of course, keywords for optimization. Images, text, audio and video are all potential candidates for offline to online repurposing.

The cost and difficulty of scaling content creation has boosted the desire to find something that taps into the stores of existing content and digital assets. Creative content repurposing is an effective way to do that.

While there may be concerns that reusing content will result in duplication issues with search engines or a redundant experience for consumers, there are any number of practical reasons to reuse content including:

Efficiency – With a hub and spoke model for publishing optimized, social content there exists a number of repurposing opportunities. There’s an efficiency to that publishing model because you’re planning in advance to repurpose content in different formats for different channels.

A classic example is to announce a product. The core content of the announcement is the hub (company website or blog) and surrounding it are social spokes and other channels for promotion which might include a press release version of the blog post, a video of a product manager explaining the product or interviewing a client beta tester, images of the product itself and the product being used, tweets, updates, presentations, specification documents, promotional documents and media, and so on.

With a modular approach to content that has a specific purpose, audience and use in mind, content repurposing as part of a hub and spoke publishing model can be amazingly effective AND efficient.

Short Attention Span – If you think that blog post or tweet you just published was seen by more than a fraction of a fraction of your target audience, you’re probably mistaken.

Social content consumers not only get distracted easily but have short attention spans. Posting a tweet with a link to the content you’re promoting could be scheduled to repost 2-3 more times in a 24 hour period with each tweet taking a slightly different angle on the story. This is somewhat dependant on how many overall messages you publish per day. If you’re only posting 3 variations of the same message and nothing else, that’s not as effective.

The first message might be seen and ignored because it doesn’t connect with a segment of your community. But maybe the 2nd or 3rd version of the message does because of a different angle or even the time its published. Not only can additional variations inspire interest but also RT’s and shares.

Building SEO Relevancy – We target about 20 core keyword phrases with this blog, yet over 20,000 unique keyword phrases are used to drive visitors here every month. When a SEO and content marketing strategy work together, repurposing content means additional SEO assets to attract search traffic on many different variations of a theme. Google reports that 16% of the queries it sees every day have never been seen before. That means building out a content footprint that represents a diversity of keywords on a theme will help a company attract an audience that is actively looking beyond the broad (and more competitive) phrases that everyone else is optimizing for.

Personalize for Verticals or Customer Segments -��If your product/service targets different vertical markets, there’s no reason not to craft a core message that’s then customized for each industry and audience segment so you can then pitch as a byline article or guest blog post.

Customizing for verticals means more than a search replace of a phrase like, “insurance agents” with “real estate agents”. It means modular content planning that allows for customization in a meaningful way but that leverages a core message to make it an efficient process.

Using a template, you might have customizable expressions or paragraphs according to specific verticals or customer segments that accentuates unique benefits, data and customer goals. Then a skilled copywriter would review and make final adjustments vs. writing from scratch about something that is essentially the same but for a slightly different market.

The Future of Repurposed Content is Scaled Curation / Collective Social Wisdom�- �Beyond the realm of simple content re-purposing is the notion of tapping into the collective wisdom and curation power of communities. �Intel is doing this in an interesting way with their beta IQ site.

A mix of original content and curated stories from Intel staff come together to provide an interesting narrative over three verticals “Media”, “Life”, “Planet” that supports Intel key messaging objectives for particular target markets. The official mission: “Our aim is to provide insight into what is driving our belief that technology unleashes the world�s human potential to create a better future.” It’s a smart implementation of technology to scale ideas along a set of themes that editorially support Intel messaging and in some cases, product implementation.

Have you found a way to repurpose content in a way that’s effective? �What are some of your creative content repurposing efforts?

Can the SEO-PR Love Affair Survive After Panda & Penguin?

The SEO industry has been in bed with press releases since online links and keywords were born. It was more than dating. It was a hardcore relationship that was sometimes viewed as abusive by the search engines.

Some called it a match made in heaven; SEO and press releases went together like peanut butter and jelly.

And then a scandal erupted.

Google’s latest Penguin and Panda algorithm updates hit, turning the online marketing world upside down...or maybe right side up. Gone are the days of SEO “press release” strategies of write it, optimize it, distribute it and take an SEO power nap.

SEO + PR = Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

“We distributed press releases and picked up thousands of backlinks,” said one Internet marketing consultant.

Cool, but what is the big picture? Are we looking at quantity or quality? Google is asking the same thing and the answer is quality, relevant, newsworthy content.

“The big danger to issuing SEO press releases post-Panda/Penguin is that today it matters where your links and press releases end up. If you generate links from 'bad neighborhoods on the Internet' you can end up with the SEO equivalent of a black eye,” said Mickie Kennedy, founder and president of “That's why I say focus on the press release for what it was intended: the media.”

So if SEO and PR want to continue having a healthy relationship, what’s an online marketer to do? The optimized press release is still a good candidate for online marketing, but the peace, love, and SEO days are over on Google.

Technically, Google is the media in this case, but this doesn't mean press releases won’t work on the search giant. There still is an SEO value proposition and component to press release distribution that deliver newsworthy stories to targeted media and users in a well-written fashion.

SEO Press Release TipsStick to higher end distribution services that issue the press releases over a true newswire such as Marketwire, PRWeb, PRnewswire, BusinessWire, e-Releases and social PR hybrid services such as PitchEngine.Work with content partners and sites Google considers to be good neighbors.Remember the traditional press release has the main purpose of garnering the attention of a journalist from a bona fide media outlet that can tell your newsworthy story to his or her audience.Write for the journalist, the search engines, the customer, the prospect and the social media news networks. This might require several versions of the same press release.

One way to look at it is like this: The online media outlets are the search engines and social networks. If you look at these channels as media outlets, the websites or users are the potential writers or editors. You want the most influential media to cover your news within that search engine or social channel.

The New Media OutletsGoogleYahooBingFacebookTwitterYouTubeLinkedIn

Is there hope for the over-used and abused press release when it comes to an online marketing strategy? Yes, professional online marketers share new press release SEO strategies that are actually not so new, according to SEO expert Joe Laratro.

Google’s New Rules and SEO for PR Old Rules

Press releases for SEO have always had a set of best practices for search marketing, but with Google’s new updates it is more important than ever to follow the rule book and avoid the possibility of Google’s duplicate content issues.

Press Release Distribution Tips

Avoid duplicate content by having multiple versions of a press release.

Wire versionWebsite blog versionSocial media version

Each version should be at least 20-30 percent different from each other and ideally contain different links.

Link Building with Press ReleasesDon’t go crazy with 15 links. Include one or two links in the wire version, and different links in the blog/web versions.Use different distribution services. Mix it up so the content is coming from different sources - not always the same.“Instead of just using exact match anchor links, better to diversify anchor text by using branded and non branded keywords,” says Peter Leifer President and CEO of PrimeView Interactive marketing agency.PR’s New Lover: Google Authorship

Laratro also pointed to Google’s authorship tag as a press release strategy. TechCrunch’s Rip Emerson said it like this:

There are a whole mess of reasons why Google Authorship is important. For starters, it lets those who create the web’s content (author's note: this could mean press release content) claim that content by allowing them to add their name and image next to the byline of their articles, blogs, (press releases) etc. That content stands out in the search results.SEO and Press Releases - Still a Happy Couple

Press releases are a key vehicle for link building strategies for many companies, noted Sharon Virtue, SEM Strategy Director of Marketwire.

“While Penguin doesn’t change that, online marketers need to be more mindful of the quantity and quality of links inserted into a press release,” Virtue said.

To avoid getting caught in the algorithm, here’s a few quick tips for the post-Penguin world of creating press releases:

Fewer and more quality links; meaning relevant to the subject of the release, from authoritative sources.Avoid using the corporate boilerplate as a means to systematically insert several links, always using the same anchor text.Have no more than one link to the same URL.Avoid using the same anchor text more than once in any release.

Well, you could say that the relationship between SEO and press releases is in a healthy state of rehab. With Google’s blessing, the relationship will continue to work.

Catch up with Lisa Buyer at SES San Francisco on the panel Social Media that Won’t Break the Bank.

2012 was a key year in Digital Marketing. How will 2013 compare? Find out in London.

Improve your Online Marketing Skills at SES New York!

March 25-28, 2013: Save up to $600 with the Early Bird Rate. Receive an unparalleled education, network with your peers, and achieve results! Register today.

Online Marketing News: How Are We Influenced? Reddit Cracks Down, 11 Surprising Social Stats, Google is SO Hot Right Now

How Are We Influenced?

This recent infographic from CrowdTap focuses on that very subject. �Beginning with the history of influence we are taken on a journey which includes:

How content spreadsWhere influence comes fromPeer Recommendations

Why Reddit is Cracking Down on Your Favorite Sites
Reddit claims that many popular news sites are guilty of artificially promoting their content to make it appear more popular. �Long story short, they are cheating. �Via Venture Beat.

comScore US Internet �Report
Latest figures from comScore’s show an increase in unique visits to social media sites of over 6%. �The company re-confirmed that Pinterest remains the fastest-growing social network as of Q1 in 2012. �Via TechCrunch.

11 Surprising Social Media Statistics
This article by Jay Baer covers some of the social media statistics that appeared in Tom Webster’s presentation at BlogWorld New York. �For a glimpse, as well as a link to the data be sure to check out this post. �Via Ragan.

7 Ways to Increase Your Blog Visibility with Social Sharing
Social sharing is critical for increasing traffic to your blog. �This post provides 7 insightful tips to have your readers asking for more. �Via Social Media Examiner.

Top Team News

Brian Larson – Google Is So Hot Right Now!
Google�s search feature Hot Searches, FKA Google Hot Trends, has received a makeover. In addition to adding a new visual that gives a more polished look, Google has also added a trending bar that shares the number of the daily US searches on the topic.� Learn more about the new and improved Hot Searches in this post from Search Engine Land.

Shawna Kenyon – Twitter’s Expanded Tweets Now Show More Interactive Content
Twitter� updated its �expanded tweets� today allowing users to see more interactive content via both desktop and mobile browsers. �With the new update users will have the ability to preview articles and play content. Twitter plans to unveil additional changes to the site this month including tailored trends, hashtag pages and Facebook integration of handles, photos and hashtags. �Via Mashable.

Kodi Osmond – Facebook Exchange: A New Way For Advertisers To Target Specific Users
Facebook Exchange is being tested with eight advertising demand-side platform and will be widely available in the next few weeks.� �How does this potential moneymaker for Facebook work for advertisers; and what does this mean for users?� Learn more on Techcrunch.

Jolina Pettice – Presentation is the First Hurdle in Content Consumption
Why do girls fawn over anything in a blue box and white bow? Why do restaurants show you the dessert tray vs a menu? �It�s because often times the presentation is as important as what is being presented. And these smart folks have tied people�s desire to consume with their eyes into bottom-line results. �What can you do to create content that is more visually appealing? Find out (and not, it�s not all about infographic � although there are a few!) �Via Search Engine Land.

Time to Weigh In: Do you think that Reddit’s ban of popular sites is a fair tactic? �Does comScores Q1 findings have an impact on your social strategy? Do you see Twitter’s new “more is more” strategy as a better engagement mechanism?

5 Easy Tips to Boost Conversions from YouTube Ads

It's surprising how many advertisers today dismiss YouTube as simply a brand building tool. Fact is, YouTube ads do convert, oftentimes very cost-effectively. Whether you have an e-commerce site seeking additional sales or a lead gen model, YouTube advertising should definitely factor into your marketing mix.

YouTube offers a range of video advertising options, with the best ones for conversions being TrueView In-Search and In-Display Video ads (together formerly falling under the YouTube Promoted Videos name).

When done right, TrueView In-Search and In-Display videos can offer a competitive CPA and high return on ad spend. However, while the set-up might seem fairly straightforward, there are some tricks that can be easily implemented to dramatically increase your success.

Below are five super simple tips to help you get the most from your YouTube advertising campaigns.

1. Picking the Right Video

Video length plays a big part in the success of your campaign. The best advice is to leave the 30 second videos for YouTube InStream ads. In our tests we’ve seen longer videos work best for TrueView In-Search and In-Display Video ads.

Videos 2-3 minutes and longer have the advantage of really engaging viewers which helps spur them on to take action. Don't worry about being too long, a video that is over 20 minutes long can succeed! Test different lengths and keep an eye on YouTube Insight stats to track the drop off times to ensure you have maximum attention when it matters most.

2. Optimizing Your Channel Page

Once you have your video uploaded, it's time to tackle your channel page. Use this space to provide more information about your brand, share links to your key landing pages or social media sites, and post related videos.

Don't be afraid to toot your own horn a little here. Just make sure it is compelling and interesting for your audience. The whole “what’s in it for me” thinking is especially important on YouTube, where attention spans are shorter.

Now, for the job of improving conversion rates, the single most valuable piece of real estate on your channel page is the Clickable Channel Banner. Not many people realize how effective this can be; even digital marketing-savvy brands like Zappos don't take advantage of it.

Harness this space to upload a banner that has clear calls to action, which will drive up clicks to your site (and conversions) without having to spend a single cent more! Even if viewers aren't fully engaging with your video, this banner can serve as a free ad to increase the chances of a conversion.

Here are the specs from YouTube:

Here are some examples of effective channel banners:

Note how Rosetta Stone has done a good job of incorporating calls to action as well as social media in theirs:

3. Selecting the Right Keywords

YouTube is higher up in the sales funnel, so gearing keywords related to the discovery stage works best. When setting up your ad groups be sure to go with broader keywords and shorter keyword phrases.

The good thing here is the average CPVs (Cost-Per-View) are usually cheaper than average CPCs on search so these keywords won't be prohibitively expensive on YouTube.

Use the YouTube keyword tool to get additional suggestions for keywords rather than relying on the AdWords keyword tool or only copying keywords from your existing search campaigns. Take keywords that have proven to work well and mix in additional keywords suggested by the keyword tool.

4. Creating Effective Ads

When creating your video ad, there are two key features that make a tremendous difference to both your click through rate and your conversion rate.

First, to improve click-through rate, test the different video thumbnail image choices that AdWords provides when setting up your ad. One seemingly small change could yield extra clicks from the exact same ad copy.

Next, to make a big impact on your conversion rate, select the option to have your video play on your channel page instead of the watch page. This will allow your channel banner call to action as well as the authority-building content to show up each time the ad is clicked, increasing your chances of a conversion.

5. Leveraging Annotations Effectively

Annotations are a great way to add commentary or highlight information at any point in the video. The design is flexible, and you can control where they appear and when they appear and disappear.

For the purpose of conversion rate optimization, there are two great ways to use annotations.

Showcase a call to action with a link to your site at key points during the video. While the default setting allows for links to be clickable only to other links within YouTube, having a simple URL to an external site can still be effective. Use a vanity URL such as www.(sitename).com/sale to help make it easily memorable. Google also offers the option to make these external links clickable (External Annotations), however you would need to work with your Google rep to set it up, and there is often a minimum spend required to qualify for this.Drive clicks to related videos during the last few seconds of your video. Since these videos are all on YouTube, the links will automatically be clickable and are a great way to keep people engaged to learn more about you and your offer. Simply make your video run 15 seconds longer with just a white background and then layer on the annotations via YouTube in a compelling design. They're easy to edit on the fly should you want to switch out the videos.

Here's an example:

Bonus Tip! Building Trust through Community Management

To see an added boost in conversions, building trust is important. YouTube’s community thrives on comments and input from viewers and responding to them serves to enhance the authority and trustworthiness of your brand.

Respond in a timely manner to questions and comments and see how that spurs on increased engagement and clicks to your site. It doesn't have to be very time consuming, you can set aside 20 minutes each day for YouTube community management and still be effective.

2012 was a key year in Digital Marketing. How will 2013 compare? Find out in London.

Improve your Online Marketing Skills at SES New York!

March 25-28, 2013: Save up to $600 with the Early Bird Rate. Receive an unparalleled education, network with your peers, and achieve results! Register today.

Bing’s Image Search Gets A New Look, Updated Features

Bing has updated its image search today with a new look and some tweaks to its search and discovery features.

The first thing you’ll notice, aside from the fact that puppies are really cute, is the tight tile-based layout that Pinterest often gets credited for making popular in the past year or so. Both Flickr and Yahoo have recently rolled out similar layouts — Yahoo, in fact, rolled out a very similar look and feel just yesterday.

Image search on Bing has also been updated to the minimalist user interface that launched in early May. There are also bigger thumbnails and a “magnifying glass” tool that pops up above each image with information.

On the feature side, Bing is touting the filter bar at the top of the image results that lets users drill-down to images based on size, color and other options. There are also related topics and trending image searches to the right and search suggestions up above.

Of interest, too, is that Bing says image search makes up about seven percent of all Bing queries.

Facebook’s Graph Search: the Ultimate Personalized Discovery Engine?

The potential for Facebook’s new Graph Search feature is huge. Brands, digital marketers, and publishers can and should be doing a number of things right now to benefit from it as it reaches critical mass.

A simple rule of thumb is that the more content that gets shared, liked, or commented on through Facebook, the greater the chances of discovery of that content through Graph Search.

What is Graph Search?

Facebook Graph Search is a social search feature the company announced Jan. 15. The feature is currently in private beta with a waitlist for individuals and businesses. You can join the waitlist here (scroll down to the bottom).

Facebook’s announced plan is to roll it out gradually to hundreds of thousands of individuals first (English only), then more broadly for PC-based users, then for non-English languages, and then on mobile.

It isn't clear how quickly this expansion will occur, but several Facebook product people are on record saying they still have work to do to figure out how to scale the computationally intensive searches across millions of concurrent users. (Think of crawling a user’s social and open graph connections across hundreds of thousands or potentially millions of nodes for every search.) Non-trivial engineering challenges stand in the way of mass availability of this feature set.

What Does it Do?

It's a very cool feature. When I type in a query, such as “friends who have been to Rome, Italy,” Graph Search traverses all of my relationships and those of my friends to find people who have visited Rome. It then pulls back these people and displays them alongside relevant content. This is a simple example that illustrates the difference between the kinds of results Graph Search returns and how search results from Google (or Bing) would appear.

Another key aspect of this feature is how it appears to include implicit affinities and experiences, in addition to explicit likes and shares people have done through Facebook. When you think about the significance of that, it’s pretty impressive.

Based on the content I’ve shared, as well as the check-ins, posts, and comments I’ve made, plus the images I’ve tagged, etc., Graph Search can infer what I like, where I’ve traveled to, and so forth. The inclusion of implicit affinities is only possible due to Facebook’s massive scale and could ultimately be the component of Graph Search that makes the results valuable enough to get people to use the feature.

What is it Good for?People Search – Finding people you’re connected to who have specific interests and experiencesLocal (and Vertical) Search – Finding a business and/or events that friends have visited and/or likedMedia and Entertainment Search – Finding TV shows, movies, music, and games liked, watched, etc. by your friendsWill Consumers Use it?At the end of the day, this is the most important question. If consumers embrace it, Graph Search has the potential to transform search signals and lead to the dawn of discovery marketing. That’s a big “if.” Consumers have been trained to turn to the search engines for this historically. Changing consumer behavior is notoriously difficult to do.Where I think this is possible is on mobile devices. Industry research suggests that many consumers turn to specific mobile apps to conduct vertical searches (e.g., I use Yelp to find restaurants, the Weather Channel app for local weather, Google Maps for directions, etc.). It is in the app environment on mobile devices where I think Graph Search has the greatest potential to reach critical mass and experience rapid adoption. It’s unclear when that will happen, but it’s doubtful it will be available for mobile devices in 2013.How Will Facebook Monetize it?

Facebook hasn’t announced how they will monetize the feature. The obvious opportunity is to charge for sponsored listings much like AdWords. There are a few other options as well, including:

Syndicate aggregated data to advertisers. Data would show what people are searching for, who/what they’re finding, etc.Creation of premium audience segments for targeting across the network via the FBX.What Does it Mean for Brands and Publishers?

It is going to take some time (several months at the earliest) for the feature to achieve critical mass. I do not anticipate Graph Search will be something brands or publishers will be investing in directly in the first half of this year if for no other reason than monetization of the feature is one of the things still being figuring out.

These are three things brands and publishers can do right now, which are in accordance with best practices:

Enable and encourage social signals (shares, comments, and likes) within your content. Shares, likes, and comments appear to be significant drivers of Graph Search results.For certain brands and publishers, it is important to enable and encourage image sharing. Images are the single most popular type of content to be shared on Facebook. It stands to reason that images are something people will search for a lot through Graph Search.Deploy Open Graph tags within content. These will ensure consistent “merchandising” of brand/publisher content that gets discovered through Graph Search.More Background and Reviews

All of the reviews I’ve read are lukewarm to effusive. It really does seem like Facebook is on to something BIG with Graph Search:

2012 was a key year in Digital Marketing. How will 2013 compare? Find out in London.

Improve your Online Marketing Skills at SES New York!

March 25-28, 2013: Save up to $600 with the Early Bird Rate. Receive an unparalleled education, network with your peers, and achieve results! Register today.

On Google Earnings Call, Google Ignores FTC Definition Of “Paid Inclusion”

On its earnings call today, an analyst asked Google about the new paid inclusion model for Google Shopping. The analyst got corrected. Google doesn’t call what it’s doing paid inclusion, he was told. That’s because Google is comfortable continuing to ignore the US Federal Trade Commission’s definition of what “paid inclusion” is. It’s yet another example that the search engine industry doesn’t really care about the FTC’s search engine guidelines.

Definitions? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ FTC Definitions

I’ll update this story with the extended quote after the earnings transcript goes live later. But when asked about “paid inclusion,” Google senior vice president Susan Wojcicki said:

We actually don’t refer to this as paid inclusion � [paid inclusion means] putting paid things into the search results in a non-marked way.

That’s not what paid inclusion means. It wasn’t what paid inclusion meant when Google first fought against it years ago, when it was a common practice in the industry. It’s not the definition that the industry itself used, nor that the FTC used, when it drafted its disclosure guidelines about paid inclusion.

Paid Inclusion Doesn’t Mean Failure To Disclose

My previous post,�Once Deemed Evil, Google Now Embraces “Paid Inclusion”, explains in depth what paid inclusion was, Google’s opposition to it and the FTC’s still current definition. Let’s look at that again:

Paid inclusion can take many forms. Examples of paid inclusion include programs where the only sites listed are those that have paid; where paid sites are intermingled among non-paid sites; and where companies pay to have their Web sites or URLs reviewed more quickly, or for more frequent spidering of their Web sites or URLs, or for the review or inclusion of deeper levels of their Web sites, than is the case with non-paid sites.

Paid inclusion listings are subject to disclosure guidelines but they are not defined by a lack of disclosure. Paid inclusion is defined as payment for inclusion in search listings. Period.

Google Is Doing Paid Inclusion….

That is exactly what Google has been doing with some search properties over the past year, charging to be listed within them outside the usual ad areas. That’s precisely what it is doing with Google Shopping, using a paid inclusion model.

So why doesn’t Google just use that term? Why is Google unilaterally trying to redefine a term that was long used in the industry and core to disclosure guidelines created by a US government agency?

And Is Embarrassed About It (So Change The Meaning!)

That’s easy. It’s�embarrassing. As I said, Google used to be�fiercely opposed to paid inclusion, to the point of even putting it under the “evil” heading of things it would never do. It touted in 2004 that by NOT having paid inclusion, its shopping search was better:

Because we do not charge merchants for inclusion in Froogle [what's now Google Product Search and soon to be called Google Shopping], our users can browse product categories or conduct product searches with confidence that the results we provide are relevant and unbiased.

But in 2012, we’re now told by Google — repeatedly — that having a commercial model will produce better shopping results. What was evil overnight becomes good, as well as a nice new revenue source for Google.

Is Anyone Home At The FTC?

Google feels comfortable ignoring the FTC’s definition of paid inclusion, if it’s embarrassing to the company. Nextag feels comfortable not only ignoring the required disclosure of paid inclusion (which at least Google does) but also attacking Google on consumer transparency grounds.

These twin events in recent weeks are why I wrote to the FTC asking if it even considered its guidelines to be relevant, as well as if it felt the industry was living up to them.

Last week, I wrote how after a month, the FTC had given no response. Meanwhile, the search engine industry seems happy to continue ignoring the FTC’s definitions and guidelines. That’s not a situation you’d think a regulatory body would like to have continue.

More background on these issues is below:

Once Deemed Evil, Google Now Embraces “Paid Inclusion”Google Product Search To Become Google Shopping, Use Pay-To-Play ModelGiven Nextag�s Lack Of Transparency, Its WSJ Opinion Piece Asking For Google Transparency Isn�t WiseA Letter To The FTC Regarding Search Engine Disclosure ComplianceAfter A Month, Silence From The FTC On Search Engine Disclosure

iOS Users To Get Enhanced Google Search App Ahead Of Most Android Users

Google announced an enhanced version of Google Voice Search today with some pretty awesome interaction in answers. Android 4.1 users sort of have it already. iOS users will have it in a few days. The rest of the Android world, 4.0 and below? They’ll stay waiting.

Answers, Not Search Results

Google’s long offered Voice Search for both Android and iOS platforms. What Google showed today was the latest version integrated into the Google Search app for iOS, where asking questions doesn’t bring back just search results pages but actual answers.

Search for the weather, and you get the weather displayed in a nice format, without search results below:

Ask for the distance to a place, you get a map and distance:

Ask for a fact like the salary of a baseball player and get that nugget displayed:

Showing nuggets of information like this is similar to how Apple’s own Siri works, when it pulls in information from Wolfram Alpha or other services. This makes Google Voice Search much more Siri-like, especially if you’re on an Android phone, where combined with Google Voice Actions, it can do things like launch apps.

The new app for iOS�can also do a variety of other cool things, like be smart enough to play a video if you ask for it (I haven’t tried to get it to play “Shake, Rattle & Roll”). Here’s a video with more:

For iOS-Eyes Only

Now here’s the thing. See those screenshots above? They’re very elegant, very nice, and they’ll be iOS exclusive in a few days. Even Android 4.1 users won’t have this exact implementation.

I tested some of the examples above on an Android 4.1 phone. You get answers there, but the answers are shown integrated into a list of search results. It’s not as elegant. But that’s something Google told me will change for Android 4.1 users in the future.

Postscript (Aug. 9): I’ve tested all three results above, and they are now all worked identically as with how the iOS app is going to work, with answers displayed in card format.

As for the rest of the Android world, which is mostly still at Android 4.0 and below, there’s no estimate on when they’ll get the enhanced Google Voice Search. Google said it hopes to roll out updates, but it gave no timing about exactly when this will happen.

The Confusing Names

A difficult thing in understanding all this is that Google has a variety of names depending on platform, making it all very confusing.

There’s a Google Search app for Android, but only for some Android phones. Most new Android phones already have Google Search built into the operating system, meaning you can speak to get web searches.

Most of these phones also have Google Voice Actions built-in, so you can speak to launch applications, send text messages and do other actions.

Of course, Google Search and Google Voice Actions might not kick-in if the handset maker is trying to do their own thing, such as S-Voice from Samsung on the Galaxy S III.

If you have Android 4.1, you’ve got Google Now. That automatically shows information that your phone thinks will be relevant to you, shown in a really pleasing display similar to the examples above.

That’s why the new Google Search for iOS feels like Google Now. But technically, it’s not. It won’t just automatically show you information that your phone deems relevant.

To be even more confusing, you can speak to search using a search bar that’s in Google Now, even though it’s not consider part of Google Now. Google considers Google Now to be only the suggestions that appear, not the interface that shows those suggestions.

If you do use the search bar that’s within Google Now [but absolutely not part of Google Now, as Google adamantly tells me],�Google Voice Search kicks in, bringing back results but not showing them in the elegant way that will happen with iOS.

That brings it back to iOS. The improved Google Search app that will appear there looks like Google Now but acts like Google Voice Search. It also acts like Siri. But it lacks Google Voice Actions, so it’s not fully the same as Siri.

All of this makes me wish Google would combine Google Search, Google Voice Search and Google Voice Actions into the Google Now brand. Get Google Now, and do a variety of cool things with your phone:

Speak to searchGet answersMake your phone do thingsGet recommendations

Some of these options won’t be available by phone, but at least that’s easier to explain that three or four different apps that in some cases aren’t even apps but native to the phone.

I’m not expecting that to happen, but I can wish. Meanwhile, the bottom line. In a few days, if you’re using an iOS device, ironically you’ll have the hottest version of Google Search that the company offers.

Postscript: Now that voice search on Android 4.1 has been updated, as noted above, you’ll have the hottest mobile Google Search offered if you have either iOS or Android 4.1 devices.

Google Testing Hotel Prices In Google Maps

A “small portion” of Google Maps users may see the latest experiment on Google Maps: the addition of hotel prices as part of the business listing information. You’ll know that you’re one of those users if you see an interface like this next time you search for hotels on Google Maps:

The pricing information comes from a “limited number of advertisers” that have agreed to give Google their pricing information — judging from the image, this appears to include travel portals such as Expedia, Priceline, and the like. It’s unclear if any hotels are participating directly.

In today’s announcement, Google emphasizes that this has no impact on how hotels are ranked in Maps.

Google Maps ranks business listings based on their relevance to the search terms entered, along with geographic distance (where indicated) and other factors, regardless of whether there is an associated price.

Google says it’ll evaluate the data and feedback from this experiment before deciding to roll it out to more users with pricing from more advertising partners.