To Focus On Q&A Search, End Web Crawling

Talk about getting back to your roots., which originally used humans to find answers to questions, is going further back to its origins by abandoning its web crawling technology.

The Need, Or Not, To Crawl

Search engines like Google and Bing try to have answers to anything someone might search for by “crawling” the web, making copies of all the pages they find and storing them in a searchable database, or index. Ask has done the same thing since around 2001, when it acquired the Teoma search engine.

Crawling helps ensure that you have a comprehensive index. However, crawling is an expensive job — as is maintaining ranking algorithms, the systems that sift through the billions of pages stored in an index to select the best ones in response to a search.

For Ask, it no longer makes sense to maintain that technology. Earlier this year, the company shifted from trying to compete directly with Google and Bing as an all-purpose search destination to instead being a place where people can do Q&A search (see Ask Comes Full Circle With “Q&A” Offering). Running its own comprehensive web search system wasn’t helping with that mission.

“In some ways, we built a hammer and were looking for nails. We realized to the extent that they were doing general web search, our flavor of web search and the other favors out there, we weren’t adding much using our own technology,” president Doug Leeds told me.

Outsourcing For Search

Ask will continue to use its web crawling technology, but far more selectively. Rather than trying to find everything from across the web, the crawling will be much more focused around sites that provide answers to questions people search for at the service. Ask will also continue to maintain its own news search service, both through crawling and pulling in news feeds.

Of course, Ask doesn’t want to be in a position where if someone does a search, they come up empty if Ask’s own database of answers has nothing. So the company will outsource for the comprehensive web search matches that it used to gather itself.

Which company will provide those results? Leeds said he’s not allowed to say. Almost certainly, it’s Google. Ask already has a deal with Google through 2012 to carry some of Google’s ads. There have also been reports that Ask has tested using Google’s results in the past, though Ask has never confirmed these and at one point, flat out denied it.

The outsourcing also means layoffs. Leeds said Ask will consolidate its operations to Oakland, California. It has about 60 people focused on search technology in Edison, New Jersey. About 1/3 of these will be offered relocation, with the remainder let go. It also has about another 60 based in China, where everyone is being laid off.

Postscript: I asked Google and was told:

We cannot comment on our partnership with Ask.� Ask has been a long standing partner of Google and we look forward to continue working with them in the future.

I also asked Bing if they were powering Ask and was told that it had “nothing to share on this.”

That was odd. I see no reason for Bing to clarify that they are not powering Ask. Heck, I see no reason for Google not to confirm it, other than perhaps it doesn’t want to attract attention that overall, it has even more share of the US search market than might be known (only about 3% more, but still).Switching Over

When does the technology switchover happen? Leeds said that Ask has been testing using its search partner’s results for some time, and there’s no actual “on/off” switch that will be flipped for its own technology. Instead, Ask will blend results together, as it makes sense initially. Over time, more of the partner’s results will show.

“I don’t think you’re going to see any particular difference in our results versus tomorrow or next week.”

Earlier this year, Ask also brought back its Teoma web site, which featured “pure” search results from Ask’s Teoma search technology. Leeds said the company hasn’t decided what to do with the site yet.

Moving On With Q&A

Ask marks the second major search engine this year to give up its own search technology. Yahoo did so earlier this year, outsourcing to Bing in August. I’m sad that we’ve lost yet another search “voice,” though the launch of Blekko last month provides some optimism, on that front.

I’ve been pretty dubious about Yahoo’s chances of success in maintaining search market share. Major players that have given up their own search technology typically haven’t stayed in the majors. Yahoo has argued that search is just a “chip” like that in a computer — and what sells computers isn’t the chip inside but the overall experience. We’ll see if that metaphor plays out. I remain doubtful.

I was also pretty dubious about Ask’s future way back in 2008, when it had a leadership change and wasn’t clear about what its next move would be. As a major search player, I think that remains true. Ask isn’t going to build itself into a Google-killer, much less a Bing-killer. Barry Diller, CEO of IAC which owns Ask, recently admitted as much himself.

Over at Bloomberg, Brad Stone has a more detailed look today’s move by Ask from a business perspective, IAC’s Diller Surrenders to Google Juggernaut, Ends Search Effort.

As a Q&A service, Ask may have some potential. Certainly it plays to a niche, and one that it still is known for despite having, until recently, really been out of the Q&A world for years. Since the reemphasis on question answering, Leeds said the service has gone from 30% to 60% of questions being answered.

Leeds also provided some stats from internal brand surveys that have been done. In one, Ask ranked well ahead of Google as being thought of as a place to get questions answered (46% to 27%):

In another, asking questions was a top reason for the most recent search someone did at Ask (20%) versus looking for information about a planned purchase at Bing (12%), Google (11%) or Yahoo (9%):

“No one is taking the Q&A communities and blending with Q&A search,” Leeds said. “My charge to people at Ask is ‘Great, let’s build it’.”

Of course, one of the big challenges I see in the Q&A space is the incredibly poor answers that some of them provide. I’ll be doing a future piece on this, but it’s common to get incorrect answers or no answers at all. It’s somewhat alarming, actually, how much “answer farm” content is polluting the results I find at places like Google and Bing.

Leeds also talked about former Ask CEO Jim Lanzone being right about focusing on retention and loyalty of Ask’s existing base — and it is a base, he says, that wants Q&A.

“If we increase our frequency and retention of existing users, that’s a huge market opportunity for us,” Leeds said. “The product they want, and they’re telling us they want, is to get more answers to their questions.”

Search Engines Get World Cup Fever (Some More Than Others)

The biggest sporting event in the world is underway and, if you’re unable to follow along on TV, there’s plenty of coverage of it online — including all of the major search engines and Twitter. Here’s a look at what you’ll find on the web if you’re looking for a football/soccer fix.


Google seems to have been the last to rollout its World Cup information. Earlier today, I wasn’t seeing anything special for searches like world cup schedule, but Google is now showing a list of upcoming matches.

Still, Google is offering far less than Yahoo and Bing (see below) when it comes to World Cup information in search results. Searches such as us vs england and brazil soccer offer nothing new specific to this year’s tournament. Instead, on certain searches involving the term “world cup,” Google has changed the “Gooooooogle” image at the bottom of the search results to “Goooooooal.”

Google also announced earlier this week that there’s new Street View imagery around seven new football stadiums in South Africa, the host country.

Postscript, June 11: Google has announced several online/search features to help fans follow World Cup results.


Yahoo got out in front early on this, announcing a new set of World Cup shortcuts a full month ago. Those shortcuts are all now live. Searches like world cup schedule, us vs england, or germany soccer produce a variety of different shortcuts with World Cup information.

Since announcing these shortcuts last month, Yahoo says it’s already seen a 150% uptick in search volume around the World Cup — and a 25% increase in engagement with the shortcuts.


Bing wrote about its World Cup plans yesterday, which include a variety of Instant Answers and more. Searches like world cup schedule and germany soccer show similar information as in Yahoo’s shortcuts.

Unlike Yahoo, Bing shows no Instant Answer for individual match searches such as us vs england. But Bing has created separate visual search galleries for World Cup teams and players — but these are only available for users in the US, UK, and Canada. Here’s a look at the Australian team’s page:

Bing has also created an app for Bing Maps that offers live World Cup information, but I’m unable to find that in Bing Maps at the moment.


While some are wondering if Twitter is going to be able to survive the global onslaught of World Cup-related tweets, Twitter is pretty much saying “bring it on.” Twitter has announced a special mini-site that features tweet activity around the World Cup in general, with specific pages devoted to individual matches.

Fans can also visit their Twitter settings: design page to get a World Cup-themed Twitter background, and if you tweet with the hashtag of participating countries, Twitter will automatically add a “hash flag” to your tweet, like this:

Twitter has also published a list of suggested accounts that World Cup fans might want to follow directly during the tournament, and created a Top Tweets World Cup account that algorithmically chooses and shares interesting World Cup tweets.

Search Activity

Experian Hitwise has shared some of its data related to World Cup search activity. The press release focuses on the most searched-for players, but I’m more interested in the fact that Yahoo’s World Cup 2010 site received the second-most traffic from World Cup search last week in the U.S. was first at 50%, with Yahoo second at 11% and Wikipedia third at 8%.

Hitwise also says U.S. searches for the term “world cup” have increased 216% in the last two weeks, and the number of terms with “world cup” increased 226% over the same period.

Top Super Bowl 2013 Google Searches

M&M’s licked the competition when it came to searches during Super Bowl 47, according to Google. Searchers were also went crazy for Beyonce – oh yeah, and those two teams who were playing between all the ads and the halftime show.

What were people searching for on Google during the Super Bowl? The top five trending searches were:

M&M’sBeyonceBaltimore RavensSan Francisco 49ersColin Kaepernick

The Super Bowl power outage was also big news, and the source of endless entertainment on Twitter, but only was the eighth most popular query last night on Google.

However, Yahoo reported that “super bowl blackout” and “super bowl lights out” were the biggest searches they saw on Super Sunday (people also searched for “why did the lights go out”, “superdome power outage”, and “what caused power outage”).

The Ravens beat the 49ers on searches in addition to beating them for the Super Bowl victory, but Kaepernick, the 49ers QB, beat out Ravens QB Joe Flacco. Other top searched players of the game were Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher, 49ers kicker David Akers, and Ravens wide receiver and punt return extraordinaire Jacoby Jones.

As for which coach Harbaugh got the most searches, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh defeated his brother and Ravens coach John Harbaugh, which I’m sure he could care less about.

On YouTube, the five most searched for Super Bowl ads were from M&M’s, Mercedes-Benz, Disney’s “Oz Great and Powerful”, Lincoln, and Audi. See “Super Bowl 2013 Ads: Budweiser’s ‘Brotherhood’ Wins the Big Game” for more on the big ad winners.

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10 Tips to Help Small Marketing Teams Kill It

Many of us work with a small marketing team. In fact, a recent marketing industry survey found that the majority of marketers work in teams of five people or less – with most of them spending the majority of their time on lead generation and content creation, as well as juggling multiple tools, channels, and tactics to try and achieve their goals.

While the stress and pressure of delivering high volumes of qualified leads isn’t getting any easier, how can small marketing teams manage the multitude of channels, tactics and online possibilities to meet their goals?

Here are 10 tips to help small marketing teams kill it.

1. Focus

Focus is important for every company, but for small marketing teams lacking resources, focus is essential. It’s essential in almost every part of your marketing work, but there are few aspects where it’s critical:

Target audience. You have to pick a specific segment you're targeting and focus all your efforts on that segment. It doesn’t mean that later on you can’t change it, expand it and add to it, but with a small team focusing your efforts on one segment will yield better results.Campaigns. Marketers who consistently meet or exceed their goals invest big blocks of times in specific lead generation channels. Their less successful counterparts divide their time across multiple channels, tactics, and campaigns and invest less time in each.Goals. Star performers spend significantly less time on administrative tasks, focusing their time on tasks that had direct impact on their goals. It is also beneficial to have specific goals to drive towards and have those be as clear and specific as possible so you can focus your efforts on reaching those goals.

2. Planning

Smart, thorough planning leads to better results. Make sure you dedicate time to plan out your campaigns and don’t be afraid to trade off time planned for admin tasks for time spent on planning. It will pay off.

3. Attitude

There’s much to say about attitude and how it contributes to moral and performance. But while it’s important to keep a positive outlook on your future, it’s also important to be realistic. With a small marketing team you can’t waste time trying to “rally the troops,” so intrinsic motivation is important.

Star performers complain less and have a far stronger “can-do” attitude than their counterparts. Less successful marketers tend to blame external constraints on their performance while star performers take more responsibility and ownership of their fate.

4. Execution

“Perfect is the enemy of good” says the old proverb, and Jim Collins, the author of “From Good to Great,” rebutted with his famous line: “good is the enemy of great.” I love this book and believe in the leadership concepts outlined in it, but when it comes to marketing execution is a small marketing team, I’m a strong advocate of the principle of good enough.

Most successful marketing teams face challenging goals all the time and execution coupled with velocity is the only way to achieve them. If you wait for something to be perfect or sometimes even just great, you’re going to miss the mark anyway.

The nice thing about online marketing is that you always have the opportunity to change, reiterate and improve. So start with good and make your way to great.

5. Be Unique. Be Different. Be Special.

This point kind of explains itself.

6. Master At Least One Thing

Another big differentiator between star performers and less successful marketers is their perceived expertise level in different marketing tactics and the confidence they showed.

Mastery can be achieved through repetitions and practice and it takes time to get there, but if you want to be a successful marketer, you need to completely master at least one area. So pick one and be the best at it.

7. Learn From Others

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton. Learn from your peers, your colleagues, your friends, and your collaborators. Learn from you competitors. Learn from other disciplines and other schools of thoughts.

The only way for a small marketing team to be successful is to use the knowledge out there and build upon it. You don’t have the time to learn everything from experience, so read, watch, observe others and then give it your own spin.

8. Always Think About Scale, Have a Process

You know the saying “Think big?” Well, in online marketing (and online business) in order to think big, you need to think scale.

How can you take what you did once and do it 10 times? How can you replicate the success of a small campaign and do it over and over and over again? Will it sustain or break? Will it still be at the same quality or would it deteriorate?

Building a scalable marketing machine is one of the biggest challenges any marketer can face; the answer to how is the process. You need to have a process that works and that you can test, modify, analyze and reiterate on until you optimize it. So start small but think big and have a process to scale.

9. Test

If you aren’t testing, you aren’t learning. Online marketing includes so many variables that there’s no way for you to ever get it right on your first iteration. So test and let the data show you the way.

10. Measure, Analyze, Refine, Repeat

It doesn’t matter if you’re in a small marketing team or in a large one; the process of measuring and analyzing your results needs to be in your marketing-DNA. It’s an integral part of every marketing activity but small marketing teams can’t afford to ignore it.

Every single pixel you put out there need to be traceable and measureable, otherwise you’re just wasting money.

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Upcoming PR, SEO, Social Media Marketing Events

�April has been a relatively quiet month for TopRank speaking events but May will rev things up a bit with the following Public Relations and Direct Marketing industry events focusing on Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing topics.

I’ll also be presenting on SEO for publishers locally this week at a private event for MSP Communications, publishers of Mpls St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business.�

PRSA Digital Impact Social Media: April 30 � May 1, 2009 New York, NY
This event covers how public relations practitioners are effectively using technology for public and media relations. �That means social media, online PR, mobile PR and topics like data visualization. The keynote will be delivered by social media and PR guru, Brian Solis of FutureWorks.�

I’ll be doing a solo, one hour presentation on “Top ten SEO tactics for PR professionals“. �Here’s my outline:

SEO tactics � if I could only do one thing�PR tactics that affect SEOWhen is PPC better than SEO for PR?How to choose the best keywords?Basics of on-page SEOPress release optimization tipsNewsroom optimization tacticsLink building fundamentalsSEO and social media promotionsMeasuring & selling the value of SEO�

You can still register here and get more info on the other presentations.

Media Relations Summit: �May 17 – 19, 2009 New York, NY
This is the largest media relations conference and brings together PR and corporate communications practitioners together with journalists, reporters, analysts and other members of the media. As with most conferences in the PR and marketing industries, there’s a heavy focus on new and social media. Dan Rather and Dan Abrams will be giving keynotes this year. Charlie Rose did the keynote last year and it was excellent.

I’ll be on a panel “Mastering SEO, Google�AdWords and Other�Search Tools to Increase�Visibility” with�Bill Barnes from Enquiro and�Howie Jacobson. � My presentation will focus on optimizing news content, which I’ve presented on at many search marketing conferences and at previous PRSA events. This one will include updated case studies.�

Register here and get the full schedule.�

ClickZ Online Marketing Summit: June 2, 2009 Minneapolis, MN
What’s not to like about an event in your own backyard? �The Online Marketing Summit is traveling to 13 cities May-July this year offering a great mix of client and agency expertise, advice and insight on all things related to marketing on the web. �The OMS Minneapolis style will be held at The Depot, downtown Minneapolis.

I will be giving a presentation on Building a SEO and Social Media Roadmap that will explain the benefits of incorporating SEO and Social Media as well as the framework for developing a Social Media Strategy. �Last week I wrote about this exact thing at Mashable. �Here’s a general outline which will include several practical examples:


Register here before they sell out!

Social Media Smarts Workshop: �June 4-5, 2009 New York, NY
Apparently I like to travel to New York. Who doesn’t? �Companies that really want to sink their teeth into not only creating a social media strategy but also want the knowledge to implement will want to run, not walk, to Social Media Smarts.

This is a 2 day, intensive workshop filled with practical examples, case studies and exercises that enables attendees to learn about blogging, social networking, Twitter, media sharing (images, video, audio), social news & bookmarking, wikis and social media measurement.

Here is the outline for Day 1 and Day 2:

Introduction to Social MediaQuickStart to Business Blogging and RSSMarketing Socially: Creating and Promoting Blog ContentSocial ROI: Measuring Blogs and the Social WebStep Up to Social NetworkingVideos and Podcasts and Images Oh My!Social Roundup: Microblogging, Social Bookmarking and wikisSocial Media Strategy Workshop

Register and get more information on the course material here.

How to Hire & Retain SEO Talent in 2013

One of the most overlooked necessities required to execute performance-driving SEO campaigns is talent.

Whether you’re doing SEO in an agency environment, in-house, or as a freelancer, your success depends heavily on the talent of your employees. A lack of talent hurts the service your agency provides, the results your in-house department drives, and the amount of money you make as a freelancer.

Over the last three to four years, the availability of talent in the marketplace has failed to keep up with demand. There are many reasons for this, some of which are chronicled in this article. A few of his points we agree with, others not so much.

Either way, this has created fierce competition for middle and upper management SEO jobs. So how can you hire and retain SEO staff in 2013?

Train & Develop Junior Staff

The most eligible candidates for any mid-level SEO opening should already work for you. Investment in entry level employees leads to a steady pipeline of qualified candidates.

Most companies face three common barriers when hiring mid-level staff:

Lack of talent in the marketplace.Opportunity loss of the vacant position (recruiting time).Cost.

Promoting from within your organization guarantees quality candidates, significantly reduces recruitment and transition time, and minimizes cost. As a bonus, promoting from within is a great way to increase employee morale and retention.

Hiring & the Value Proposition

The fact that I have the word “SEO” in my title guarantees me the pleasure of interacting with tons of recruiters, most via LinkedIn. The most powerful tool any of these recruiters and hiring managers have is their value proposition.

Creating a compelling and unique value proposition for potential employees will make recruiting mid- and upper-level talent much easier.

The majority of companies use this infamous combo to pique interest: money and titles. While the current marketplace enables recruits to demand plenty of both, it’s not unique.

Every recruiter in the industry is going to offer a $5,000, $10,000, even $15,000 salary bump (depending on level) to virtually any qualified candidate. In addition, 95 percent of hiring managers target recruits where a title increase can be leveraged.

Developing a creative and unique value proposition will help you stand out from the pack. This includes aligning your value with what SEO candidates are looking for. Some examples include:

Transparency from executives: Some employees need to “be in the loop”. Does your company align corporate goals with personal employee goals? If so, leverage this information in the recruitment process.Entrepreneurial environment: Some SEO candidates may desire to work in a setting that fosters and rewards initiative. Having freedom to be creative and test new strategies is critical to the success of SEO campaigns. While some companies are extremely process oriented, those who aren’t may have an edge. Recruits may also be looking to expand their job responsibilities organically. If employees recognize areas for growth and new opportunities, can they pursue them in your company?Unique corporate culture: If you work at an agency, you most likely already have an appealing culture. Most SEOs are young, so mentioning fun company events, happy hours, and other cultural benefits can be a huge draw. What new employee doesn’t want to play some ping pong in between doing some blogger outreach?Being part of a talented, passionate staff: Most talented employees want to be surrounded by other smart individuals. Do you have any standout or notorious employees on your staff? Leverage your existing talent to help recruit new employees. Ask these employees to message potential candidates to give real testimonials. Most of the time candidates respond better to peers or potential managers than they do to recruiters.Working for large brands: We’ve all seen and heard brand name dropping on resumes or in meetings. Some candidates will sacrifice other benefits for the chance to put a large brand on their resume. Specific to SEO, larger brands will see incremental lift from on-site optimization quicker than smaller companies. For on-site SEO specialists, this opportunity can be appealing. The PageRank of the clients’ site can also be appealing if it’s high enough. Who doesn’t want to work with a PR 8 or 9 site?

These are bare bone examples that may not apply to your individual company. Taking the time to define and communicate a compelling value proposition will enable your company to stand out and successfully recruit a higher level of talent.

Talent Retention

Employee turnover is bad for business due to a variety of reasons. The cost of recruiting talent is high. Client relationships and/or campaign performance can suffer when team members leave.

The perception that your company is a “chop shop” and doesn’t treat employees well can hurt future recruiting efforts. So what can you do to retain your talent?

Close new business: The majority of retention tactics rely on closing new business to create opportunities. If you aren’t closing new business, it will be extremely tough to retain talent. A strong sales funnel can also be used in your value proposition for filling open roles.Establish career paths: Take the time for stellar employees to craft out custom career paths. Does an employee aspire to manage people or be a tactical expert? Identifying opportunities for growth that align with personal interest will increase retention.Aligning goals: Employees need to understand how their work contributes to the overall goals of their department and/or company. A large percentage of candidates mention this specifically when responding to the question “What are you looking for in a job that isn’t being fulfilled currently”. Aligning goals from the executive level down and communicating the progress toward these goals will increase employee satisfaction and retention.Stay Competitive: Invest in SEO Talent in 2013

Agility and creativity are required to drive incremental organic performance. Processes and procedures aren't agile or creative, but people are.

Talented employees within your organization will be responsible for creating new strategies and tactics required for success. Investing in hiring and retaining talent will ensure you organization remains competitive.

Setting the standard is always better than following it. Leverage your talent to set new standards and continue driving SEO performance in 2013 and beyond.

Become an Expert Digital Marketer at SES New York
March 25-28, 2013: With dozens of sessions on Search, Social, Local and Mobile, you'll leave SES with everything and everyone you need to know. Hurry, early bird rates expire February 21. Register today!

Google Sunsets 'Old' Analytics Reports

It's been a little over a year since Google Analytics ushered in the "new Google Analytics." While you didn't have to transition to version 5 before, you do now. Starting today, you'll see the new version and only the new version. The "Old version - Reporting" link previously located in the footers is now removed. Google Analytics v4 is no more.

Google Analytics announced the news in a blog post yesterday. The Analytics team says it's time to leave the old version behind, offering links to the Google Analytics help center and a slew of features that you should focus on, instead of mourning the loss of your favorite reports.

New to v5 include features like real-time analytics reports, multi-channel funnel reports for better attribution tracking, all kinds of social media reports, and content experiments, your simple tool for A/B testing.

But what about...?

If you were holding out because features were missing, Google says it has addressed that. Google Analytics Director of Engineering Paul Muret explained they have taken into account all the feedback they've received over the past few years.

"We've been listening very closely and doing our best to incorporate the feedback and ideas," Muret explained. "We are continually working to improve upon Google Analytics and help provide you with tools to make better decisions for your website and marketing programs."

Ready or not, you need to make the switch. If you were one of the last-minute holdouts, Search Engine Watch can help make the transition to the new Google Analytics easier and help you set up time-saving custom reports.

Will you go quietly into that Google Analytics goodnight? Or will you use this as an excuse to look for an alternative to Google Analytics?


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BlueGlass Acquires Idealizer, Secures European Hub

Tampa-based BlueGlass has strengthened its European presence with the acquisition of Swiss digital marketing agency Idealizer. The move comes as the company also launches a new operational hub in Switzerland aimed at serving the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region.

“We wanted to expand our local market knowledge, as well as bring additional thought leadership into these markets. We also want to ensure a closer and greater relationship with clients in this region,” says Richard Zwicky, chief executive at BlueGlass.

Founded in 2007, Idealizer specializes in search and content marketing, According to Zwicky, the Swiss team’s offerings mirror what BlueGlass does in the U.S. but also bring expertise in localization, internationalization and a European network of connections.

“Once we had the chance to meet the team and see the work they were doing, we knew it would be a natural fit and the right company to build around… We firmly believe that our capabilities combined with Idealizer’s expertise in the European marketplace will result in unprecedented innovation for clients,” Zwicky said.

Idealizer will be folded into the BlueGlass EMEA brand, pushing the company to 85 employees. The newly formed entity will also become the digital agency’s European hub.

BlueGlass’ international expansion is aimed at combining a system of outreach, with an online marketing and content creation strategy. According to a blog post written by the agency, Switzerland is an ideal starting point for increased operations throughout the EMEA region, as it is multi-lingual, culturally diverse, and has a high-qualified workforce.

“Agencies that manage campaigns across multiple countries have been struggling to provide the right value to advertisers, and that’s both a disservice to the clients, and an opportunity for BlueGlass in our global growth strategy.

“Content simply translated from one language to another, and distributed across various countries PR networks, does not provide the value brands deserve. Content gets adopted in entirely different forms from one country to the next, and strategies need to support these variations by providing the content in the right context. By adding the Idealizer team and launching BlueGlass EMEA, we are bringing additional strategies and solutions in the context needed,” Zwicky said.

BlueGlass’ acquisition of Idealizer follows a recent pick-up of London based agency Quaturo in November 2012.

This article was originally published on ClickZ.

Become an Expert Digital Marketer at SES New York
March 25-28, 2013: With dozens of sessions on Search, Social, Local and Mobile, you'll leave SES with everything and everyone you need to know. Hurry, early bird rates expire February 21. Register today!

3 Ways to Measure Link Building ROI

Demonstrating the ROI of link building is a tricky, tricky thing. There are cases where you can tell that a link gave you a conversion, or multiple conversions, but many times, links strengthen the whole site or play a starring role in helping out a great SEO campaign.

Tying conversions to any effort that may bear fruit way down the road though? That's tough. Selling such a service, especially to an ROI-focused business owner, is also tough. What can you do?

Let's look at three of the most common ways of measuring ROI in terms of why they matter, how you can use them, and what tools you can use to help.


Most companies can measure their ROI on a ranking and can tell you how much they make if they're at spot 2 vs if they're at spot 5. I don't like to use rankings to justify my work but I do understand that many clients and SEOs depend on them.

I think it's obvious that any site would get more potential conversions if they were in the top 5 versus being on page 5. Depending on the relevance of the results returned by a query, however, your site at number 8 may still get more conversions than a crappy site that's ranking at number 3. This is where the site itself, in terms of usability, is so powerful.

This is also where something like your snippet is very powerful. If I see a snippet that suggests the result may not be what I am looking for, I don't care if it's in the top 3. I still won't waste time on it.

How to Track Rankings: The subject of many recent heated discussions, rankings tracking isn’t nearly as simple as it seems. There are a few good platforms for this purpose and I've listed two below that have been used by people I know and trust:

Authority LabsSEOmoz

You don't need a tool to track rankings though. If you're trying to monitor thousands of keywords then yes, of course you do, but if you're a small business owner interested in a few top terms, a simple spreadsheet and some daily manual glances at the SERPs is all you need.

SERPs do fluctuate a lot though, and depending upon other factors like whether you're logged into Google, results can vary. I've sat 10 feet from my husband, both of us logged out of all Google services, and seen a 6 placement for a term whereas he's seeing it on page 2.

I know that many people do love rankings though. If you've built 100 great links and the rankings for the site move from page 4 to page 1, that could be from the result of those links, but it could be from other things like a site redesign, better content, amazing social signals, etc. However, if you're building links and not much else is changing, I'd say that a move like that would be creditable to those links.


OK, there is traffic, and then there's converting traffic.

Having 100,000 hits on your website is awesome if it brings you something positive other than higher hosting fees. Tracking the traffic from a link is very beneficial, even if you aren't tracking conversions on it (but you should do that if you can.)

Traffic that doesn't immediately convert can still be valuable, and it can lead to a conversion later, whether it's through a return visit to your website or a purchase in a store, for example.

How to Track Traffic: Tracking traffic is easy…my preference is Google Analytics but there are loads of software packages out there for this purpose. Different people have their own opinion about which metric to look at and I'd say that as long as you stay with the same one when you're evaluating trends, you're welcome to pick.

The above shows you a snippet from Google Analytics. Some people track visits, some track page views, some track unique visitors, etc. I usually do just look at visits as the main source for tracking traffic, but as I said, if you use something else, just be consistent when you're comparing time periods.

To track converting traffic from your links, you have a few options. Since this isn't my specialty (and this is a link building basics piece), I've turned to Anna Lewis from Koozai, a Google Analytics goddess, who will share a few tips and will expand on this theme in a later post on this same site.

Analyzing the Value of Link Building in Google Analytics

There are a number of ways to see how successful your link building has been using Google Analytics.

The best place to start is the referrals report under traffic sources. Here you can review all the sites sending traffic to your site and identify the ones that were part of your link building campaign.

If you have set up goals and ecommerce tracking (I highly recommend using one or both of these) you will be able to click these tabs above the graph to see how may conversions these links have generated for you through users coming to the site via the link.

Straight away you can start to attribute value to your link building efforts. To get all the data you want in one place, here's a link building custom report that I've created to show interaction and conversion summaries for referral traffic. Just click the link and choose which profile to view it in.

To find out even more about the traffic from your link building you can create a custom advanced segment to show only data from websites on which you have built links: just choose Source and pop the URLs in, either one website per ‘OR’ section or use the regular expression option and put a pipe | between each URL. This custom segment will allow you to review how traffic from your links interacted with your site, where the users are located, which goals were completed, detailed ecommerce data, which pages of the site they landed on, other pages they visited and more!

If you aren’t sure which referral sites were part of your link building campaign you might want to consider using campaign tags on URLs that you use in link building. You can use Google’s URL Builder Tool to put in the traffic source information that you want to use and build the campaign tag for the link URL.

The main thing to remember is that measuring the value of link building requires you to pull together a huge amount of incomparable statistics – no one platform will be able to give you a true value, but using Google Analytics can help you identify whether traffic from these links is the sort of traffic you’re looking for on your website.

Social Media

As I've mentioned before about social media and links, the ROI of social media in terms of building links is very tricky to measure, especially because of the way it all works together.

Great social signals can help your site rank better.

You can tweet a link to your content and engage someone who may link to you in 2 months. You may get your link retweeted all over the place and not get a single conversion from it.

You may gain 20 followers after you tweet something but none of them will ever interact with you, link to you, use your service, or promote you in any way. You may gain 2 followers who are incredibly powerful in social media and one little retweet by one of these people brings you 50 new sales.

Someone may see you tweet something local (not your content, but just something like "wow it's snowing in Greensboro!") and a fellow Greensborian sees the tweet, checks you out, and realizes that what you offer may suit his needs. You may gain a giant contract for the year due to this. Stranger things have happened.

How to Track Social Media: There seem to be apps for this popping up every now and then, but you can also use Google Analytics to do this. Under Traffic Sources/Social there are a few options so you can see what social platforms are sending visitors to your site.

For some of you, knowing how many of these hits come to your site is critical. You may get a ton of retweets of a link but only a few actual visitors, as it's not uncommon for people to RT others in their circles without personally vetting the links. With analytics, you can dig into how long people from Facebook tend to stay on your site vs. people from Twitter, for example, so even if you add in some purely social-type tracking tools, I'd still look here too.

Crowdbooster is my favorite tool for social media analytics, and while it used to be free, they're moving to a paid model. You can use it to track Twitter and Facebook metrics – follower growth, tweet or post impressions, potential impressions, retweets, replies, etc. There are others out there, but this is my top pick.

Depending upon which social platforms you want to track, there are some platform-specific tools that you might want to use as well.

Now here's my biggest issue with measuring the ROI of links: Links down the road that may lead to more traffic or to offline conversions. For example, I write monthly link columns on a few sites and I get a few types of emails afterward:

Question from someone who read my article.Request for a quote for services.Proposal for someone else's services.

I do keep up with these in a tedious little spreadsheet so I can tell that one article here sent me 10 potential conversions, or one there sent me only 3. I can also link a few current clients to these as well, but one of them took months to sign on.

I've had one client come on board after his friend read one of my articles. That's impossible to definitively track online in any system as far as I can tell, but for me, getting a client out of an article is the ultimate conversion. I just can't go grab a time period from analytics and prove it. Keep that in mind, always.


Demonstrating ROI of links is just not a simple thing, unfortunately. There isn't a convenient bit of code to place that will connect to a nice dashboard and tell you that your overall conversion rate for the month was 57 percent, that you spent $1,000 and made $5,000, and that links should get the credit.

However, with a bit of thought and effort, it's easily possible to connect the dots and generate a fuller picture that can show a true return on investment for all those labor hours spent building links.

Become an Expert Digital Marketer at SES New York
March 25-28, 2013: With dozens of sessions on Search, Social, Local and Mobile, you'll leave SES with everything and everyone you need to know. Hurry, early bird rates expire February 21. Register today!

The Truth About Social Media Measurement & Marketing Dashboards

With the growing number of social media monitoring and community management software products, the definition of a marketing dashboard seems to have taken numerous forms.

For the purpose of this article, a marketing dashboard will be defined as "the digital display of the most important information needed to track activity related to achieving one or more objectives."

In the context of social media, a relevant example was an article published by Search Engine Watch author Nathan Linnell nearly two years ago that resulted in one of the top five most popular SEW posts of 2010: "6 Key Metrics for a Social Media Measurement Dashboard".

Over a year prior to that article, two friends of mine, Tom Markiewicz and Derek Scruggs, also had a vision about tracking key metrics specific to social media.

While most marketing dashboard products of the time were helping to track various forms of field sales activity and common web analytics – Markiewicz and Scruggs recognized few were addressing the kind of real-time data and social media metrics that could facilitate a level of predictive analysis that might impact immediate decision-making.

The Plan Meets the Reality

In 2009, Markiewicz and Scruggs worked the business plan together, articulated the value proposition and delved deeply into the feature set. Their new company, StatsMix, was selected to participate in the TechStars (early-stage business) accelerator program, and quickly piqued the interest of investors who intuitively understood they were onto something big.

Sample StatsMix dashboard, combining web orders, customer phone support and social media metrics.

But as they raced to achieve their minimal viable product and continued to collect feedback from early beta customers, they soon became aware of a stark reality that completely altered their development roadmap over the following two years.

Beta customers began asking a common set of questions that seemed very rudimentary, and not relevant to what StatsMix originally had set out to do.

"How can we take the company data we have in our spreadsheets and chart it with your dashboard? This social media stuff is neat – but we’ve got other data sets we are already working with. Can’t we get that aggregated and displayed first?"

Can You Handle the Truth?

Today, StatsMix is much closer to the original vision they had, but only after working tirelessly to develop a scalable platform that would start by answering what marketers were asking for first: tracking and display of any/all data sets.

About the same time StatsMix began pivoting around what they had learned, my business partner, James Clark, had taken his own deep dive into marketing dashboards – hitting the road to collect his own marketer feedback while delivering 2-day training events on “Data and Dashboards” for the American Marketer’s Association.

StatsMix and Clark were on different paths, but discovering the same truths – most marketers often don’t know where to begin when it comes to:

The data they should be collecting, aggregating, and displaying to assist in decision-making among any given audience in their organization.Articulating the pros and cons of using a marketing dashboard (social media and/or other relevant data).Designating key performance indicators (KPI’s) to track the most complete picture in the context of marketing objective drivers (not just outcomes).The tools best suited to match their requirements.Best practices for visualizing data for decision makers.5 Lessons for Navigating Your Dashboard Success

The truth is we as marketers are more likely to succeed when building upon sound fundamentals. While we may be eager to pursue the horizon, we are also grateful when taught/reminded about the best place from which to start and excel. I hope the following offer a few coordinates for setting your own course.

Lesson 1: Understand Why You Need a Marketing Dashboard

Ultimately, your dashboard should “ladder up” to one or more of your current, overall business objectives (example: survival, growth, profitability). Associated goals should be:

Assessing the health of your organization at a glance.Providing historical, as well as (as close to) real-time data to facilitate prompt decision-making.Making sound decisions based on relevant samples of data.Lesson 2: Understand the Pros and Cons of a Marketing Dashboard

The common pros include:

Saving time / streamlining data management.Real-time accessibility from anywhere.Ability to keep your eye on the prize/goals (front and center).Decision-making based on designated key performance indicators (KPI’s).Organizational alignment.Greater opportunities to spot trends and/or correlations.

The typical cons include:

You’ll never get all the info you need or want.Tools can be cost prohibitive.The data won’t be useful if it can’t be made actionable (no clear objectives).Internal adoption rate can be slow if the value isn’t articulated well or the user experience is poor.If data is incorrect or misinterpreted, decisions could be bad.Associated setup and optimization might be an unwelcomed process.Lesson 3: Understand the Audience Your Dashboard Will Serve

This is important when considering the number of (digestible) metrics you’ll display, based on the level of management reviewing the data. Tom Kawamoto’s “Key Success Factors for a Performance Dashboard" article offers the following recommendations:

CEO/Board Level: Six high-level metricsVP/Director Level: Between 12 and 20 metricsStrategic Level: Between 12 and 50 metricsOperational Level: Around 20 metrics each

Note: In my own experience, regardless of the level, people are appreciative of written summaries near or ahead of the data. Think in terms of SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. This might be a consideration for dashboard tool selection (i.e., does the tool enable the entry of textual content near the data?).

Lesson 4: Understand Why and What You Choose to Measure

This is predominantly associated with matching the best KPIs to quantify objectives that reflect performance and illuminate insights to assess the direction in which those objectives are headed. The following are a few insights offered from Stacey Barr:

Only measure what you’re going to do something about.Measure drivers, not just outcomes.Measure not what you can control, but what you can influence.Measures impervious to change are useless.There is no “set it and forget it” with measuring performance.Use data and not opinion to determine causality.Performance measurement requires humility and transparency to work.Lesson 5: Do Your Homework When it Comes to the Tools

Like any other software selection, some best practices include:

Creating an evaluation/selection team to first understand requirements with respect to integration, data and KPIs.Consider dashboard providers who have worked in your industry.Consider sending an RFI (request for information) based on your requirements.Create a standardized process for evaluating multiple options.Ask for a proof of concept.Consider your desired type of dashboard (Victoria Hetherington identifies the following types of dashboards in her “The Dashboard Demystified” article:Strategic: Quick overview of company’s health. Looks at what has been going on without requirement of real-time dataAnalytic: Drills into causes, and is used to set goals to correct issues (may include comparisons, extensive histories, performance evaluation)Operational: Monitors functions that need real-time, minute-by-minute attention – generally used by specific departmentsVertical: Specialized for a specific industry (banking, healthcare, energy)Lateral: Designed for internal departments (financial, marketing, HR, etc.)

The tools range widely in functionality, customization and pricing; from Do-It-Yourself, Mid-grade and Enterprise level. Some of the tools include:

ZohoBimeGood DataKlipfolioWebtrendsDundas DashboardsiDashboardsHootsuiteAnd the Truth About Social Media Measurement…

Depending on the community you and your competitors have developed, the data you need to inform your digital content and advertising strategy is now available for your taking.

To a degree, I’ve implied marketers need to get grounded in some of the basics, but this isn't in conflict with those who are advancing the discussion around social media measurement.

For example, I’d say the Linnell post referenced at the beginning of this article holds as much relevance now as it did then – and it’s exciting to see how his thought (along with the technology) has evolved by reading his most recent post on "How to Move Your Social Media Analysis from the Platform to the Individual Level".

Talk about horizon.

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March 25-28, 2013: With dozens of sessions on Search, Social, Local and Mobile, you'll leave SES with everything and everyone you need to know. Hurry, early bird rates expire February 21. Register today!

Majestic SEO Adds Fresher Index & Free URL Submitter

Majestic SEO is expanding yet again. Fresh off of announcing the Majestic SEO Fresh Index increased to 90 days, the Majestic SEO Team has introduced a new URL submission tool open to everyone, not just their paid subscribers.

This URL submission tool will allow anyone to submit their website to Majestic SEO. The Majestic SEO crawler will visit the URL in an effort to improve their crawl and reports they deliver. It also means Majestic SEO can crawl and index your pages faster.

While Majestic SEO says there is no guarantee your site will be crawled, most URLs submitted will be crawled within a few hours and will be available in the index the next day. If you have a free Majestic SEO account, you can submit up to 100 URLs per day.

Majestic SEO already allows users to upload URLs in bulk to get a quick analysis, leaving many customers may wonder what the big deal is surrounding a URL submission tool. However, this URL submission tool allows submitters to re-proritize how the crawler to index certain URLs faster.

Without submission, Majestic SEO's crawler would eventually find URLs on your site. Using the submission tool, you're able to tell their crawler that certain pages need to be indexed quicker.

Majestic SEO coined flow metrics with relation to SEO backlinks. Their Fresh Index is used to analyze the links poiting to your site sites pages. Whether you are a client of Majestic SEO or their tools are new to you, check out their recent 10 facts you didn't know about them blog post, compiled after surveying their clients.

What does this new URL submission tool mean to you? Let us know in the comments below.

Become an Expert Digital Marketer at SES New York
March 25-28, 2013: With dozens of sessions on Search, Social, Local and Mobile, you'll leave SES with everything and everyone you need to know. Hurry, early bird rates expire February 21. Register today!

How to Optimize Your Facebook Page for Mobile Facebook Nearby Users

A recent global update to Facebook’s Nearby mobile check-in made it possible for iOS and Android users to discover business information and reviews they may previously have asked a search engine.

Remember when Google+ pulled their existing local listings and paired them with Zagat reviews, in order to share social endorsements, maps and business info with people on the go, giving them an edge for local search? Facebook is now able to offer mobile users the same information within their far more widely adopted network.

The team from Gowalla, acquired by Facebook late in 2011, are responsible for the new Nearby functionality. Here are a few important details for marketers and tips to help you optimize your Page to appear in Nearby results.

As With Timeline, Simple Being There Isn’t Always Enough to Make Your Page Appear

Facebook’s ranks and displays Nearby listings much as they newsfeed content, so the closest nearby businesses won’t necessarily appear simply because of their proximity to the user.

People can see what’s close by, or search by business name or category.

Still, the results they see are based on friend activity, check-ins, reviews, personal preferences as determined by Facebook, and more.

What To Do: Optimize your local Facebook presence by encouraging check-ins, offering incentives for reviews, building engagement on your Page - especially with local influencers in your category - and adding the Like button to your website and other online presences to build your network.

Optimize Your Facebook Page for Discovery

Facebook users can search by business name and category. However, there are a few annoying caveats that have become apparent so far.

Say you're a local hardware store called Fawcett’s Building Center. Your have a Local Business Facebook Page under the category “Home Improvement.” Your Facebook Page will appear in searches for your business name and may appear in searches under “Home Improvement,” depending on the above factors.

However, you will not appear to a user searching for “hammers.” You would need to actually have that word in your business name to appear.

This is obviously going to be a helpful feature for users, if they can search for products or services without actually knowing the business name, so don’t be surprised to see this added in the coming months.

For now, however, there are a few ways you can optimize your Page for discovery by those who are nearby or are specifically looking for you.

What To Do: Check your category to make sure you're in the right one. If you’re a pub, for example, make sure you’re under Pub/Bar and not Restaurant/Cafe. If you want to be sneaky and try to appear in both, try putting yourself in one category with the name of another relevant category in your business name (i.e., Category > Pub/Bar, Business Name: George’s Pub & Restaurant).

Optimize Your Facebook Page for Conversion

In this case, a conversion is a person discovering your business in Facebook Nearby and actually walking in your door. Make it as easy as possible for them to do so by updating your Page so it as complete and correct as possible.

Finding a business listing lacking hours of operation or a phone number is annoying for users and may keep them thumbing through to the next result.

What To Do: Update your business hours, verify that your address in correct and try Facebook Nearby on a mobile to ensure the map and directions are correct.


Facebook Nearby has the potential to steal local search marketshare thanks to the sheer size of Facebook’s existing userbase. Mobile searchers may very well choose to make a local buying decision based on the endorsements and activity of Facebook friends, rather than random user reviews in search results or activity with lesser volume on Foursquare.

Have you given your Facebook Page the obligatory once-over since nearby became available? Take 10 minutes and make sure you’re positioned to appear in local searches. Then, actively campaign to build your presence and appear more often!

Become an Expert Digital Marketer at SES New York
March 25-28, 2013: With dozens of sessions on Search, Social, Local and Mobile, you'll leave SES with everything and everyone you need to know. Hurry, early bird rates expire February 21. Register today!

Google Adds Photos To Some Location-Based Search Results

Google has announced a minor change to its search results page for some geographic-based queries. To fill in the white space that used to appear next to the small map, Google is now pulling in user-contributed photos from its Panoramio photo-sharing site. (Marketers: This is another reason to start using Panoramio if you’re not already.)

It’s a bit unclear what kinds of searches will trigger the photos. It works for searches like seattle and paris, and yellowstone national park, but doesn’t show for searches like mount rushmore national park, grand canyon national park, or death valley national park.

Is Finding Your Business Blog a Mystery? 3 Tips for Blog Promotion & Findability

With millions of blogs and other social content to compete against, the challenge of standing out can seem overwhelming for business and personal bloggers alike.

But it doesn’t have to be a mystery for customers to find your corporate blog. If you have interesting and useful things to say, there is an audience seeking that very information.

The connection between social media and blog promotion for companies is logical: Publish a blog post and then tweet it out or post a link to Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

But there’s more to making your business blog findable than just sharing links through social channels. That’s why focusing solely on the promotion of blog content after it’s published is like a hamster running on an exercise wheel. The ideal is to be intentional and planned yet also opportunistic. And to scale those promotion efforts, it’s essential that two or three times as much time is spent growing social networks than actually promoting content to them.

Business blogs in particular, benefit from a content calendar to guide messaging and to stay true to meeting the needs of the business and researched interests of the target audience. With that editorial planning should also come an effort to build social networks.

For a business, the core 5 social networks to consider would probably be Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. �If there’s substantial video content, then YouTube is a logical addition. Creating and growing communities in at least one or two of these networks with a new blog will help grow a community that looks forward to whatever you’ll post next.

Think of a hub and spoke model for blog publishing where the blog is the hub and social networks are the spokes. Each spoke represents a community of interest, relevant to your blog’s key purpose. Be useful to the community through curation, sharing, interacting, and stimulating conversation and the community will reward you with attention, engagement and sharing.

The time to start an army is not on the first day of the war. With so many sources of information coming at digital citizens every minute they’re connected to the web, it can be a battle to stand out. Many business bloggers make the mistake of simply creating posts and then tweeting them out and expecting attention in return.

To see a return on your blog promotion effort, you must invest! Publishing interesting and useful content isn’t enough. Promotion is key. But promotion itself is useless unless there is an interested audience to receive. That’s why growing networks is so important for a blog that expects to be findable.

Network growth can be achieved at the start, by simply curating interesting news, interacting with others and sharing only the posts that are particularly promotable. Here are a few tips on making social network growth both efficient and effective:

Use a tool – Using a tool like HootSuite can enable a blogger so they can do some basic monitoring their social communities on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Saved search queries on Twitter within HootSuite will help monitor topics of relevance and even “buying signals” that can prompt interaction. �You can also create lists on Twitter of the influentials in your industry and follow that list within HootSuite for interaction and promotion opportunities.

Track news to curate – Besides monitoring influentials on your social networks for choice for news to share, searching Google News and bookmarking the search results page can also be useful for finding recent and relevant content to curate.

Comment on other blogs and news sites – Find other topically relevant blogs and industry news sites that allow commenting and track them for opportunities to share your opinion. Just one of these comments a day can take about 5 minutes and if you add that up over time, it creates a very credible footprint. It can even turn into bloggers or journalists reaching out to you for comment.

Besides growing networks it’s also important to make the most out of the blog content itself for more effective blog promotion. Here are a few key questions to answer for each post, whether its planned in advance or a spontaneous reaction:

Why is it special? – Think about the one thing that makes the post special or most useful. This can be made into the meta description that appears in search results. The thing that makes a post special, can also be distilled into the post title, Tweets and other social messages.

Who would find it interesting? – Business blogs have a certain audience in mind and should be considered for the voice of the post and where it’s promoted. If you think your social connections that represent the topic of the post would be interested, reach out to them and share the post. Better yet, ask them for a tip and include it in the post.

What is the core message and promise? – Similar to the “special”, this is the syntax for the title. For example, rather than just “10 Blog Promotion Tips”, it will be more effective to say, “10 Blog Promotion Tips to Boost Traffic for Real Estate Blogs”. The revised title includes a classic formula for successful social sharing: Topic, Benefit and for Who. � This is also where you should consider using keywords people might use on search engines.

There could be more than one message and more than one target audience for a post, so use it to your advantage and craft Topic, Benefit, Who messages for each. Those can be used for social sharing on different networks or multiple messages shared throughout the week.

What’s the takeaway for the reader? – This is your conclusion of the post. Hint at this in the opening, provide substance for it in the post and provide the takeaway in the conclusion.

Any special media (graphics, audio, video) elements? – If your post has a special image, or embeddable media like a presentation hosted on Slideshare or video from YouTube, then there are promotions opportunities based on those media on other social networks. When dealing with things like video and presentations, there are also many content repurposing opportunities. Images from an embedded presentation could be used on Pinterest or Flickr to attract traffic back to the blog post, for example.

Based on your answers to these questions, some better choices for promotion can be made and you’ll be able to scale the reach of your business blog without scaling the amount of time to achieve it. Every blogger has something valuable to say and there’s no reason that it should be a mystery to find such useful information and advice. Don’t make the mistake of expecting a return on blogging with no investment in promotion or network growth. The social web works on a give to get basis, so thing about what you can do to optimize your blogging effort and create value for the people you’re really trying to connect with.

For a lot of bloggers, just doing 2 or 3 of these things on a regular basis will improve the reach and findability of their blog content. Once a connection is made between promotion and an increase in visits, engagement and interactions, then confidence in an even more active effort will come.�Mystery solved!

What blog promotion tips would you add?

Facebook Ads 80% Bot Claim, Examined! Why You Shouldn’t Lose Faith Just Yet

WHOA! Eighty percent bot clicks on Facebook Ads? Yikes!

Limited Run’s allegations of Facebook ad traffic being 80 percent bots has made major news publications, from the New York Times to CNBC. Responses from the industry have ranged from: “Holy Cow! GM pulls out, now this? I’m outta here, too!” to, “Big whoop. Show me the data.”

Hold on, dear marketers, before you go jumping the ship let’s back this Limited Run truck up to reality.

AimClear has served about a trillionty-gazzilion Facebook ad impressions since 2007, the inception of Facebook Advertising, and have not encountered 80 percent bot clicks. Even before data, we sense it. The KPIs speak for themselves.

The Limited Run claim might be read by some as laced with hyperbole. To illustrate our past experience, and research Limited’s claims, we performed our own Facebook Bot Study at aimClear.

Here are aimClear’s high-level findings. According to our data:

The number of visits Facebook reports from ads appears to be nearly accurate, even if the visitors are bots. That’s, umm… comforting.Possible bot traffic from the USA is much lower than Limited’s study purported.Internationally, possible FB Ads bot traffic is higher than it is in the USA but much lower than Limited reports.

Read on for details of our study and what it revealed.

Holes in Previous Claims

No one quite knows how long Limited Run’s Facebook stint was, how much they spent, where and who they targeted; we only know what they told us in regards to how they identified bots.

Here’s what we assume: Limited Run looked into their access logs. They pulled out Facebook traffic but did not say if it was for their paid campaigns or organic. We assume they are talking about Facebook Ads traffic because that’s the foundation of their claim.

They also looked at overall traffic (again, without saying if it was overall paid and/or organic) and assumed that only 2 percent real users disable Javascript. This assumption jibes with Yahoo’s study of users and may or may not be true in the country mix Limited Run markets to. We don’t know. They haven’t revealed that data. Perhaps they should. It’s significant.

The entire basis of Limited Run’s study surrounds the assumption that total Javascript disabled traffic should be about 2 percent. After deducting the estimated 2 percent of assumed Javascript disablers, they then inferred that approximately 80 percent of visitors were bots. This assumption may be inherently flawed.

Javascript Only 2%?

Looking at aimClear’s total organic traffic from every source, which excludes Facebook ads and what we can see in Google Analytics, approximately 63 percent of our total organic site visitors have Javascript disabled and is not declared as a bot, spider, or crawler.

Is the Javascript disabled traffic 2 percent, or is it closer to 60? Are they real users with Javascript disabled, or are they bots? It is likely that some or many of these are malicious crawlers for various reasons and 2 percent or more are real with Javascript disabled. It is possible that more of the organic universe disables Javascript than 2 percent and that certain percentage variations would apply to various countries.

The point is, Limited Run is comparing Facebook ads traffic to real users (assumed at 2 percent), not total traffic (which we know can be a much higher percentage). Using 2 percent as a benchmark may be a flawed start to this analysis.

Case in point: our data says that the majority of our organic traffic has Javascript disabled. The potential flaw in Limited Run’s thinking is that they are comparing Javascript disabled Facebook traffic to Javascript disabled total real users.

The Test

We set up our website to record all traffic and tested a handful of our branding target segments. Since the specifics (e.g., geo targeting) of Limited Run’s campaign were not revealed, we split the test up. One group of campaigns was targeted only the U.S. The other group held the same targeting, same ads, but used the same geo-targeting Facebook’s Promoted Post targets by default, swapping the U.S. for the notorious bot-ridden, Turkey (bot-bait, if you will):

We logged roughly 950 visits over a four-day period from August 3 to 6. We then took and sliced off the first and last day so that we could accurately match our daily data with the daily data Facebook reported. Over those two days we had a total of 765 visits. Those are the visits that we studied.


AimClear used a Javascript test to determine potential bots versus real users. We recorded every visit, logged as much visitor data as possible, and then asked every visitor to execute a jQuery post and recorded those visits as well. By comparing the two numbers and filtering out any user-agent that declares itself a bot (spider or crawler) we were able to determine the total percentage of visits without Javascript enabled.

Time and Date Stamps

It’s also incredibly easy to accidently assume Facebook is misreporting ad traffic if time zone differences between Facebook reporting and server logs are not taken in to consideration. In our test Facebook reported ad clicks daily based on Central Standard Time (CST) whereas our server logged visits in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

To accurately study the data between our server and Facebook we needed to shift our recorded dates back 5 hours. Depending on the server and Facebook ads configuration the date shift could be much larger.

If you don’t correct for the time zone difference, especially in smaller size samples, it is likely that your reporting will be heavily skewed, if not dead wrong.

The Results

Within a few hours of launching the bot-bait international ads, we had bot clicks. And some solicitations.

When we analyzed Facebook paid traffic, we found that approximately 19 percent of U.S. traffic and 30 percent of international traffic has Javascript disabled and falls into the potential bot bucket. This percentage is much cleaner from Facebook ads than outside the wall, where 63 percent of organic site visitors arrive with Javascript disabled.

High Level FindingsThe number of visits Facebook reports from ad appears to be nearly accurate, even if the visitors are bots.USA Bot traffic could be as high as 17 percent if the 2 percent rule holds. Our guess is that the number is at least slightly lower.Internationally, bot traffic could be as high as 28 percent, with the same caveats.However, international clicks can cost a quarter as much as the USA or less, so the bot percentage may be somewhere between acceptable and better than America net.Limited Run’s conclusions are way off the data we see. They reported a total of about 80 percent bot traffic. They need to show some more data to hold the attention of anyone other than skittish social media paparazzi and freaked out investors.

We call on Limited Run to show a lot more data, including country segmentation and ratios,. Further, we challenge them to disclose how they got around the time/date issues to avoid mingling data. Dear Limited Run, please prove to us that you did not somehow merge datasets.

Limited Run also did not say how much they spent or the size of their sampling. That 80 percent could be 4 clicks or 400 clicks. So… how big was the sampling?

It is also funny to note that they apparently did not think this would be a big deal, even though they accused the largest social community on earth of not cleaning up fraud. The big winner here is Limited Run. They got all the PR.

Facebook Still Losing the PR War

Seasoned online marketers are aware of bot clicks on ads from Google, to the Display Network, to Bing, and now (not shockingly) Facebook. What we did find interesting was the paid Facebook traffic was cleaner than organic.

Also, Facebook has stated they expunge any spam or bot accounts when they find them. We believe that and believe it true from first hand observations.

“If we find fake accounts, we disable them immediately,” a Facebook spokesperson told SEW.

Facebook revealed, mere days after the Limited Run story, that they identified 83 million fake accounts. Hold the phone, marketers! Just because there are fake accounts does not necessarily translate to bots.

These were accounts Facebook identified as duplicate accounts (the majority at 4.8 percent), “user misclassified” (users who had a business & personal account at 2.4 percent), and (dun dunn dunnn) 1.5 percent of “undesirable accounts,” which breach fundamental terms of agreement.

Spammers? Bots? Maybe.

The revelation of these numbers only adds to the perceived crisis as headlines highlighted 83 million, not the real issue of the 1.5 percent “undesirable accounts,” a relatively small amount.

Bots and spammers exist. Why didn’t they only reveal this number? Not sure. We appreciated the transparency, but as a result, the frenzy surged on.

Let’s not forget that we’re still talking about 10 percent of just under a billion, so there are plenty of real people left to play with.

Should we let Facebook off the hook, now that we know their ad traffic is cleaner than our organic traffic and only a measly 1.5 percent of Facebook’s 955 million accounts may be spammers/bots? I don’t think so.

Facebook needs to bite the bullet and refund known bot clicks, just as Google does. They’ll clean it up. Facebook has said they have the technology.

We suggest that Facebook offer Facebook Ads customers greater transparency as to the process and a dedicated method to get refunded for verifiable bot analytics. Google has been down this road. Facebook will, too. Fortunately, Facebook has stated, there are already systems in place to identify users’ click patterns:

“Facebook has systems in place that attempt to detect and filter certain click activity, including repetitive clicks from a single user, clicks that appear to be from an automated program or bot, or clicks that are otherwise abusive, their spokesperson said.”

Since Facebook has the technology to identify these “undesirable users,” and has the click data, perhaps they should take them in to consideration when charging clicks and assessing quality scores.

Facebook Advertisers’ Real Gripe is Revealed

It’s no surprise the industry was abuzz over Limited Run’s claim, with GM ditching Facebook, the (laughable) BBC “investigation”, and plummeting-as-we-speak stock prices post their IPO. Some assume this may be just another nail in the social network’s coffin.

Facebook could have prevented this or at least curbed the backlash by supporting their advertising communities in real ways, not stagnant FAQs with elementary advertising suggestions, user-to-user help forum with no Facebook representative, or a support email that barely anyone knows about ([email protected]/* */).

It’s the smaller advertisers who need help. They’re the ones who get freaked out when it looks they’ve been ripped off by a billion-dollar company that doesn't care, not the giant multinationals who are spending millions per quarter.

Facebook will lose more and more advertisers if they continue to ignore the small and medium advertisers, and that affects Facebook’s bottom line more than a company no one has ever heard of, announcing their leave of the biggest social scene.

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Mobile Apps: Search By Another Name

Responding to Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ declaration that on mobile devices “search hasn’t happened,” we’ve now written several times about how mobile apps of various sorts are essentially search by another name. Just to refresh your memory, here’s Jobs making that statement in April of this year:

The specific app he references (in case you missed it) is Yelp. He mentioned Yelp again in his recent interview at the D8 event in discussing the same issue of search on mobile devices:

Steve: We discovered something � people are going into apps. They�re not just going onto to websites. And people love apps. This is an entirely new thing � they aren�t using search, they�re using apps like Yelp.

Last week in conjunction with the release of the fifth version of its iPhone app Yelp exposed some striking data about the role that mobile now plays in its traffic:

On average, 27% of all Yelp searches come from our iPhone App. That number dips during the week when traffic surges. Then on the weekend, it moves up again as people pull out their Yelp mobile apps when they’re on the go – a trend we’ve already been seeing for quite some time!

(Emphasis added.)

Yelp can be variously described as: a) a city guide, b) local restaurant and shopping vertical or c) a local search engine. It really doesn’t matter what it’s called, people input queries in a search field to find information — although there are other ways to discover information and recommendations on or its mobile app.

Not all mobile apps of course can be used as substitutes for search engines or have search functionality. But there are quite a few of them that are used in the same way one might use now Google on the PC to navigate to content or otherwise obtain information. And of course both Google and Bing offer iPhone apps that are explicitly search engines.

What Jobs is really saying when he says “search hasn’t happened” or “isn’t happening” on mobile devices is that traditional search (and Google in particular) isn’t the gateway to mobile content the same way it is on the PC internet. Instead, “search” as it has moved into a mobile context is a little like Humpty Dumpty — broken into a million pieces called apps:

One of the most popular apps on the iPhone and other smartphone platforms according to Nielsen is Google Maps, which we might describe as a “local search engine”:

Beyond all the specific apps available, people are in fact using the browser and its search box in the old fashioned way to find content on the mobile internet. According to comScore, 31 percent of the US mobile audience used a browser to access internet content in April:

In addition, according to comScore, the number of people who used a mobile browser exceeds the number of people who used apps (see above). If we were to focus exclusively on the smartphone segment (now 23% of US mobile handsets according to Nielsen) the data would be somewhat different.

We can also see from the most recently published Opera data that the most popular site accessed through its iPhone Opera Mini browser is . . . Google:

So people on the iPhone are searching the mobile web with Google.

The larger point is that on the iPhone and Android, to a somewhat lesser degree, “search” has taken many and varied forms and isn’t all about Google. Jobs is technically correct that “people aren’t searching on a mobile device like they do on the deskop” — “like they do on the desktop.” But they’re still searching; it’s just that mobile search and PC search aren’t entirely the same.

The “so what?” of all this for search marketers is that while mobile paid search and “mobile SEO” are important tools, other strategies are now also required to reach consumers engaged in “directional lookups” on their mobile devices.

We’ll be showcasing both mobile search tactics and the role of apps (in an LBS context) at SMX Advanced next week in two sessions that I’m moderating: “Ads On The Move: Mobile Paid Search” and “Location Services: The New Local Search?” Both are on Wednesday.

Tips for Marketing a Sales Call & Free Sample

One of the most important elements of any search-based lead generation campaign is the offer – what does your prospect get as a result of giving you their contact information?

Ideally, this offer acts like a magnet, attracting qualified prospects and having no effect on non-prospects (in this metaphor qualified prospects are iron or nickel, while unqualified prospects are lead, or wood, or belly-button lint).

A good “magnet” can bring in oodles of qualified prospects, while a poorly conceived or described offer can stop your lead flow dead in its tracks.

There are several different forms of the “what’s in it for them” for becoming a lead. Three basic formats include the sales consultation, a demo or sample of the product or service, and information about the prospect’s need. This article will focus on the first two.

Sales Consultation

The sales consultation is fairly straightforward: fill out this form and we’ll get in touch and try to sell you stuff. While hopefully your sales consultation would be, in fact, a consultation in which you assess need and answer questions, the fact is that most prospects are highly resistant to “being sold.”

The sales consultation is the default offer, probably because it’s the most obvious and easiest to fulfill. And there are cases where it can be highly effective – especially when you can identify and articulate tangible benefits that come from the consultation itself, even if no deal is closed.

For example, if you're selling a service, your offer should promise several outcomes. Your prospects will gain clarity about their goals, increase their motivation and energy to achieve those goals, and identify and make plans for dealing with likely obstacles.

Even if they don’t end up hiring you, that sales call has tremendous value in and of itself. Your job as a marketer is to highlight that value on the landing page that describes the offer. Here’s some copy:

“We'll get on the phone and talk about your current situation, your goals, and the challenges that have been getting in the way. Whether we decide to work together or not, you'll leave the call with a clearer picture of what you need to do, and you'll be more energized than you've been in months.”

Tips for Marketing a Sales Call

1. Give it a title that highlights the benefits of the call itself.

My “website scorch” combines an in-depth critique of your website with an action plan for instant improvement.

2. Charge money for it

Nothing says “this is valuable” like making people pay for it. If you position your sales call as a sales call, you often devalue your expertise in the eyes of your prospects. When you charge money for the initial call, you attract a much more attentive prospect. And you approach the call differently yourself, knowing that you have obligated yourself to provide value.

Not everyone can charge for a sales call, but often the only thing holding you back is your own doubts and fears.

3. Limit availability

Nothing erodes prospect confidence faster than your neediness. If you give the impression that you’re just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, your sales calls will fall into the dynamic of you need them more than they need you.

In fact, the opposite is true. They have money – a commodity. You have knowledge and experience and caring and skills and discernment around a particular topic – that makes you uniquely valuable. They definitely need you much more than you need them.

When you offer the sales call, stress that you only do so many of these per week, or month. And then honor that limit – the worst thing you can do is pretend scarcity and not enforce it.

The truth is, a great sales consultation can be exhausting. You need exquisite presence, you must be a great listener, and you must balance your business needs with the goals and needs of your prospect. There really is a limit to how much attention and presence you can muster each day.

Product or Service Sample

You may have noticed that in the case of my coaching practice, the sales call actually serves as a demonstration of my coaching style and method. If someone came to me pre-sold, I would still begin the paid coaching by asking them about their goals, motivation, obstacles, and so on.

As Mahan Khalsa writes in “Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play”, “the way you sell is a free sample of the way you solve.” (Although, it doesn’t always have to be free.)

If your business is consulting, then your sales call can easily be a sample as well. In order to deliver useful advice, you need to assess their needs, the context in which you’ll be working, what they’ve already tried, who the key stakeholders are, and so on.

The software industry most commonly uses product samples as lead generators. Just like a warm tidbit in a paper cup at the end of a supermarket aisle, a taste of something that makes your prospect’s life easier or more enjoyable can create an appetite for the full-fledged product.

The biggest challenge about sample marketing is getting the prospect to consume the sample, and not just stick a zip file in their downloads folder and forget about it. Samples should be accompanied by an email autoresponder series whose entire purpose is to get the prospect to try it.

Tips for Marketing a Free Sample

1. Turn your consultation into a free sample, if possible.

2. The goal of your sample is to give an experience of what life would be like with your product or service.

Focus on the one or two ways in which your product or service enhances your customers’ lives the most, and craft the sample to address those specific issues.

3. Focus on getting prospects to consume the sample.

If there’s a set-up process, provide a tutorial that makes it drop-dead simple. If using the sample requires a new habit, then provide support to build that habit in your prospects.

Image Credit: explainthatstuff/Flickr

Become an Expert Digital Marketer at SES New York
March 25-28, 2013: With dozens of sessions on Search, Social, Local and Mobile, you'll leave SES with everything and everyone you need to know. Hurry, early bird rates expire February 21. Register today!