Online Marketing News: Google+ Search, $10 per Twitter Follower, Facebook 1 Billion Users, Foursquare Search Engine, Social ROI: No, Really!

Search, plus Your World

The big news this week centers around the changes that Google has rolled out related to Google+ integration with search,�which as the tech press buzzing. �Google is aiming to bring users additional search functionality that is incorporated with their Google+ profiles. ��The official Google blog states that �you should be able to find your own stuff on the web, the people you know and things they�ve shared with you, as well as the people you don�t know but might want to… all from one search box.� Industry observers are saying it’s too much Google+, all the time.

Regardless, it’s a new dimension on the face of search and that spells opportunity (for those optimists among us) to Optimize. Here are a few tips on Google+ optimization. Be sure to add TopRank to your Google+ circles!

It’s an Oh So Social Web

“Facebook projected to hit 1 billion active users by August” �There are about 6.9 billion people currently living in the world, and Facebook is projected to capture close to 14% of that number by the end of this summer. According to a new study, the Facebook user count will hit 1 billion by the month of August. Via Digital Trends.

“Anywhere in the world, foursquare Explore can find you something interesting (now on your computer!)” �How do you search for personalized recommendations in the real world? This is a huge and difficult problem. Most real-world searches are one-size fits all. The new web version of Explore is powered by 1,500,000,000 check-ins, tens of millions of Tips, and over half million Lists. Explore is powered by check-ins and foursquare Tips, it�s not just personalized, it�s specific. Via Foursquare.

“Some Advertisers Are Paying Up To $10 Per Follow On Twitter”�Marketers spent an estimated $100- to $150-million on Twitter advertising to reach its 100 million users last year, compared with forecasts of nearly $4-billion for Facebook and its 800 million users. So far, Twitter�s advertisers have been prepared to pay $1 to $4 for each new follower through �promoted accounts�, though some � such as car makers � are bidding more than $10. Via Financial Times.

�YouTube accounts for 25% of visits to social sites in December� Market research analyst James Murray shares that there were record levels of Internet traffic at Christmas, with 2.18 billion visits going to online retailers in December. �Murry also shares that the right blend of traffic from social media, affiliates, and other sources is essential. �But, that it is more important than ever for marketers to optimize both paid and organic campaigns. �Via Econsultancy.

�71% More Likely to Purchase Based on Social Media Referrals [INFOGRAPHIC]� �Consumers are currently connecting, rating, discussing, and consumer more product information and review then ever before. �The infographic in this article illustrates the importance of ecommerce inbound marketing. �Via Hubspot.

We’re With the Brand – Tips

�5 Tips for Making Your Brand More Social����As social media only continues to increase in value companies cannot afford to shamelessly self promote or opt out from the conversation all together. �Requests are being made that companies respond in real time, across multiple channels. Via�Social Media Examiner.

�How to Build Recognition for Your Unkown Brand� In the marketing and advertising world the word �frequency� refers to the number of times a consumer must see or an ad before they purchase the product. �According to this article frequency works because it is all about building trust. �As consumers we tend to be weary of anything new. �However, if we are shown a product or brand repeatedly we begin trust what that company has to offer. Via Wall Street Journal.

TopRank(ing) News From Our Team

Emily Conley – �Real-Life Examples of How Google�s �Search Plus� Pushes Google+ Over Relevancy�
Google�s recent implementation of the �Search Plus Your World� feature has everybody talking about whether the new feature benefits Google users, or just the company. �This article dives into the initial impact of the change through a user perspective. �The �Search Plus� feature has huge implications in terms of search and social�this is only the beginning of what is sure to be a long debate! �Via Search Engine Land.

Ken Horst – �Pinterest: 13 Tips and Tricks for Cutting Edge Users�
As we�ve seen in previous weeks, Pinterest traffic and interest is growing like crazy, recently breaking into the top ten social media websites. �In addition to the 13 tips in this post, I�ve also found it useful to create pin boards of images from my blog or web site. ��Each image is a link back top the originating web property and if the images are cool, users can also see some nice referring traffic as well. �Via Mashable.

Alexis Hall – �SoLoMo Revolution Picks Up Where Hyperlocal Search Left Off�
I thought this post on Social Local Mobile Search or the �SoLoMo Revolution� was interesting. It discusses how �companies like Shopkick have been successful using new mobile technology to offer shoppers a highly personalized experience. �Via Mashable.

Discussion: What do you think about the new Google+ integration with search? Do you think it’s too much? �What about $10 per Twitter user? Or $1? Do you think Foursquare can compete as a local search engine? We’d love your feedback on these stories and feel free to suggest other top stories we missed.

800 Best SEO Posts of the Last 4 Years

You may be reading this because, like me, you usually spend a few minutes each day making sure you've trawled the main SEO news publications for new, useful thought pieces on organic search, analytics, or other aspects of online marketing. But have you ever thought which of those sites statistically provides the best content? Or have you ever wondered if what people on these sites write about ever really changes? The sunsetting of Google Reader forced me to find out…

I'm sure you're all by now aware of Google Reader's demise; to many of you this story will have barely warranted a second glance, but for an SEO news addict like me it is a serious pain in the ass.

Since March 26, 2009, I have been using Reader's "star" functionality to highlight SEO resources I feel will be useful to me again at some point in the future, or warrant sharing with my team.

The result of this obsessive reading and starring of RSS feeds, usually on the bus in the morning, was an easily-accessible, hand-curated database of great articles covering almost any conceivable SEO topic stretching back 4 years.

While migrating to a new RSS reader, The Old Reader, I realized that I couldn't transfer my starred items.

The good news was Google allowed me to get a backup of them as a .json file. The bad news was that no RSS reader (to my knowledge) had the functionality to import them alongside the feeds I subscribe to.

End result: I was faced with the task of cleaning and formatting the data in the .json file if I wanted to still be able to access my 4 year-old collection of useful blog posts and news items.

I soon realized that although this task was onerous, it would provide me with a great opportunity to: 1. Build a great resource for other SEO professionals 2. Understand how my perception of "a great SEO article" had changed since 2009 3. Rate the major SEO publications based on whose feed had received the most stars.

I won't go through how you can filter and clean a .json file into something useful, but if you want to have a go, you'll probably find it useful to know how to remove blank cells from a list without changing the order of items, how to convert UNIX timestamps to dates, and you'll also need the SEOTools extension for Excel. Contact me if you're interested to know more.

And Now to Give Away 4 Years of Work…

The first thing I want to do is share my article collection. Obviously, whether an article from an RSS feed was starred or not was purely subjective, so I am not saying this is a definitive collection of every amazing article published since 2009!

However, I'm an agency-based SEO working across numerous industries, and while collating this list I have undertaken a range of SEO roles from being in the trenches writing title tags to running an SEO department. As a result I would like to think there is something here for everyone.

So here it is: the full collection of just under 800 fantastic SEO resources.

If you are the author of any of these links I'll take this opportunity to say a big thank you for producing such useful content!

So Which SEO Site Really Has the Best Content?

I wanted to know which industry sites had most frequently posted content I felt was worthy of starring. Thankfully, reader gives an average posts / week for each feed, and I could work out how long I had been subscribed to each feed by looking at dates of the first post starred in that feed and the most recent.

After mashing up that data, I was able to calculate the approximate number of posts each feed had published, and what percentage of them I had starred:

This perfectly illustrates two broad approaches to content production: the first approach, usually pursued individual content producers broadly states "when it comes to publishing niche content, if you post less frequently, your content will be better written and a greater proportion of posts will resonate with users".

However, this approach makes it harder to cater to the long tail – hence the alternative strategy; "publish content as often as possible about as many things as possible in order to become relevant to the maximum number of users possible".

Both have their merits, as you can see, despite the fact that I have starred a much greater percentage of SEOmoz's posts, Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land are still much more visible websites within search results:

Visibility in SERPs courtesy of SearchMetrics Essentials

I think SEOmoz comes out as the most valuable resource for me overall. However, I'll qualify by saying that if I had counted all of the YouMoz blogposts into this study as well SEOmoz would have probably ranked last.

I guess the genius in Moz's approach to producing SEO content is that they can legitimately claim to be pursuing both of the strategies outlined above; they have long tail content (often of varying quality) produced through YouMoz, while the daily blog can focus on delivering one highly engaging piece per day. This dual approach is common to other successful content brands: Oracle nd The Guardian are two examples.

Do We Keep Talking About the Same Things?

In an industry where so many people contribute to the greater knowledge base, I wanted to understand whether the articles that caught my eye had changed over time.

After fetching each post's title tag, (necessary because some older articles had numeric, rather than keyword based URLs) I was able to use textalyser and Wordle to visualize the relative frequency at which major terms occurred from 2010 to 2013:




And finally 2013 to date:

Certain themes reoccur: headlines which tell me I may learn a useful tactic if I read the full post have always drawn my eye; hence the consistent appearance of "how to", "guide" and "ways" in the word clouds above. I'd always advise someone writing an article for a search website to focus on practical tips that can be taken away and implemented.

I am also clearly a sucker for personal language; "your" and "you" consistently crop up throughout my list of articles worth reading – so I guess this acts as proof that communicating to the reader in a personal way really does boost click-through rates and engagement.

Over time the most popular topics have changed as well; for example in 2011 Panda was a big concern. Interestingly I didn't star as many articles on Penguin; I think that this is a reflection on the fact that Panda was more around owned media (client webpages) rather than earned (links, social signals) assets and therefore the advice was more actionable.

Although content marketing is a term now so ubiquitous SEO professionals are starting to deride it, as a keyword it has unsurprisingly risen in prominence through 2012 and 2013 within my starred items. Interestingly, this doesn't appear to be replacing the frequency "link building" appears. I think that this is just another sign that the two terms are interchangeable in the minds of many SEO professionals. Goodbye, Google Reader…

What Now?

Thanks for reading this far! If you too are sad about Reader's demise, there is a great run down of alternatives on lifehacker.

If you do download my list of useful SEO articles maybe you can do something more with it; I'd love to know which authors appear most frequently or if there are other sites whose RSS feeds would add value.

I hope to continue building out this resource and am aiming to make a new version available via Dropbox each month. I'll shout out on Twitter when the next update is available.

P.S.: for those of you interested, the first article I ever starred in reader was SEOptimise's "25 Free Social Media Marketing & SEO Ebooks, White Papers + Other Downloads".

Google & Bing Have “Won A Major Victory” Over Content Farms, Study Says

Search engines have “won a major victory” in their battle against so-called content farms. So says the current issue of New Scientist magazine, in an article that’s also available online.

New Scientist asked University of Glasgow computer scientist Richard McCreadie to study 50 search queries that are “known to be a target of content farmers.” One example query given is “how to train for a marathon.” McCreadie studied those queries in both March and August, and the magazine says “the results show that Google and Microsoft have won a major victory” against content farms.

The results are striking. In the case of the marathon query, sites that contained lists of generic tips, such as “invest in a good pair of running shoes”, were present in the top 10 in March but had disappeared by August, while high-quality sources, such as Runner’s World magazine, now appear near the top. Similar trends were found throughout the 50 queries.

The article doesn’t offer much more in the way of details, unfortunately.

Although the study looked at both major search engines, it’s Google that’s been waging the content farm battle much more actively than Bing. That dates back to the initial launch of the Panda update on February 24th of this year. Read the stories below for more background.

Yahoo Answers Hits 300 Million Questions, But Q&A Activity Is Declining

Against what could be considered great odds, Yahoo Answers has reached a pretty stunning milestone: 300 million questions have been asked since the service launched in 2005.

But despite that figure, activity on Yahoo Answers is on the decline.

The company’s announcement today includes these additional statistics:

On average, 2 questions are being asked and 6 answered per second. So this means there�s an astonishing 7,000 questions and an incredible 21,000 answers per hour.

That’s a total of 28,000 questions and answers being posted every hour.

But about two years ago, when Yahoo Answers announced that it had a combination of more than a billion questions and answers, the company said it was seeing more than 34,000 questions and answers per hour.

That’s a decline in the neighborhood of 17 to 18 percent.

Yahoo Answers has, for years, been considered the largest answer search engine on the web — and despite that decline, it almost certainly still is. But it’s difficult to compare apples to apples if you include sites like ChaCha, which includes voice-generated questions requesting phone numbers among its Q&A database, or, which remains something of a hybrid between a Q&A site and a search engine.

Still, Yahoo Answers outlasted Google Answers, which closed its doors less than a year after Yahoo Answers launched. Facebook Questions launched about two years ago, but that doesn’t appear to have taken off like some expected it would.

Quora has become a Q&A darling over the past year or so, and certainly has a lot of momentum in its favor. The company hasn’t indicated how many questions it has, but users have tried figuring it out themselves, using a “QID” code that’s visible in the site’s code. If that’s an accurate way to count questions, my quick digging suggests that the site has a little more than 700,000 questions at the moment.

Earlier this year, former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson promised to shut down up to 50 Yahoo properties. No one knows if current CEO Ross Levinsohn will follow through on that, but for now, Yahoo Answers keeps beating the odds and chugging along … albeit a little more slowly than it did a couple years ago.

Facebook Nearby Is Now Facebook “Local Search”

Goodbye Facebook Nearby, hello Facebook Local Search.�InsideFacebook�points out�that�the company has renamed its mobile app feature “Nearby” as Facebook “local search.” �Until late last year, Nearby was a friend-finder tool. Then it became a way to find local business recommendations.

But, many users are undoubtedly still unaware of the change in functionality. The name change will help.�But, Facebook will also have to make the new local search capability more prominent and do a better job of reaching out to users to get them to engage with the tool.

Yet, Facebook is already one of the most used mobile apps for local search — the second after Google Maps — according to the�recent comScore-15 Miles-Neustar local search study. These findings are relatively surprising but directionally confirmed by a survey I conducted independently.

All this comes largely without Facebook promoting Nearby/Local Search. Imagine what could happen if Facebook really concentrated on making its local search experience competitive and invested heavily in promoting it.

Source: comScore

How to Move Your Social Media Analysis from the Platform to the Individual Level

Creating engaging content and encouraging your audience to engage with your brand are important pieces of a successful social media program. This is evident when you speak with many social marketers who tend to focus a great deal of effort on increasing engagement levels and expanding their audience.

Less attention seems to be paid to who is engaging, how often they engage, and what they are saying. These pieces of information, however, are vitally important to truly understanding how your social media efforts impact your audience.

When you take your analysis from a platform or cross platform level down to the level of individuals, you open up a whole new realm of insights that can help shape not only how you engage at a platform level but more importantly how you engage with different individuals.

At the individual level, there should be both quantitative and qualitative analysis conducted which when combined will complete the full picture of each individual who is engaging with your brand.

It may seem overwhelming at first when you’re faced with the task of analyzing at the individual level, which is likely why it often doesn't occur, but the results are well worth the required effort and resources. The key is to understand which members of your audience are most important to your brand or influential to your audience. This is not easily done without a fairly sophisticated tool that can ingest your brands Facebook, Twitter, and other social platform engagement data and then rank the brands audience based on criteria that is custom to the specific brand. While these types of tools require an investment on the brand's part, they are incredibly valuable to any serious social media marketer.

Once your brands audience is ranked, you will be able to prioritize the individuals who are most important to your brand and who warrant more in-depth quantitative and qualitative analysis.

In order to conduct the analysis at the individual level, you need to collect every engagement that each individual has with the brand on an ongoing basis. This includes all comments, Likes, and original posts made on your brands Facebook page and all retweets, replies, mentions, and direct messages received on your brands Twitter account. Again, this will require either a fairly sophisticated tool or the developer knowledge required to extract the data from the social platforms.

Once the data is in place, the true analysis can begin.

There are many ways to look at the data, but on the quantitative side, you will want to look at the frequency at which the individual engages with your brand. Is the individual’s engagement sustained, does it come in waves, or is it just periodic or one time engagements?

You can then also look at the volume of engagements segmented by engagement type. For example, the number of likes, comments, and original posts on Facebook and the number of retweets, replies, and mentions on Twitter.

These are just two examples of how to look at the quantitative data. As you begin your own analysis, you will find many other ways to extract value from the data related to the individuals engaging with your brand.

Quantitative analysis is nice, but combining it with qualitative analysis provides much greater insights into the relationship between your brand and the individuals. From a qualitative perspective, you can see what pieces of content the individual liked on Facebook or what tweets they retweeted on Twitter.

You can also look at the comments they leave on Facebook posts and see the types of original posts that elicit responses from the individual. This can also be done on Twitter where you look at the tweets that the individual replied to and what they say in their reply.

Another way to look at the data from a qualitative perspective is to look at the original posts that the individual adds to your brands Facebook page and the responses that the post generates. On Twitter, you can look at the tweets that the individual pushes out that mention your brand and the reaction that comes from those tweets. On Twitter you can also analyze other tweets from the individual that are relevant to the category that your brand competes in.

This type of quantitative and qualitative analysis allows you build engagement profiles of all the individuals who are connected to your brand in social channels. Alone, this provides very valuable information, but it can become even more valuable if you are able to take the engagement profiles that you have created and connect them to your customer database.

Making this connection allows you to not only understand how individuals engage with your brand over time, but also allows you to know how engagement patters translates into sales and how a sale may translate into engagement. This type of knowledge could lead to significant changes to your social engagement strategy.

While everyone who is engaging with your brand is important, you may now find it more valuable to pay extra attention to a particular individual who you know is a good customer or another individual who you know is a top engager or influencer for your brand. While this level of sophistication is difficult achieve, developing the tools in-house or purchasing a social media analytics tool that has these types of features will open up a whole new realm of possibilities by allowing you to move from platform or cross-platform level analysis to individual level analysis.

Quality Links & Quality Content: Linchpins of Your SEO Strategy

How many times have you heard it proclaimed that “content is king”? On-page optimization – the process of ensuring that your main website copy is fully optimized for the search engine bots – is certainly still important.

It can be a juggling act producing copy that is engaging, useful and accessible while still incorporating the most effective keywords appropriately.

The good news is that the process of on-page optimization is entirely in your own hands. You can take your time, refine, tinker, and constantly update your content. Effective keywords can change very quickly but tools like Google Analytics allow you to keep on top of keyword trends and tailor your content accordingly.

Off-page optimization can be trickier as it depends largely on getting third parties to link to your site.

There was a time when the sheer quantity of backlinks your site could boast was of paramount importance. On some search engines like the Chinese giant Baidu, this is still the case. Google has become increasingly sophisticated however, and the quality of links is far more important than the quantity.

It can be a challenge building up these quality links but you certainly shouldn't adopt a “take what you can get and leave it at that” approach. The cultivation of quality backlinks is massively important in any SEO campaign and you should have a clear strategy of how to get them.

What Constitutes a Quality Link?

Just as Google's crawlers are evaluating and ranking your site, they're also busy doing the same for everyone else's. Good quality links come from trusted and popular sites. The precise details of the algorithms that Google and other search engines use to determine the overall quality of a particular site are, of course, closely guarded secrets.

Much of SEO is educated guesswork guided by observations of what works and what doesn't. Some sites, such as Reuters, CNN, or the BBC are instantly recognizable brands and it's safe to assume that a link from these places will be worth more than one from a site or source you've never heard of before.

For other sites, Alexa rankings can be a good guide to a particular site's popularity. Sites are searchable by keyword, country or category, making Alexa a great resource whether you're concentrating on domestic or international markets for your links.

As well as connecting to popular and trusted sites, the majority of your backlinks should be from sites that are relevant to your content.

Let's say you have a site for a small jewelry making business. You might have a number of backlinks from your friends' personal blogs, the local soccer team you sponsor and a political forum to which you regularly contribute. These might all be trusted (albeit minor) sources but a single link from a recognized jewelry wholesaler or quality blog about jewelry design could be worth more than all the others combined.

The Value of PR

The old image of the newshound doggedly tracking down stories is now somewhat out of date. Journalists and news gatherers do continue to source their own stories, of course, but submitted content is increasingly important as well. Press releases are relatively easy to make and free to send electronically.

You might be surprised at how many latent newsworthy stories there are within your business environment. They might not all make CNN or the BBC, but with a plethora of online news sources all clamoring for fresh content, you may well find somewhere to place most of them.

Don't forget to target any business-specific news platforms that might run pieces that are too specialized for a general or mainstream audience.

Other Routes to Quality Links

Making guest posts on relevant blogs can be a great way to achieve backlinks from a number of different sources. Ideally, these will reflect different aspects or angles of your business.

Social media continues to be massively important. The likes of Facebook and Twitter are massive worldwide but if you're concentrating on particular foreign markets, it may be worth doing a little research to find out which local competitors are important within that target market. The Russian Vkontakte (VK), for example, is popular in its homeland as well as Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus and claims to be Europe's largest social network with more than 100 million active users.

Pinterest is an interesting variation on both the social media and the 'content is king' mantra. Launched in 2010, Pinterest is a social photo sharing network and a current hot property. As it is image-based, you'll need eye-catching, quality images in order to get 'pinned'.

Quality content and quality links should be the linchpins of your SEO strategy. They can be challenging to develop and maintain but should pay dividends in the long run.

Social Shopping Apps Aim to Bridge the F-commerce Gap for Internet Retailers

For every article that proclaims F-commerce a flop, another seems to point to successes on the part of smaller businesses finding and connecting with consumers who are ready to buy directly through Facebook.

The first generation of F-commerce was established brands simply taking an online store and duplicating it within the Facebook platform. At Glimpse, a new social shopping app by, they see things differently – and that’s the key to the next generation of F-commerce, says Director of Corporate Communications Usher Liebermann.

Glimpse Social Shopping App Bands Together Disparate Data Sets

TheFind believe they have crawled every one of the 500,000 or so e-commerce websites in North America.

“There are about 500 million products for sale and about 100 million (1 in 5) have a Like button next to them. Only about 3 million of those have ever had a Like,” Liebermann told Search Engine Watch. “We see a lot of value in the data of knowing what someone has Liked. Once they give permission, we can see the products they Like, the stores and brands they Like, and the stores, brands and products their friends like.”

This is important, as it fills in the gaps in data collected by Facebook and by retailers themselves, he said. In marrying their crawl data with Facebook’s Open Graph, Glimpse actually has more knowledge of any given product than Facebook does. On the other hand, they can also access more Open Graph data about the buzz around that product, and actually put it to use, than the retailer.

Liebermann describes how Glimpse works: “Say you like a shoe on Nordstrom’s site. Facebook knows you Like a product, but they don't know it's a shoe; only that it is a product and the page it came from. Nordstrom’s know something has been Liked. We have the contextual meta data around it... we actually know more about it than Facebook.”

This allows Glimpse to analyze activity surrounding specific products and make social recommendations to users of the app. “We know the price, color, description - we have all the shopping data around it. We can then sort by the items that and the items that are trending - which is to say they've accumulated a lot of Likes very quickly and have accumulated the most number of Likes the fastest.”

Where Social Shopping Apps Surpass Search

Search isn't a particularly enjoyable way to shop, Liebermann pointed out.

“Search is a task, while discovering what you like is fun – and Glimpse is all about shopping just for fun. Search is a great way to shop if you already know what you want... But if you just want to have a shopping experience, search isn’t great. You can’t tell Google, ‘I want to shop,’” he said.

We’ve seen reports from a variety of sources suggesting that although social shoppers may convert less, they also tend to spend more. We also reported recently that online home goods retailer Wayfair saw a 70 percent increase in the average order value by shoppers referred from Pinterest, compared to non-social referrals like search.

This morning at SES Toronto, Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist Avinash Kaushik reminded marketers to consider all sources and channels when attributing sales. Search and social aren’t in competition with one another, but are two tools meant to be used together in a consumer’s journey from discovery to completing a purchase.

Keys to SEO: Content & User Experience – Interview With Bing’s Duane Forrester

For many years, Matt Cutts of Google has been providing a lot of helpful information on search engine optimization (SEO). In case you hadn’t noticed, his counterpart at Bing, Duane Forrester, has been pretty active himself.

If you haven’t already, you should check out Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines, the Webmaster Center Blog, and – of course – his Twitter profile. What’s really unique about Duane is the fact that the guy comes to his gig at Bing from being an SEO practitioner.

Forrester carries the official title of Senior Product Manager – Webmaster Outreach at Bing and was kind enough to and share with all of us his perspective on a few items.

In my initial outreach to Forrester, I had tried to persuade him to share some hot tips for how to do well on Bing. Forrester was pretty persistent (insistent?) that we talk about what really matters…the high level stuff: content, promotion, and user engagement of content. These are what matter in today’s SEO.

Here’s my discussion with Duane:

Mark Jackson: Does Bing put as much emphasis on freshness of content as competitor Google?

Duane Forrester: Absolutely – searchers demand fresh content. This helps explain why we believe deeply in partnering with leaders such as Facebook, Twitter, Quora, etc. These partnerships help us bring in relevant, timely and topical information, enhancing our SERP results and helping searchers complete their tasks faster.

Crawling is also a high priority for us and as many have seen over the past year, we’ve continually ramped up our crawl pace and depth. Discovering new content is important. Discovering it fast is paramount.

MJ: How does Bing plan to leverage content from strategic partnerships with Twitter and Facebook as it relates to SERP rankings, and how much does social content influence rankings?

DF: It’s important for businesses to think of this in a broad context. It’s not like there is a number in play here – social helps rank by a factor of X, for example.

It’s important that business owners understand social is a broad communication medium in use by their customers. Whether a business participates or not in the social conversation, it’s happening. Better to be involved and seen as a supportive, inclusive business, than to ignore it and seem aloof.

This perception of a business can impact whether people engage with the website for the business, and we see that engagement, or lack of engagement. That’s a signal we can understand that helps us assign values to businesses.

Basically, if people love you, we’ll want to show you. If they dislike you, we may still want to show you, but it may coincide with negative searches about your business, reinforcing the negative side of things.

MJ: Are you referring to social engagement with the site itself or to their owned/controlled social profiles in other channels? Specifically, can you speak to whether or not you’re looking at comments on blog posts hosted on the site? RTs via Twitter? Likes? Everyone’s trying to get a sense of how much of this could be happening.

DF: How can you tell who is the SEO in the room? They're the one with the hair split 22 ways. Don't over complicate this.

Social is about people. If you walk up to the water cooler and everyone is talking about the great service they got at the local garage, you're more likely to try the garage. You go there, have a good experience and tell other people, the cycle of social sharing repeating itself. Not so different online.

Businesses need to engage their visitors - across the usual social spots, in comments on their own site, in enthusiast communities, etc. Ignoring these spaces can be seen by potential customers as a negative for your business, leading them to shop elsewhere.

I'll give you a personal example. I was shopping today for a new home stereo. I'm an audiophile, so I'm a bit picky. A local company came highly recommended, so I went by their shop. I walked into a warehouse, met the guys building the units, the owners of the company, got a hands on demo and watched them quality check my actual unit before I left.

Part way through the transaction, one of the senior guys tells me they don't sell from the shop. That I should have bought online. Luckily he completed the transaction, because by forcing me to leave empty handed and pay shipping for the box to cover 3 miles to my house, I'd have opted to spend my money elsewhere. Instead, I went home, set it up and immediately went online to tell folks in an online forum how great the company and product are.

It’s this positive reaction a business should seek out and make happen. It’s that positive experience I had that prompted me to share and sing their praises. They will succeed because they give great service and sell an excellent product. Not because they got more Likes or RTs.

With social, we watch everything – Facebook, Twitter, Quora, LinkedIn, Google+ and so on. It all helps us understand if, when we slot you in at the top of the rankings, will you bring searchers an excellent experience? That's what we need to meet – that bar for WOWing searchers is high.

You make excellent content, couple that with an excellent UX, social lights up favoring you and we take note of it all. We say, "I want me some of that action!" and rank you better to please searchers.

MJ: Bing’s attention to time on site vs. returning to SERP. Many talk about this as a Google indicator of content quality.

DF: This is referred to as dwell time. The amount of time depends on the individual and the content they see, but how we use it as a signal also varies.

For example, say you’re looking for today’s temperature. You do a search for “98033 weather”. Assuming you totally miss the temperature displayed in the search results, and click on the results you see, the amount of time it takes the human mind to see and process the number you’re looking for will be small. Thus, clicking back to the SERP in this instance quickly would be seen as normal.

Contrast that with a search for a review of a new product. You know you want an expert opinion, not a sales page. It’s a new product, so the major publications haven’t posted reviews yet and what you see are smaller sites, most simply selling the item – no reviews.

If your goal is to read a review, you’ll recognize the sales page and after a while start flipping through the SERP, clicking results, seeing a familiar pattern and clicking back to the SERP to try another result. It’s obvious (we see page size, text counts, etc.) to us you aren’t reading all the content on the page you just clicked on, so clearly that didn’t give you what you wanted.

This can help explain how fast movers – even unknowns – can gain an early ranking advantage over established brand names. In this example, small bloggers often have an edge in getting to publication faster.

In the long run, the brand names secure rankings through depth of content, trust in brand and user interaction (searchers clicking a SERP result and staying on their site because the site is trusted and answers the searchers question).

MJ: How does Bing combat duplicate content?

DF: We cannot get into the details of the process, but patterns are easy to spot, so we’re constantly scanning to understand if we already have the item or are aware of it. It’s important to keep in mind that not everything is worth indexing. Just because it’s published doesn’t mean anyone will find value in it.

MJ: Does quality of content equate to a large number of words for a page?

DF: Let me be clear about this – hell, no! Quality is quality.

If you bolted extra fenders onto a Mercedes, does it make the car a high quality product? No, it does not. Same thing happens in the world of search. More is not more, unless it’s more.

You ask me to explain how an airplane flies. I write an article explaining it. The wing moves through the air, the air on top of the wing moves faster creating a low pressure area, lifting the wing – and plane – into the air. In a nutshell, that’s how planes fly.

But to really do the topic justice, I need to not just write more words, but explain more related to the topic. Explain how the engine spins the propeller, which pulls the plane forward, moving the air over the wings. I need to explain how to change direction. I need to explain how temperature affects all these factors. So when someone comes to your site to learn “How does an airplane fly”, they get all the answers, not just some of them.

MJ: Google's Panda really hit a lot of site owners hard and some are in the mindset that they now need to be "content mills". Do you agree sites need to be content mills in order to compete in the SERPs?

DF: Absolutely not. Sites need to stay focused on the most important thing – and that’s not what the engines are doing. It’s what their visitors are doing and consuming.

Produce content that meets the consumer’s needs. Produce content that doesn’t just lead to more questions, but answers them as well. Build a user experience that’s so engaging it makes your visitors want to share it with friends.

Producing content just to publish something each week is not going to move the needle the way the business wants. The business wants traffic, page views, sales and revenue. Produce content that engages visitors and makes the visitor want to do business with you. If you WOW them, they will come.

MJ: What are some creative ways you've seen sites create fresh/unique content without churning out content for the sake of content?

DF: Some examples:

Run an internal contest to identify content rockstars inside your company. These are folks who know your products/services inside out and have a great storytelling voice.Ask employees to tell a story about your products/services.Winners get (fill in the blank as you like) and they write the blogs for you, build the videos, etc.Build a community around their unique voices.Seek others to fill gaps and attract other people.Understand what “hooks” motivate people (ego hook, humor hook, contrary hook, detail hook, anger hook, etc.). Use these hooks wisely to motivate certain segments of users towards specific actions. Be careful with them – humor is great when everyone thinks it’s funny, but when it falls flat, well, it can be embarrassing.Create videos – people love to consumer reviews, news, funny stuff, etc. via video. Keep the videos short – 3 to 7 minutes or so. Create a familiar pattern with your videos: same location (or a variety of awesome locations); same flow or pattern of information coverage; same tone of voice; same presenter if desired, etc.The point behind all this is to uncover new voices to amplify your messages and new ways for visitors to engage with your content.

MJ: Everything else being equal (links/social, etc.), just talking about on-site…If website A has 1,000 pages of (unique) content indexed and website B has 500, will website A “generally speaking” outrank/outperform website B?

DF: Not necessarily. It depends a great deal on how searchers interact with the site. Sure, one site has more pages. But are they useful? Are they being used by people? Do users share them? Do they reference them? You don't win just by building a bigger house.

MJ: Is there an “authority” to having a deeper website? Do you look at how many pages they may have around a semantically similar topic to determine rank for “all keywords within that vertical/category”?

DF: The authority comes from people saying you're an authority. We don't assign authority because you have N number of pages.

MJ: Is it absolutely necessary that a page, that you expect to have rank, have links directly from external sources to do well on Bing?

DF: Nope, but without any links, there's a signal that no one values it – so why should we rank it? New content suffers from this, so there are dependent factors when ranking, obviously. We can't just say "There are no links to this brand new item, so it should never rank well..."

And while we're talking expectations, it’s smart to keep in mind that there is no guarantee for crawling, indexing, and ranking. If the content looks like it'll be useful, the site has a history of providing useful content, etc., then we'll crawl, index, and rank.

MJ: What are the content requirements/measurements for article placement within Bing news?

DF: Here’s the process and some suggestions:

• Send an email to [email protected]Provide an introduction, historical background, and credentials of the site. Credible ranking of the site in its field, if any. Name the locale (or audience scope) the site's stories cover for. Provide the state/city names + ZIP codes or describe the groups of users. Provide statistics on the site. Is the site mostly news related? Please explain. Provide the URL of main news entry point as well as the entry points of major channels. RSS link to the site. Does the site follow the best practices outlined in the Bing Webmaster Guidelines?Summary

When you take all this in, I think what Forrester is sharing is what many of us believe. SEO is leaving behind its history of being a bunch of “tactical executions” and becoming more of a high-level strategic affair in which you must think about “good marketing”, proper execution of creating meaningful content and promotion and driving visitors to a web presence that is sound in usability.

Both Google and Bing want to rank websites that are worthy of rank and have shown a history of providing a quality user experience for search queries that they may rank for.

It's interesting to think about Forrester's example above in which a quality offline customer experience can tie into signals for measurement of “quality” for SEO. I could write an entire column about this topic alone, but get acquainted with what Google is doing with Google Trusted Stores and the signals that could come from a quality customer experience.

To me, it seems like both Google and Bing are working toward the “algorithm of the future” which weights many more factors into what is determined as “quality” in the SERPs.

Growing Social Networks for Business: 3 Essential Lessons

A lot of businesses, large and small, consumer and B2B focused, are grappling with how the social web will be a tool for their business. Research is actually showing asocial media CEOs are bad for business. I’ve even heard from executives at digital marketing agencies, “I really need to learn this stuff myself” about social media applications and networks. So they start.

The first phase seems to focus on getting to know social applications as a user and the “rules” both explicit and implicit within social�communities. �When to use @ and when to use RT for example. Or that you don’t mass follow/friend people you don’t know or make explicit sales pitches to people who you’ve not developed a connection with.

Once a feeling of social savviness sets in, social media management tools like Hootsuite start to get used for monitoring, publishing and interacting with social communities. �Those tools make the mechanics of social network development, engagement and content promotion more efficient. Through efficiency comes an effort towards scale and that’s where it’s essential to learn a few key lessons about growing social networks.

Businesses need to grow and so there’s a tendency to equate operational efficiency with social content promotion as equivalent to increasing�effectiveness. i.e. share more content with your social networks and you’ll reach more people. In the PR world that’s called “spray and pray”.

Since a lot of companies are still wondering about�guidelines�and parameters for how they should behave on the social web in a way that grows both the community and the business without alienating customers or future customers, here are a few�considerations:

Social network size is not the same thing as social network quality – There’s a rush to buy fans, friends and followers but hitting a certain target doesn’t automatically equal a concomitant increase in network value. Sure, growing your networks is important and you should make an effort to do so every day. But the addition of a follower is a stepping stone, not an objective. �It matters how you grow your network more than the size of network you end up with.

Evaluate your network: Will they respond to your offers? Will they answer questions, participate and refer your brand to others? I’d take 10 active fans who advocate vs. 50 that are simply waiting for a coupon, giveaway or freebie.

Meaningful vs. mechanical – The drive to scale social media networking and content promotion efforts is strong, because companies want to see a return on their investment. The gratification from social media participation can involve a delay and longer timeframe depending on your industry, company and objectives. There’s a tendency to identify surface level patterns of effective social media usage and turn them into processes. Once in process form, duplication leads to a scaled social participation model.

The problem with that is not having an understanding of the underlying reasons for social interactions, sharing and engagement. Simply executing a process creates a mechanical social media effort, not meaningful. Mechanical brand Twitter accounts simply post information culled from a social editorial calendar with no one to one engagement. It can look robotic.

Meaningful company social media participation shows personality and personalization. Questions are asked, mentions are responded to and interaction occurs between people, not software like these two AI powered chatbots:

Attract interest by showing interest. People will only be as interested in your brand’s social media efforts as the interest your brand shows in the community – individually and collectively. Identifying topics of interest to your community and being proactive about engaging with people who can be advocates or add to the discussion is important. Asking questions and recognizing participation is an essential part of qualitative social engagement.

There’s an old saying, “People will work for a living but die for recognition” and companies should actively seek ways to create opportunities for the community to participate and then recognize the desired actions. Social listening for customer service is part of showing interest but marketing, PR, sales, recruiting and any other department with an audience in mind can be proactive about engaging through social channels as well.

The steady stream of social interactions published every hour is no different than conversations at a party or business event. Listen, show interest and people will want to engage with you.

What lessons have you learned as your company matures in its social media participation? How have you been able to scale social participation without compromising the quality of interactions?

Bing Search Rolls Out New Look in UK

Bing has announced a number of changes designed to improve the user experience for searchers. The Bing UK team said that the service improvements include faster page loading times and a greater relevance in search results, as well as some cosmetic changes to how search results are displayed.

This includes removing information from the left side of the page – where Google places links to additional vertical search options, such as news, video and images – which Microsoft said would make the search experiences more consistent and optimized for touch devices.

"We want to make your search experience quicker and easier so you can get on with the important stuff," added Peter Maxmin, head of Bing UK.

Bing is no doubt hoping the changes can improve its global search market share. Last year, Bing overtook Yahoo to become the second most used search engine on the web, according to StatCounter. As of June, Bing accounted for 3.27 percent of the world's search queries with long-time market leader Google way out in front with 91.75 percent of global search queries.

Microsoft clearly has designed on Google's market, though, with the firm announcing a deal with Chinese search company Baidu earlier this month, a move that could help its Bing engine gain a far larger market share.

Earlier this year, Bing also unveiled a big redesign, adding a new social sidebar that includes links from an array of social media sites including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ for search results.

This article was originally published on V3.

3 Ways to Use Multi-Channel Analytics Reporting for Better Marketing & Business Decisions

The average consumer goes through more than five touch points with an ecommerce business before they convert. This number is trending upward, as companies and customers continue to interact across a greater number of platforms. B2B companies, with often greater price points and a longer buying cycle, may find the number of interactions with prospects prior to conversion even higher.

Good content marketers�know that integrated, consistent messaging is critical across multiple digital platforms.� It allows us to connect with our customers how – and when – they expect to connect with us.

With so many touch points between first contact and conversion, how are companies able to break through all of the data within analytics? We need to determine not only which channels are most effective, but also how to customize marketing activities to the behavior and preferences of the audience in that channel, at that point in their decision.

For example, a TopRank ecommerce client recently lamented the portion of conversions that could be attributed to direct search or branded search.� According to their interpretation of the data available to them, the majority of their conversions came from direct traffic. �Why then, they asked, are we dedicating resources to social media and SEO when their only purpose seems to be building brand awareness?

It’s a valid question; companies can’t afford to sink budget into underperforming channels or tactics. However, a deep dive into their Google Analytics data showed us that:

75% of conversions are assisted (or included multiple digital touch points).About 50% of conversions can be attributed directly to organic traffic.80% of conversion paths included organic search as a touch point.

In fact, their second most popular conversion path looked like this:

Arrives via Organic search (usually non-branded) > User leaves the site (probably to shop around) > User Returns via Direct Visit

For this particular client, SEO is absolutely a critical part of their mix! It would have been a grave mistake to discount search optimization altogether. In the mobile & social age, businesses must use Analytics data from multi-channel conversions to shape their marketing mix, as this ecommerce client did. That deeper understanding of your customers and prospects will help you make business decisions that make sense, founded in the most recent, relevant data available.

Let’s explore 3 ways to use multi-channel analytics data to shape your marketing strategy.

#1: Review social as part of assisted conversion strategy

Tracking ROI on social can be tricky; for many businesses, it�s less likely to be considered a referring source and more likely to be used as a means for amplifying content or interacting with customers and prospects directly. However, reviewing social as part of your multi-channel funnel will give you a much better idea of how your social visitors are interacting on the site.

To illustrate this, we’ll use the real-world example of �relatively new fashion brand and TopRank client, who boasted higher-than-average traffic from social networks.� Based on their analytics, we knew social traffic only contributed to 15% of total visits, yet the average social visitor spent 4x as long on the site and visited more pages.

Social as last click represented only a small portion of converting visitors, but social actually contributed to well over 30% of transactions. We knew for this business, social visitors were more apt to buy than the average user. Additional sales-oriented content to their social audience helped their social fans feel more valued and connected to the brand.

The takeaway: Consider conversions beyond a purchase or Contact Us and you may find social visitors are more likely to download a white paper or watch a video than the average user.� This information not only can help you refine your marketing mix, it can also shape your content plan by indicating the action your social visitors are most apt to take.

#2 Customize Multi-Channel Reporting

Organic search, direct and referral sources are automatically detected by multi-channel reporting. Going above and beyond to track emails campaigns, PPC, and branded vs. non-branded keyword traffic requires some additional setup, but is well worth your time.

For example, distinguishing between branded and non-branded keyword traffic is a must for businesses measuring the impact of their SEO efforts.� In our first example, an �ecommerce client believed all conversions were coming from direct and branded search.� However, filtering branded versus non-branded traffic allowed the client to not only see the impact of organic search as a whole, but also how non-branded searches were often the first touch leading to subsequent branded searches or direct visits.

The takeaway: Create a custom�channel grouping�leveraging unique labels for platforms. In addition to rounding out your marketing mix, customized grouping will �allow you to mine out more data from the detected channels.

#3 Integrate for Advanced Attribution Modeling

The free version of Google Analytics is only going to track multichannel conversions over the course of 30 days. This is great� for businesses with shorter buying cycles, but can prove problematic for products or services with a buying cycle longer than 1 month.

For businesses with longer buying cycles, or those looking to do more advanced attribution modeling, passing an anonymous Visitor ID along to the user to track behavior via integration with a CRM or Marketing Automation platform is key.

The takeaway:�Don�t remove Social Media or display ads from your marketing mix just because you don�t see those sources converting is your multi-channel report. Instead, integrate with your CRM or marketing automation software for a complete picture. It�s likely those touch points are still contributing to increased awareness in earlier stages of the buying cycle.

As marketing mixes become more complex, data grows, and we push more toward integrated marketing, it can be challenging to connect performance to specific tactics. It’s now more important than ever, though. Customizing and diving into multi-channel conversion report is a great step toward increasing your brand’s awareness of your greatest performers and potential. �Without this clarity and accurate insight, business decisions are really only best guesses based on faulty logic.

Is your business already using multi-channel reporting or more advanced attribution modeling? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Pinterest Fail: 70% of Brand Engagement is Generated by Users [Study]

Approximately 70 percent of brand engagement on Pinterest is generated by users, according to a recent study by Digitas and Curalate.

The study found that Pinterest use in the fashion retail and automotive industries is lacking. According to Digitas, the lack of brands using Pinterest leaves a gap in overall marketing strategies.

"Brands need to go forth and pin," said senior vice president of social, mobile, and content lead at Digitas Jordan Bitterman. "This study reveals the opportunity for brands to drive the conversation on visual platforms like Pinterest. By leveraging rich consumer insight, brands can take the guesswork out of their visual content strategy, and share the types of images their audience wants to see."

Digitas and Curalate found that only 18 percent of fashion retail brands pin items on Pinterest. The study found that the average retail fashion pin by a brand receives about 46 repins.

The automotive industry was also reported to be lacking in Pinterest engagement. According to the study, over 75 percent of Pinterest engagement for the industry is driven by users.

For automotive brands, more repins were made on community posting than brand postings. The study found that brands received only three repins on average. That is compared to about the 10 repins that users received for posting automotive products.

"Aspirational products such as cars should do well on Pinterest. It's unfortunate to see the auto industry stuck in first gear," said chief executive of Curalate Apu Gupta. "The industry needs to leverage the heritage of their brands to tell compelling visual stories that create emotional connections with consumers."

One industry that was found to be very active in the Pinterest community was electronic brands. Digitas and Curalate found that 47 percent of electronic industry pins were made by brands. The study found that pictures of e-health devices proved to be very popular on the site.

The study was created using statistics from over 10 million Pinterest pins, comments, and likes. Digitas and Curalate examined Pinterest data from over 120 brands for the study.

Pinterest use for marketing purposes has been gaining momentum in the past few years. Last month, Pinterest introduced analytics for verified brands in a bid to improve marketers' experience with the social network.

This article was originally published on ClickZ.

How to Build Links Like an Engineer

The approach you used two years ago to builds links is most likely drastically different than the approach you take now.

As search engines have changed what they are looking for, the efforts we make as link builders have changed as well.

It is becoming more common for "link building" campaigns to be built containing efforts around social media, paid promotional efforts, content creation and possibly even traditional media.

To develop a program that involves multiple channels and efforts can be complicated. But when approaching your ultimate outcome of generating links, if you think from an engineer's perspective, it can help guide you to creating a link building campaign that will generate optimal results.

The Engineer's Approach

When an engineer designs a new product, they go through a multi-step process to ensure they achieve the outcome they require. This process includes research, conceptualization, feasibility assessment, establishing design requirements, preliminary design, detailed design, production planning, tool design, and finally going to production.

This approach is a decision making process – all geared up to meet a final objective or conclusion. In the end, each phase outlines steps that need to be taken to reach the final outcome.

Engineering a Link

When this process is applied to link building it can help create campaigns that yield better results. Guest blogging and outreach only do so well by themselves, but by following the engineer's approach you can create link building campaigns that intertwine traditional tactics for optimal results.

Here are the steps in the process and how they relate to link building.

Defining the Outcome

What is your end game? In this case, it should be building a backlink profile of quality links with diversified anchor text that helps your client rank for targeted terms. Now you need to figure out how to get there.


Research is the first phase of the engineering process and the key to finding out exactly what is needed.

This step could be as simple as realizing your backlink profile is significantly smaller than your competitors or those who are out ranking you for a specific term. It may be much more complex with detailed analysis of the quality of links your website currently is generating compared to your competitors or an even deeper dive into anchor text distribution.

Engineers do extensive research on their target, from industry research to current products in market. When you're in this phase you need to understand where your client's website is at now and where you need to be to reach your outcome.


In the conceptualization stage the creatives on the team tend take the lead. Whether you're by yourself or with your team, this phase allows you to brainstorm concepts that can lead to generating inbound links for your client.

You can promote a free give away of concert tickets, propose dropping marketing paraphernalia off the Empire State Building, offer scholarships to students or any other idea that could possibly lead to generating links. Whatever cliché term you want to call it – thinking outside of the box, ideating, etc. – now is the time to do it.

Feasibility Assessment

After you've had your fun conceptualizing, it's time to iron out which potential link campaigns are most likely to generate quality links and, equally important, also realistically and economically feasible. Clients expect results, and most of them expect results on a budget.

Engineers understand that certain factors limit what they can do. These factors keep them inline and help them build things that actually function. Just as what you eventually present to your client actually has a chance of being launched. Know your clients and know what they and their legal departments would see as acceptable.

Design Requirements

In order to reach their goals, engineers outline certain requirements for their design. It may be something as simple as engine they are designing must be able to go 0-60 in under four seconds or as complicated as the using a specific brand of valve seals for your engine rebuild.

From a link building perspective, you'll not only need to outline the types of links you get back, but also what you'll need to get them.

For example, you may want to set up initial requirements around anchor text distribution. Here is a quick example:

Anchor Text Distribution Requirements:

50 percent branded anchor text25 percent anchor text is "targeted keyword"15 percent anchor text is "targeted keyword"5 percent anchor text is "targeted keyword"5 percent anchor text is miscellaneous20 percent of inbound links are image based

You'll also want to outline what type of tactics you will use to acquire the links. At this stage, a simple list will be fine:

Targeted content creationContent promotionPromoted tweetsFacebook storiesGuest bloggingEmail outreachPreliminary Design

Now it's time to bring the conceptualizing and design requirements together. Once you have an idea that will generate links and understand what you want to get out of it, as well as how you will get it, it's time to pull it all together.

This phase usually leads to a pitch or idea deck being created. While not every detail is ironed out, you know the who, what, and how.

Detailed Design

The detailed design is extremely important. It is the attack plan. Not only does it encompass the overall link building campaign, but it outlines who is involved, what they are tasked with, when deliverables are due, and exactly how you're going to achieve your results.

This is the plan that will be implemented when you reach the production phase. It needs to encompass the entire campaign's efforts. A project manager or super anal account manager is a great person to have help out with this phase.

Tool Design

For link building purposes, this phase can cover many things. A tool could be a web property or a page tied to a promotion. It could be a broken link prospecting tool or an email address with as the domain. The tools you need and the actions they will help individuals complete during the campaign should be outlined in this phase.

Engineers map out every single tool they require including ones that have not been built yet during this phase. Hopefully you have some skilled developers on your team to get you the tools you need.


The production phase is where the fun starts. You have your plan, now it's time to execute. The detailed design gets put into action using the tools you have available. If you aligned each phase with your outcome, the results you get from this phase should match up quite well.

The Outcome

Engineers approach projects with the goal of getting an action completed. If that action is building out a quality, diverse link profile, all of the steps you took in each phase should lead to creating links.

When you're creating a campaign, you want someone who interacts with it to create a link. Whether you require someone to blog about an experience they had to be entered into a contest or require someone to share a link via social media, you want to make sure you've acquired a link.

When used correctly, this approach helps streamline the planning process and keeps your entire team focused on a common goal and assigns accountability to each team member.

Alan Turing Google Doodle: Turing Machine Codebreaker Logo Honors Father of Computer Science

Alan Turing would have celebrated his 100th birthday today. Google honors the life and work of a man whose accomplishments were many; a brilliant academic and codebreaker, Turing is also known amongst computer scientists as the father of artificial intelligence.

Little known in life, his work and its significance for computer science has only become notorious in recent decades. Today’s Google Doodle is an interactive HTML5 codebreaking game that simulates the Turing Machine.

At first, the Google logo appears in grayscale. Solving a series of codes turns each letter in the logo to its proper color, with the last code the most difficult to break.

"We thought the most fitting way of paying tribute to Turing’s incredible life and work would be to simulate the theoretical ‘Turing machine’ he proposed in a mathematical paper,” according to a Google blog post. “Visit the homepage today— we invite you to try your hand at programming it. If you get it the first time, try again... it gets harder!"

Turing was a highly intelligent and troubled eccentric, who missed out on much of the accolades and recognition of his work by cutting his own life short in 1954. In spite of his codebreaking prowess, which resulted in the cracking of encrypted German transmissions in World War II, Turing was persecuted in his native England and eventually convicted in 1952 for gross indecency, after admitting to being in a consensual same-sex relationship.

Long Overdue Apology for Alan Turing, Mathematical Genius and Victim of Homophobia

As punishment, the British government sentenced one of the undisputed geniuses of that time to chemical castration, via regular injections of estrogen. Within two years of his sentencing, Turing committed suicide.

The last two years of Turing’s life remain shrouded in mystery. In 1952, he had to stop his work with the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). In a series of articles on his life, BBC notes that in 1953, Turing alluded to some type of crisis in his life and suggests that he seemed to have been under intense surveillance.

He took his 1952 and 1953 vacations to Norway and Greece, away from the watchful eyes of the employers for whom he cracked codes and enabled more intelligent warfare against the Germans. BBC surmises that he was “very likely influenced by hearing of the early Scandinavian gay movement.”

In former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s official 2009 apology to Turing, long since deceased, Brown referred to the cultural icon as, “one of Britain's most famous victims of homophobia. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction,” Brown wrote. Homosexuality remained a crime in the UK until 1967.

Brown also acknowledged Turing’s commitment to his country through his groundbreaking work, noting, “Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind … It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe's history and not Europe's present.”

Turing Co-Creates the Bombe Machine, Intercepts German War Communications

Turing, alongside chess grand master Hugh O’Donell Alexander, led a team at Bletchley Park responsible for breaking the Enigma cyphers used by the German Army and Air Force during World War II. Turing and fellow codebreaker Gordon Welchman improved upon an electro-mechanical machine called a Bomba to create its next generation, the Bombe, after the German military slightly modified their system, making the original ineffective.

The Bletchley Park National Codes Centre explains how the Bombe worked:

Turing and Welchman exploited the fact that enciphered German messages often contained common words or phrases, such as general’s names or weather reports and so were able to guess short parts of the original message. These guesses were called ‘cribs’. The fact that on an Enigma machine no letter can be enciphered as itself made guessing a small part of the text even easier. It also meant that the potential number of settings that the Enigma could be in on that day was greatly reduced.

Before running the Bombe, the wiring at the back of the machine was connected in accordance with a ‘menu’ drawn up by the code breakers based on cribs. The Bombe found potential Enigma settings not by proving a particular setting, but by disproving every incorrect one in turn.

All 200 Bombe machines were destroyed after the war. Turing died a relative unknown; details of his work in the war and his status as a master in army intelligence were not released publicly until 1974.

Computing Machinery and Intelligence - AI and the Turing Test Are Born

Turing’s 1950 essay, Computing Machinery and Intelligence, first appeared in the journal Mind and opens, “I propose to consider the question, ‘Can machines think?’” That paper was the basis for the Turing Test, which seeks to determine a machine’s ability to exhibit human behavior, as described below:

According to Turing, the question whether machines can think is itself “too meaningless” to deserve discussion (442). However, if we consider the more precise—and somehow related—question whether a digital computer can do well in a certain kind of game that Turing describes (“The Imitation Game”), then—at least in Turing's eyes—we do have a question that admits of precise discussion. Moreover, as we shall see, Turing himself thought that it would not be too long before we did have digital computers that could “do well” in the Imitation Game.
- Oppy, Graham and Dowe, David, "The Turing Test", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

The merits and limitations of the Turing Test have been argued for more than 60 years. In 2008 and 2010, the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behavior (AISB) held symposiums to discuss and debate the Turing Test, in an effort to see it canonicalized and reconsidered for the 21st century.

A.M. Turing Centenary Celebrations & Vint Cerf’s Dedication to Turing’s Memory

The Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) organized a centennial celebration in honor of Alan Turing, which took place June 15 & 16 in San Francisco, California. Events and discussions were live streamed and are available for public viewing on the Turing 100 website.

The Turing 100 organizing committee was chaired by Vint Cerf, one of the founding fathers of the Internet, co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols, and chief Internet evangelist with Google. Cerf won the A.M. Turing Award, given by ACM since 1966 in recognition of contributions to computing and computer science, in 2004. Cerf was also the first author commissioned to write an essay on his computer science predecessor’s legacy in the BBC’s series for Turing Week.

Alan Turing’s life was cut short by his own hand, though undoubtedly due to the horrific and inhumane way he was persecuted and punished because of his sexual orientation. That this largely overshadowed in his lifetime the brilliant work he did to protect his country, and to form the basis of a debate on artificial intelligence that would last for decades, is a travesty.

Today, Google remembers Alan Turing, a selfless man who gave everything he had to computer science and codebreaking, asking not for fame or notoriety, but only the same right to enjoy his life with the person of his choice, much the same as the citizens he served to protect. Turing’s story serves to remind us how far we’ve come, how much we can achieve, and of mentalities to which we must never return.

 More Google DoodlesFather’s Day 2012 Google Doodle Celebrates #1 Dads With Animated LogoDrive-in Movie Theater Stars in Animated Google DoodlePeter Carl Fabergé Google Doodle Honors Fabergé Egg CreatorBob Moog Rocks Google Homepage With Synthesizer Logo You Can PlayMother’s Day 2012 Google Doodle Celebrates Moms With Animated Logo

Recharge Your PPC Profitability: 5 Ways to Diagnose & Treat a Paid Search Slump

Every so often, after having worked on an account for several months (or years) with successful results, there can be a plateauing or declining period. Core KPIs just fluctuate without a seeming trend, profits slump and it becomes an uphill battle simply to return to the base numbers of the past.

You’re frustrated. Management is worried. Nothing seems to be working and you’re possibly considering making sacrifices to the Google gods in hope of salvation.

You don’t need to be a master diagnostician like Dr. House to solve the issue; taking these five key steps will allow you to breathe new life into your account. Even if you aren't necessarily seeing a dip in profits, proactively performing these steps will help your account operate at peak performance.

Go Macro

Separating out the search network and display network, gain a clear understanding of the big picture by looking at the macro trends across each of them. This top-level overview of performance will provide the best roadmap for problem-solving.

First, look at the totals for each network as a whole, month over month, for the past 12 months. This will give you the best insights into how your core KPIs such as click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate (CR) and cost per conversion (CPA) have been trending.

Chances are high that you will immediately spot an issue such as a slow, but clear, decline in any of them.

For example, a slow decline in conversion rates may be less obvious when you are working on the account month to month; but looking at the last 12 months, you can see how big the dip really has been. Alternatively, response rates may be consistent but you’ll notice a decline in the number of impressions you receive per month, which could mean increased competition or declining impression share reducing your order volume. You can now easily glean the problem areas that need improvement to help you pick up the pace again.

To do this, pull your data from AdWords and organize it in an Excel sheet with the following columns:

Month# of Days in the MonthCampaign NameTotal Monthly ImpressionsTotal Monthly ClicksTotal CostClick-Through Rate (CTR)Average PositionAverage Cost Per Click (CPC)ConversionsCost per Conversion (CPA)Conversion Rate (CR)Profits

Then, to normalize the trends for months with differing numbers of days, and really compare apples to apples, add on:

Impressions per Day (Monthly impressions divided by # of Days in the Month)Clicks per dayOrders per dayProfits per day

It could look like this:

Next, drill a little further down by looking at a similar month–over–month analysis, but this time doing it for each of your campaigns in the search and display networks individually. This will allow you to quickly identify the problem children (i.e., the campaigns that have seen the biggest declines).

Now that you have identified which campaigns to work on and which metrics have been under–performing, you can quickly dig deeper into them to identify the solution.

Analyze Quality Score

As most PPC managers well know, quality score has a big impact on cost efficiencies as well as ad position. If you find CPCs and thus CPAs creeping up, chances are a large percentage of your impression volume is going to lower quality score keywords.

Regularly keeping track of your quality score is a good practice to consistently measure the health of your account.

You can either use a quality score monitoring tool such as Tenscores, or for a more detailed report with a greater degree of accuracy, use Excel and pivot tables to gain an understanding of weighted quality scores by campaign.

Using excel for this exercise is actually quite easy, and is explained perfectly by Brad Geddes, in this absolute must–watch video on how to identify AdWords quality score problems. A great watch for both beginners and intermediates, the video explains exactly how to download the data from AdWords and pivot it for your analysis. Geddes also shares some phenomenal insights into analyzing the data to determine the greatest opportunities for financial benefits and how to prioritize where to start.

Now that you know where the problems lie, you can take measures to improve quality score such as:

Separating out low-quality score keywords into their own ad groups.Regrouping your ad groups into tighter themes with closely related ads.Improving landing page load times.Testing new ads that improve CTR (while keeping CR the same or higher as well for your bottom line).Testing dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) to help improve CTRs.Analyzing comparative indicators to find additional insights into optimizations you could make.Back to the Basics

Every so often, especially when things aren’t running as well as they should, it’s good to go back to the start. Take a look at the basics and settings, since often in trying to work on more advanced tactics, the simpler items get missed, when in reality they could have a big impact.

Review your negative keywords list, to either add negative keywords to save costs or remove potentially damaging negative keywords that could be limiting you.Review your placements report. Some managed placements could no longer be working as effectively as they once were, and there could be underperforming placements that should be excluded under the automatic placements.Review your ad group set–up. Could your “all” search query report indicate that there is room for additional ad groups with more focused ads? Check to ensure all ads are running.Check your campaign settings. The daily budget cap could be limiting you; perhaps the settings are targeting computers as well as mobile devices and tablets, which don’t convert as well with traditional landing pages and thus could be wasting money.Check for any technical errors. Some landing pages might not be working, or perhaps the AdWords conversion pixel isn’t firing, which could be a huge problem if you use CPA bidding.Analyze Your Bids

If you want to manage AdWords keeping the 80–20 rule in mind, then adjusting bids would fall well into the top 20 percent of things you could do to make an 80 percent impact. Run a report on the top 15 percent of your highest spend keywords — if the majority of them are unprofitable, then it’s time to review your bidding strategy.

Manual bidding, while providing a greater degree of control, can easily get cumbersome with large numbers of keywords. Switching to automated bidding is one of the quickest edits you can make, and the results can really pay off.

If your focus is on maximizing clicks, you can test automated bidding to maximize clicks, while letting Google know to stay within a CPC bid limit. Alternatively, you can try enhanced CPC bidding (as long as you have conversion tracking installed), which still works on manual bidding but will adjust your Max CPC bid on the chances of the ad converting.If you have a clear understanding of your ideal CPA, or perhaps the maximum you’d like to pay for each conversion, then consider either target or max CPA bidding. CPA bidding works by using the historical data on a rolling past–30–day basis (with greater emphasis placed on most recent history), to enter you into auctions where and when you are most likely to gain a conversion. It adjusts factors such as your bids, times of day, as well as keywords and placements.For the display network, consider testing the Display Campaign Optimizer (DCO). To use it, simply set a CPA and set up ads in the campaign. Google will do the rest of the work for you to choose different placements and either spend more on winning ones or cut losers and continuously look for additional placements to run. It’s a great way to expand your reach.

However, when using automated bidding be careful to:

Not change bids too frequently. Especially with CPA bidding the DCO, slower changes to bids work best. The system takes a couple of weeks to really settle in and figure out what works best, so if you must make bids, make them in smaller increments.Keep an eye on response rates. If conversion rates decline, then you can see impression and order volume fall, as the system will bid lower in order to meet the goal CPAs set.Analyze External Factors

If elements in the account are looking good but you’re still losing impression share or seeing costs rise, then external factors could be having an effect.

Competition: Has there been a new competitor? Are current competitors working heavily on their account and bidding up, thus causing you to lose clicks or perhaps your CPCs to rise? Are they offering a new promotion or deal? Keep a careful eye on your top AdWords competitors, and look for changes to their ads or positions. Use tools such as to keep an eye on their display ads or to track their keywords and text ads. Also check their landing pages frequently, to track any tests they may be running there.Creative burnout: Even the most successful ad or landing page can lose its effectiveness over time. Simply, there comes the saturation point when the creative has just been there and done that, and is now past its peak. This is seen even more frequently with image ads on the display network. Carefully analyze the response rates over time and always be testing new creative that you can roll out to keep performance strong.Other marketing channels: If the downturn is only in paid search then the problem can be fixed within AdWords. However, if several marketing channels are also experiencing downturns, then the company has a larger problem at hand. It could be symptomatic of a bigger issue such as an online reputation problem or an uncompetitive offer. Speak to other channel managers or the director of marketing to get to the root of the issue and jointly seek a solution.Summary

Doing a thorough check and audit of the account is recommended on at least a quarterly basis to keep things running smoothly. When working on day–to–day tasks it’s easy to get lost in the trees, and looking at things from a big picture standpoint will help you more clearly see the proverbial forest and create an action plan to keep the profits flowing.

Have additional ideas? Please do share your thoughts in the comments below.

SES San Francisco Day 1 Coverage #SESSF

SES San Francisco is off and running. The day began with the news that Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts will appear tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. for a special spotlight keynote. Google's Digital Marketing Evangelist Avinash Kaushilk once again rocked the house with his keynote on business optimization.

Marketers then learned the latest strategies and trends in sessions covering SEO, PPC, social media, analytics, and more. Here's a roundup of day 1 coverage of SES San Francisco 2012. 

Business Optimization in a Digital Age: Avinash Kaushik Keynote - Bruce Clay BlogBusiness Optimization in a Digital Age – #SESSF Opening Keynote @Avinash Kaushik - TopRank Online Marketing BlogGoogle’s three ways to measure for value-driven internet marketing: SES San Francisco insights - BraftonSpy vs. Spy: Competitive Analysis - Bruce Clay BlogI Spy… Stealthy SEO Competitive Analysis Tips & Tricks From #SESSF - aimClear Blog5 Free and Low-Cost Tools for Improving Social Media Productivity - EntrepreneurSocial Media Optimization That Won’t Break The Bank - Bruce Clay BlogIntroduction to Analytics - Bruce Clay BlogGetting Started with SEO with Bruce Clay - Bruce Clay BlogBig Data: What Marketer’s Need to Know – #SESSF Bryan Eisenberg - TopRank Online Marketing BlogOptimizing Landing Pages for Conversion and Revenue - Bruce Clay BlogWeb Analytics Deep Dive - Bruce Clay BlogE-Commerce Link Building Strategies: You Gotta Give a Little Love! #SESSF - aimClear BlogMust-Read! Insider Tips to Ad Optimization, Straight from #SESSF - aimClear Blog

Social Visualization of Brand & Culture: IBM Voices Does the Talking

About today’s guest post: As companies mature their online presence though more robust social engagement, individuals within those companies are advancing use of social technologies to communicate and collaborate publicly. At the same time, consumers’ evolving use of social platforms has lead to increased expectations for brand information discovery, consumption and engagement. Surfacing organizational culture and expertise helps companies better connect with their customers in terms of who they are and what they stand for.

Tapping into the collective wisdom of an organization’s thought leadership has enabled social business transformation in ways we never would have imagined 5 or 10 years go. In today’s post, �Ethan McCarty,�IBM’s Director of Enterprise Social Strategy,�@ethanmcc has offered to bring some clarity to this opportunity and to share one example of what IBM is doing about it.�

As marketers we find it difficult � sometimes even painful — to relinquish control over our brand�s message and identity. We work tirelessly to create customized messages, test those messages and then use them to launch thoughtful tactics based on our strategies to reach clients and new markets.

But with the social media phenomena in full swing, control over marketing messages is more akin to magical thinking than strategic thinking. Employees, customers, thought leaders, the media, they’re all talking on their respective social networks of choice about our brands, which results in a lot of noise drowning out our precious signal. In fact, according to a recent report, over the past two years, the percentage of Americans following any brand over a social network has doubled.

What’s a marketer to do?

Let�s challenge the idea that what we have considered �off brand� and �out of synch with the brand� is actually powerful diversity that we can harness to attract new clients, better understand current ones and create working environments with unprecedented innovation.

I’m not suggesting that we as marketers surrender all control over our brands’ message, but instead we consider curating this diversity to dovetail with our companies� character and mission.

Harness all this social activity to accentuate our brands� corporate character. Think about the power and potential of leveraging this “noise” to spur the convergence of our organizations’ brand and culture. Because I believe that organizations with the foresight and know-how to apply it thoughtfully, and with rigor, will be the big winners.

At IBM we’re laying the foundation for this convergence through a new social website called IBM Voices. Voices is a real-time data service that showcases live social feeds of IBMers who are experts in big data, mobile enterprise, social business, cloud computing, cognitive computing and much more. Voices then marries the individuals� thoughts with IBM�s company feeds (@IBM, @SmarterPlanet, @IBMResearch) etc.), as well as a word cloud that shows visitors what�s trending via data visualization technology originating from IBM Research.

This juxtaposition of unfiltered feeds of individual experts alongside �official� channels captures expertise across the entire company in a new way. In doing so, Voices personifies IBM�s values-led culture and massive social media footprint. It also demonstrates the company�s authentic, people-centric approach to social business. For a true social business, this kind of mash-up can augment or even replace the traditional �About our Company� or �Community� pages. We see Voices as an opportunity to harness the “noise” that was taking place around IBM’s brands and technology, and thoughtfully present it to our clients, prospects and the knowledge seeking public.

We’re all aware that the power of transparency is real in the market today. Consumers don’t just want to know about the products and services our organizations’ are offering; they want to learn about who our organization is, what does it represent, what values does it instill upon employees and as a result, how does it serve customers? Consumers want to know who we are and social media provides us with that opportunity.

On this new social playing field, the organizations that win will have employees who embody their company�s character to the world at large. There’s growing importance for social brand strategists and marketing professionals to work together to create intentional systems of engagement that allow employees to convey — and ultimately shape — the brand experience for consumers.

The marketing field is evolving at a blistering pace, but social, in one way or another, is here to stay. We’re all becoming more comfortable taking advantage of new platforms to reach our audiences. Now is the time for us as marketers to take social one step further, to commit and invest in our organizations’ social business transformation. By providing a thoughtful destination for customers and prospects to connect with the brand and its experts, we’re projecting transparency that is sure to drive business value.

Stock photo from Shutterstock

Using Google Analytics Dashboards for Better Insights

If you’re a typical website owner/manager or marketer you probably often find yourself clicking through Google Analytics, digging for information, getting buried in data, and then doing it all over again the next time you log in. If you’re a typical business owner with a website, you probably don’t even log into Analytics for fear of being overwhelmed, which means you’re missing out on a wealth of insightful business data.

Introducing the solution to your problems: Google Analytics Custom Dashboards. If you don’t already use dashboards (they’ve been around for about a year) welcome to the world of fast and easy information on your web traffic, to help you make better-informed business decisions.

What is a Google Analytics Dashboard?

When you log into Analytics, the first thing you see is the Standard Reporting dashboard – that’s the one you’re probably already familiar with, and its chock full of template reports of all kinds. Powerful, yes. But sometimes it’s like diving for a pearl, only to throw it back in the ocean, which means you have to dive again tomorrow to get it back. Exhausting!

Dashboards allow you to collect all of your pearls, put them on a nice little string and admire them day after day without having to hold your breath to dive into the data sea.

Dashboards allow you to grab bits and pieces of data from various reports, and collect them all into one simple and easily digestible overview. Even better, you can have up to 20 dashboards per profile, which means you can create specialized dashboards for different needs. Within each dashboard you can have up to 12 widgets (each widget contains a specific report, or set of data, that you specify).

Gaining Insights from Dashboards

Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to analyzing your website traffic data. It was designed to meet the needs of the many diverse kinds of websites and businesses that operate on the internet. That means that the template reports you find in the Standard Report won’t always meet the needs for your specific business or website.

Custom Dashboards allow you to pull together data that you won’t find (or won’t easily find) in the Standard Reporting. You can put together data in unique ways, to suit the unique needs of your business.

Part of the challenge of drawing insight from your website traffic data is being able to check it on a regular basis. Using a Custom Dashboard removes a big barrier, making the data you need much more readily accessible. In other words, it saves you time and effort, which means you can do it more often.

Setting Up Custom Dashboards

We won't go into too much detail because it’s straightforward. Google provides a good step-by-step resource here.

There are two simple ways you can add reports to your Custom Dashboard. If you know exactly what report you want, you can click the “Add Widget” button from within your Custom Dashboard, and set it up as you like. The other option is to run your desired report from within the Standard Reporting dashboard, and click the “Add to Dashboard” button to add that report as a widget within your desired Custom Dashboard.

Custom Dashboard Examples

So now you know the ‘why’ and the ‘how’. But what about the ‘what’?

As I said before, each website or business has its own needs. If you haven’t yet set your KPIs, goals, benchmarks and such… think about bookmarking this article, taking a step back, and doing some research on that stuff first.

You need to know what you want out of your Analytics data before you can get anything truly insightful. But here are some suggestions to get you started.

The Conversions Dashboard

This is a dashboard where you can take all of your conversions – contact form submits, e-commerce purchases, or anything else you have set as a goal – and put them all together in one spot so that you can get a quick look at how your website is performing.

Eugen Oprea provided a solid example of a Conversions Dashboard for a subscription-based content website here. While you’re at it, check out his other example dashboards for inspiration.

If you run an e-commerce site, you might want to set up your Conversions Dashboard to focus purely on revenue, number of purchases, top products, etc.

Let me give you an example. Perhaps you would like to know which sources of traffic is providing you with the most goal completions, to help guide how you invest your marketing budget… you may want to add this widget to your dashboard that gives you a nice little pie chart showing Goal Completions by Source/Medium:

But… maybe that’s not the right widget for you. You could make the same type of widget, but instead of basing on Goal Completions, you could use Goal Conversion Rate, or Revenue. Put that widget right next to a bunch of other related widgets, and you’ll have a nice, insightful overview of how your traffic is converting on your website.

The Engagement Dashboard

It’s good to know how people are engaging with the content on your website, but the basic metrics aren’t enough. So your site has an 80 percent bounce rate…. so what? Why is it 80 percent and what are you supposed to do about it? Dig deeper to find out.

There are many ways you can dig deeper, but here is a generic dashboard you can set up in your profile which takes “Average Visit Duration”, “Pages/Visit” and “Bounce Rate” and digs down to see which mediums are performing best, and which pages on your website are performing the best (by clicking on this link, you can import my pre-configured dashboard right into your Google Analytics profile).

Now you can start to learn which kinds of pages people are engaging with more, and which sources of traffic are providing the most engaged visitors. Next, it’s up to you to figure out why!

Traffic Overview Dashboard

Sometimes it’s useful to see (or share with others) how the various traffic sources are trending, and how the traffic source pie chart looks. Maybe you want to see some basic information on which countries your visitors are coming from, and what pages most visitors are landing on? That’s where a traffic overview dashboard is useful. I’ve set up a pre-configured dashboard here, but it will require some customization for filtering your brand keywords.

You’ll need to do a little configuration on the “Visits – Organic Non-Brand” and “Visits – Organic Brand” widgets. Replace “yourbrandkeywordshere” with your brand keywords. You may need to learn a little about Regular Expressionto do this correctly.

Once you do that, you’ll have a nice little overview of your traffic. Again, you may want to play around with the widgets to get the kind of data that will be most insightful for you.

Other Dashboards

As mentioned before, you can have up to 20 dashboards. There are many different ways you can use these. If you advertise on AdWords, you may want to set up an AdWords dashboard. Or perhaps you run lot of banner ads – set up a dashboard for that.

You might get a little more inspiration with this article from Klaas Knook. Please share other Dashboard ideas that some of you have come up with in the comments below!

Sharing Custom Dashboards

Now here’s another really practical use for Custom Dashboards. Maybe you want to report on your traffic to other people within your organization, and those people are not interested or web-savvy enough to dig their way through Analytics themselves. You can set up a dashboard for them – one that gives them precisely the data that they need – and share it with them in a couple of ways.

Share the Dashboard

If they have access to Analytics and care to login to check the latest numbers, you can share your pre-configured Dashboard with them, just in the same way that I did in this article. When you click the “Share Dashboard” button, Google will provide you with a link that you can share. When they click the link, they can load up your Dashboard (they just need to do it once) and check it out whenever they like!

Email the Dashboard

This is super-handy when you want to provide the data from a Dashboard to someone who doesn't have access to the Analytics profile, or who doesn’t want to log in. You can set up your Dashboard so that it gets automatically emailed to your lucky colleagues on whatever schedule you desire. It will be sent right to their inbox in a pretty little PDF package. Sarah Carling had some interesting things to say on this subject.

Have Fun!

Once you get the hang of it, I’m sure you’ll have some fun finding all kinds of new insights into your website or business. If you’re a regular Google Analytics user, Custom Dashboards are bound to make your life much easier!

Wes Walls contributed to this post.