Google Convicted Again In France Over Google Suggest

For the second time this year, Google has lost a lawsuit in France related to the search suggestions that appear on Google Suggest.

The recent case involved the appearance of the words “rapist” and “satanist” in search suggestions for the plaintiff’s name. The plaintiff had previously been convicted on appeal for corrupting a minor, but the AFP reports that the “conviction was not yet definitive” when the man discovered what Google Suggest was showing for his name.

Google has been ordered to make a “symbolic payment” of one euro in damages and to take steps that will ensure the offense doesn’t happen again. A Google spokesperson tells the AFP that the company plans to appeal the court’s decision.

Earlier this year, Google lost another French case over similar complaints about words appearing in Google Suggest.

Scoring the 2011 Super Bowl Commercials For Search Visibility and Visitor Engagement

Every year, advertisers pay millions to air commercials during the Super Bowl. (The price this year is around three million dollars for a thirty second slot.) Advertisers are looking not only for conversions (sure, Hyundia would love for you to run out and buy that new Elantra tomorrow) but also heightened awareness and engagement. The more you engage with a brand and have a positive association with it, the more likely you’ll buy that brand in the future, so conventional wisdom goes.

Why should advertisers care about showing up in search results? More and more, we’re using the internet and watching TV at the same time, and we’ve not just on Facebook. Even as our use of social media increases, so does our use of search. In the United States alone, we did 18.2 billion searches in December 2010, up 3% from the previous month and up from 14.7 billion in December 2009. And if you read my analysis of searcher behavior during the 2009 and 2010 Super Bowls, then you know that TV commercials cause us to search. Whether we want more information about a product or just want to watch the ad again, many of us turn to the search box after we’ve seen a commercial. Take a look, for instance, at the searcher behavior when the Chrysler 200 commercial aired:

Advertisers looking to engage with audiences past the initial commercial should make sure they’re visible in search results and provide content on their web sites that make searchers want to stick around.

Some advertisers do buy paid search ads for the taglines in their commercials, but historically, many of them have not been visible in the unpaid, or organic results. And that could mean a lot of wasted opportunity. Hitwise data that came out just a few days ago, for instance, showed that searches for Super Bowl recipes were up 239% last week over the previous week and that 76% of the clicks were to organic results.

And we know that engaging viewers of commercials on your web site pays off by, as much as I hate to admit it, watching Go Daddy. Every year, they show racy ads during the Super Bowl that entice viewers back to their web site. Audiences flock there for the bonus footage (and promise of “unrated content”) and, as crazy as it sounds, register domains.

Advertisers have a captive audience during the game, searching for commercials. How many of those brands and commercials show up in search results? And how many really take advantage of that interest? Every year, I keep track of the commercials and take note of which cause search spikes (check back over the next few days for a report on that) and which brands show up in search results. How did things go this year?


100% of brands had at least some search visibility (other than movies). This is significantly better than in past years.When URLs were included in commercials, those URLs were almost always visible in search. This is starkly different from previous years, when use of vanity URLs and promotional microsites often kept advertised URLs from showing up at all.


Many brands didn’t include mention the Super Bowl ads at all on their home pages, which likely prevented engagement with key audiences searching for them.Several brands required actions such as registration or Facebook “like” to see ads or to interact with brand.

New This Year

Advertising Facebook URLs rather than owned domains – on the one hand, these advertisers gave all of their Super Bowl traffic to Facebook and lost some control. They likely also excluded some of their potential audience as fewer than half of Americans are on Facebook. However, Facebook does provide an easy platform for content creation that might have been prohibitive in the advertisers’ internal environments.Advertising Twitter hashtags - I didn’t see any Twitter accounts shown in commercials (although I did see Twitter icons), but several movie ads included hashtags, no doubt intended to encourage conversation about the movie.Search Scorecard

Below is a summary of how visible the Super Bowl advertisers were to searchers. I noted the key elements highlighted in the commercial (brand, product name, tagline, URL), whether those elements showed up in organic or paid search, and if the brand site engaged visitors who came to the site after viewing the commercials. The first chart shows the results by industry and the second set of charts shows details for each brand (you’ll have to click the image and then click again to expand it so you can read the data). The red indicates when things failed; the orange indicates when I gave the brand a point, but they really just barely made it. I show a couple of examples of that below the scoring. Some scoring isn’t black and white. I generally gave the brand the point if they did some paid search, for instance, even if they didn’t have paid ads for both brand and product searches. And every searcher can see different results, so my number one ranking may not be the same as your number one ranking. Note also that I used Google in scoring since it has dominant market share. This scorecard is based on a typical searcher’s experience. So, if an organization did paid search but I didn’t see any paid search ads in the searches I did, then my scorecard doesn’t provide that organization with a point.

Internet Brands

You’d expect internet brands to score well in all areas, and for the most part, they did. Surprisingly, Go Daddy, which tends to do well with search visibility, on-site engagement, and visibility, faltered a bit this year, particularly with their new promotion. Saleforce’s also suffered from some of the search issues acquiring a new domain can bring (see a future article for more on this), and most surprisingly, not all brands had clear online engagement paths. Some didn’t provide a way to watch the ads at all, and others required registration in order to view the ads. Businesses should always weigh the benefits of registration against the high abandonment rates such obstacles are likely to cause.


The car brands were out in force, and for the most part, they faired well in search. Only two failed to include URLs in their ads (Audi opted for the #progressis hashtag instead, which apparently is tied to a promotion they are running for a free car, but the commercial didn’t mention this). Their search visibility was significantly better than in past years. Their biggest weakness was compelling engagement with visitors on site. Volkswagen, for instance, has been running a successful social media campaign on Facebook and YouTube leading up to the Super Bowl, but you’d never know it from the home page.


Not many technology brands advertised during the Super Bowl and those that did had mixed results in search. None of the four I looked at were running paid search campaigns and only Best Buy (which one could argue is a consumer brand, rather than a technology brand) had a Super Bowl tie in on their home page. Motorola advertised rather than their own domain and the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play ad simply said “join us on Facebook.” Join who? The Sony Ericsson page? The Xperia page? Is there a specific Xperia Play page? Google isn’t much help, ranking an event page (of the launch?), a UK page with no activity, and a forum post. Searching Facebook itself for the right page requires me to be logged in (there goes over half the audience who either don’t have accounts or can’t be bothered to log in) and once I do, I don’t get any of the results I found from Google, but instead two other results that don’t appear to be owned by Sony Ericsson. Searching for just “Sony Ericsson” does seem to get me to the right place. But let’s be honest. I’ve only gotten that far because I’m writing an article about it.

Consumer Goods

These brands don’t like letting their audiences knew that they even have web sites. Fortunately for them, those web sites mostly show up in searches for their brand names anyway.


Ah, the motion picture industry. You sure want us to talk up your movies on Twitter. But it doesn’t always cross you mind we might want to search for more information about them.

Examples of Success and Missteps

Below are just a few examples to help make sense of the charts.

Hyundai: Good Visibility and Engagement

Hyundai has tried to tie together Super Bowl advertising and online engagement before. In 2009, they prominently featured but despite significant search interest, didn’t show up in search results at all. In 2010, it seemed seemed to have given up on the online world. This year, they got things mostly right. They advertised their main domain, in their ad, and ranked well for their brand and other related searches. Their home page featured several engaging elements that tied back to the Super Bowl ads.

Interestingly, one of the ads mentioned a different site,, and unlike the microsite of 2009, this site ranks number one for searches for [compact conspiracy]. That site links to several others (,, Possibly someone is bored at the ad agency and has gone a little crazy with the underground viral sites. Issues With the Search Results Display

One of Go Daddy’s ads revealed the new girl (er, Joan Rivers) and urged everyone to remake themselves at But if you search for, you’re presented with some unfriendly results. Network Solutions has bought a paid search ad for the query though, and is happy to both give you a special price on your .co domain and provide a GoGranny ad as an alternative to the Go Daddy girls.

What’s the problem with the and display? Mostly technical problems that are preventing search engines from fully crawling the content (and as a web site hosting company, they should know better!). Brian Ussery has a bit more on that.

Pepsi Max: What if I Don’t Want To Click the “Like” Button?

I see this trend a lot lately. Advertisers get caught up in metrics and forget why they set those metrics up in the first place. Everyone wants people to “like” their pages on Facebook. This shows that their audience is engaging with the brand in a positive way. You know what else shows that your audience is engaging with your brand in a positive way? Views of your Super Bowl commercials! In fact, the more consumers watch your ads, the more likely they are to buy your products (and maybe even click that like button). Requiring consumers to click the button before you’ll let them watch the ad? A lot of them are going to bail.

Groupon went one step farther, requiring you to register for the site before you could view the ads.

How about I watch your ad and then decide whether or not I want to sign up for your service?

An Integrated Strategy Is Key

Am I saying that brands should abandon Facebook and focus solely on search? That the film industry should stop encouraging discussion on Twitter? Of course not. But I do think that marketing needs to continue to evolve towards a more integrated strategy. Marketing should be about “and” rather than “or”. When I looked for the Coca Cola ad, for instance I landed on the home page, saw no mention of the Super Bowl, and then just happened to notice an embedded Twitter feed that was scrolling tweets by Coke with links to their commercials.

Don’t make your audiences search every online nook and cranny for you. If your customers are looking for you, let yourself be found.

Related Posts:

What Time Does the 2011 Super Bowl Start? A (Continuing) Lesson in Search VisibilityScoring the Super Bowl 2010 Commercials: How’s the Search Visibility?Scoring the (2009) Super Bowl Ads & Search: Do Broadcast Marketers Get Online AcquisitionCan Searchers Find the (2009) Super Bowl

ad:tech New York Keynote: State of the Industry

Topics for this morning’s keynote centered on the notion of the “new P” platforms, video advertising and random references to Gilligan’s Island and weird porn.

The panel was moderated by Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of IAB. Panelists included:

Suzie Reider, Head of Ad Sales YouTube.comMichael Barrett, EVP, Chief Revenue Officer Fox Interactive MediaArianna Huffington, c-founder and Editor in Chief Huffington PostMatt Freeman, CEO Tribal DDB Worldwide

Randy Rothenberg of the IAB started out with a brief overview citing promosing industry statistics: The interactive advertising industry is near $20 billion, there are over one billion internet users world wide and 80% of adults use the internet.Despite that progress and good news, the interactive advertising industry is at risk due to possible regulation from “anti consumer advocates”. The FTC has raised the spectre of regulation not only of cookies but reccommendations to implement opt in requirements for all ads. The regulation advocates’ position is basically, “The time for fact finding is over, it’s time for us to regulate.”

The interactive industry will only remain strong and vibrant if we respect the consumer. Companies need to watch more than what’s affecting their own organization, but also what’s happening at the federal and state levels.

Let’s talk about the “new P”. What have been known as portals are now calling themselves platforms including Google, Yahoo, MSN and of course Facebook. Is the trend towards platforms important or is it just a fad? What will the relationship be between platforms, agencies and publishers?

Suzie Reider believes we’ll continue to go in this direction with the shift towards user generated content. The idea of platform is less a label but more about giving users tools to contribute and interact.

According to Matt Freeman, platforms and user generated content create a challenge for agencies as media production costs drop, allowing users to easily create their own media. It ends the dominance in the supply chain of media production by the big media companies.

Michael Barrett says by definition, MySpace is a platform. Bringing together disparate tools that empower users to communicate, share and discover is what spurs the growth of social networking sites like MySpace.

There’s a lot of good coming from platforms in terms of data collection – enabling advertisers to get the right ad to the right person at the right time. Platforms provide publishers with monetization opportunities and they help agencies through lower costs to deliver services. “Those with the data hold the cards”.

OK, so platforms help users and agencies, what about publishers? Arianna Huffington spiced things up on the panel not only with her deep insight as a successful publisher, but more than intersting references to Ginger and Marianne along with something about weird porn woke up more than a few early session attendees.

She believes that Huffington Post is itself a platform. What started out as a political publishing brand has been a launching point for engaging users other interests as well, which spurred the launch of other topical verticals and tools to facilitate user interaction.

The more interactive tools you can give a community, the more time they spend on the platform. Community is key to platforms. AS an example, there were over 250k moderated comments last month on the Huffington Post and there are also 1800 bloggers.

Now the conversation turns to video. A year ago at ad:tech, the buzz was focused on video content and advertising. Moderator Randall Rothenberg asks, “Did that buzz live up to the promise?”

With examples like the one given by Suzie Reider involving the Opera channel launching on and attracting massive numbers of subscribers in just a few days, video is indeed meeting expectations. But there are challenges.

Video is increasingly important for Huffington Post and they are working to find more innovative ways to work with video advertising in place of pre-roll video ads and truncated RSS feeds. Huffington post is forgoing such tactics and providing this kind of content ad free. Readers are responding with more site visits.

Other challenges with video advertising include format lengths according to the type of content, whether it’s a produced show, made for media like lonelygirl15 or user generated content. Michael Barrett says agencies need to experiment and see what works. A 30 second pre-roll ad for a 60 second video isn’t going to appeal to anyone.

With the increased popularity of online video, many advertisers looked at video platforms as just another place to run their commercials, says Michael Barrett. The role of agencies is not to create ads, but to create ads as content. Agencies need to make brands destinations in and of themselves, says Matt Freeman.

If insertion is too obtrusive for consumers, then how do you get paid? Arinanna Huffington gave the example of a program where she and readers at the Huffington Post shared photos of themselves and their Prius’. Huffington Post “got paid” for the program and Toyota gained substantial exposure from a community of brand enthusiasts.

It was inevitable that the conversation would turn to Facebook. With the announcement that Facebook will offering targeted advertising, Randy Rothenberg asks, “How are we going to construct the line between consumer privacy expectations and the interest from marketers in social media?”

The number one complaint from consumers is to make ads more relevant and explaining what it will take to provide more personalized ads is an ongoing educational challenge. One that the IAB is undertaking with a campaign about an ad supported internet.

One of the more interesting questions from the audience concerned the future of the pre-roll ad. Will pre-roll go away and where does that leave the agencies? Is the agency best to create the content or the community?

Suzie Reider agreed with the panel that pre-rolls are too obtrusive and gave a good example of YouTube implementing an overlay ad on the bottom third of videos. There are smarter ways to get advertising sponsorship into the media.

Be sure to visit the Flickr set on ad:tech NYC 2007 as well as daily coverage on the ad:tech blog.

Is Twitter Sending You 500% To 1600% More Traffic Than You Might Think?

Earlier I posted that Google Analytics and other Javascript-based tracking tools might be undercounting visits from Twitter. I’ve done some more digging, which supports the case. In my test, Twitter seems to have sent 500% to 1600% more traffic than log files or hosted stats packages like Google Analytics might show.

How Twitter Might Send Far More Traffic Than You Think is my earlier article that explains how I’d often seen big gaps in how many people apparently clicked on a tweeted link as measured by versus how many page views that Google Analytics was showing.

To test this further, I tweeted a particular page on my personal blog along with tracking code designed to especially help ensure it appeared in Google Analytics. I’m going to toss out a bunch of numbers as part of this analysis. If they get confusing, skip to the end for the conclusion.

The Numbers Bit

For July 7, reported that the page had registered 58 clicks. Were there 58 corresponding page views? No. Google Analytics only reported 17 page views from 11 unique users. That meant a gap of 41 views.

Was the gap due to clicks from non-human robots that don’t process Google Analytics Javascript tracking code? Visits from people using mobile browsers that didn’t get tracked, because they might not process the code? To explore further, I went to the raw log files, the records that the server itself keeps. These shows any request made for the page, regardless of any Javascript issues.

I found that there had been 57 total requests — practically the same as reported. However, 14 of these were for the page without the tracking codes I’d used when tweeting the page through

In other words, this is the URL I put out through, which was reported to receive 58 visits:


See the part in bold? Those are tracking codes or parameters. From the log files, I found that URL above (with the codes) had 43 visits (not 58) and the same page without tracking codes like this received 14 further visits:


Those 14 visits without tracking codes almost all came from robots (Google: 5; Yanga: 4; Microsoft: 3). Two other visits seemed to be from humans. These robotic visits all likely had nothing to do with my tweet. The requests were from spiders doing their regular crawls of the web, it seems. The few human visits to the page without tracking codes were probably people who came to my article for reasons unconnected with the tweet.

What about those other 43 visits to the page that did have the tracking code? Well, 11 visits were from what appeared to be robots (OneRiot: 1; PycURL: 2; Ginxbot: 2; WebShot: 1; Google: 2; Tweetmeme: 1; Python-urllib: 1; LongURL API: 1).

That left 32 visits that appear to be from humans. That’s almost between the 58 views reported and the 17 page views Google Analytics reflected. Why still such a gap with GA?

One leading argument has been that some Twitter applications on mobile devices load pages within the application, rather than using an external browser, and so aren’t getting registered by Google Analytics. Also, some mobile browsers might not process Javascript. I could see at least four iPhone-based requests like this. But there were plenty of other requests that appear to be from full-fledged desktop-based browsers. Why weren’t they showing up?

One clue is that of the 34 requests, only 5 of them contained “referrer” data, information that some browsers pass on that indicate how they found the page in the first place. For Google Analytics (or ANY analytics program) to properly indicate how much traffic a particular site is driving, it needs as much referrer data as it can get.

Of those referrers, only 2 of them were from the domain (1 more was from my own blog’s domain, 1 from, probably indicating a Twitterific users, and one from, probably indicating a Twitter-visit via a Firefox plug-in).

In short, based on referrer traffic alone, ANY analysis program would have reported that at best, Twitter sent my page only 2 visits. Yet, both Google Analytics and reported that it received far more than that.

Remember, Google Analytics said the page had received 17 views in all, 11 from unique users. How many of those 11 unique users came to the page via Twitter? Google Analytics said 9. One more came directly, it said; another person did a search to find it (mother’s cookie was the search, which was me locating the article. Oddly, this request does NOT appear in the raw log files).

The Big Conclusion

All those earlier numbers hurt your head? Here are the most meaningful ones. Thanks for hanging in there!

Based only on referrers, at best, Google or any analytics program would have said Twitter sent 2 visits. But because I used tracking codes, I was able to overcome the lack of referring data and see that Twitter (itself or via applications or web sites using Twitter data) sent 9 visits. That means analytics packages might be undercounting Twitter visits by nearly 500%.

Meanwhile, was showing those 58 clicks to the page. Let’s say it wasn’t filtering out some of the robots. I can still see that there are 32 visits that the log files recorded, all with the tracking codes that never existed until I tweeted the link with them. So those are all Twitter-derived visits. That means an undercount by a standard analytics tool depending on referrer data by 1600%.

And The Analytics Companies Say?

I sent my logs to both and Google, along with a draft of this article, for any reaction.

Google said they’re aware that activity on mobile devices can cause issues with tracking and that they’re looking for ways to improve their product. said they filter out robotic clicks such as Ginxbot, Google, and Python-urllib, through PycURL. When I asked further about the gap, they emailed back:

It looks like three types of events make up the delta.

First, browser plug-ins and automated url-lengthener applications, which make requests to the URL, but don’t follow the redirect to the destination site.

One example is the “eventBox” at Here’s how it appears in the logs:

(eventBox) : – - [07/Jul/2009:20:41:31 -0400] “GET /cHXSP HTTP/1.1″ 301 410 “-” “EventBox567 CFNetwork/438.12 Darwin/9.7.0 (i386) (iMac9%2C1)” 301

Second, small bots that make their way through our screening system:

(slicehost): – - [07/Jul/2009:21:05:43 -0400] “GET /cHXSP HTTP/1.1″ 301 410 “-” “-” 301

Third, browsers which don’t support Javascript, as well as browsers with Javascript settings turned off and browsers running Javascript-blocking extensions like noscript.

And Some Related Reading

Last week, Fred Wilson posted Does This Blog Get More Traffic From Google or Twitter?, finding that for his personal blog, Twitter traffic has risen past Google search traffic. Fred suspected that the Twitter traffic was even more than being shown, due to undercounting. I think he’s right. While I think Google search traffic still remains a major traffic driver for many sites, those who have lots of Twitter followers or have a story go “hot” through retweets certainly may discover Twitter is a new major traffic resource –and one that’s likely undercounted.

Over at the Zebu Blog, Link Tracking – (lies, damn lies &) Statistics? also looks at the issue, questioning whether is overcounting. In a follow up comment, Mayank Sharma did his own small scale experiment and found:

We created a url for this post, and posted it on Twitter. The next instant we saw, that�s count was already 4. This only means that some twitter crawler/indexer received the tweet and de-referenced the url mentioned in it. After that I hovered my mouse over the link shown in Twitterfox. Sure enough�s count increased by one. We did this repeatedly from multiple desktop�s of several friends and the count just kept on increasing. Not one of these folks during this time had actually clicked on the link.

I agree — seems to be overestimating views. But Google Analytics seems to be underestimating them, perhaps severely based on my small scale log analysis program. Using tracking codes occasionally is one way to get a reality check.

Finally, if you want to add tracking parameters for URLs you tweet, consider the Snip-n-Tag add-on for Firefox. I’ve been using it, and it makes adding these to URLs super easy.

Online Marketing News: Content Marketing for B2B, Engage Your Audience, Twitter Bot Seems Human, Facebook Knows What’s Best, Watch The Sarcasm

Content Marketing in B2B

exploreB2B recently partnered with Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs to creat this infographic which covers elements of why, what, where, and how of B2B Content Marketing that are necessary to execute on a successful campaign.

Featured TopRank Team Story

Shawna Kenyon – How to Build – and Keep – an Engaged Audience
For those of us creating content on a regular basis it is important to understand how best to build and keep and audience. �Many companies find themselves asking: with so much content online how do we fit in, and how do we�differentiate�ourselves from the competition? Gripping headlines, to the point copy, and promotion are just a few of the tips included in this article. �Via�Mashable.

Weekly Online Marketing News

Google+ Product Manager Spams Twitter With Bot Network
Chances are you’ve seen automated tweets before, and were not impressed. �In 2008 the handle @trackgirl was setup as a Twitter Bot and the creator found that people were engaging with the bot and sending direct messages in response to tweets that were being sent out. �Read this article to learn more. �Via Wired.

Google to Offer Free WiFi in NYC
New York City is known for it’s spotty wifi service, especially when entering the underground subway system. �Starting on Monday some New Yorkers will be given the opportunity to keep on streamin. �Via AdWeek.

Never Ever Start Facebook or Twitter Campaigns on Friday – New Yesmail Study
This article provides further reasoning why marketers should not attempt to start a Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube campaign on a Friday. � Based on this study Friday’s are already stock full of messaging, however Tuesdays are a little les�cluttered. �Read on to gain even more insight on social marketing and why sometimes less is more. �Via VentureBeat.

It’s Official: Microsoft Buys Yammer for $1.2 Billion
Yammers price tag and buy out from Microsoft has been rumored for the past few weeks. �Microsoft has now agreed on a hefty $1.2 Billion investment to purchase Yammer, and integrate the service as part of their office productivity tools. �If you are a Yammer fan have no fear, for the time being Yammer will remain as a stand alone �product and the company will continue to maintain control. �Via SocialTimes.

Apparently Facebook Knows What’s Best For Us
In order to create consistency across Facebook’s users (or so they claim) it was announced in April that the social network would update email addresses to one provided by their own email service. �This article provides what the writer considers to be a natural progression of the actions Facebook is currently taking without properly notifying users. �Everything from Facebook accessing users vehicle navigation systems, to implanting users with Facebook chips in their brains. �Via Media Post.

Top Online Marketing Tips of the Week

5 Time Saving Tools for Twitter
Choosing the right time saving applications that meet your social networking needs can be overwhelming. �The author of this article ran a survey of his Twitter followers that had at least a 5-digit following to see what tools they use to manage the amount of information that is shared and consumed on a daily basis. �If you’re looking for some ways to increase your impact while saving time this is an article you don’t want to miss. �Via Inc.

7 Things to Check Before Sending A Sarcastic Message
Industry research has shown that online messages are misinterpreted more than half of the time. �We’ve all been there, you think of something amusing or sarcastic that you want to share in an social message or email reply. �Problem is, you may have just confused or worse, offended your audience. � This article provides �7 sound tips for checking your message a final time before sharing, sending, and possibly turning off the recipients. �Via Ragan.

A Complete Guide to the Facebook WordPress Plugin
If you create and publish content on a WordPress blog social integration has just gotten easier. �Facebook recently released a new highly comprehensive plugin for WordPress which creates ease of use for auto-publishing to your timeline. �Via Social Media Examiner.

Time to Weigh In: What day of the week have you found to be most effective for starting your social media campaigns? �Do you think that Yammers integration with Microsoft will shift the way you are using their products? �Finally, does Facebook really know best, or are they taking it too far?

Bing Relaunches, Features New Social Sidebar, Snapshots

Bing announced a relaunch of its search engine today, with a big emphasis on bringing social into search. But wait! Didn’t Bing already have social as part of its search experience? Yes, but now the search engine hopes to do it better, especially by largely off-loading social elements into a new sidebar area.

The new features will appear for Bing users in the United States the coming days, taking several weeks to go live fully for everyone.

Postscript: The new Bing should now be live for everyone. If you don’t have it, see the instructions here:�Bing�s New Social-Friendly Search Interface Now Live.The New Bing

What’s in “The New Bing,” as the Microsoft post pitches it as?�A three column design with Core Search, Snapshot & Sidebar panes

Core Search loses many of the social annotations that Bing has added over the yearsSnapshot provides additional information about a particular search listing, without having to leave BingSidebar serves as a new home for social integration with search

Bing’s put together a short video explaining the new features, which you can watch below. After that, I’ll take you on my own personal tour of the changes

Let’s take a closer look at the changes.

The Social Sidebar

I’ll start with the new social sidebar, as it’s the most dramatic of the changes:

In the sidebar, various social elements may appear depending on how relevant Bing decides they are to your search. In the case above, I did a search for Costa Rica, which triggered three of the four main elements you’ll see:

Ask FriendsFriends Who Might KnowPeople Who KnowActivity Feed

Let’s drill-down further into these areas.

Friends Who Might Know

In the “Friends Who Might Know” area, if you’re signed-in to Bing, people you know on Facebook who may have knowledge about what you’re searching for are suggested:

In this case, a variety of my Facebook friends are suggested. Frank Gruber is on the list because he’s shared some photos on Facebook about Costa Rica. Others are on the list because they’ve liked various pages on Facebook related to the country.

By hovering my mouse over any individual, I can learn more about why they are suggested. In the example above, Patti Bailey has liked a number of pages on Facebook that are related to Costa Rica.

It’s easy to see the value here. If I’m headed on a trip to Costa Rica (which I actually am later this year), in addition to doing research by looking through traditional search listings, now I can also find friends that I might ask for advice. In fact, Bing has added feature to make this easy:

In the example above, I clicked on the little person/plus symbol icon next to Patti Bailey’s name. That opened up a box that listed my search topic, then allowed me to add links from the regular search results to the box, if I wanted, along with a question for her. Pushing the Post button would make the question go to her Facebook newsfeed.

When you ask someone a question, anyone who can see your Facebook Timeline will see the question. As for your friend, they get a message about the question, but none of their friends see it. It’s like sending them a direct message.

Ask Friends

What if someone you want to ask a question to in relation to a search doesn’t appear? That’s where the “Ask Friends” box at the top of the sidebar comes in. It allows you to ask all your friends at once:

After you do a search, you can type in the “Ask Friends” box, and that will go out to your Facebook friends. Of course, which ones will actually see it depends on Facebook itself. Facebook’s “Edgerank” algorithm doesn’t show everything that you post to all of your friends. Rather, it tries to guess which friends would find something you post to be especially interesting.

If you look close, you’ll see that my post was tagged only to show for me. I’m not sure why this happened. It could be because I was using the new Bing features before they formally launched. It might be that I’d previously authorized Bing to work with Facebook and restricted it to only show activity to me.

It’s a good reminder that you can exercise specific control over the app. In Facebook, if you go to Account Settings, then to Apps, Bing will be listed. From there, you can control who sees what the app posts:

Finally, when your friends respond, you’ll see that within the original question, like this:

You can also see responses through your Activity area, explained further below.

By the way, Google already has a feature like this, introduced in January.�“Ask On Google+” Links Appearing In Google�s Search Results�explains more about that. I felt it was an intrusion on Google+. On Bing, the same feature tucked to the side seems welcome.

People Who Know

So far, all the social features I’ve covered have been Facebook-specific. You can ask friends for advice, but only your Facebook friends. What about friends on other social networks? Or what about finding people who aren’t friends but who still might be useful sources of information in other ways.

Consider a search for Google on Bing. That provides a variety of people showing up in the People Who Know area, including the head of Google’s web spam team, Matt Cutts. I’ve hovered over him to bring up his profile:

Cutts is showing up because Bing, looking through the Twitter access is has access to, considers him relevant to a search on Google. Indeed, he is. This also illustrates how well “People Who Know” gets Bing out of a possible Facebook trap. Cutts closed his Facebook account in 2010. If Bing only looked at Facebook, he wouldn’t come up as a suggestion.

It’s not just Facebook and Twitter that get to play in the social sidebar, however. Social suggestions might also come from LinkedIn, Quora, Foursquare, Blogger and — wait for it — Google Plus:

That’s Vic Gundotra, the Google executive in charge of Google+ and Google’s social efforts. He’s showing up because Bing believes his Google+ page is relevant to those searching on Google.

How’s Bing getting Google+ information? Simple. These are public pages that it crawls already. Bing told me:

To get the content for the “People Who Know” section we mine public blogs, tweets, and Google+ posts to find information relative to the topic of interest.

Bing also clarified that the suggests in People Who Know should be the same for everyone. They aren’t personalized to a particular person, as is the case with Friends Who Know.

Bing’s Doing What Google Doesn’t?

Some might recall a dispute that emerged after Google revamped its own search meets social effort,�Search Plus Your World, which launched in January. To recap:

Google added a new People & Pages box that offered suggestions of accounts to follow, but only accounts from Google Plus.After�complaints of favoritism, Google argued�that it couldn’t get the information�it needed from the other social networks, due to deliberate blocking.Twitter and Facebook whipped up a�“Don’t Be Evil” toolbar�using data from the open web to disprove this.

Now Bing is also using open web data to seemingly have more suggestions from a variety of social networks that Google does. It’s even including Google! Expect that to be used as a point against Google.

However, Google still has an argument that it cannot get all the same data on the open web as Bing. Twitter actually closed itself off to Google last year, blocking Google from even getting open web data. Even if Google renews a deal with Twitter,�it’s now gunshy�about building features around something that might disappear. Meanwhile,�Facebook doesn’t seem to allow public posts out to the open web.

Bing doesn’t have these issues, with a deal in place with Twitter and Facebook and no apparent blocking by Google. I actually hope that Google and Twitter get past their impasse; I’d like to see Facebook fully open up, as well. My previous thoughts on all this are here:�A Proposal For Social Network D�tente.


The final element of the sidebar is the Activity area. This is a running feed of questions you’ve asked or those asked by those you know, through Bing’s connection with Facebook:

In the example above, you can see how Derrick Connell, the corporate VP over Bing, was asking a question out to his Facebook friends. Since I’m one of them, I saw his question appear in my Activity feed. Clicking on it allowed me to respond; hovering over it shows me all the responses to his question.

Hovering over my own questions also lets me see responses I might have received:

Unfortunately, there’s no to jump into Facebook from the Activity area to a particular question, nor is there some type of dedicated Activity page where you can review everything. If you’re on Bing, and you want to check for responses, you oddly have to search for something just to get the feed to appear. Otherwise, you have to go to your Facebook Timeline or those of your friends to hunt down responses.

Core Search Results & Social

Earlier, I’d said that Bing was off-loading social elements that previously were in its “regular” or “main” search results, the listings on the left-most side of the screen. Social elements it has tried since its Bing’s first big social push in October 2010 included things like this:

or this:

Those are gone, now. There’s some social in the results, but it’s very subtle. Why the move?

“The [social] annotations were not as helpful as expected. They also blunted relevancy. People weren’t sure if it was more or less relevant when they appeared,” Connell told me.

That goes against Google’s suggestions that social annotations help, or at least that they help clickthrough rate. It’s one reason Google provides tools for publishers to measure this for themselves.

Expect more debate and examination to follow. But I have to say, losing that stuff does help give Bing an even cleaner look that what it already tidied up last week in preparation for today’s relaunch.

As I said, social is still there. Consider these search results:

Trending Arrow & Friend Thumbs-Up

The first example shows a little gray arrow pointing upward. The red arrow I’ve added, to point to what happens if you hover over the gray arrow. It causes it to be surrounded by a blue circle, with a little box showing up that says that particular search results it trending on Twitter and Facebook. This trending arrow may also appear next to items that are doing well on either Twitter or Facebook, rather than both.

The second example has a thumbs-up icon. Hover over that, and it’s surrounded by a blue circle, with a box providing more information. In this case, I’m shown that four of my friends like the site the article is from. If I hover over any of the friend icons, I can see their actual names — though if there are more than three, I can’t see the full list. I’m also told that in addition, the item is trending on Twitter.

In summary:

Thumbs-Up = Results has social activity from your friendsTrending Arrow = Result has social activity not from your friends by a wide number of people in general

In the annotation boxes, you’ll sometimes see that a site name appears. For example, look at these two results for a search on Obama:

Notice how the first example has a link that says “The White House.” This link leads to the official White House page on Facebook. In contrast, the Barack Obama campaign site, despite having its own popular Facebook page, doesn’t get a similar link.

What’s going on? Here’s how it works:

“Like FACEBOOK PAGE” -�If your friends like a Facebook Page associated with a site that appears in the results, a link to the Facebook Page appears in the box“Like DOMAIN NAME” – If your friends like a web site, and a page from within that web site appears, a link to the root domain of the site is shown in the box“Likes This” -�If your friends like a particular web page, and that exact page is listed in the results, then no link appears in the boxSocial & Core Results Personalization

Bing began personalizing its search results last year, and that still continues, with your location and your past search history being key signals. But social also plays a role.

Things that are trending on Twitter or Facebook in aggregate might rank higher for a short period of time, Bing told me.

In addition, in testing, I can see that things that are liked by me or by my friends might come higher in the results, if I’m signed-in. This is similar to how Google’s Search Plus Your World works.


When Bing initially launched three years ago with the “Decision Engine” tagline, it was also billed as something that would help people accomplish task. But for the most part, it never really seemed to deliver on that promise in any unique way.

Snapshot, new information that appears in the center column, goes further toward delivering on tasks:

Above, you can see an example of Snapshot. It appears for the “Ray’s Boathouse” listing. If you were to hover over that, reviews, a map to the restaurant and the ability to book reservations through Open Table would appear to the right, in the center column.

I saw a few other examples last month in an early preview of the new Bing, and I found the implementations pretty impressive. They draw information also from Yelp, FanSnap and other partners.

Unfortunately, Snapshot didn’t seem to be working as I wrote this review, so I can’t explore it more. We’ll have a separate article just on Snapshot in the near future, and we’ll link over from here to that, when it’s ready.

Have You Tried Bing Recently?

Bing’s relaunch comes at a good time. Google’s own effective relaunch,�Search Plus Your World�last�January, put off some tech commentators who felt it shoved too much personal information and too much Google+ification into the listings.

Now comes Bing, with a clean design that looks like the Google of old, with social shoved off to the side where it’s around if you want it but not in your face. On the surface, it seems pleasing.

Add to that the fact that Bing’s search results themselves are good. Indeed, Bing’s blog post is touting that in its own testing, when people are shown search results without the Google or Bing brand attached to them, Bing is winning:

We regularly test unbranded results, removing any trace of Google and Bing branding. When we did this study in January of last year 34% people preferred Bing, while 38% preferred Google.

The same unbranded study now shows that Bing Search results now have a much wider lead over Google�s. When shown unbranded search results 43% prefer Bing results while only 28% prefer Google results.

What this means is that in 3 years we�ve made some real progress in core relevance and search quality, and while search is becoming so much more than just web results, having a rock solid foundation is important for the future of Bing and search more generally.

Here’s a chart of of today’s Bing Search Summit with the trend:

This is Bing’s own testing, of course. I’ve got no doubt Google has its own testing that shows Google beats Bing. Google has also argued that ordinary searchers do like Search Plus Your World. Certainly there’s been no mass abandonment of Google. It’s fair to say the vast majority of its searchers remain happy with the search engine.

It’s also important to note that in real life, the personalization Google does may indeed work better than Bing. I’ve got a lot more testing to do, and results will vary based on each person’s own social connections. But see my sidebar article for more:�Head-To-Head: Bing’s Social Search Vs. Google’s Search Plus Your World.

Still, I I’ve been spending a lot more time on Bing over the past week or so, as I’ve tried to assess if Google’s recent Penguin Update made Google’s results better or worse.�There’s no way I or anyone can tell with a few searches if that’s the case.

What I do know is that Bing’s results do feel comparable to Google. I even spent the past day using them exclusively instead of Google. I didn’t struggle. I didn’t feel I couldn’t find stuff. A part of me kept feeling like I should run back “home” to Google, but the more I used Bing, the less that became.

I’d say that Bing is even more competitive with Google than ever before. It’s definitely worth another look by anyone, and the competition between the two benefits everyone.

Other outlets are covering today’s Bing news. Techmeme has a round-up here. CNET has some nice background on Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg giving input into the changes. The New York Times has some good perspective on how Bing’s changes fit in with the challenges against Google.

NOTE: Apologies for any typos. Ran short of time for the second proofing I wanted, but I’ll correct later today.

Related StoriesMeet Bing, Microsoft�s New Search EngineBing, Now With Extra Facebook: See What Your Friends Like & People Search ResultsBing Goes Search-Retro With Cleaner Look For Results�Bing Results Get Localized & PersonalizedGoogle�s Results Get More Personal With “Search Plus Your World”“Don�t Be Evil” Tool � Backed By Facebook & Twitter � Shows Google�s “Search Plus Your World” Can Go Beyond Google+FAQ: What�s The Debate About Google�s Search Plus Your World?Two Weeks In, Google Says “Search Plus Your World” Going Well, Critics Should Give It Time

Online Marketing News: 80 Rules of Social, Vine Growing, Yahoo Topples Google, Shoppers Go Mobile, Top Twitter Women

The 80 Rules of Social Media by @JeremyWaite is a clever Pinterest style infographic offering 80 tips and insights on the world of social media. You’d think by now we’d have heard everything there is to hear about social media, but this collection covers a lot more than the social web. There are gems here like, 42: “If fans start publishing and sharing your content without your permission, offer to help.” and of course 67: “Giving away free iPads to people on Facebook is fine – as long as you have no intention of building a lasting relationship with them”.�bitrebels

In Other Online Marketing News�

Smarter Inboxes Means Marketers Need to Get Smarter Too�- Promotional emails, cold calling, telemarketing, and direct mail have taken a hit with Gmail now segmenting your incoming marketing messages. Much to the dismay of many legitimate marketers (as opposed to spammers), their opt-in newsletters are being sent to a �Promotions� tab.�Clara Shih, author,�The Facebook Era, on�LinkedIn.

Editable Video App Makes Brand Films Easy for All Salons – YouTube founders, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, launched recently a new video-focused community and mobile phone video app, MixBit, which has the ability to offer phone-based editing for the first time, offering huge potential for the beauty industry. ModernSalon

Mobile Commerce May Top $25 Billion This Year Says comScore – Mobile commerce now accounts for one of every $10 spent online and is growing at a faster pace than traditional e-commerce. Mashable

Facebook Settles �Sponsored Stories� Lawsuit for $20 million – Facebook will pay $15 per user after a judge approved a final legal settlement that intends to compensate users for the social network�s decision to display their pictures in sponsored stories ads without permission. Gigaom

Vine Grows to 40 Million Registered Users � After only seven months since Twitter acquired Vine, the six-second video sharing app has more than tripled its user base since June. MarketingLand

How to Make a Marketing Analytics Mindset Stick � Pat LaPoint, Executive VP of MarketShare, explains how to manage the intersection of marketing and metrics successfully, pointing (pun intended) to key principles that drive adoption: goal setting, visibility, honesty, transparency, bluntness, training, communication. Forbes

Responsive Design: The Next Great Hope or All Hype [Infographic]�� Responsive web design adapts a site’s layout to various device types. Images, button, grids and text are automatically re-sized to provide the best user experience. For your mobile only visitors, responsive design is crucial. MarketingProfs

Changes at LinkedIn Create New Marketing Opportunities � LinkedIn is moving away from its roots as a business-oriented social network and becoming a business-to-business (B2B) content publishing platform, providing marketers a chance to include native ads in the feed and PowerPoint-style ads using technology from SlideShare, which they acquired last year. eMarketer

The Art of Writing Great Google+ Posts � If you�ve been stumped over how to write exceptional posts for Google+, you won�t be once you read this �how to� from a writer who has mastered the art. Copyblogger

Retailers Face Shoppers Moving to Mobile Only � Researchers at comScore found that, on a monthly basis, about a third (35%) of the top 50 retailers� audience came exclusively from smartphones and tablets. Translated, this means that of overall U.S. website usage, retailers are facing more consumers viewing their sites only from a mobile device. MediaPost

Google Announces �Helpouts,� a Help-for-Cash Video Chat Service � Google has quietly launched a new p2p video chat helpline service. Anyone can sign up to receive or provide help, and providers can make money off chat sessions. You need a Google+ account and, if you charge for your time, Google takes 20%. Arstechnica

Yahoo! Finally Tops Google in Unique U.S. Visits � Yahoo! had more unique visitors in the U.S. than any other web company, including longtime No. 1 Google. Shares were up more than 2.5% in midday trading in the stock market last week, near 27.80, which had to make CEO, Marissa Mayer, happy.

But � Google Still Tops in Video and Search � Google is still more profitable than Yahoo! and when you factor in mobile traffic and search queries, Google still rules. MarketingProfs

Facebook Shutters Physical Goods Delivery in Gifting Service � More than 80 percent of gifts sent on Facebook were digital, so plans to ramp down its physical gifting service are based on an overall lack of user demand. AllThingsD

25 of the Smartest Women on Twitter � From iconic TV journalist, Christiane Amapour to Chelsea Clinton to editors and authors, entrepreneurs and innovators, this list contains some super smart tweeple. FastCompany

From the Online Marketing Community

On �Business Blogging in a Content Marketing World � 5 Steps to Success,� Ava Cristi� said, Great tips Lee! I agree with you; the more useful the information you posts, the more readers you will attract and the more likely they will become regular readers.

On �How Top Consumer Brands are Successfully Using Google+,� Sarah Bauer said, Good reminders here for businesses to focus on enhancing the visual quality of their Google+ pages. All of these big brands know how to use gorgeous, expansive photography to their advantage, and platforms like Google+ seem made for such visual engagement.

On �How to Maintain Your Reputation During a Social Media Crisis,� Chris Syme said, Good post and reminder for brands to plan ahead so they don’t have to react. I wanted to mention one thing about humor: more companies have got into trouble using it than those that have been successful with it in a crisis. If you analyze why Red Cross was able to get away with it, there are a number of factors that make their situation unique. Nonprofit, extremely well-loved to begin with, rogue tweet was really a harmless mistake, etc. When visiting with brands, I always want them to know that humor in a crisis is usually not a good idea. There are too many cultural values to deal with and most people only direct their humor at one group’s sensitivities and miss the rest.

What�s Your Take?

Is Google really trying to �help out� or is this just one more way to grow profits? Will Yahoo! continue to grow market share? Are mobile phone video apps the next big thing?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Google’s Mobile Search Revenue To Top 30 Percent, Desktop To Fall To 43 Percent By 2015 [Forecast]

In its latest look at mobile ad revenues, eMarketer estimates Google is generating nearly one-fifth of its US advertising revenues from mobile search, coming in at 19.1%.

In yet another indication of how fast the mobile ad market is growing, only two years ago, mobile made up just 4.8 percent of Google’s US ad revenues. By 2015, mobile is expected to account for just over 30 percent of Google’s ad revenues in the US. Desktop search revenue share is predicted to fall below 50 percent in that time.

It’s worth noting that eMarketer counts tablets in its mobile numbers. Google, however, has started grouping tablets with desktop, not smartphones. Google AdWords enhanced campaigns, which went into full effect in July, lump tablet and desktop bidding together so all desktop campaigns automatically include tablet bidding. eMarketer has not indicated whether enhanced campaigns are contributing to Google’s projected mobile revenue increases.

While Google’s mobile display revenue share is expected to grow at a faster rate than mobile search (147 percent vs. 61 percent) by 2015, mobile search will continue to dominate Google’s share of mobile ad revenues. YouTube is the main driver for the increase in Google’s mobile display revenue according to eMarketer.

Overall 22.9 percent of Google’s US ad revenues will come from mobile channels.

For more on the latest mobile ad revenue estimates, including Facebook and Yahoo’s numbers, see our post on Marketing Land Forecast: Mobile To Be 48 Percent Of Display Revenue By 2017

Keyword Stuffing & Hidden Text Manual Action: Google on How to Fix it

Author's Note: This article is part of a series detailing specific spam warnings that webmasters might find displayed in Google Webmaster Tools manual action viewer, the types of things that are flagging each warning, and what webmasters should do to fix it to see the warning removed.

Hidden text and keyword stuffing isn't as common today of it once was, but Google is still warning webmasters to avoid.

When you mention hidden text and keyword stuffing, people often think of the 50 lines long text white text on white background in the footer of a webpage. It essentially means placing text on a webpage but for search engines only, not the user.

This was used extensively a decade ago, although it has evolved to include things such as using CSS to hide it off the page, to place it underneath another element already on the page, or to just set the text of hidden.

Keyword stuffing is putting a keyword phrase, or several, multiple times within a webpage, to the extent where whatever is on the page doesn't even make much sense because of the repetitive keywords. This is done so that the keywords are visible to search engine, with the idea that it will help it rank better in Google.

Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts makes a point of saying that using things like Javascript that is used on websites to create mouse over menus and other user-friendly ways to show more text is generally OK.

Cutts very specifically brought up the point that many spinner programs – programs that will essentially take content already available on the web and “spin it” to create new content – often don't pass the keyword spamming test. The output is often gibberish and nonsensical.

Most keyword stuffing examples are very obvious. While it is good to have your keywords within your text on the page, you can go overboard quite easily. If you want a quick method on how to check to see if your webpage is a little bit too keyword happy, read your text out loud, as it will often sound very unnatural. If it sounds fine to you or to those you read it too, it should be fine.

Why is this a problem? When users search for certain keywords and end up on your site, they want to see those keywords on the page in a useful format. They don't want to end up there due to hidden text located in the footer. Hidden text and keyword stuffing often make for a very poor user experience for it the user coming in from Google, which is why Google take such a stance on the issue

If you get the warning for hidden text or keyword stuffing, the solution is pretty easy: simply remove it. This type of SEO is still utilized today by some of the scammier SEO companies, so if you are unsure where it is, start looking at your actual source code find it, generally either close to the top or close to the bottom of the code.

Cutts said that occasionally it is a case of hacked site – hidden text and keyword stuffing is most common on WordPress sites, so if you get the warning on a WordPress site, your first thing to do should be to check whether you've been hacked, and if so, upgrade your WordPress and all your plug-ins, and then begin your cleanup process.

Google advises you should document your cleanup process. So document what you found, and how you fixed it, and the dates you did. Cutts said you should also include why it happened, whether it was a rogue SEO or a CMS system gone wild, and explain why you believe it won't happen again.

 Learn More: Google Penalties & WarningsGoogle's Pure Spam Manual Action: Matt Cutts on How to Fix it

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Google Recognizes 50th Anniversary Of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech

Today’s Google logo is a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream Speech” that was given on August 28, 1963 to a crowd of 250,000 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

King’s speech was a call for racial justice and harmony, and became a defining moment in America’s civil rights movement. In his recent Time Magazine cover article, author and historian Jon Meacham writes, “With a single phrase, Martin Luther King Jr. joined Jefferson and Lincoln in the ranks of men who’ve shaped modern America.”

The logo includes the script of the speech as the backdrop for the Google logo with an illustrated rendering of the iconic photo where Martin Luther King Jr. is seen waving to the crowd. The content of the speech appears as a tag cloud with phrases like “I have a dream” and “that all men are created equal” in a bold font, along with the words “brotherhood”, “children”, “character” and “transformed.”

The speech was part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, one of our nation’s largest civil rights rallies, and the event often credited with helping pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The march was organized by a number of civil rights and labor activists and religious organizations, with an estimated 250,000 people marching through our nation’s capitol.

US Representative John Lewis, one of the youngest speakers at the event, would later claim, “Dr. King had the power, the ability, and the capacity to transform those steps on the Lincoln Memorial into a monumental area that will forever be recognized. By speaking the way he did, he educated, he inspired, he informed not just the people there, but people throughout America and unborn generations.”

(Credit image:

Google Recognizes 50th Anniversary Of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech

Today’s Google logo is a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream Speech” that was given on August 28, 1963 to a crowd of 250,000 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

King’s speech was a call for racial justice and harmony, and became a defining moment in America’s civil rights movement. In his recent Time Magazine cover article, author and historian Jon Meacham writes, “With a single phrase, Martin Luther King Jr. joined Jefferson and Lincoln in the ranks of men who’ve shaped modern America.”

The logo includes the script of the speech as the backdrop for the Google logo with an illustrated rendering of the iconic photo where Martin Luther King Jr. is seen waving to the crowd. The content of the speech appears as a tag cloud with phrases like “I have a dream” and “that all men are created equal” in a bold font, along with the words “brotherhood”, “children”, “character” and “transformed.”

The speech was part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, one of our nation’s largest civil rights rallies, and the event often credited with helping pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The march was organized by a number of civil rights and labor activists and religious organizations, with an estimated 250,000 people marching through our nation’s capitol.

US Representative John Lewis, one of the youngest speakers at the event, would later claim, “Dr. King had the power, the ability, and the capacity to transform those steps on the Lincoln Memorial into a monumental area that will forever be recognized. By speaking the way he did, he educated, he inspired, he informed not just the people there, but people throughout America and unborn generations.”

(Credit image:

Your Small Web Site Not Ranking Well In Google? Matt Cutts Wants To Know About It.

Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, asked last night via Twitter for webmasters and SEOs to fill out a survey on the topic of small sites and Google rankings.

Matt Cutts asked “if there’s a small website that you think should be doing better in Google, tell us more here. The form makes it clear that filling out this form will not impact the ranking of the site submitted. The form reads:

Google would like to hear feedback about small but high-quality websites that could do better in our search results. To be clear, we’re just collecting feedback at this point; for example, don’t expect this survey to affect any site’s ranking.

The form collects two pieces of information:

(1) The name and URL of the small site you think should rank well.

(2) Why do you think that small site should rank better?

So, if you have a small site and think it should rank better, make sure to tell Google about it over here.

Here is the tweet from Matt:

If there’s a small website that you think should be doing better in Google, tell us more here:

� Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) August 28, 2013


Google Gets 5,000 Reconsideration Requests Per Week

Google’s head of search spam Matt Cutts announced in a recent video answer that Google receives about 5,000 reconsideration request per week through Google Webmaster Tools.

In January 2013, Google said it had taken manual action on 400,000 different websites and averaged about 5,000 reconsideration reports each week.

As you can imagine, that is a lot of reports for Googlers to review, and Google has told us they review each and every reconsideration request and respond to almost every one.

I suspect this is why Google launched the manual actions viewer recently. Now, the only way to submit a reconsideration request is to have a manual action in the manual action viewer. This should reduce the number of false reconsideration requests that Google needs to respond to.

Here is the video:

5 Ways to Use Video to Connect With Customers

You’ve probably noticed the surge in online video. It’s being touted as the hottest content marketing trend, Harlem Shake videos have saturated the Web and it makes us all wonder if more video isn’t just what we need to stand out.

But there’s a difference in seeing the power of video and truly using video to push your brand further and make it more connected.

I sit in a lot of conversations about online video. It’s not only something I’m particularly interested in, but it’s something my agency considers a core and beloved part of our marketing mix. So I’ll admit, sometimes when I hear the current conversation about video I get a little stabby. Because while marketers are starting to understand how great video is, they’re not truly using it.

It’s time to push your video marketing to the max. Sure, video is a great vehicle for those unboxings, the product views, and your customer testimonials, but that’s not all video is capable of.

Below are five different ways to use video.

1. To Recognized Your Audience

Have you heard of Vsnap? If not, it’s a tool that allows you to record short video messages to share with your audience. The company views these video snapshots as a way for businesses to feel and act more human. And you know what? Vsnap actually practices what they preach.

Every time someone follows Vsnap on Twitter, community manager Trish Fontanilla sends them a video recognizing them and saying thanks.When one of their community members tweeted they were having a bad day, Trish sent him a video message to cheer him up.(If someone is chatting about them on Twitter, Trish will hop into the conversation and say hello when it’s appropriate, of course).

She’s actually become a little Internet Famous simply by using video to connect with the company’s friends and users. These videos may only take :30-:60 to create, but they show users Vsnap thinks they matter.

Using video for customer support or just to say “thanks” may not be scalable or appropriate for every business, but when can you use video to be more human?

Maybe it’s a video sent at the end of an event you’ve hosted where you thank people for attending and invite them to keep in contact. Maybe it’s a video message when someone completes their first order. Or their 10th. Or after they’ve left an impactful blog comment. Look for opportunities to be human.

2. To Provoke

I could pen a 10,000 word manifesto about the effects of childhood bullying. I could cite stats, share personal stories, and recount the number of tears I’ve shed as a result of people hurting my feelings. But you know what? It wouldn’t be nearly as impactful as this anti-bullying poem video created by Shane Koyczan. You wouldn’t feel my pain the way you feel his when you watch that video. The story wouldn’t stay with you as long.

That’s the power of video to provoke. They’re visceral. They make people feel and experience things words on a page cannot.

What messages are you putting out there that might be best suited for video than other medium? Where could your message be more thought provoking, more entertaining, more emotional?

3. To Tell a Story

We’re in an age of storytelling. Where customers want to know not only what you did, but how you did it, why you did it, and who helped you do it. They want the story. Why not tell that story through video?

Use video to introduce your team and its values, to share “behind the scenes” footage, and to visually stimulate your audience.Create mini-stories around your product or service’s key features to focus on your key messaging points and highlight important benefits.Show how that campaign came to life, how the character was designed, or where the concept came from by documenting your company process and how you work.

We’re seeing a lot of companies use video as a way of telling their brand story. Why? Because it works. The same way the “extra footage” holds people in theaters longer, the extra footage around your brand keeps your brand engaging and interesting.

4. To Simplify Ideas

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need to see something before I truly understand it. It’s not that I don’t appreciate you explaining what it is your product or service does, but I won’t fully grasp it until I see it in action.

That’s what video does.

For those of us in complicated industries (i.e., anything involving the Web or technology), using video to simplify concepts can make the difference between someone understanding what it is you’re all about and them walking away confused.

For example, what’s more confusing than the healthcare industry? Almost nothing. That’s why Stay Smart, Stay Healthy uses whiteboard videos to explain difficult concepts and make them easier for their consumers to grasp.

That video accomplishes what no amount of written words could. It makes healthcare understandable to the average person.

Or maybe it isn’t your industry that’s confusing, but your business. Maybe you’re a cloud-based company or you do something that most people aren’t comfortable or familiar with just yet. By using a video to simplify your company message/purpose, you help people feel less intimidated by what you have to offer. They don’t see the jargon, they only see the benefit. They see you.

5. To Entertain

Rather than dedicate resources to creating sales videos, why not create something your audience will not only enjoy watching, but will want to share? Our consumer’s time has always been valuable, but in a world where attention spans are shorter than ever, creating video that entertains while it informs (or just entertains) ensures your brand stands in a user’s mind and that you’re leaving them with a positive brand impression.

Why did Harlem Dance videos go viral? Because they were short, they were fun, and they included a formula that didn’t require a huge time investment.

Your audience loves video. They love to consume it, to share, and to be part of it. How are you using video in your marketing?

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Bing Says Goodbye To Bing Shopping, Hello Product Search With Rich Captions & Product Ads

Today, Bing announced that Bing Shopping is being replaced by Product Search, which simply integrates product results within Bing search results rather than in a separate destination. Unlike Google, Bing also continues to offer both paid and free ways for merchants to have product listings.

Shopping Results Integrated

Here’s an example of how the new integrated experience will look, where shopping results appear above and to the side of the regular listings:

Product Ads: Paying To Be Included

Product Ads, which�are in closed beta through the holidays, will be incorporated into Bing’s new so called “product search experience.” They will appear on both Bing and Yahoo and stand out from regular ads by having images and pricing information. In the example above, you can see some of these in the sidebar. Here’s another close-up example, where they can be seen in the sidebar, to the right:

Rich Captions: Being Included For Free

With this announcement, Bing is also unveiling a new feature for merchants to augment their regular search listings, turning them into product listings through a featured called Rich Captions.

With Rich Captions, merchants will be able to include product price and availability information for display in the search results on Bing, as shown in the example below.

What happens is that Bing will look at the results it returns for a particular query. If it sees that a particular page also matches the same page as provided in a product feed, it will then transform the web search result to add price and availability information.

Based on that, you’ll clearly want to be using search-friendly URLs for Bing to make a match with the users’ search query.

Rich Captions will roll out in the next month. You’ll then see a “Rich Captions” check box in your store settings page with your Bing Merchant Center. To participate in Rich Captions, you’ll have to opt-in by checking that box.� If you don’t already have a Bing Merchant Center store set up, you can do so from Bing Ads and submit your product feed.

Bing says it may take a few weeks for them to review feeds and onboard merchants.

Survey: Half Of Small Businesses Never Update Their Listings Online

ConstantContact’s SinglePlatform division has released the results of a new survey of small businesses (SMBs). The “headline” finding is that nearly half (49 percent) say they’ve never updated their listings online. The survey polled “more than 350″ SMBs.

Most small businesses are overwhelmed and confused by even basic online marketing. This is reflected in some of the seemingly contradictory findings of the survey:

50�percent of SMBs have seen listings for their business that are not accurate70�percent of SMBs say they don�t have the time to manage listings on all of the sites that consumers useOnly 23 percent of SMBs have a good sense of how listings drive traffic to their business

What all this means is that most SMB listings are likely to be missing enhanced or “rich” content that consumers increasingly look for and rely on to help make purchase decisions. It also probably means that original errors in the listings (50 percent) are likely never corrected.

The overwhelming majority of these SMBs (85 percent) said it’s important for them to be found on major search sites, local search apps and directory sites. And 78 percent believe that new customers will find them through these sites and apps. A previous ConstantContact survey affirmed that the primary concern of small businesses is finding new customers.

Google has said in the past that roughly 20 percent of PC-based search is related to location and local information. The company has also formally and informally has said that between 40 percent and 50 percent of mobile search is about local information or location. Different business categories see different volumes of mobile vs. PC-based search.

Here are some additional findings from the survey:

84 percent of SMBs believe that having a website that can easily be viewed on a mobile device is important to their businessOnly 25 percent of SMBs know how to create a mobile optimized web site62�percent of SMBs think it is important to be seen on major mobile apps85�percent of SMBs believe that in the future more people will be looking for their business on mobile sites

Overall, these findings highlight or illustrate the challenges that US small businesses face in managing their online information — even something as seemingly basic as managing listings information. Services such as SinglePlatform, Yext and UBL seek to simplify that process by offering a single point of entry and then syndicating local data across the internet.

Yet despite these and other efforts to simplify online marketing and provide greater “transparency” about what works and what doesn’t the practical reality is that most SMBs are more confused than ever.

Google CEO Larry Page Loses Voice, But 'Nothing Seriously Wrong'

Google CEO Larry Page won't be speaking at the company's I/O Conference in San Francisco next week because he's reportedly lost his voice.

Page, 39, attempted to quickly quell fears of health issues, sending an email to Google employees stating that "there is nothing seriously wrong with me" and he will "continue to run the company," according to numerous published reports.

Soft-spoken Page sat out of the company's annual shareholders' meeting on Thursday due to having lost his voice, which Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said could stop Page from speaking at public engagements for several weeks.

"I wanted to start by saying that Larry is very sorry he cannot be here today but he's unfortunately lost his voice," Schmidt told investors. "This means he can't do any public speaking engagements for the time being - that includes today's shareholder meeting, I/O next week, and our earnings call in mid-July.

"That said, Larry will, of course, continue to run the company. He will be involved in all the strategic business decisions we make - just like today. In fact Sergey has said it may make Larry a better CEO because he will have to choose his words carefully."

Although Page won't be in attendance, we're expecting interesting revelations at next week's Google I/O Conference. Among these topics will be the next iteration of the Android mobile operating system known as Jelly Bean and the firm's long rumored tablet, which is expected to launch as the Asus Nexus 7.

This article was originally published on the Inquirer.

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Search Funnels in AdWords Show Value for Every Click

AdWords search funnels reporting was originally released in beta in 2010. It’s been available since then living quietly in the conversion section of the accounts of advertisers who have enabled conversion tracking.

Recently, this set of reporting was super-sized with greater visibility, help documentation, and data integration into multiple account views. Now advertisers can view search funnel data in columns alongside other important metrics to greater inform optimizations.

Why Search Funnels are Valuable

Conversions in AdWords get attributed to the keyword that the searcher last clicked on. However, there is more of a process that takes place that includes a number of queries, paths, and timing – all of which help to guide the consumer along to the conversion and therefore add value to the PPC account.

Advertisers know that multiple searches occur before a consumer finally converts. This report shows more detail behind series of steps consumers will take before completing a conversion.

This data demonstrates there is value across keywords, exposing those keywords that have “assisted” with the conversions, but maybe were not the last click.

For example:

Someone searching for [waterproof work boots] clicked but didn’t covert = assisted clickSomeone searching for [sale on work boots] was served ad, but didn’t click = assisted impressionSomeone searching for [main street shoes] clicked and converted = last click gets the creditTypes of ReportingTop Paths: Four reports showing common paths of clicks and/or impressions that took place up to the final conversion. This data can be viewed by clicks, impressions, query paths, and transitions.Assists: Shows clicks and impressions that led to, but were not actually the final conversion.Timing: Shows how much time is involved in the process up to the conversion and how many touches occurred beforehand.First and last clicks: Keywords that were literally the first click in the process and the last click that converted. The type of keywords used for these will provide insight on searcher behavior at the beginning and of the process.

Assist information is available from the campaign level down to the keywords level. Conversion tracking must be activated to get this insightful data.

How to Get Started


Once you log in, go the ‘Tools and Analysis’ tab.Select Conversions.Select Search Funnels on the lower left.

Incorporating data columns:

From the campaign, ad group, ads, or keywords tabs.Select Columns drop-down.Select Search Funnels.Click to add the metrics you want to see.

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Bing & Yahoo Prompting iPhone Users To Switch Search Engines

We knew that Bing was added as an option in the default search engines used on the new Apple iPhone iOS4. But if you try to searching on either Bing or Yahoo when your default search provider is Google, both will prompt you to switch to their own search engine.

Not only will you be asked to switch, if you click okay, the switch will happen easily and automatically. Changing search providers on normal browser toolbars is not this easy, but on the iPhone, it can happen without a user really thinking about it.

Go to on your iPhone using iOS4. Note, I personally tested this on my new iPhone 4 (yea I waited on line this morning). Conduct a search and a prompt will come up. Notice, Google is my current search provider:

Clicking “Okay” will automatically switch my search provider in the top right box from Google to Yahoo:

The same applies from Yahoo to Bing:

Google is the only one of the big three not to prompt users to switch to them on the iPhone.

Note, to change your search provider manually, go to settings then click on safari and select search engine and pick your favorite search engine:

Postscript: Supposedly, this is not a new feature and has been how this has been handled since 2009. A Yahoo spokesperson told us:

This is a Yahoo! Search feature, and not specific to the new iPhone OS. If you conduct a search on the iPhone/iPod through Yahoo!, and have another default search engine set on the browser, we�ll prompt the user to see if they�d like to make Yahoo! Search default. If the user selects no, they won�t see the message again.

This is something that we enabled on the iPhone in November of 2009; we tested it earlier in 2008/2009, and then re-enabled it after last year�s Yahoo! mobile homepage launch.

Google Kills Tilde Search Operator

One of the lesser-known tools used by searchers on Google has been the tilde sign (~) operator.

When you placed the tilde sign immediately in front of a keyword, Google would also include synonyms for that word in their search results. This was useful for webmasters determining additional keywords by seeing what words Google associates together.

Unfortunately, Google has quietly dropped support for the tilde sign in Google search results.

Google's Dan Russell confirmed the deprecation, as Google Operating System reported:

Yes, it's been deprecated. Why? Because too few people were using it to make it worth the time, money, and energy to maintain. In truth, although I sometimes disagree with the operator changes, I happen to agree with this one. Maintaining ALL of the synonyms takes real time and costs us real money. Supporting this operator also increases the complexity of the code base. By dropping support for it we can free up a bunch of resources that can be used for other, more globally powerful changes."

Hillary MacBain seems to be the first who noticed it had stopped working on June 15, 2013. It has also been removed from Google's Help Center article and that searchers using the tilde sign no longer see synonyms in their search. Now, searchers will only see the results for the keyword they used, as if the tilde sign was not included in the keyword search.

The tilde sign was included in the May 13, 2013 capture of the Help Center article, so the support was removed very recently. While the tilde sign was probably not used by very many people on it regular basis, it has been used since at least 2003 and it was very useful for webmasters.

There doesn’t seem to be any reason for Google to remove the tilde sign operator now. There was controversy a few years ago where the tilde sign was used with the word Scientology, and it also brought up a Wikipedia article for “cult”. However, there was nothing notable recently that hit the news that would prompt Google to remove it.

MacBain does note that the features still seems to be available as a Google Drive feature, and recommends this article for setting it up, for those who can’t live without the tilde operator. However, because it has been removed from Google search and their Help Center article, it would seem likely that it will go missing from Google Drive at some point in the future.

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Google News Showing Web Site Results For Some Navigational Queries

Google News is now showing the top web search result listing in the news results when the query has navigational intent.

For example, if you search Google News for [] at the top of the search results page, you will see a search snippet and link to their web site. Clicking on the link takes you to the web site and not to a news story. Clicking on the “all results” link below that listing, takes you to more web results. Below that, you will find the news results.

Here is a screen shot:

This works for me sporadically for searches on large and even small brands. It works for searching in Google News for [apple], [microsoft], [], and others. But doesn’t seem to work when I search for some other large brands, such as [mcdonalds]. It does even work for smaller brands, such as searching for [rustybrick] but does not work when searching for [search engine land] or even [].

Google is constantly testing new search features, but this new feature seems to be rolling out as we speak.

Let Your Audience's Interests Guide Your Content Strategy

One of the keys to unlocking the virtuous cycle that exists between search marketing and social discovery is publishing content that is worthy of a Facebook like, a tweet, or a LinkedIn share.

As advertisers are encouraged to think and act more like publishers, writer's block is an increasingly common and pernicious problem.

Creating an ad for a captive audience like the people who tune into the local nightly news broadcast is one thing: Do some market research, create the spot, and then let her rip. But since the dawn of digital media, the iron-fisted control of the broadcast television and radio networks over the audience has weakened to the vanishing point.

In order for an advertiser to capture the attention of a target audience today, the advertiser's content must stand on its own. The audience will vote with its fingers and click or tap away from the content if it's not interesting, useful, or even amazing. In light of this fact, effective advertising has to live up to this promise.

Savvy brand marketers and their agencies are well aware that the bar has been raised. Unfortunately, useful data and analytic/automation tools to guide the creative process from strategy and key messages to content type(s) and format(s) are as rare as a unicorn.

Sure, social listening tools can be useful sources of insights into keywords and phrases people are using to discuss topics directly relevant to your category and brand. Similarly, keyword research can be a great tool for identifying topics of interest to a target audience within the same category.

However, these approaches do little to expand our understanding of what members of our target audience are actually searching for or interested in. They ignore the reality that oftentimes the same people talking about search marketing on Twitter are also talking about the upcoming season premiere of Showtime's "Homeland" on Facebook. And chances are most of them are more passionate about and engaged in the conversation about their favorite TV shows than they are in a new paid search report available through Google AdWords.

Discovering the less obvious or intuitive interests of your target audience is a phenomenal opportunity to unlock insights into topics and content that can capture their attention and drive engagement in surprising ways.

For example, my company works with a hardware technology provider that was running a campaign this spring to market a new device to college and graduate students.

By tracking the sharing of their content and connecting first-party audience data collected on their digital assets to third-party audience data from a variety of data providers, we quickly learned that when these students weren't visiting technology sites and participating in discussions about technology, they were looking for travel tickets and deals to relatively inexpensive destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Of course they were. These students were seeking low cost destinations for spring break. This was certainly an "aha" moment.

What was a reasonable conclusion from this data and the resulting recommendation to grab the attention of this tech marketer's target audience? In this case, the answer was to create content that combined interests in useful and entertaining ways, such as articles detailing how to use our customer's devices to find last minute travel deals and promotions where students could earn entries to win free air travel each time they referred friends to learn more about the benefits of this particular technology product.

By creating this "smarter content," coupled with engaging experiences that connect with a range of interests in which members of the target audience are passionate, the odds of them generating a lot of likes, tweets, shares, and backlinks go way up as well.

So the next time you're wondering about new and different kinds of content to create in order to reach and engage your target audience, consider using data about the interests of your audience to guide your strategy.

The customer loyalty and thanks you receive from your audience will come in the form of stronger social signals and increasing ranking in natural search results.

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Correlation, Causation & Coincidence in SEO

A recent blog post on Moz by Cyrus Shepard caused quite a stir in the SEO community. This stir was rooted in part over lack of understanding of the difference between correlation and causation, and in part because the author clearly tried to bridge the gap himself in his writing and imply causation where there was no evidence of such.

Before we dig into that, as well as a couple more examples, let's first get a better understanding of correlation, causation, and – for good measure – coincidence.

Merriam-Webster defines them each as:

Correlation: a relation existing between phenomena or things or between mathematical or statistical variables which tend to vary, be associated, or occur together in a way not expected on the basis of chance alone.Causation: the act or process of causing.Coincidence: the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection.

The difference then is that correlation doesn't make the claim that one event causes the other, just that they occur together statistically in a way that wouldn't be expected based on random chance. One can view this as similar to consistent coincidence.

Causation, on the other hand, claims that two or more events are tied together directly. And coincidence, as we are all likely aware, occurs when two events happen at the same time but aren't at all related.

Let's put this into real-world examples.

Correlation: If you eat three square meals every day promptly at 8 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 6 p.m., there will be a sizable period of time twice per year where your dinner time will correlate to the sun setting. An outside observer for this fixed duration may easily claim that like Pavlov's dog, your hunger for dinner is caused by the setting of the sun. Obviously this isn't true, but for this period the two events correlate.Causation: If you're walking down the street, texting all the way and walk face-first into a lamp post, you will get a bruise. While obviously texting doesn't cause facial bruises (though in this instance there is a correlation), the event of striking one's face against a hard object is the direct cause of the bruise. Thus, this is an example of causation.Coincidence: If you're sitting in a coffee shop and say hello to your friend and at exact the same time someone's phone rings, this is a coincidence. The mere sound of your voice doesn't inspire the ringing of phones and statistically one wouldn't expect the event to occur together outside of random chance.

It's very important to understand and remember the difference between the three and to question data based on an understanding of this difference. In fact, below I've included a link to an article on "spurious correlation" (which the meal-time situation noted above is an example of), but for now these definitions will work well.

With this in mind, let's look at the claims made in the Moz article noted above and explore some other examples that you likely have (or will) encounter while monitoring your rankings.

Google +1s and Search Rankings

To begin, you may want to read the article I'm referencing which can be found here.

Now, credit where it's due. The article is properly titled, "Amazing Correlation Between Google +1s and Higher Search Rankings".

With this wording as the use of the word "correlation" throughout the piece, the author acknowledges that there is no evidence or testing done to prove that +1s directly impact rankings, but that pages with higher numbers of +1s tend to rank higher. However, the whole article isn't on +1s so let's go through the points one-by-one that the author discusses.

1. Posts are Crawled and Indexed Almost Immediately

The author's assertion here is that content will get indexed faster if it's posted and shared in Google+. I have seen no large-scale tests of the speed with which content gets indexed by being linked to on standard Google+ profile vs. just being part of a highly crawled site; however there is evidence that a page can get crawled quickly via a strong Google+ profile.

Author's Claim: Accurate, but perhaps too optimistic.

2. Google+ Posts Pass Link Equity

The author claims that shared links pass link weight simply because they're not nofollowed (whereas other links are). Now, this brings up an interesting question: Does the fact that Google nofollows some links necessarily indicate that they pass weight to the others?

One could ask, "Why nofollow some if you aren't going to pass weight to any?" More likely than passing link weight from the easily abused environment that would breed goes back to point one – they will crawl the content that is shared (i.e., followed) and not crawl additional links, thus seriously restricting the benefits of comment spamming on stronger profiles.

I can't say the conclusion that the links are nofollowed just to pass crawlers and not link juice is heavily tested or based on more than an understanding of what Google's trying to accomplish and the pitfalls if they started passing link weight through Google+, but I will assert that it's far more likely than Google setting themselves up to be a link spam property.

Author's Claim: Unlikely

3. Google+ is Optimized for Semantic Relevance

The author claims that the ability to essentially write full blog posts into Google+ adds semantic relevancy to a URL shared by the post. It's true that Google has gone to lengths to ensure that the post page is unique and optimized. It's almost as if Google would like to rank its own site for the posts it contains. That part isn't to be debated, of course.

The real question is: does Google assign relevancy from a Google+ post to the URL shared in it?

If we think about what Google would be trying to accomplish, knowing that they do use Google+ for indexing, it makes sense that Google would use the same technology they use on their general relevancy analysis internally. Now, does Google use that to credit the target URL or do they use it to assign relevancy to their own post? That's a different question, and one which hasn't yet been answered openly (and likely never will, but if Matt Cutts would like to voice his thoughts please consider this the invitation).

Because the task is simple (make sure the description of a link you're sharing is accurate and contains a summary of the content) and the only pitfall will be that it passes no semantic weight to the target URL but does result in a better optimized post, I would add this to the "do it either way" list. It's not going to hurt, it may help – and even if it doesn't help directly, it may result in higher click-throughs and even your Google+ post ranking.

Author's Claim: Possible

Other Notes

The author goes from there to discuss ways to optimize a Google+ profile. One thing is certain, having a Google+ profile and using it is a good idea.

Whether you find Google+ of a high direct value or you simple have it in a "Google said to drink the Kool-Aid so I did" kind of way, more trust signals are being added to the Google web of services and the more trust you can send, the more trustable you are. The advice the author gives (especially in regards to the authorship tag which will directly boost the trust of your profile) is solid.

Now, you may be asking at this point, "The title mentioned +1s but you haven't touched on those. Why?" Interestingly the article itself doesn't cover much about +1s.

The author asserts that, "the relationship between +1s and higher rankings goes beyond correlation into the territory of actual causation," but retracted that with the next sentence added after publishing, "This should say 'posting on Google+' instead of Google +1s. It's clear that Google doesn't use the raw number of +1s directly in its search algorithm, but Google+ posts have SEO benefits unlike other social platforms," which leaves one scratching their head. The title and the image used right at the top to assert its accuracy is based on +1s and yet we're now to learn that it was never intended to be about +1s?

I find that unlikely, and perhaps a response to Cutts coming out and stating, "If you make compelling content, people will link to it, like it, share it on Facebook, +1 it, etc. But that doesn't mean that Google is using those signals in our ranking." There's actually much more he said which you can read here but that's the gist. The article, it seems, is incorrect in the implied assertion that +1s aid in higher rankings.

What Does This Have to do With Causation, Correlation & Coincidence?

At this point, you may be wondering why I started this piece with an explanation of causation, correlation, and coincidence. Throughout the article we had to put on our thinking caps and make this assessment whether we knew we were doing it.

At its core, the question was, "Do +1s improve rankings?" Ignoring Cutts coming out and saying "no," we have to address the probable reality which would be that a strong web presence and brand are going to attract more +1s.

Similarly, a strong web presence and brand are going to attract higher rankings and more links. Did the +1s lead to higher rankings? No. The strong web presence leads to both. This is a correlation, not causation.

What Are Some Other Examples?

Whether we know it or not, we make this assessment often; sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly. With SEO we often have to play probabilities and go with the most likely scenario in any given environment, so let's look at a couple other examples.

You Changed Your Title Tag and Your Site Dropped the Next Day

I hear this quite often (though you can substitute H1 tag, description, content, etc.). Rarely do such changes impact rankings that quickly.

The first place to look is to enter the URL into Google and see what they're presenting to visitors. Is the title the new or old one? If it's the old title then your page hasn't yet been cached, if it's the new then it has. The conclusion would be different for each event.

1. Your Title Hasn't Changed

If the change hasn't been cached, then the probability of it impacting the results is extremely low if any.

This is an example of coincidence as opposed to either correlation or causation. It's important to know this as not knowing will delay any efforts to addressing the real cause of the decline.

Rather than spending time undoing changes and waiting, praying, and wondering why it's not working, you'll want to look for other changes that took place; updates, warnings or penalties, etc.

2. Your Title Has Changed

In this event, the change may indeed have impacted the results, but before assuming causation you'll need to investigate other possibilities.

For example, if the environment was exactly the same as in the situation above (i.e., title hadn't changed) with the sole difference being that the crawlers were working hard and the page got cached, the same drop would occur and you may mistakenly draw the conclusion that it was due to the title adjustment.

This is perhaps the worst-case scenario as there is a clear and obvious culprit, albeit incorrect, and without questioning whether it too may be a coincidence, you may spend time and effort directed at correcting the wrong issue.

Here we have to add the title to the list of possibilities, but not ignore everything else.

You Changed Your Title and Traffic Grew

First, congratulations. Traffic is a much easier factor to look at, as there are far fewer variables.

If you rank for phrase X and your rankings stay the same, you'd expect to see the same traffic. If the traffic goes up or down after changing a title or description (remembering that it will have no click-through impact until Google caches it and begins displaying it in the SERPs) then one may (and most likely will) jump to the conclusion that this is an example of causation. That a title of format A will yield an improvement in traffic of B, this may well be the case but, as with the title example above, other factors need to be considered.

Some other questions you will need to ask are:

Is this new traffic to the same page/source?

I've unfortunately had to inform people that the spike they saw was from a different source of traffic when they mistakenly assumed an increase in traffic overall meant that their Google traffic had improved.

To know whether we're dealing with causation we need to look only at a specific set of traffic (example – traffic to that specific page and only from Google) to know whether the two are tied together.

Remember, traffic to other pages doesn't count.

Are you measuring the right timeframe?

Remember that most sites have weekly, monthly, and annual trends.

If you notice a jump in traffic two days after a new title went live you can't compare those two days vs. the 2 days prior. That may well have you comparing Monday and Tuesday with Saturday and Sunday.

The simplest comparison is to wait a week and compare full weeks of data. But assuming you don't have the patience for that (it's OK – I rarely do either) you can compare with the same days the week prior (assuming no special circumstances such as holidays or ranking changes).

Even this isn't ideal. I prefer to compare with the same days the year prior if possible, but this requires the rankings to have held (unlikely) and for you to have a solid grasp of the year over year traffic trends in your sector (i.e. if search volume is up or down overall you may see false positives or negatives based not on the title, but on overall search trends).

Assuming that you're comparing things correctly, you can now assume causation and apply similar changes elsewhere.


I came across an interesting piece in my travels that covers a lot of SEO well (including the +1 discussion) and that is a piece on "spurious correlation" that can be found on the Everyday Sociology Blog.

I've used the term correlation loosely in this article; however, what we're talking about in the +1 example is spurious correlation, which is a situation that isn't at all related, but changes at the same points. An example drawn from the article:

"One student had gone out partying the weekend before, and while sitting in the bar watching his friends during the evening, he noticed that people who had the most fun dancing were also those who were most likely to throw up by the end of the evening. It's not that dancing made them sick ("A" causes "B"), or that being sick make them have fun dancing ("B" causes "A"), rather there is a third variable, alcohol consumption ("C") that leads to both fun dancing and sickness."

To that end, I would task each and every one of us to sincerely ponder correlation, causation, and even coincidence with each assumption about SEO we make. At best, it will save you time and energy; at worst, it'll force you to fully understand all the angles of a situation before tackling it.

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