Twitter Officially Files for IPO

It has long been speculated, but Twitter has officially filed for their IPO, ending months of rumors.

Ever since Facebook went public, many people believed Twitter would be the next major online technology company to file for an IPO. Today they announced their intention, unsurprisingly, via their online Twitter feed: "We've confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO. This Tweet does not constitute an offer of any securities for sale."

The terms of the IPO are confidential, as new regulations from the JOBS Act allow small businesses, such as Twitter, keep their financial information from the public.

The Verge reported that Twitter is the first well-known web company to file for a "secret" IPO. It also means that Twitter is confirming it has less than $1 billion in revenue by filing for a secret IPO. They will still have to release their financial information, however the company won't have to do so until the road show part of their public offering.

Bloomberg is reporting that the lead underwriter is Goldman Sachs Group and will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

In keeping with the Twitter vibe, immediately after Twitter officially announced it on their @Twitter feed, they posted an image of their employees working in the office with a simple "Now, back to work."

Bringing Together Paid, Owned and Earned Media
Sept. 10-13, 2013: With a newly announced, completely renovated agenda,
SES San Francisco could be the most valuable online marketing conference you attend this year. Register today and save up to $200!
*Pre-show rate through September 6.

Google Testing New Look For Mobile AdWords Ads

Keep an eye out for a new look Google is testing for mobile AdWords ads.

In the screenshot below, you’ll likely first notice the new eye-catching yellow ad icon next to the display URL.

The bright new label replaces the much more subtle “ad” that rests next to the “i” icon in the current design. The new “Ad” label especially pops because the standard yellow ad background is also gone.

Now both the organic listings and ads are in white boxes that sit in front of a new gray background. The gray background behind the Google logo and search box has been removed.

Here’s a look at the current mobile search results:

Hat tip to �@adaircameron�and@tecnonetblog for spotting this latest test. What do you think of the new look?

Content 20/20 – Jonathan Mildenhall on Coca Cola’s Content Strategy

There�s no doubt about it: Coca-Cola is one of the, if not THE most recognized brand in the world. At the afternoon keynote presentation at Content Marketing World 2013 Day 1, the crowd was lucky enough to hear one of Coke�s most important marketing strategists – Jonathan Mildenhall � who is the Vice President of Global Creative and also one of the rockstars in our Content Marketing Rocks! eBook.

Their term: liquid storytelling.

Every day, Coke�s team is tasked with brainstorming ways of how they can tell the story of their brand, through the eyes of their consumers, and they constantly find marketing tactics that no one has the bravery to do before. Mildenhall�s keynote presentation was filled with examples of how his team really listens to the consumer in strategizing how to market to them through storytelling, and thus insert the brand into consumer conversations. Are you telling stories with your marketing for your consumers?

See if you can learn any ideas for your company (potentially with a smaller budget, and on a smaller scale) from Coke�s case studies.

�The voice of the consumer is the heart of the brand.�

Drive liquid and linked marketing: When asked to embody Coke Zero, they came up with the concept of creating video to show how a dance goes viral. This resonates with their target audience as a story they�re very familiar with. The entire campaign was based around the video showcasing the story of the teen who started it all.

Make a case for change: When Australians weren�t drinking enough Coke, the company connected with them by placing popular names in the country on the bottles and cans, and inviting consumers to create their own. This tactic wasn�t just demonstrated at the point of purchase, but recruited �Kates� and �Kylies� to appear in everything from billboards to digital ads � you and your friends were up in lights and invited to share a Coke. Your consumer is engaged solely because it�s their name � and then their image that the brand is specifically speaking to. Everyone wants to be famous, and the campaign result notably increased sales of the beverage in that country.

Evolve in your storytelling: During the 2012 Super Bowl, more than half a million people watched the iconic Coca-Cola Polar Bears watch the game. They each reacted when their respective team scored, motioned along with their favorite commercials, and slept during the competitor ads. Coke�s consumers watched the bears for an average of 28 minutes per stream, making the consumer engaged for a much longer time than any traditional advertising. This tactic worked because not only had it never been done before, but it captivated the audience who watches the game �for the ads.�

Build social purpose into your storytelling: Coca-Cola set up a Coke Machine in India and Pakistan that contained a webcam and interactive video stream between the two. Those who approached could wave, �touch� hands, and bring together people from the two countries. Not only is this an innovative approach, but again it involves the interaction of your fans who can tell your story for you � and has a social purpose of connecting your consumers with each other, creating community in a new, virtual way.

Apply the 70/20/10 investment principle for liquid content: 70% is safe content, 20% is innovating on what works well, and 10% is high-risk. For Fanta, Coke created a commercial in Brazil where people playing in the street attempted to keep a giant orange ball in the air. To expand on this commercial and reach teens, they created a game that users could play online with the same objective. It bombed. Lesson learned � they turned around to create something completely new � a groundbreaking graphic, interactive novel that was widely read, interacted with, and played as a game by the target teen audience. It was much more quality, shareable, user content that resonated well.

In summary, Coca-Cola�s goal is to obtain a share of popular culture � by executing strategies that position them as a groundbreaking, storytelling brand. Every day they will strive for something bigger and better because Coca-Cola’s C-suite understands that in marketing, in the end:

�If you don’t have room to fail, you don’t have room to grow.�

Yelp Triples The Search Filters On Its iOS App

Yelp quietly made a pretty big expansion of its search capabilities on iOS within the past week.

The company’s latest iOS app update included a new photo viewer, increased visibility of bookmarked businesses, improvements to review highlights … and about 15 new search filters that should make it easier for users to find the specific types of businesses they’re looking for.

Before the update, Yelp’s iOS app had seven filters including things like Price, Delivery, Offering a Deal and Distance. The update added 15 new filters:

Takes ReservationsAccepts Credit CardsOutdoor SeatingGood for KidsGood for GroupsTake OutWheelchair AccessibleAccepts InsuranceHas TVDogs AllowedFree Wi-FiPaid Wi-FiFull BarBeer and Wine OnlyHappy Hour

Certain filters only show up on searches for certain types of businesses; i.e., you won’t see “Beer and Wine Only” when you’re searching for a dry cleaner. Most of the filters seem geared toward restaurants and related businesses. Here’s how some the new options look on the iPhone (on a restaurant search):

Yelp says the new search filters will be available soon on its Android device.

Your SEO Rainy Day Fund

So your site is chugging along. You're feeling happy. Organic visits are through the roof and your converting users into happy customers at well over the standard percentage.

Then one day it happens. You walk in, open your analytics and discover your traffic statistics have fallen off a cliff.

At first you're convinced it's a mistake, but after a few stressful checks you find out no – this is real. Your site is down 25 percent, 30 percent, or maybe even 80 percent!

Days stretch into a week, then weeks. Now you know what happened – you were hit by Google – either manually or algorithmically you aren't sure yet, but you know it happened. Now what?

Maybe you're lucky and the action was manual, so you can go into the manual viewer and see what you did wrong, what pages are affected, and what you need to do to get out of the pits of Mordor. Or maybe it was the result of an algorithmic change, which means you have to figure out which one, or ones, and then wait until the algorithm comes back around to recrawl your site. If it is a Penguin problem, you could be waiting a while.

Could This Kill Your Business?

Penalties come in all shapes and sizes. Some actions only affect a page or two. Some penalties remove main keywords, others sections from your site, and then there is the big daddy of penalties, the homepage removal.

Homepage deindexing is just that, your homepage won't be found for your site name. Now, it may be found for the full domain, so "domain" brings up nothing, but "" will bring up a listing. In the worst of the worst, neither will bring up anything in the search results.

Homepage removal also usually results in a significant deindexing of your site in general. So where you might have had several hundred pages indexed you now have less than a handful.

So whether it's a page removal, keyword removal, link devaluation, or the harshest homepage dissolution, where does that leave you? For many it means the end of business, as they know it, for some it means the end of business.

What Happens After a Penalty?

If you see you received a penalty and you know you did something against Google's Webmaster Guidelines drop everything and I mean everything you are doing and go fix it the moment you see it.

Sometimes and just sometimes for some things, Google has what I call the "you didn't mean it" or "we all do stupid things sometimes" grace period, meaning anything can happen by accident and if you get your stuff correct fast and I mean hours not days, fast, they might just go ahead and readjust you.

So let's say that didn't work or you didn't notice it until a month or so later. (Yes it happens all the time.) This article isn't about writing reconsideration requests and how to remove links or replace thin content, this is about how you survive if the worst happens.

So the question to you is – if your livelihood relies on the Internet and your website is a significant piece of that income, how will you survive? Where is your SEO rainy day fund?

SEO Rainy Day Fund – What?

As SEO consultants we hear it so often, too often. My site lost X traffic, we need your help, but we have no money and oh yeah it's been like a year. Can you help us?

Well see here is the thing – we want to help you, we feel for you and we often offer you some advice for free, but we have to eat too and so we can't do it for "free", "exchange of services", "shares", or "part of your profits".

So what is a desperate site owner to do? You need an SEO rainy day fund.

How Much Will Recovery Cost You?

Unfortunately, many site owners, usually out of ignorance, or hiring cheap or unethical SEO firms damage themselves unintentionally.

You don't have to have this money tied up in savings, but make sure you have an empty line of credit, savings, or rich uncle. Big firms make sure it is added into your discretionary funds.

If you're a "site that should be in Google" (e.g., a big brand) you are less likely to suffer the huge losses we're talking about here. You have to be very brazen or just not address your issues.

PPC Money

Cost: Variable cost depending on keywords

Do a review of your main money-making key phrases and search terms every six months and find out what it would cost you to survive, if you had to, on the paying for every one of those terms. Now not every term that converts, the ones you need to survive a penalty situation. Also make sure to know if your keywords are seasonally dependent.

Google makes this pretty easy for you in the AdWords Keyword Planner (it's free to use but you must have an AdWords account) and there are other tools out there like SEOquake that will pull in keyword values for you.

Know how much it costs you to keep your company a float if you were to suddenly nose dive off the organic cliff. Now this is just organic terms, don't go and look at every term on your site, you will give yourself a heart attack and we don't want to do that.

Make sure you have access to enough of this money to survive six months. Most people won't even know for one to two months why they lost their traffic, let alone how to recover, then few get their sites back in the first reconsideration request if it is manual or even longer if you have to wait for the algorithm to come around and fix it. Make sure you have six months in reserve.

Site Audit Fees

Costs: $2,000 to $7,000+

When dealing with a penalty situation, cost shouldn't be your determining factor. Not that you should throw cost to the wind, but if you're price shopping instead of expertise shopping, you're setting yourself up to fail.

With the addition of the manual action viewer it would be easy to think that all you have to do is go in, click, voila! There is your penalty and apply the one solution fits all to your site and everything will be all right, but this isn't the case.

The Manual Action Viewer only shows manual actions, so any cute little animal penalties or algorithmic filters that resemble penalties won't show here.Just because it says you have X penalty on X pages, doesn't mean you don't have Y penalty on other Y pages. Only experienced SEO professionals will know how to look through your data to see what is really there.This stuff is complicated, without years of expertise as well as keeping up with all the current daily information it is very easy to be led down the wrong path and wind up with empty pockets as you helplessly watch your site drown in a see of red down arrows.

For a standard penalty site Audit with actionable items, meaning things you can do to help your site, a reputable experienced SEO will typically charge between $2,000 to $7,000 (though for enterprise sites it can be much more).

This is just a general figure, some might charge a little less, some a little more and all of it is dependent on your site and its issues. However if you are not prepared to pay this rate, you are not prepared to get yourself out of penalty status. Knowing how all this works and the time it takes to truly delve into your penalty issues is a service you are paying someone to do and it is one that costs money. Be prepared.

Your site audit will outline your issues, the main items you can fix to affect your penalty issues, and possibly your reconsideration documentation if you perform the necessary changes. This, however, is completely subjective and every SEO professional has their own way of doing things, but if you aren't getting actionable items, then what are you paying for?

Additional Costs

Costs: Variable

Unless you have time to wait for your site to get back to full health, you will need additional resources to make any real headway on your penalty issues, especially if you want to make that headway quickly.

The tricky part of a rainy day fund is, what is next? If you play in the world of risky link buys you may never get your site back, do you have the funds to create a new one? If you have a thin content penalty, do you have funds to hire content writers? If your site just got hit with an over-optimization, what will you do to get those links back?

The list is long, but here are a few of the potential costs for particular scenarios. Note: these are general costs and are variable on city, state, country, size type and vertical.

Panda Penalty

Type: Algorithmic or manual for thin (shallow) content.

Solution: All new, unique, original informative content. Sometimes you need to develop all new site architectures and navigations, this can also incur design and development costs depending on how deep your thin content issue runs and the flexibility of your site.

Costs: Expect to pay $5 to $100 a page for freelance and copywriting houses or $25,000 to $60,000 a year for a full-time writer in-house.

Penguin Penalty

Type: Algorithmic.

Solution: Reduce optimization across site, links or anchor text. Sometimes you need to develop all new inbound links, internal URLS, rewritten title tags and content.

Costs: Expect to pay $5-$20 per link acquisition (we aren't talking buying the link, just costs associated with you or your firm getting the new link to your site); or $1,000 to $10,000+ project costs to eliminate the spammy tactics, depending on site size and level of issue; $45,000-$65,000 a year for a junior level SEO in-house who can take care of these tasks for you

Unnatural Links

Solution: Identify bad links, remove bad links, create disavow list, submit request for reconsideration. To remove links coming into your site you will need to contact site owners and ask them to take the link down. This can often take 3 or more "passes" (communications) with the site owner, as they have no incentive to take the time to remove these links. Many will ask for money.

Costs: Expect to pay $1,000 to $5,000 in either consultants or tools to identify/document link issues; $1,000 to $10,000+ project costs to make the removal requests; $500 to $5,000 to create your reconsideration request and supporting documentation; $75,000 to $150,000 a year for a senior to expert level SEO in-house who can take care of these tasks for you; then $5 to $20 (on average) per new link acquisition after you're reincluded in the index (again, just costs associated with you or your firm getting the new link to your site).

All PenaltiesAgency Recovery Plans of any Type: This is where you forgo the a la carte, in-house plan and you purchase retainer services from an SEO agency or firm to help walk you through each and every step of the process at a set fee per month. They do the audit, the recovery plan, help you with the resources, the reconsideration and the site rebuild after reinclusion or what to do if that never happens.Monthly Retainer Rate: This will vary widely and by who is helping you, but remember you're paying for experience and experience costs money – often a lot of money. Being able to get a client out of a penalty situation takes skill, and SEO professional who do this are highly sought after and paid well. If someone is willing to do it for cheap and not a friend, lover, or family member, better look elsewhere.Giving Up: Getting a New Site: You might decide that recovery is impossible and your only solution is a new website. Even a small site, if done right with proper content and design, is looking at a minimum of $2,000 to $3,000. A large site can hit the seven-figure range.Penalty Survival Isn't Cheap

Penalty survival is always talked about in terms of how to recover your website, what to do to get back in Google's good graces, but rarely does anyone mention the very real costs of what a penalty can cost your company in hard dollars, for those who are not prepared it can mean the end of the line.

So just like you keep a personal rainy day fund, make sure to have access to an SEO penalty fund. Otherwise, if your site gets in trouble with Google, you might find yourself in the very uncomfortable position of handing out pink slips and sadly closing the doors. And yes we know it was probably unfair, but there is no Google reconsideration request for that.

Bringing Together Paid, Owned and Earned Media
Sept. 10-13, 2013: With a newly announced, completely renovated agenda,
SES San Francisco could be the most valuable online marketing conference you attend this year. Register today and save up to $200!
*Pre-show rate through September 6.

Social Media ROI: 14 Formulas to Measure Social Media Benefits

Measuring social media ROI can be a daunting task, but not impossible. Check out these handy formulas for calculating tangible social media benefits – advertising, content, leads,research, support, sales, and more!

My earlier post, "Social Media ROI: How to Define a Strategic Plan", provided step-by-step instructions for mapping out a high-level social media strategy that aligns with business goals.

The latter part of that process (step 6) involves selecting tactics to best achieve the defined goal metrics, in turn leading us to ROI opportunities. Prepare to quantify!

In this edition:

Social Media Tactic Planning ProcessSimplified Measurement - 3 Core ObjectivesSocial Media ROI vs. CBASocial Media Tactic Benefits (Formulas)Social Media Tactic Costs (Formulas)"Social Media, Meet ROI" (Presentation)

Social Media Tactic Planning Process:Define important metrics to compare different tactics.
Consider respective scale measurements (1=Low, 3=High, etc.) and weight/importance to aid scoring based on business priorities. (e.g., timing, resources, budget, competitive edge, goal alignment, difficulty/risk, etc.)Brainstorm tactics that serve both business and user goals.
Use a diverse mix of "mild to wild" options. Tip: Use theTriangle of Relevance Methodology to strategically achieve "magnetic" campaigns.For each tactic, brainstorm possible implementation outcomes and factors – both good and bad.
(e.g., social shares, web traffic, comments, testimonies, user-generated content, leads, support costs, legal considerations, etc.)Categorize the list into benefits and costs.
For benefits, align listed outcomes to goals and crosscheck them with high-level objectives like grow revenue, reduce costs, and improve satisfaction. Note: For potential risks, estimate the likelihood of the risk occurring.Evaluate and compute estimated benefit and cost values.
Tip: Leverage formulas noted below!Perform Cost-Based Analysis (CBA).
Determine the difference between total benefits and total costs.Weigh factors and score all tactics to identify and compare top candidates.
Analyze reasons for top scoring. (Be prepared to answer "why" and also look for anomalies in weighted scoring to adjust or investigate further.)

Simplified Measurement - 3 Core Objectives

The toughest part in going through the tactic selection process is often computing benefits and costs. Although marketers agree that lots of social media metrics are available, confusion remains on how to measure the actual benefits.

My advice is to start from these core business objectives: Grow Revenue, Reduce Costs, and Improve Satisfaction. Below I've charted some influence factors and metrics for each. These factors (and any more you can think of) are the gateway to our benefit formulas! 

Grow RevenueReduce CostsImprove SatisfactionLeadsConversionSalesCustomer RetentionAdvertising (ad impressions, clicks, traffic)Content (articles, reviews)Media (e.g. videos, photos)Resource StaffingMarket Research (surveys, focus groups)Product DevelopmentPublic RelationsCommunicationsSurvey Feedback ScorePositive Sentiment / Complaint CountAmerican Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)Inquiry Response TimesEmployee Satisfaction/RetentionPerfect OrdersReturns


Social Media ROI vs. CBA

Before we jump into the super awesome benefit formulas, the controversial debate of ROI versus CBA needs to be addressed. When it comes to calculating "wins" for campaigns, these two formulas are most commonly used:

 Cost-Based Analysis (CBA)Return on Investment (ROI)FormulaBenefits - Costs( Benefits - Costs ) / CostsExample$12,000 B - $1,000 C
= $11,000 CBA

$61,000 B - $50,000 C
= $11,000 CBA ($12,000 B - $1,000 C) / $1,000 C
= 11 or 1100% ROI

($61,000 B- $50,000 C) / $50,000 C
= 0.22 or 22% ROI FormatDollar ValuePercentage or RatioPurposeAnalyze estimated cost impact. e.g. make a profit, break-even, take a loss.Analyze investment effectiveness for generating a profit.FocusProfitInvestment ReturnCommon Use Compare options using a common currency and justify bottom-line feasibility of spending.Assess profitability as a basis for continuing and prioritizing future investments.Answers...Will we come out ahead?How effective were we at coming out ahead? What kind of payback did we get for the investment?

Note: An ROI of 1 or 100% implies you'd get back what you put into it, while CBA, also sometimes known as Cost-Benefit Analysis, has a $0 "break even" point.

Notice how in the examples above, the CBA for two different tactics with very different costs could be the same, while respective ROI sheds further light on the investment effectiveness.

"ROI can only be calculated AFTER the investment has yielded a return. It cannot and must not be estimated beforehand. Ever. Under any circumstances." 
- Olivier Blanchard, @thebrandbuilder (Author of Social Media ROI)

ROI is often calculated after implementation. However, you're unlikely to gain management support or choose optimal tactics without some supporting financial metrics. Up-front estimated measurement of tactics is vital to making smart social media decisions. Use Cost-Based Analysis (CBA) – and estimated ROI if needed – during social media tactic planning to:

Compare Tactics Using a Common Currency
Which social channels/tactics make the most sense for business?
Justify Tactic Spend Feasibility
Is it financially possible/worthwhile to partake in the social media tactic?

"Keep in mind that the calculation for return on investment, and therefore the definition, can be modified to suit the situation – it all depends on what you include as returns and costs. The definition of the term in the broadest sense just attempts to measure the profitability of an investment and, as such, there is no one 'right' calculation."
- Investopedia: Definition of 'Return On Investment - ROI'

Note: "Social Media ROI" is a buzzword phrase that loosely translated answers if the tactic can deliver tangible value. It could reference ROI and/or CBA formulas because both provide useful perspectives. Calculations done beforehand are simply estimates. Don't worry about the semantics. The important part is to actually do the measurement, understand the calculation, and select accordingly.

Fortunately, calculated benefits and costs easily plug into both CBA and ROI formulas!


Social Media ROI Formulas

(Click the heading links to jump down to that section.)

BenefitsCostsAdvertising Value
1. Online Social Mentions
2. Social Web Traffic Referrals
3. Search Web Traffic Referrals
4. Social SEO Improved Search Rank
5. Social Influencer Online Mentions
6. Social PR MentionsContent Value
7. Articles
8. Photos
9. VideosResearch Value
10. Research Value - Social InsightsSupport Value
11. Support Value - Online Self-ServiceLead and Sales Value
12. Social Leads (One-Time Value)
13. Social Leads (Lifetime Value)
14. Social-Aided ConversionLaborSoftware / Online ToolsEquipmentPromotional CostsTrainingLegal Risk


Enjoy these 14 formulas and examples to aid your computations! (Be sure to replace example placeholder numbers with your own values or industry-relevant estimated percentages.)

How much would it cost if you had to pay for the equivalent achieved by social media? What tangible outcomes related to the sales funnel will be impacted?


1) Advertising Value - Online Social Mentions:

GOAL: Grow Awareness, Reduce Ad Costs

_____(#) brand/product online social mentions, pins, etc.
X _____ (CPI) equivalent display ad impression costs
= $ Display Ad Impressions Value
(CPM, or cost per 1,000 impressions, could also be used.)

Example:  Estimated 150,000 social impressions at display ad costs per impression (CPI) of $0.008 (or $8 CPM) = $1,200 equivalent display ad impressions value


2) Advertising Value - Social Web Traffic Referrals:

GOAL: Drive More Web Traffic, Reduce Ad Costs

_____(#) social referral clicks to website
X $_____ (CPC) equivalent display or social ad costs
= $ Social Ad Value

Example:  Estimated 150 social referral clicks to the website at social ad costs of $3.99 per click = $1,197 equivalent social ad value


3) Advertising Value - Search Web Traffic Referrals:

(e.g., social reviews or comments ranking in search results)
GOAL: Drive More Web Traffic, Reduce Ad Costs

_____(#) search referral clicks to website
X $_____ (PPC) equivalent search ad costs
= $ Search Ad Value

Example:  Estimated 500 search referral clicks to the website at search PPC ad costs of $2.99 each for the respective keywords = $1,495 equivalent search ad value


4) Advertising Value - Social SEO Improved Search Rank:

(e.g., social reviews, photos, or comments influencing search rank)
GOAL: Drive More Web Traffic

( _____% new organic search CTR − _____% old organic search CTR)
÷ _____% old organic search click-through rate (CTR)
X _____(#) monthly organic search volume
= Additional Organic Search Referrals

Example:  Increasing search rank from position 4 at 8.2% CTR to position 2 at 14% CTR with an average monthly search volume of 120,000 = 84,878 more search referrals

Check out Optify's Organic Search Click-Through Rate (CTR) Study for insights on search rank CTR differences to estimate benefits. (i.e. CTR: Position 1 @ 36.4%, Position 2 @ 12.5%, Position 3 @ 9.5%.) For ROI calculations, use your actual CTR values available via Google Webmaster Tools.


5) Advertising Value - Social Influencer Online Mentions:

GOAL: Grow Awareness, Reduce Ad Costs

_____(#) social influencers
X _____(#) average social network reach
X _____(#) notable online brand mentions
X $_____ paid spokesman or special guest costs (e.g. radio, TV, or direct mail endorsements)
/ _____(#) ad network reach or volume
= $ Paid Endorsement Ad Value

Tier paid spokesman fees by respective social influencer levels. Document tiers with labels  (e.g. A-Level, B-Level, etc.) to make historical tracking easier. Social network reach and ad reach should ideally be equivalent since pricing tiers may vary. (This formula adjusts for network reach differences assuming endorsement costs are the same regardless of ad volume.)

Example:  5 industry influencers (B-level) with an average social network reach of 5,000 making 10 notable brand mentions at an equivalent paid spokesman (B-level) cost of $1,500 each with an ad network reach of 10,000 = $37,500 equivalent paid endorsement ad value


6) Advertising Value - Social PR Mentions:

GOAL: Grow Awareness, Reduce Ad Costs

  _____(#) event-related online brand mentions (e.g. announcement, product release, etc.)
X $_____ equivalent press event cost
/ _____(#) average brand mentions from press event
= $ Press Event PR Value

Example:  50 event-related online brand mentions (not fuelled by a paid press event) at equivalent press event costs of $800 that yield an average 40 brand mentions = $1,000 equivalent press event PR value


7) Content Value - User-Generated Content (UGC) Articles:

GOAL: Grow Awareness, Improve SEO, Aid Conversion (Social Proof), Reduce Content Costs

_____(#) online stories or articles with significant brand focus or mention
X $_____ equivalent content creation cost
= $ Article Value

Tip: Tier creation costs by content quality (e.g., length, sentiment, images, uniqueness) and/or Domain Authority levels.

Example:  Estimated 5 stories discovered at an equivalent content value of $350 each = $1,750 equivalent content article value


8) Content Value - User-Generated Content (UGC) Photos:

GOAL: Aid Conversion (Social Proof), Reduce Photography Costs

_____(#) user-generated brand photos
X _____% photo shoot quality
X $_____ equivalent photo shoot total costs
/ _____(#) average photos from photo shoot
= $ Photography Value

Example:  Estimated 80 brand-specific unique user-generated content (UGC) photos discovered at 70% photo shoot quality at an equivalent photo shoot total cost of $12,000 that yields an average of 30 quality photos = $22,400 equivalent photography value


9) Content Value - User-Generated Content (UGC) Videos:

GOAL: Grow Awareness, Aid Conversion (Social Proof), Reduce Video Costs

_____(#) user-generated brand videos
X _____% brand-produced video quality
X $_____ equivalent brand-produced video total cost
= $ Video Value

Be sure to include resource time, equipment rental, shoot fee (e.g. location), and editing for total video production costs.

Example:  Estimated 3 brand-specific user-generated content (UGC) videos discovered at 50% brand-produced video quality at an equivalent brand-produced video total cost of $10,000 = $15,000 equivalent video value


10) Research Value - Social Insights:

GOAL: Market Research, Improve Customer Satisfaction, Reduce Research Costs

_____(#) brand online insights/comments
X _____% focus group insight quality
X $_____ equivalent focus group cost
/ _____(#) insights from average focus group
= $ Focus Group Value

Example:  Estimated 150 useful monthly brand insights/comments at an equivalent 90% quality of a paid focus group that costs $3,000 and typically yields 100 helpful insights = $4,050 equivalent market research value


11) Support Value - Online Self-Service:

GOAL: Enable Self-Service, Reduce Support Costs

_____(#) weekly support calls per topic
X _____% calls likely solved by self-service
X $_____ average support phone call cost
= $ Call Support Value

Example:  Estimated 1,500 weekly support calls at which 70% could be resolved online via self-service at an equivalent support call value of $6.30 each = $7,056 equivalent call support value


12) Sales Value - Social Leads (One-Time Value):

GOAL: Grow Revenue, Generate Leads, Acquire New Customers

_____(#) qualified online social leads identified
X _____% lead-to-customer conversion rate
X $_____ (AOV) average order value
= $ Lead Sales Value (Single Purchase)

Example:  Estimated 100 qualified leads routed to sales teams with a typical lead-to-conversion rate of 4% at an average order value (AOV) of $2,500 = $10,000 equivalent converted lead sales value (single-purchase)


13) Sales Value - Social Leads (Lifetime Value):

GOAL: Grow Revenue, Generate Leads, Acquire New Customers, Retain Customers

_____(#) qualified online social leads identified
X _____% lead-to-customer conversion rate
X $_____ (LTV) customer lifetime value
= $ New Customer Lifetime Sales Value

See: How To CalculTate Customer Lifetime Value (LTV).

Example:  Estimated 100 qualified leads routed to sales teams with a typical lead-to-conversion rate of 4% at an average customer lifetime value (LTV) of $22,500 = $90,000 equivalent converted lead new customer lifetime sales value


14) Sales Value - Social-Aided Conversion:

GOAL: Grow Revenue, Boost Conversion

( _____% new conversion rate − _____% old conversion rate)
/ _____% old conversion rate
X $_____ average # monthly products sold
X $_____ average product sales value
= Increased Sales Value

Example:  Estimated conversion rate increase from 2% to 3.5% with an average 100 monthly products sold at $750 = $32,142 more in monthly product sales




Below are some generic cost formulas for consideration. Assess your situation to incorporate all time, resource (people, supplies, technology), and risk costs accordingly.

What are all the factors that will consume time or budget to perform the tactic? What potential risks are involved? What opportunity costs would be given up?


1) Labor:Estimated _____(#) internal [ role ] resources at _____(#) hrs/week at a rate of $_____ / hr.Estimated _____(#) external [ role ] resources at _____(#) hrs/week at a rate of $_____ / hr.

(Consider consultants, contractors, IT developers/support, designers, copywriters, legal reviews, paid spokesperson fees, etc.)


2) Software / Online Tools:Brand monitoring or social listening services at a total of $_______ / year.Miscellaneous online accounts/subscriptions/tools totaling $_______ / year.

(Consider social analytics, social sign-on, ratings/reviews tools, YouTube paid account, video editing software, mobile app downloads, image subscriptions, etc.)


3) Equipment:Video and webinar equipment and supplies totaling $_______ / year.Miscellaneous hardware totaling $_______ / year.

(Consider tablets for live blogging events, smartphones for non-personal social accounts, video cameras for interviews, video or photo shoot staging supplies/fees, etc.)

Note: Equipment cost estimates get a little more complex to quantify if you consider depreciation, lifetime asset value, split allocation over multiple projects, etc. Use your best judgment to decide what's practical to factor in for the cost.

4) Promotional Costs:PPC Ads: Estimated _____(#) clicks at $_____(CPC) display or ad costs.Emails: Estimated _____(#) emails at $_____ per 1,000 sent plus $______ email provider or creation fees.

(Consider social ads, sponsored tweets, emails announcing social promotions, etc.)


5) Training:Estimated _____(#) annual training events for _____(#) resources at $_______ each.Estimated _____(#) up-front one-time group training events at $_______ each.


6) Legal Risk:Estimated _____% chance of _____(#) legal issues occurring annually at $_______ each.


Note: Opportunity Cost is a complex factor that could also be factored as a cost using the sacrificed tactic's respective CBA over the same timeframe. Keep in mind that the value of another tactic should then also incorporate opportunity costs to be fair. Beware of infinite loop formulas, and cancel out calculations that would apply across the board.


Formula Considerations and Disclaimers...

Estimates must be acceptable. We're not calculating the profit-margin feasibility for a new manufacturing line here. We're estimating numbers to help justify and compare options for economical use of corporate function budgets. The formulas above are samples and not laws of marketing physics. Add and edit the formulas to your heart's desire.

Intangible metrics still have value. Once the customer or public is involved with tactics, a load of intangible factors – potentially good or bad – come into play that are difficult to measure, even as an estimate. If the intangible impact isn't negligible, potentially list these in name as a disclaimer beside calculations for reference.

Computed benefits of some formulas may overlap others. Be mindful of double-counting benefits that overlap layers of the sales conversion funnel (e.g., search rank, search traffic, etc.). On a related note, benefits must be calculated across a consistent timeframe when compared to other tactics. Formulas may need to be adjusted accordingly.


Are You Prepared to Quantify?

Social media measurement is exciting, right? Oh yeah! It's OK to geek-out about it. Don't get obsessed with the numbers though. Be realistic, estimate wisely (borderline pessimistic), and focus on goal-driven action. Remember, none of these calculations matter unless they're aligned to business goals.

YOUR MISSION: Define ROI or quantified business value that justifies use of social media. You now have the methodology to do so. Do you accept?

"I've accepted the Social Media ROI Possible mission. Join me!"  « Tweet this!


Social Media ROI - "Mission Possible" Plan:

Map a social media strategic plan. (Steps 1-5)Brainstorm, compare and select tactics for each goal. (Step 6)
Use social media tactic planning steps above.Select metrics for each tactic. (Step 7)
Target the most impressive results from formulas above that best align to the goal's KPI metric.Execute the plan! (Analyze and repeat as needed)


If you've enjoyed this article or plan to use the formulas, please let me know with a social mention (@aschottmuller) or comments below.

Want a printable version of the formulas? Check out my Social Media, Meet ROI presentation:

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The Future of Content Marketing on the Search and Social Web #CMWorld

�Content is storytelling � storytelling that creates experiences. Customers and communities are insatiable, so you have to feed them content.�

At Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio � one of TopRank�s fearless leaders,�Lee Odden, spoke with Content Marketers from over 40 different countries on �The Future of Search & Social� in the first breakout session of the day.

1. Content is more than information � it is storytelling that provides meaningful experiences.

Setting the stage with, �Content isn�t King � it�s the Kingdom,� Lee positions content as the reason search exists in the first place. 16% of all search queries have never been seen before. Could that possibly mean that they, or (gasp) you, are potentially creating content no one cares about?

There�s lots of information out there and ways to connect to it � we create, consume, publish, and interact. All of us are empowered to create content � especially with our phones being a content creation device in our back pockets. But our creation also means that we�re competing against our own customers for attention on the search & social web. How do we break through this noise and engage our audience to communicate with us?

Remember that it�s about the customer and their relationship with your information. They need to discover you (search), consume your content (in many forms), and act on it (are they socially connecting, converting?)

Lee quotes Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, ��social network recommendations are becoming more powerful than Google results.� So the real question is � how do you create content that your customer feels compelled to interact with, and tell others about it? How is your content connected to the narrative � what you�re telling as a story? This content needs to be tied to an action.

A business� Content Marketing Maturity is evaluated through these 5 stages:

Which stage of the process do you feel your organization is at?

2. Your Content Team Functions should include: Strategy, Editorial, Creators, Producers, Search, Social & Analytics.

However you structure your team, or whatever team members are available to you, each should play a specific role in your content creation. Be sure someone is responsible for every step of this process � whether you are a large enterprise agency with multiple members on a team, or a marketing department of one � you can utilize your resources (and sometimes these are your consumers) to make truly great content.

To hold your content creation effort accountable, you can use the �Optimize 360� � Attract, Engage, and Convert � You got their attention, got them talking, now what�s your hook or call to action to encourage the consumer to take the next step?

Some of Lee�s best advice for content creation is that your content should, �Be the best answer.� Your content should achieve the answer to the question that your consumers are asking. If you want to be known for your great service � is your content and interaction conveying that message? Make �Jane� feel like she�s being serviced no matter which channel she�s interacting with.

3. The Future of Content is visual, real-time, mobile, human, cross-platform, multi-channel, social & optimized

More often than ever before, content needs to be everything all at once.

Visual: Consumers are 44% more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures than any other media. Viewers are 85% more likely to purchase a product after watching a product video.Real-time: Just like Oreo Cookie�s �Dunk in the dark� campaign, we as marketers must react to the world around us in a positive way to engage our consumers to interact.Human: Kmart�s �Ship My Pants� commercial uses humor, and thus is exponentially more shareable (meaning more eyeballs will see it) than traditional content.Collaborative: Utilize all the resources available to you � whether that means crowdsourcing your consumers or working with your industry thought leaders.Cross-Platform & Multi-Channel: Is your content integrated among all your media? Are your digital campaigns viewable via billboard in Times Square? Is it viewable on all devices (especially mobile?) Make sure you aren�t excluding any particular audience when you have a great piece of content.Social: Would you want to share your content? Would someone pay to see or receive this content?Optimized: Search is a big piece of the puzzle � your content should be optimized first and foremost for what your audience wants to consume.

The future of content marketing is bright � we have more opportunities and channels than we�ve ever had – let�s all make our content convey the best answer in your industry, for your product, for your customers.�

What are your predictions on the future of content? And content marketing?

Asteroid 2012 DA14 Google Doodle Pulled After Meteor Blast

You won’t be seeing an animated Google Doodle meant to coincide with the passing of Asteroid 2012 DA14 on Google's home page today. The Doodle, which you can see above, was pulled after hundreds of injuries were reported in Russia due to a meteor blast.

NBC News described the meteor blast as “an atomic bomb-sized shock wave” that hurt nearly a thousand people and blew out windows.

In the simple animated logo, the lower case blue “g” notices something coming from above and hops out of the way just in time to let the asteroid safely fly through its vacated spot.

“Out of respect for those injured in the extraordinary meteor shower in Russia earlier today, we have removed today’s doodle from the Google homepage,” a Google spokesperson told ABC News. “The doodle was created to mark Asteroid 2012 DA14 passing Earth.”

The logo can still be found on Google’s site here.

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RIAA Accuses Google Of Not Doing Enough To Fight Piracy, But May Be Guilty Of Not Doing Enough Itself

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has once again come out swinging at Google, saying the company isn’t doing enough to fight copyright infringement online. But it may be that the RIAA itself is guilty of that charge.

In a blog post this week, RIAA Executive VP Brad Buckles shares what the organization calls “clear facts” about Google’s efforts to remove infringing pages from Google’s search results. A week ago, Google announced the addition of Copyright Removal Requests to its Transparency Report, but Buckles says “Google’s data misleads.”

In a series of five “facts,” the RIAA lays out what amounts to two primary complaints:

Google “places artificial limits on the number of queries that can be made by a copyright owner to identify infringements.”Google “also limits the number of links we can ask them to remove per day.”

The RIAA says these limits keep it from finding and requesting removal of piracy-related web pages related to the Billboard Top 10 songs, let alone all pirated material on the web.

Piracy & Search Results: A Battleground

No one debates the fact that there’s a lot of piracy happening online and, a look at one query even shows how the search results have become a battleground of sorts. Consider a search for “katy perry fireworks mp3.” After Google’s 10 main search results, there are another 21 messages from Google explaining that a total of 36 pages have been removed from the page already. (In the screenshot below, the copyright removal notices take up about 1,000 vertical pixels while the search results take up about 500 pixels.)

RIAA & Limits

Ignoring the fact that the RIAA isn’t accusing Bing (where its search results for the same query seem just as bad) of not doing enough to prevent piracy, let’s look at the group’s two accusations against Google.

Query limits. Google will occasionally throttle suspicious search activity; this may happen, for example, at conferences or events where several hundred people (or more) are searching Google all from the same IP address. Google also explains that its Terms of Service don’t allow sending automated search queries without advance permission. Depending on how the RIAA is trying to find infringing material, it could be hitting the query limit and/or be in violation of Google’s TOS.

Takedown request limits. The RIAA accuses Google of limiting how many takedown requests it can send. A Google spokesperson denies that charge in a statement shared with Search Engine Land:

We have never imposed any limit on the number of DMCA notices that a copyright owner or reporting organization may send us, although we do have some technical safeguards in our trusted partner program (where submitters may be using automated mechanisms to send large volumes) as a safeguard against accidental flooding of the system.

What makes the RIAA’s claim questionable is Google’s list of most active copyright owners that have submitted removal requests. The RIAA is fifth with about 44,000 requests over the past month, but that’s less than 10 percent of the requests that Microsoft has submitted, and about one-fifth of the requests from NBC Universal.

Limit or not, it looks like the RIAA isn’t nearly as active as other organizations in asking Google to remove infringing URLs. It may believe that Google isn’t doing enough on this issue, but the numbers suggest that the RIAA can do more itself.

How to Use Crowdsourcing for Content Marketing Inspiration

Creating original and compelling content is paramount to your success as a marketer. Getting your customers involved in this process is great for engagement, product improvement, product development and your overall reputation as a brand. It can also add tremendous value to your content.

You may be thinking that crowdsourcing is too complex to consider as part of your content curation, but once you understand the different shapes and sizes crowdsourcing can take, even the most risk-averse marketer will understand the benefits of crowdsourcing.

Just as the definition of content marketing and curation seems to vary, so too does the definition of crowdsourcing. According to, �Crowdsourcing is the process of getting work or funding, usually online, from a crowd of people. The word is a combination of the words ‘crowd’ and ‘outsourcing’. The idea is to take work and outsource it to a crowd of workers.�

The �collective wisdom of the crowd� has triggered a dramatic shift in the way work is organized, talent is employed, research is conducted and products are made and marketed. Crowdsourcing may involve inviting a network to help solve a particular problem or to contribute insight or expertise toward achieving a particular business or fund raising goal.

Significantly, Fortune 500 companies are embracing enterprise crowdsourcing in a big way. In 2010, the number of completed micro-tasks grew 496%. Based on the cumulative research, this area continues to grow and shows no sign of stopping.

As part of our ongoing series on content marketing tactics, this post will share some examples and best practices for organizations leveraging crowdsourcing as part of their content marketing mix.

Pros & Cons of Crowdsourcing as a Content Marketing Tactic


Work processes that can be used across all industries and businesses of any sizeAsking for customer feedback can provide extremely valuable insight for your business or product and serviceRather than relying on one person or agency to work on a project, you can select the best ideasBy paying someone a one-time flat rate for their service you’ll enjoy a sost savingsCloses the loop on customer direction


It can take a lot of time to sift through the outpouring of responses from people wanting to contribute to a projectCrowdsourcing supplants traditional forms of labor causing pain and disruptionLogistics can get complicated depending on the size of the crowd and/or number of projectsThere’s a risk guaranteeing ownership of final product – all trademarks, copyrights and intellectual property rights should be obtained by the business owner or companyWhat Experts Say About Crowdsourcing

“The end-to-end process is important, and crowdsourcing is a great way to engage your customer. You have an ongoing engagement around the product, how it’s used, how it’s shared, etc., and if someone contributes to the product through product creation or promotion, then it’s a powerful way of keeping customers involved in your brand.” Gavin Heaton, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

�It is crowdsourcing concepts like this that have generated great out-of-the-box ideas that spark inquiry, and we hope to bring such ingenuity to humankind�s greatest research platform.� Jim Royston, Interim Executive Director Jim Royston, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), speaking about their latest crowdsourcing contest announcement, �What Would You Send to the ISS?�

�Many crowd labor customers are companies that formerly hired outsourcers off craigslist but now hire the crowd. According to the success stories, these companies started with crowd labor because of the decreased price, and they stayed because of higher throughput and higher quality.� Sector Road Map: crowd labor platforms in 2012. Gigaom Pro (PDF)

How Crowdsourcing is Used in B2B Content Curation and Innovation

Again, with any content marketing strategy, direction will be determined by answering the questions �What does your brand stand for?� and �What does your community care about?� Many more will be revealed during the course of working with the community and project. Those topics can be mapped to key objectives for the brand and how involvement with a social media or online community will help the brand reach those goals. Here are a few specific examples of companies who have successfully used crowdsourcing in their content marketing efforts.


When this technology bellwether wanted to launch a new family of processors, they chose to crowd source for the right campaign. In order to generate buzz and awareness they partnered with who boasted, at the time, a 30,000 strong community of film makers.

Poptent posted a creative brief announcing Intel�s intention of buying at least two 30- to 60-second videos. Over 50 videos were submitted. The chosen entries were then posted to Intel�s Inside Scoop blog, YouTube channel, and their Facebook and Twitter properties, encouraging computer users, but especially their core early adopter �techies� to vote. While the blog received 500 votes, the top-tier social networks garnered 40,000 collectively.

GE ecomagination�

GE was one of the first global technology brands to embrace blogging, so it�s no surprise they�ve embraced the crowdsourcing concept. Powering Your Home was Phase II of the GE ecomagination Challenge, a $200 million innovation experiment where businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and students shared their best ideas with an open invitation for innovative ideas about capturing, managing, and using energy in the home.

Over 70,000 people visited to submit close to 800 ideas and leave over 10,000 comments.

Local Motors

Talk about turning the global automotive market on its ear. Arizona-based Local Motors connects a global community of 30,000 designers, engineers, fabricators and enthusiasts to design, manufacture and market inspired vehicle solutions. Their goal is to lead next-generation, crowd-powered automotive design, manufacturing and technology to enable the creation of game-changing vehicles. With underwriters like BMW and Siemens, we think they will.

Guidelines for Keeping Your Crowd Content

Crowdsourcing is certainly not for the faint of heart; in the beginning it may seem a lot like herding cats. But two qualities you must have in order to be successful are commitment and courage. Many well-known brands have attempted crowdsourcing only to be unable to sustain their initial effort. Courage is required to ensure your backbone can sustain quick fails. Once you�ve decided to go down this path, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Connection. Most people eager to participate in a crowd sourced project like to give. Connection provides that give and take. Make sure you have a common place they can gather, whether it�s your corporate intranet or a private Facebook page, so they feel connected in a meaningful way.

Listen. A major advantage of crowdsourcing is the ability to share ideas, but if the communication isn�t a two-way street, you can be certain your �tribe� will let you know.

Respond. Be sure to listen before you respond. You can�t claim to be listening to the crowd, if they don�t feel heard. If someone has a great idea, acknowledge the person�s contribution. If there’s an issue, find the best way to solve it. Let the people in your crowd know that they’re not just a number.

Be transparent. Hiding anything will reap the wrath of the community, whether it�s deleting comments posted by crowd members or not answering questions in a timely manner.

Empathize. Putting yourself in their shoes allows you to see the situation from the crowd�s perspective, allowing you to communicate more clearly and, when needed, sympathetically.

Are you ready to take the concept of content marketing to the next level? Is crowdsourcing in your future?

Bing Details Four Ways Not To Build Links

Duane Forrester, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft Bing, wrote a blog post on the Bing Webmaster Blog, detailing four ways you do not want to build links to your site.

The four ways not to build links by Bing include:

(1) Blind Requests: Don’t simply mass or template email web sites blindly for links. Don’t buy email lists and send out a mass email asking these webmasters and web sites to link to you.

(2) Blog/Forum Comments: Don’t drop links in blog comments or forum threads, said Bing. Duane said it simply will not help you rank better in the search results.

(3) Link Injection: This is a spam tactic of hacking into a site and injecting links into the content. It can be link injection into the header or footer or even directly into the body content. That being said, Bing is suggesting you make sure your CMS software is up to date and secure.

(4) Guest Blogging: Bing is not saying that guest blogging is bad, they are saying that if your intent is to do it for the links, then don’t. Duane said, “if you�re going to guest blog, best to do it with the intention to build your brand, drive traffic and create awareness. Doing it to bolster your SEO efforts is a #FAIL these days.”

Of course, Google said the same regarding guest blog linking.

How to Make Video a Successful Part of Your Content Marketing Strategy

When developing your video strategy, it's important to ask yourself in a serious way what you're looking to gain from it.

Start by defining your approach and establishing if your goals are realistic and attainable.

Should you be aiming to be the next viral hit on YouTube, or to strategically improve your site's SEO?

YouTube Isn't Your Best Friend

Although YouTube is known to be the second largest search engine online, it's a common misconception to believe that tapping into its community is the only way to make online video work in your favor.

The idea of reaching YouTube's audience of more than 800 million users is certainly appealing, but if you're setting out to make a “viral video,” it probably won't happen.

A simple look at the statistics makes this fact easy to understand.

As of this writing, 72 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. That means that 4,320 hours (180 days) of content is put up every hour. Chalk that up to a mind-boggling 103,680 hours (11.84 years) a day.

How is your three minute video going to stand out from the other 12 years of content uploaded on a daily basis?

In reality, plainly uploading a video to YouTube in the hopes of improving brand awareness is a primitive strategy that will most likely fall flat. Even if your video attracts a large amount of views, those clicks will end up bringing more value to Google than they will to you and your business.

Making online video beneficial to you requires an intelligent strategy. By properly incorporating video into your site's content, it's possible to see some great results in terms of SEO. Here are some key points to remember.

The Host With the Most

The first impulse of many video creators is to upload their videos to YouTube. If you're looking to incorporate the clip into your content strategy with the goal of improving your site's SEO, this probably isn't the best move to make.

The obvious benefit of YouTube is that it will host an unlimited amount of videos for free, allowing you to dedicate the entirety of your budget (if any) into production. This selling point is countered by the fact that when a video ranks well on YouTube, none of that value is attributed to your site, since YouTube remains the original host.

If your video is embedded on another site in isolation (not as part of the original post in which it was incorporated) there is virtually no benefit for you, other than potential exposure. If you're looking to gain something more than just a slowly-inflating view counter when your video gets shared, you may want to look past the attraction of YouTube's free hosting.

There are several video hosting services that can help you leverage video content to its full potential in terms of SEO – if you're willing to pay.

Platforms like Vimeo Pro, Vidyard, Vzaar and Wistia will offer you a range of features that YouTube cannot. These features range from aesthetic options such as customizable skins and players to fit your brand image, to the SEO-valuable ones such as listing your domain as the source of the video, allowing you to gain referrals each time it's shared.

The cost of these services vary from as $29/month to about $99/month, which can seem a little pricey to some, but if you're seriously aiming to incorporate video into your content strategy, their benefits can be invaluable.

Strong Incorporation

Incorporating multimedia elements into your content has an immediate enriching effect on the quality of your website. The inclusion of video within posts has been shown to correlate with improvements with time-on-page statistics as well as social shares.

Learn the secrets of creating high quality content at SES New York 2013:Creative Content Marketing: Winning Hearts, Minds and WalletsSee the full agenda.

As Jason Acidre of Xight Interactive puts it in his interview with Brainshark, “Including videos on text-based content makes the content look more comprehensive, and this aspect makes it more appealing to readers, which increases the probability of having the content shared.”

Furthermore, it's important try to incorporate your video in a way that makes it an integral part of the post. The clip should be supported by the text and images that surround it (and vice-versa) so that rather than share the video as a stand-alone element, people will be more inclined to share the entire page it resides on.


Since Google doesn't crawl through the actual video as part of its ranking process, it's up to you to ensure all relevant information is optimized. If you want your video and page to rank as well as possible, search engines need to be able to determine what your content is about.

Make the necessary information available to search engines by:

Including a full transcript of the video within the post. This can be done manually, or as Jacob Klein suggests in his article on the subject, through transcript services like Wistia.Creating and submitting an XML video sitemap to get your videos indexed. Google's support page offers guidelines and instructions on how to do so.Including rich keywords in video title, description, tags and actual file name. As you would for any other piece of content, you'll want to perform some keyword research beforehand to establish which ones will generate the most trafficQuality

Taking all of these suggestions into consideration, one of the best things you could invest in is the actual production quality of the video content.

Proper optimization can definitely help your video perform well, but if the content itself isn't great, it can actually be detrimental to your brand. Don't rush the process, and take the time to produce something that's of sufficient quality that it could actually be shared organically.

Combining quality with intelligent hosting and optimization practices are your best bets for making video a successful part of your content marketing strategy.

Image Credit: iStockphoto

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Data Visualization & Infographic Search Engine Launches

Infographics (or data visualizations) are all the rage in content marketing today, and� is launching with hopes of becoming “the largest community for sharing, creating and promoting data visualizations.”� The site currently offers a search functionality and a submission feature to help users find & share infographics from across the web.

As expected with a name like, the site is aesthetically appealing with quite a few bells and whistles. �A “Twitterize Yourself” section exists allowing users to face-off against other users while cartooning themselves.� The ‘labs‘ section of the site is currently in beta and will be a source to help users facilitate the creation of graphics. �However, the main resources to are the search and sharing aspects, so let�s take a look at how these work.



Properly indexing data rich images is a tough task to undertake. � is achieving this by leveraging a few different variables – description, tags, titles and sources (both designers & publishers). �A sample search for iPhone currently displays 15 results on


To compare these results, a search on�Cool Infographics, an Infographic repository, provided slightly less results with only�11 items tagged with iPhone.

Descriptions play heavily into the search results and are very reliant on the information supplied by submitters. �For example,�a business related infographic ranks for the query “dog” due to the fact that the description contains the phrase, “to the top dog CEO of a major corporation.” �Niche search results leave room for improvement as well. � On a query for “Chicago” returns tw0 non-Chicago related results, one about�the national debt and the other�about Whales. �On the other hand, a site search on Cool Infographics returns an infographic�about the Chicago Tribune, and an image about�population shifts in major cities (that includes Chicago). �A quick�Google search shows quite�a few more Chicagoinfographics that are not in’s results.

One item that may be a concern is users can upload infographics and potentially insert non-relevant keywords to help their graphics be found. �For example, a search for “Macs” is currently returning some results for design agencies and other non-Mac related results. �Mislabeling for personal gain could be a problem as there have been�previous issues around non-relevant�labels for the purpose of link building.


In order to have an infographic included in the database, users can share their designs. �Not only can designers gain exposure, but can get feedback similar to�Dribbble. �Members can ‘like’ infographics and provide feedback using Facebook’s comment plug-in.

To submit an infographic, users have to upload an image, create a�thumbnail, then add a title, tags and a description. �They are then taken to a screen where users add the publisher, website published to, the original designer and the designer�s website. �All of this information is included with links on the infographic’s page.


Content Ownership

One interesting feature of is the ability to claim credit for creating an infographic. � features “published by” and “designed by” variables that show where the infographic resides and the designer/company that created the graphic. � For example,this education related infographic shows that the image was published byThe Daily and designed by�Hyperakt. �To claim publish or design credit for a graphic, the user must fill out a form with a link to their website that confirms your credit for the graphic:

One item that did seem strange is that if the embed code from the site is used, all of the links are sent back to instead of to the original publisher or designer. �Having the publisher and designer link show in the embed code would be a nice touch to help with the attribution of the graphic.


Overall,’s search feature works for broad terms, but is lacking on detailed queries and looks to be open gaming of the results with some simple keyword insertion into descriptions and tags. �While the�functionality�of adding in publishers and designers is nice, it did seem that more credit could be given, especially with the embed codes. �The idea behind is quite unique and with some simple refinements could become a great resource for those looking for data visualization inspiration and for publishers/designers looking to get more�exposure�for their work.

Google Testing “Preferred Sites” Option In Search Preferences

Google Operating System discovered a new experiment Google is running named Preferred Sites. In short, users who are in this experiment will be able to add a list of sites in their search preferences page as their “preferred sites.” Google will then use that information to show those sites in a higher ranking order in the Google results for that user, when it makes sense. Let me share some examples of how this works.

If you set to be a preferred site and you are logged in to your Google account and conduct a search for space station, Google may bump up a result from CNN to the top of the Google search results. In addition, Google will clearly label why it is the top result, with a “My preferred site” label before the page’s URL. Here is a screen capture:

Google explains that you must be part of the experiment to see this option in your search preferences. Personally, I do not see it. In addition, Google said you can be as specific as a subdomain, so if you want results from CNN, just use, but if you want results only from, you can do that as well.

This does remind me of the Google Coop, but it’s clearly different in that the results are not exactly tailored; they are promoted. In addition, this is an extension of Google’s SearchWiki.

For additional examples and screen captures, see Google Operating System.

Insanity: Google Sends New Link Warnings, Then Says You Can Ignore Them

Google’s war on bad links officially became insane today. For months, Google’s sending out warnings about bad links and telling publishers they should act on those, lest they get penalized. Today, Google said the latest round of warnings sent out this week can be safely ignored. That’s not “more transparency” as Google posted. That’s more confusion.

It’s easiest to do the history first, to better understand the confusion caused by today’s post.

How We Got Here: Link Warnings Earlier This Year

Toward the end of March and in early April, Google began sending out warnings about “artificial” or “unnatural” links, such like this one:

Dear site owner or webmaster of�.

We�ve detected that some of your site�s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google�s Webmaster Guidelines.

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.

We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you�ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google�s search results.

If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request.

If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.

Sincerely,�Google Search Quality Team

There was some confusion about whether these messages meant that a site was actually penalized for having these links pointing at them or whether Google was just informing the sites but not really taking any negative action. Google’s response on this wasn’t clear:

Google has been able to trace and take action on many types of�link�networks; we recently decided to make that action more visible.

In the past, some links might have been silently distrusted or might not have carried as much weight. More recently, we�ve been surfacing the fact that those links aren�t helping to improve ranking or indexing.The Penguin Attacks

In late April, the Google Penguin Update went live. Designed to fight spam, it especially seemed to take action by either penalizing publishers who had participated in bad linking activities (as determined by Google’s) or discounting those links, so they no longer carried as much weight.

All hell broke loose in some quarters, especially among those who had been actively using link networks to boost their rankings in ways that went against Google’s guidelines. One of the suggested recovery options from Google was to remove bad links.

Google Advice: Get Rid Of Bad Links

But what if people couldn’t get links taken down? The head of Google’s web spam team, Matt Cutts, just generally suggested such a thing was possible without giving any specific advice.

This led further support to those who argued that “negative SEO” was now suddenly a real possibility, that any publisher could be targeted with “bad links” and made to plunge in Google’s rankings. Google stressedthat negative SEO in this way is rare and hard. To this date, negative SEO still hasn’t seemed to be a wide-spread problem for the vast majority of publishers on the web.

Those reassurances — along with a Google help page update saying Google “works hard to prevent” negative SEO — hasn’t calmed some. Negative SEO has remained a rallying cry especially for many hit by Penguin (and many were deservedly hit) looking for a way to fight back against Google.

The New Link Building: Remove My Link Requests

But aside from the negative SEO sideshow, plenty of publishers tried to follow Google’s advice to get links removed. I’ve even had one come to me, from some publisher who was listed in our SearchCap daily newsletter in the past and wanted us to pull down a link. Insane. A link from a reputable site like ours is exactly what you want, and yet they wanted it removed.

The insanity has gotten even worse. We’ve had people threatening to sue to have links removed. We’ve covered that before. Boing Boing also covered another case today (without providing any of the background on how Google itself has fueled some of this craziness).

Today, we covered how some directories are now charging people to have links removed. Let’s be really clear on how topsy-turvey that means things have become. People have wanted links in the past and have been willing to pay for them (despite this being against Google’s rules). Now they’re perhaps willing to pay to have links taken down.

June: Google Says Don’t Ignore Link Warnings

But you’ve got to get those links removed, if you’ve gotten a warning message. After all, Google has said that. In June, at our SMX Advanced conference, Cutts said this about those link warnings:

You should pay attention. Typically your web site ranking will drop if you don’t take action after you get one of those notices.

Here’s the extended video clip on the topic:

But again, what to do if you can’t get links removed? Cutts said that Google might release a “disavow” tool. By the end of June, Bing even did launch such a link disavow tool — not that it helped with Google, of course. Those who had notices from Google about bad links pointing at them, notices they were supposed to take action on, still might not be able to get those links removed.

New Batch Of Warnings Goes Out

That leads to yesterday, when Google began sending out a new batch of link notices. Here’s an example of what one of those looks like:

Dear site owner or webmaster of….

We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside�Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank.�Examples of unnatural linking could include�buying links to pass PageRank�or participating in�link schemes.

We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please�submit your site for reconsideration�in Google’s search results.

If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request.

If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our�Webmaster Help Forum�for support.

Sincerely, Google Search Quality Team

Yes, that’s exactly the same content as what Google sent in late March. Nothing in the message gives the impression it can be ignored. It even encourages people who can’t get links removed to actively file a reconsideration request with Google.

July: Google Says You Can Ignore Link Warnings

But today, Cutts said this about the messages in a�Google+ post:

If you received a message yesterday about unnatural links to your site, don�t panic. In the past, these messages were sent when we took action on a site as a whole.

Yesterday, we took another step towards more transparency and began sending messages when we distrust some individual links to a site. While it�s possible for this to indicate potential spammy activity by the site, it can also have innocent reasons.

For example, we may take this kind of targeted action to distrust hacked links pointing to an innocent site. The innocent site will get the message as we move towards more transparency, but it�s not necessarily something that you automatically need to worry about.

If we’ve taken more severe action on your site, you�ll likely notice a drop in search traffic, which you can see in the “Search queries” feature Webmaster Tools for example.

As always, if you believe you have been affected by a manual spam action and your site no longer violates the Webmaster Guidelines, go ahead and file a reconsideration request. It�ll take some time for us to process the request, but you will receive a followup message confirming when we�ve processed it.

Like I said, this latest round of messages doesn’t seem to make things more transparent. The messages seem to be the same exact ones that Google previously told people they SHOULD worry about.

How About Just Saying If There’s A Real Concern

How do you know if you’re at risk if you get one of these new messages? Apparently, you also need to look at your traffic from Google and see if there’s a plunge. If so, you have a bad link problem. If not, well, you got a message that apparently can be ignored.

It would sure be much easier if the messages themselves said if action was really required or not. If there really was a penalty or not (in a world now where penalties that were penalties now might be “adjustments”).

That would be transparent. Instead, I predict this is all just going to cause greater confusion and panic, not more clarity and calmness.

It’s also yet another sign of how creaky the foundations or ranking sites based on links has become. It gets even more difficult these days to know what’s supposed to help or hurt. Links as votes suck.

Postscript:�Google’s Matt Cutts commented�below on Monday, July 23rd that the newer messages that can be safely ignored are now actually saying that:

An engineer worked over the weekend and starting with the messages that we sent out on Sunday, the messages are now different so that you can tell which type of situation you’re in. We also changed the UI in the webmaster console to remove the yellow caution sign for these newer messages. That reflects the fact that these newer notifications are much more targeted and don’t always require action by the site owner.

See also our follow-up story:�Google Updates Link Warnings To (Sort Of) Clarify They Can Be Ignored (Maybe).

Postscript 2:�See also my column in Marketing Land,�Links: The Broken “Ballot Box” Used By Google & Bing.

Postscript 3: See the latest from Google,�Google Explains New Link Warnings, Says Don�t Panic But Don�t Ignore.

Related ArticlesIs Google�s “Over Optimization Penalty” Its “Jump The Shark” Moment In Web Search?Google Eliminates Another Link Network, � Just One Of Several?Google Sending Warnings About “Artificial” Or “Unnatural” LinksGoogle Launches “Penguin Update” Targeting Webspam In Search ResultsGoogle Penguin Update Recovery Tips & AdviceTwo Weeks In, Google Talks Penguin Update, Ways To Recover & Negative SEOGoogle�s New Stance On Negative SEO: “Works Hard To Prevent” ItIn Wake Of Penguin, Could You Be Sued For Linking To Others?Here�s A New Twist: Directories Now Charging NOT To LinkMatt Cutts On Penalties Vs. Algorithm Changes, A Disavow-This-Link Tool & MoreBing Launches Way to “Disavow” Links, But Why?When Everyone Gets The Vote: Social Shares As The New Link Building

Google Catalogs Annotations: How to Enrich the Consumer Experience & Track Results

Annotations on Google Catalogs are so much more than just hyperlinks to product pages on your company’s ecommerce site. They are rich media repositories that you can use to extend the story that you are telling your audience through your catalog. And in doing so, you can deepen engagement, and hopefully, conversion.

Once your catalog is live, you will need to look at metrics to see whether your publication on Google Catalogs is reaching your company’s objectives. Google Catalogs provides its own analytic dashboard. But it isn’t like the Google Analytics dashboard and takes a bit of deciphering to understand.

This article will explain how to use annotations to enrich the consumer experience rather than just to point to product pages, and will also provide some FAQs on reading Google Catalogs analytics.

AnnotationsCheck the Guide, Then Cheat

Google Catalogs gives pretty straightforward guidelines on how publishers should and shouldn't annotate their catalogs. I would greatly advise publishers to read the Annotation Guidelines all the way through before beginning to annotate their catalog.

Read the rules, then cheat where it is appropriate.

How can you tell whether a particular cheat is appropriate? By looking at the catalogs that made it into the Featured Catalog carousel for examples.

King Arthur Flour is a gorgeous time waster for those of us who enjoy looking at food pornography. The Fall 2012 King Arthur Flour catalog made it into the Featured Catalogs carousel. On the page 4/5 spread there are some blatant Annotation Guideline violations.

Publishers are not suppose to place more than one web snippet on a page.Web snippets are not suppose to touch.Web snippets are suppose to be used to fill white space. They are not suppose to cover text or images.

I e-mailed support for Google Catalogs about the King Arthur Flour catalog rule breaking.

The response was encouraging.

This response indicates to me that Google Catalog’s reviewers are more interested in how the consumer will experience a particular catalog than in whether the publisher followed every last one of the annotation guidelines. This gives publishers creative leeway.

Create a catalog design that gives consumers the best experience on the Google Catalog platform and then annotate that catalog in a way that best suites the design.

Annotation Text & Grouping

One way to place annotations on the page in a stylish way that doesn't crowd text or images is to group annotations. Grouped annotations are appropriate when there is one image and one description of an item but within the description there are multiple colors or sizes of the item.

In the publisher’s Google Shopping Feed each color/size combination of the item might be listed individually under its own SKU. But in the Google Catalog the annotation for all of those SKUs can be grouped.

When grouping annotations the publisher has to pay attention to the description text in each of the annotations in the group.

For example, if you have a product that comes in four different colors, it isn't necessary to show then re-show consumers the full product description when they swipe through after the first color. In a grouped annotation featuring iterations of the same product, the publisher can limit the full description to the first SKU shown.

Video Annotations

Video annotations are a great way to highlight not just individual products but the publisher’s brand as a whole. The Video tab in the Google Catalog dashboard allows publishers to search for videos in the publisher’s own YouTube channel. Google Catalogs only allows publishers to link one YouTube channel with the catalog account.

Here are the steps you can use to show a video only to catalog viewers:

Upload the video.Log into the Google Catalog dashboard and go to the edit screen for the catalog to which the video is going to be added.Annotate the catalog with the video. If the video doesn't show up when searching in the video tab, just wait a little while for Google Catalogs to update its feed from your video channel.Once you have annotated the catalog with the video you may log out of Google Catalogs.Log into YouTube.Go to the Video Manager.Change the video’s status to Unlisted (meaning only those with the link can see it).

Now catalog viewers can see the video but the video won’t show up on your YouTube channel feed or in search. Exclusive videos for a publisher’s Google Catalog can include promotion catalog-only sales, cross brand promotions, tutorial videos on how the measure oneself for catalog sizing, etc.

The number of characters available for a YouTube video title is a lot larger than the number of characters available for a video annotation in Google Catalogs. Publishers should edit the video title in Google Catalogs to fit the space allowed.

Underneath the title the consumer will see the length of the video. Consider adding an image to your catalog (a screenshot of the video perhaps) to entice consumers to click on the video annotation.

Enrich the Experience

If publishers use the interactive elements of Google Catalogs mainly to encourage consumers to put more products in their online shopping cart, then publishers have failed to see the full potential of this platform.

Google Catalogs is set up to allow consumers to browse by category, browse by brand or browse the Editor’s Pick/Featured Catalogs (which is, as of now anyway, a position that is not for sale). There are no pretty permalinks a consumer can type in on the desktop version of Google Catalogs to go directly to a particular publisher’s list of catalogs.

On the tablet version there is a way to put catalog pages into “favorites” but there is not a way, on the desktop or tablet version, to input a search query (such as a brand name) and search only the returned results.

I did not end up looking at the King Arthur Flour catalog because I was searching for baking ingredients. I was actually in the “K”s looking for the Koo Koo Bear Kids catalog to search for holiday gifts for my niece and nephew when the King Arthur Flour catalog cover caught my eye. I had never even heard of King Arthur Flour before viewing their digital catalog.

Consumers looking at your catalog on Google Catalogs may have no previous engagement with your brand. Once you have their casual interest, what are you going to let them know about your brand that will keep them engaged?

Invite Catalog Viewers to be More Engaged With the Brand

Using web snippets on the catalog pages to invite consumers to look at additional content on a publisher’s blog is one way to further interest to consumer who just stopped by to browse. Of course each catalog should contain web snippets leading to the social media pages of the publisher.

Image Galleries

Google Catalogs promotes image galleries as a way to show specific catalogs from a variety of angles. That is certainly an effective use of this type of annotation. But I advocate using image galleries to tell stories about what the brand is doing outside of the catalog.

Does your brand support a cause, have an internship program, buy raw materials from sustainable sources? Those are all stories that could be told in an image gallery.


If publishers are going to take the effort to design a stylish, digital friendly catalog, annotate it properly, and then add rich content, they are going to want to know how successful their efforts were. Google Catalogs does offer some integration with Google Analytics and an analytics dashboard of its own.

Stripping then reading codes

Google Catalogs allows publishers to amend codes to the product annotation link URLs. These codes can then be tracked in Google Analytics.

For this to work properly, publishers have to work closely with their development teams to ensure that the codes being amended are going to illuminate rather than obfuscate which click throughs are coming directly from the Google Shopping Feed and which click throughs are coming from Google Catalogs.

For example, to make sure Google Analytics doesn't count referrals coming from “google_catalog” as coming from “froogle” or from google shopping the original “utm_soucre=google” and “utm_medium=froogle” would have to be stripped and replaced with “utm_source=google_catalog”.

Google Catalogs Analytics

The Google Catalogs dashboard has an Analytics tab which takes the publisher to a series of exportable line graphs showing activity on all of the publisher’s catalogs. Here are some FAQs to help publishers interpret the graphs.

Q: To what does the Page Views Per Day graph refer?

A: This is how many pages of all a publisher’s catalogs are viewed in one day.

Q: To what does the Catalog Users Per Day graph refer?

A: This shows the number of individual users who visit all a publisher’s catalogs per day.

Q: To what does Catalog Visits Per Day refer?

A: This shows the number of visits all a publisher’s catalogs receive each day. This metric includes repeat viewers. So if one consumer visits a publisher’s catalog three times in one day, each individual visit is recorded in this graph.

Q: What is Average Page Views?

A: This is how many pages the average consumer views in your catalog. Data with values under 10 are omitted to insure user anonymity.

Q: Is there a way to drill down in the Page Views Per Day graph and see which pages of particular catalogs got what number of views?

A: This option is currently not available but Google Catalogs says they hope to add it soon.

Q: Are the tracking codes that were added in the Google Catalogs Settings added to all the annotations or just to product annotations?

A: The codes are amended only to product annotations so the click throughs on video and web snippet annotations do not have trackable codes.

Q: When a consumer views a YouTube video while inside the Google Catalogs application (as oppose to opening the video up in the browser) is that view counted in the YouTube view counts?

A: Yes.

Q: When the publisher goes to his YouTube Analytics dashboard and checks the traffic sources from which people are clicking through to watch videos, will Google Catalogs show up as a distinct source?

A: Google Catalogs’ answer to this question via email was “We don't think so. However, if this is very important to you let us know and we can add it to the roadmap.”

Q: Is there a way for publishers to drill down and see the regions in which the desktops and mobile devices are located that are looking at the publisher’s catalogs?

A: This option isn't currently available.

Q: Where does a publisher who is considering the Google Catalog platform look to find out how many unique visits the Google Catalogs page is getting on desktops every month and/or how many mobile devices are accessing the Google Catalogs application each month?

A: Google Catalog’s answer to this question via e-mail was “We understand these are important metrics for your business, but unfortunately we don't have them readily available. That said, we do hope to improve the information showed on the dashboard.”

Q: Where does a publisher who is considering the Google Catalog platform look to find the breakdown of visits (or percentage of visits) by category to see if people are really using Google Catalogs for to shop for more guy type stuff such as sports equipment, electronics, and auto supply?

A: Please see the answer to previous question.

Q: What is the distinction between the purple “Web (Organic)” line graph and the teal “Web (Shopping)” line graph?

A: Organic is people directly navigating to Shopping is people coming to a publisher’s catalog through some shopping integration.


Merchants have a lot to consider when getting ready to launch a product catalog on Google Catalogs. But with planning and consideration the merchant can create a user shopping experience that not only successful leads a user to conversion but also successfully tells the story of the merchant’s brand.

 Learn More: Google CatalogsGoogle Catalogs Design Tips: How to Best Showcase Your ProductsHow to Prepare Your Google Shopping Feed for Google CatalogsGoogle Partners with Big Brands for Tablet Catalog Project

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SEO Best Practices: Setting Up a Blog

Your blog should be the centerpiece of a larger initiative, one that engages your target audience in a "human" way, with the goal of creating signals that will aid/support what you're trying to achieve with SEO.

One mistake many businesses still make is creating posts that consist of self-promotion with little "meat" to entice anyone to engage with the content, much less share the content (in the hopes that you might earn a link or two, or any "viral" activity to the post, whatsoever).

What Are You Trying to Achieve?

One of the first things you have to consider is – indeed – what you're trying to achieve. How you answer the following questions will guide one of the most important steps that you'll take when setting up a blog:

Do you have issues with reputation management – i.e., negative brand mentions in the search engine results pages (SERPs)?Are you trying to build thought-leadership for your company/brand?Are you trying to build a channel to drive deep linking to specific pages of your website?Are you trying to build depth of content or develop a tool to target "human queries" for your otherwise "corporate" website?Do you want your blog to be non-branded and/or seen as a unique "unbiased" voice in your industry?Setting Up Your Blog

Once you know you're trying to achieve, you need to consider where the blog resides. Should you use a subdirectory, a subdomain, a completely separate domain, or either WordPress or Blogger? Let's look at all the options.

Blog on a Subdirectory

More often than not, this is how I recommend clients set up a blog. In my opinion (and "yes", SEOs will have varying opinions on this), adding fresh content to the root domain is a good thing. I also believe that having an RSS feed of "latest blog posts" to the home page of the website is a good thing.

I believe that promoting content that resides "on" the website is a good thing because you can earn (deep) links and provide balance to your link profile. And, I believe that having thought-leadership content that is closely associated with your brand (resides, again, on the domain) is a good thing.


Add fresh content to the root domain.Add deep links (from other websites)/social signals directly to root domain (assuming that you've promoted this content well).


Won't provide an additional "brand" listing (in most cases) in the SERPs, so doesn't serve well for reputation management.No direct ability to get links "from another website/sub-domain".Blog on a Subdomain

A good case can be made for why you might want to blog on a subdomain.

For example, perhaps you have issues with reputation management (perhaps someone posted to review complaint sites like Ripoff Report, Pissed Consumer, etc.) so you need to occupy additional real estate in the SERPs. By building your blog on a subdomain, you accomplish this by providing the search engines another "official web presence" (the search engines will treat this as a separate entity) for your company, that should rank when folks search your company name.

The nice thing about having a blog on a sub-domain is that it will also piggyback on the authority of your root website (hopefully you already have some authority on your root domain) and posts there can rank, without the need to build up the authority for a new website.


Get an additional brand presence in the SERPs that you control.Get links "from another website" (subdomains are treated pretty much as such); Ability to deep-link to specific pages within the root.Piggyback on the already "built" (again, making an assumption here) authority of the root domain.Can be hosted anywhere. Very important consideration for those on a content management system that does not provide a blogging platform.


Not as much freshness on the domain.Content that "hits" (gets good promotion/links) doesn't add as much link value to the root.Blog on a Separate Domain

Some people like to create a "non-official" blog presence, to have control over a website that isn't directly tied to the brand. They want to have an "unbiased" voice (at least give the appearance of such) and probably use this to occasionally link to their main website.

I typically discourage these types of initiatives, for many reasons – not the least of which is the amount of effort that would need to go into making this new web presence gain any amount of trust/traction or authority.


Can create an "unbiased" resource (that just happens to link to your corporate website, on occasion).If the content is good, and it becomes respected in your industry, the blog can gain authority that can then be passed through to your corporate website through "unbiased" linking.


There's a better than average chance that gaining good authority/ability for posts to rank is going to take considerable time.Does little to really show thought-leadership for your company.If you really do drop links to the corporate website, there's a good chance that it'll be seen for what it is: a paid advertisement, not an official unbiased reference. The backlash from this could be (should be) huge.Blog on or Blogger

Some pretty large companies have gone this route because – to them – it's the easiest to execute. Mind you, a link from isn't a bad thing, but how does this help with any of the aforementioned reasons why you might want to blog in the first place?

Are you tying in the "thought leadership" to the brand? Are you adding fresh content to the domain? Are you aiding your abilities to provide an additional "official brand presence" to the SERPs? (Perhaps, but you're better off with subdomain).


You could create some very aggressive link building tactics or "test" things without burning the domain.You would gain a link that is coming from an authority domain (remember, a quality link profile is about gaining links from many different/authoritative/relevant websites/domains; not many links on one domain)Easy. Just about anyone can get engaged and start blogging today.


Limitations as to how you can design/template to fit your brand.Any content promoted (linked to) won't provide direct value to your main company website/domain.Inability to utilize plugins.Cheesy. It is what it is. Not gonna be a great representation for your company.Summary

Blogging should be a part of any sound marketing plan, nowadays. You need to create engagement and provide the ability for people to share content coming from your company. Face it, very few people are going to feel compelled to share your "service page", much less link to it.

Do blogging for the right reasons, and set it up in the right manner for your needs and you'll realize positive results.

Now that you've addressed best practices for setting up your blog, realize that you're just getting started...

 More Blog TipsWhy Blog: The Benefits of Business Blogging for Visitors & LinksBoost Your Blog's SEO Mojo with These 6 Simple, Actionable StepsBlog SMO Guide: How to Apply Social Media Optimization to Your Blog in 33 Steps8 Steps to Optimize Your Blog PostFrom 0 to 1.4 Million Visitors in 6 Months: A Lesson in Building Organic Traffic5 Steps for Crafting an Effective B2B SEO Blogging Strategy

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SES San Francisco could be the most valuable online marketing conference you attend this year. Register today and save up to $200!
*Pre-show rate through September 6.