Bing Testing New Search Results Design

Bing is testing a new search results layout that changes the color of the logo from gray to the yellow/orange, changes the color of the search button and removes the gray background color from the right side rail.

Bing has also cleaned up the interface, giving it a tighter but more open look, while keeping most of the existing content and features.

@rgomezric notified me of the change and posted a YouTube video.

Here is a comparison, showing you both the new and the current design.

New Test Bing Layout:

Current Bing Layout:

Google Fixing Reverse DNS GoogleBot Verification

Google has confirmed that there are some GoogleBot useragent spiders not properly passing verification protocol.

Savvy webmasters noticed that GoogleBot over the .249.70.0 /24 IP range was not returning the proper reverse DNS verification details. The response given was “no such host is known,” but the activity webmasters noticed was that it did appear to be a legit Google crawler.

Google’s John Mueller confirmed on my Google+ post that this was indeed an issue on Google’s end. Temporarily they have stopped GoogleBot activity in those IP ranges and will fix the issue before they continue to crawl on those IP ranges.

The issue is that if you are blocking rogue spiders through reverse DNS verification, you may have blocked Google from crawling your site because of the failed DNS check.

Now Google is working on a fix but you should not have to worry about blocking a real GoogleBot at this time.

3 Pitfalls of Using Social as a Ranking Signal & Why Links STILL Matter

The SEO industry moves quickly. Those of us who work in the industry are always trying to adapt and keep up with best practices. Due to the nature of our niche, we can sometimes get ahead of ourselves in the search for the next big industry shift.

Right now there is a lot of talk about Google using social signals as a ranking factor. However, the truth is social signals are easier to manipulate than links. While social metrics are important and they provide value outside of SEO, there are a number of pitfalls regarding their use as a ranking signal for search.

Links remain at the core of Google's search algorithm and continue to be the driving force behind rankings. Due to the pitfalls associated with using social as a ranking signal, links remain the best factor for determining visibility online.

Pitfalls of Using Social as a Ranking Signal

First off, let's make this clear – Google does not use social metrics for search ranking. Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts explains this in a recent Google Webmaster Help video.

Furthermore, Amit Singhal, Chief of Google Search, reinforced this in his SMX 2014 keynote.

Again, social metrics (such as +1s, retweets, likes, etc.) certainly are useful and valuable in their own regard, but there are some potential pitfalls to using them as a ranking factor. These pitfalls include:

Social metrics are easy to manipulate.Google doesn't have/could lose access to crawl the data of external social platforms.Lacking universal adoption on their own platform (Google+).1. Social Metrics are Easy to Manipulate

One of the biggest reasons that social metrics can't be used as a viable ranking factor is that they can be easily manipulated.

While links continue to be the principal ranking factor Google uses, manipulation has been an on-going problem with them as well. Cutts is constantly battling the spammers and black hats that pollute the web and give white hat link builders a bad name.

Using links as the primary ranking factor does leave room for manipulation, but the problem with social metrics is they are even easier to manipulate than links.

I mean seriously, how hard is it to create a fake social profile?

In 2012, it was estimated that Facebook had roughly 83 million fake/duplicate accounts and researchers suggested that 1 in 10 Twitter accounts are fake in this recent post.

This leaves a lot of room for manipulation.

Along with creating fake profiles, it's also possible to manipulate social data through bots or automated tools. Using automated software, spammers can generate thousands of likes, +1's, favorites, etc. in a matter of minutes.

As Google continuously battles link spam and adds to their link schemes document, it seems unlikely that they would want to implement a ranking factor that is even easier to game.

2. Google Doesn't Have Full Access to External Social Platforms

Another challenge to using social metrics for ranking is that Google doesn't have full access to crawl the data on external social platforms.

"We're not using [social signals from Twitter or Facebook] right now," Singhal said at SMX West. "We don't have access to the Twitter data, so you can imagine how hard it would be to build a system that relies on those signals."

It's apparent that Google isn't confident using data they don't have full access to crawl as a ranking signal. Even if Google were to gain full access, using social data for rankings still remains problematic – as Google could lose access at a moment's notice.

In fact, this actually has happened before.

Back in 2011, Google was blocked from their special feed to Twitter data after a deal they had with Twitter expired. Google spent a lot of engineering time on that data and once they were blocked, all their work became useless.

The risk of being blocked again has made Google hesitant to invest any more time and effort into using social metrics for rankings. Cutts actually referenced this uncertainty in the aforementioned video:

We have to crawl the web in order to find pages on those two web properties and we've had at least one experience where we were blocked from crawling for about a month and a half. And so the idea of doing a lot of special engineering work to try to extract some data from web pages when we might get blocked from being able to crawl those web pages in the future, is something where the engineers would to be a little bit leery about doing that.

These are some pretty clear indications from prominent Google employees that they lack the access necessary to confidently use social metrics from external platforms for rankings. In fact, there are even some issues with their own social platform – Google+.

3. Google+ Lacks Universal Adoption

Along with the concerns regarding external social data, Google also faces some challenges with their own social platform.

The main issue with using metrics from Google+ is that the platform lacks universal adoption. Although Google+ has been widely accepted within the SEO industry, reception among average internet users has been less enthusiastic. (Although Google+ is the fifth largest social platform, much of this has to do with the fact that a Google+ profile is created automatically with every Gmail account)

Even though Google has unfettered access to this data, the issue here becomes that not enough people use Google+ to legitimately use these metrics to determine rankings. Signals from Google+ simply don't provide a fair representation of the web's overall populace at this time.

That doesn't mean this couldn't change in the future though. Google does use metrics from Google+ for personalized results.

"We think about it from a user's perspective," Singhal said at SMX. "They're looking for high quality content generated by reputed people. We have the authorship program that allows that to happen. They're also looking for content from people they know, and we have the personalized results for that."

Why doesn't Google use more signals from Google+?

"We have found that use of social signals in personalized mode is far more positive than using in non-personal results," Singhal said.

The fact that Google is using these signals for ranking personalized results shows they want to factor social signals into ranking. However, they currently don't have the adoption rate needed to do so.

Links Remain the Best Ranking Factor

While social still has value, within search links are the strongest signal for determining visibility. Social offers another worthwhile marketing channel, but from an entirely SEO standpoint it has little to no direct value. Links STILL matter because they remain the best ranking factor in search.

Links are at the very core of Google's search algorithm - it was built on links. To this day, they remain the primary ranking factor because they provide the best search results. Recently, Cutts reaffirmed this in another Google Webmaster Help video.

In this video, Cutts explicitly states that backlinks "are still a really, really big win in terms of quality for search results."

Singhal also reiterated the importance of links at SMX.

"Links are clearly an important signal about the importance of your content," he said. "They're still very valuable. At the end of the day, we take a holistic look at the value of your site. We're looking to build algorithms that give users what they want."

As long as links are providing the best results in terms of quality, they will remain the chief factor in determining rankings in the SERPs.

Social Signals in Conjunction With Links

As I said before, there is value in social metrics and it is apparent that Google would like to factor them into ranking. While there are currently too many pitfalls to using them as a primary ranking factor, it could be possible that Google is working toward using them as a sort of secondary signal in conjunction with links in the future.

For instance, if a piece of content is garnering a high number of inbound links, but has very few social shares, this could raise suspicion.

On the other hand, if something is getting a large number of links and being widely shared via social, it provides more evidence that it is quality content. Google could potentially use social data to further validate quality and justify a higher position in the SERPs, but again this is clearly not feasible from an engineering standpoint at this time.

Although it isn't viable to employ social signals as a primary ranking factor by themselves, they could possibly be used in conjunction with links in the future.

It seems we in the SEO industry are constantly searching for the next big thing to replace links. However, Google built their algorithm around links and they remain the strongest ranking signal. It could be useful to reference social metrics along with links in the future, but currently there are too many pitfalls to viably use them for rankings.

Toronto Early Bird Rates Expire Next Week
ClickZ Live is coming to Toronto May 14-16. This new event addresses the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketerts face, covering email, display, attribution, big data, social, content integration and more! Register now and save!
*Early Bird Rates expire April 11.

3 Pitfalls of Using Social as a Ranking Signal & Why Links STILL Matter

The SEO industry moves quickly. Those of us who work in the industry are always trying to adapt and keep up with best practices. Due to the nature of our niche, we can sometimes get ahead of ourselves in the search for the next big industry shift.

Right now there is a lot of talk about Google using social signals as a ranking factor. However, the truth is social signals are easier to manipulate than links. While social metrics are important and they provide value outside of SEO, there are a number of pitfalls regarding their use as a ranking signal for search.

Links remain at the core of Google's search algorithm and continue to be the driving force behind rankings. Due to the pitfalls associated with using social as a ranking signal, links remain the best factor for determining visibility online.

Pitfalls of Using Social as a Ranking Signal

First off, let's make this clear – Google does not use social metrics for search ranking. Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts explains this in a recent Google Webmaster Help video.

Furthermore, Amit Singhal, Chief of Google Search, reinforced this in his SMX 2014 keynote.

Again, social metrics (such as +1s, retweets, likes, etc.) certainly are useful and valuable in their own regard, but there are some potential pitfalls to using them as a ranking factor. These pitfalls include:

Social metrics are easy to manipulate.Google doesn't have/could lose access to crawl the data of external social platforms.Lacking universal adoption on their own platform (Google+).1. Social Metrics are Easy to Manipulate

One of the biggest reasons that social metrics can't be used as a viable ranking factor is that they can be easily manipulated.

While links continue to be the principal ranking factor Google uses, manipulation has been an on-going problem with them as well. Cutts is constantly battling the spammers and black hats that pollute the web and give white hat link builders a bad name.

Using links as the primary ranking factor does leave room for manipulation, but the problem with social metrics is they are even easier to manipulate than links.

I mean seriously, how hard is it to create a fake social profile?

In 2012, it was estimated that Facebook had roughly 83 million fake/duplicate accounts and researchers suggested that 1 in 10 Twitter accounts are fake in this recent post.

This leaves a lot of room for manipulation.

Along with creating fake profiles, it's also possible to manipulate social data through bots or automated tools. Using automated software, spammers can generate thousands of likes, +1's, favorites, etc. in a matter of minutes.

As Google continuously battles link spam and adds to their link schemes document, it seems unlikely that they would want to implement a ranking factor that is even easier to game.

2. Google Doesn't Have Full Access to External Social Platforms

Another challenge to using social metrics for ranking is that Google doesn't have full access to crawl the data on external social platforms.

"We're not using [social signals from Twitter or Facebook] right now," Singhal said at SMX West. "We don't have access to the Twitter data, so you can imagine how hard it would be to build a system that relies on those signals."

It's apparent that Google isn't confident using data they don't have full access to crawl as a ranking signal. Even if Google were to gain full access, using social data for rankings still remains problematic – as Google could lose access at a moment's notice.

In fact, this actually has happened before.

Back in 2011, Google was blocked from their special feed to Twitter data after a deal they had with Twitter expired. Google spent a lot of engineering time on that data and once they were blocked, all their work became useless.

The risk of being blocked again has made Google hesitant to invest any more time and effort into using social metrics for rankings. Cutts actually referenced this uncertainty in the aforementioned video:

We have to crawl the web in order to find pages on those two web properties and we've had at least one experience where we were blocked from crawling for about a month and a half. And so the idea of doing a lot of special engineering work to try to extract some data from web pages when we might get blocked from being able to crawl those web pages in the future, is something where the engineers would to be a little bit leery about doing that.

These are some pretty clear indications from prominent Google employees that they lack the access necessary to confidently use social metrics from external platforms for rankings. In fact, there are even some issues with their own social platform – Google+.

3. Google+ Lacks Universal Adoption

Along with the concerns regarding external social data, Google also faces some challenges with their own social platform.

The main issue with using metrics from Google+ is that the platform lacks universal adoption. Although Google+ has been widely accepted within the SEO industry, reception among average internet users has been less enthusiastic. (Although Google+ is the fifth largest social platform, much of this has to do with the fact that a Google+ profile is created automatically with every Gmail account)

Even though Google has unfettered access to this data, the issue here becomes that not enough people use Google+ to legitimately use these metrics to determine rankings. Signals from Google+ simply don't provide a fair representation of the web's overall populace at this time.

That doesn't mean this couldn't change in the future though. Google does use metrics from Google+ for personalized results.

"We think about it from a user's perspective," Singhal said at SMX. "They're looking for high quality content generated by reputed people. We have the authorship program that allows that to happen. They're also looking for content from people they know, and we have the personalized results for that."

Why doesn't Google use more signals from Google+?

"We have found that use of social signals in personalized mode is far more positive than using in non-personal results," Singhal said.

The fact that Google is using these signals for ranking personalized results shows they want to factor social signals into ranking. However, they currently don't have the adoption rate needed to do so.

Links Remain the Best Ranking Factor

While social still has value, within search links are the strongest signal for determining visibility. Social offers another worthwhile marketing channel, but from an entirely SEO standpoint it has little to no direct value. Links STILL matter because they remain the best ranking factor in search.

Links are at the very core of Google's search algorithm - it was built on links. To this day, they remain the primary ranking factor because they provide the best search results. Recently, Cutts reaffirmed this in another Google Webmaster Help video.

In this video, Cutts explicitly states that backlinks "are still a really, really big win in terms of quality for search results."

Singhal also reiterated the importance of links at SMX.

"Links are clearly an important signal about the importance of your content," he said. "They're still very valuable. At the end of the day, we take a holistic look at the value of your site. We're looking to build algorithms that give users what they want."

As long as links are providing the best results in terms of quality, they will remain the chief factor in determining rankings in the SERPs.

Social Signals in Conjunction With Links

As I said before, there is value in social metrics and it is apparent that Google would like to factor them into ranking. While there are currently too many pitfalls to using them as a primary ranking factor, it could be possible that Google is working toward using them as a sort of secondary signal in conjunction with links in the future.

For instance, if a piece of content is garnering a high number of inbound links, but has very few social shares, this could raise suspicion.

On the other hand, if something is getting a large number of links and being widely shared via social, it provides more evidence that it is quality content. Google could potentially use social data to further validate quality and justify a higher position in the SERPs, but again this is clearly not feasible from an engineering standpoint at this time.

Although it isn't viable to employ social signals as a primary ranking factor by themselves, they could possibly be used in conjunction with links in the future.

It seems we in the SEO industry are constantly searching for the next big thing to replace links. However, Google built their algorithm around links and they remain the strongest ranking signal. It could be useful to reference social metrics along with links in the future, but currently there are too many pitfalls to viably use them for rankings.

Toronto Early Bird Rates Expire Next Week
ClickZ Live is coming to Toronto May 14-16. This new event addresses the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketerts face, covering email, display, attribution, big data, social, content integration and more! Register now and save!
*Early Bird Rates expire April 11.

Google’s Matt Cutts: We Can Improve Our Algorithms For Authorities On Topics

In an interesting video released by Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, Matt answers the question on how Google separates the concept of popularity from authority.

The truth is, he answered that question quickly by saying popularity and authority are two different things. The example he gave was that porn sites are often way more popular than government or organization sites but government sites are often more authoritative than porn sites. So the two concepts are different.

Matt then explained in more detail the concept of being popular within a topic, or maybe being more authoritative within a topic. So by query or class of query, how does Google determine which site is more relevant or authoritative for a query.

Matt said that Google is working on new algorithms to do a better job at that. He said Google showing sites that “actually have some evidence that it should rank for something related to medical queries. And that is something where we can improve the quality of the algorithm even more.”

Matt is probably talking about the story we wrote named Google Authority Boost: Google�s Algorithm To Determine Which Site Is A Subject Authority.

Here is the video:

No Joke: Google Maps Brings Back “Search Nearby” Feature

You’re going to hear a lot of rejoicing when this news spreads: Google has returned the “search nearby” feature to Google Maps. #celebrate!!!

Amidst all of today’s Google April Fools’ joke announcements, the company tweeted the feature’s resurrection earlier today.

After doing a search on Google Maps, you can click again in the search box to get “Search Nearby” to show up as an option.

Ever since Google relaunched Google Maps in February, users have been complaining about the disappearance of that particular feature. Here are a few tweets about it from just the past couple days:

The loss of “search nearby” feature, layout changes, & lack of ease w/methods of travel are awful. Just another bad map app now.

� Mark Hughes (@markhughesfilms) March 31, 2014

 

Whichever @googlemapmaker removed “search nearby” on @googlemaps is missing a soul. Honestly, I don’t know why you got rid of #bestfeature

� Chris Harcum (@ChrisHarcum) March 31, 2014

 

looking for alternate mapping apps – google removing ‘search nearby’ was a disaster

� geets (@geetsf) March 29, 2014

 

Technically speaking, the ability to search around specific locations never went away. After doing a search in the new Google Maps, you could do a follow-up search like “hotels” or “restaurants” or whatever, and Google would default to showing search results near the location that you’d previously searched. But Google did a poor job of communicating that, and it wasn’t nearly obvious enough for users to figure out on their own. With that in mind, and given the vocal criticism Google’s received (on Twitter and in Google’s help forums), today’s move was inevitable.

Google’s Matt Cutts: We Can Improve Our Algorithms For Authorities On Topics

In an interesting video released by Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, Matt answers the question on how Google separates the concept of popularity from authority.

The truth is, he answered that question quickly by saying popularity and authority are two different things. The example he gave was that porn sites are often way more popular than government or organization sites but government sites are often more authoritative than porn sites. So the two concepts are different.

Matt then explained in more detail the concept of being popular within a topic, or maybe being more authoritative within a topic. So by query or class of query, how does Google determine which site is more relevant or authoritative for a query.

Matt said that Google is working on new algorithms to do a better job at that. He said Google showing sites that “actually have some evidence that it should rank for something related to medical queries. And that is something where we can improve the quality of the algorithm even more.”

Matt is probably talking about the story we wrote named Google Authority Boost: Google�s Algorithm To Determine Which Site Is A Subject Authority.

Here is the video:

How to Remove a Penalty for Unnatural Outbound Links

Following Google's recent manual action against MyBlogGuest and their members, a lot of people have been asking for help with removing manual actions for unnatural links – especially for unnatural outbound links.

It can be quite distressing when you see a notification of a manual action from Google in your Google Webmaster Tools account, but by taking prompt action and working hard to resolve the issue that may be causing the penalty you will soon find traffic will return quite quickly.

Which Links are the Problem?

Unfortunately Google doesn't provide any insight as to which particular links or pages they believe to be causing the problem. This is the same if you're having to clean up unnatural links to your site too.

The most obvious place to start is by looking at any links that you have sold. If anyone has paid you for a sponsored article, advertorial or a bought link from your site in the past you should make those links nofollow. It is not necessary to nofollow internal links.

Have you been using a lot of reciprocal links as part of your link building campaign? Have you set up a links page on your website and allowed it to become a hoard of cluttered random links rather than a curated list of useful resources?

Google has also become very strict on websites that contain large numbers of guest posts. If you have allowed unsolicited guest posters in the past it is worth reviewing those articles to look for links particularly with keyword rich anchor text to commercial pages or the home page of other websites.

If you have a blog and allow comments, check to see if you have allowed commenters to leave followed links with keyword rich anchor text. If you have a comment spam problem, then look at implementing a different commenting platform with better spam detection.

Keep a clear record in a shared Google Doc of the links that you have changed to nofollow or deleted. Google have stated numerous times in the past that they don't trust external file types as Microsoft Excel as they can contain malware.

File a Reconsideration Request

After you've checked your website for any links that might be breaking Google's link schemes and made the necessary changes, it's now time to submit your reconsideration request.

Sign in to Google Webmaster Tools and ensure that you have added and verified the website that you want to be reconsidered. Now go to the reconsiderationpage and select the penalized site from the drop down menu.

Keep your reconsideration message to the pointand include a link to the shared Google Doc you created with the links you have cleaned up.

Dear Google Webspam Team Member

On [date] we received a notification of a manual action for unnatural links from our website. We have reviewed all the links on our site where we believe they are violating your guidance on link schemes and either deleted the link or made the link nofollow.

Here is a Google Doc highlighting the work carried out:

[Google Doc Url]

We are committed to following your guidelines on link schemes in the future

Thank you for your consideration

[Your Name]

Google Says No

Sometimes it can take a few attempts to pass the reconsideration request phase. Don't be disheartened. It just means that Google feels you haven't spent enough time fixing the problems.

Occasionally you will receive some examples of links back in your reply, which Google believe are still violating their rules. This can make it much easier to understand the types of links you have on your site which Google is unhappy about.

Once you have spent some more time fixing the problem you should submit another reconsideration request.

When Will Your Traffic Return?

Once the manual action has been lifted you will notice improvements in your traffic and rankings fairly quickly for your less competitive keywords and brand terms. It can take a few weeks in some instances for your traffic to return to normal but you will notice significant improvements fairly quickly.

A 5-Step Action Plan for Influencer Marketing & 9 Expert Tips to Get You Started

Anyone can do bad influencer marketing. The real question is can you do good influencer marketing?

The leading brands and agencies have understood influence isn't about megaphones and popularity and the social web is not one big soap box.

To harness the extraordinary power of peers and experts, these marketers are finding was to build relationships with important individuals over time. They build trust and create opportunities for engagement to happen organically and authentically.

Traackr recently teamed up with experts at LEWIS PR to create an "at-a-glance" framework for influencer marketing based on their collective experiences creating and powering influencer-based programs across verticals. The framework (laid out in an infographic that appears at the bottom of this post) walks through the path to influencer marketing success, which always starts by defining your customer or audience and working backward to figure out who these people engage with and trust.

Next, you use an influencer discovery tool to identify the right influencers and extract insights that help you decide who to reach out to and how to get them involved in your brand stories.

Finally, the influencer work that outperforms the rest always includes measurement and refining based on analytics.

In addition to the action plan, they also identified nine best practices influencer marketing experts use no matter what!

1. Think Beyond Demographics

All too often marketers want to target generic groups such as mommy bloggers or tech bloggers. But that won't cut it.

To be influential on the social web means you produce and share content that gets people excited about specific things. Look for influencers based on their interests and passions.

2. Understand Their Community

An influencer is influential because they have built an audience that wants to listen to what they have to say. That means influencers care more about their own community than your brand (and rightly so)! Find ways to help them serve their audience and you win.

3. De-Emphasize Primary Reach

Influencer marketing scales by building quality relationships with select people and reaching secondary audiences. Instead of aiming to "reach" the masses yourself by blasting your message, work with a targeted group of people who can better tell your story.

4. Create Experiences

The new breed of social influencers has just as much power as a traditional journalist, but they aren't motivated by the same things. Instead of pushing your news, create experiences for your influencers so they have something to react to and share.

5. Play the Long Game

The value of your influencer relationships grows over time. Invest the time it takes to spark connections, earning trust and sustaining relationships. The more you get to know each other the more value you can create for each other.

6. Tailor Your Strategy

Influencer marketing isn't direct mail 2.0. You need to craft messages and create experiences that will resonate with people based on their own unique personalities. Customize your approach based on the individual person.

7. Provide High Value

Far from just pitching, find opportunities for your brand to enrich the work of your influencers. Remember, they care about their audiences and they are hungry for unique experiences to share.

Do you have data that would further their research? How about a special event for insiders?

8. Fundamentally Human

Influencers are not empty amplification vessels. Treat them well and focus on their unique passions, interests and personalities. To loosely paraphrase Tara Hunt: you wouldn't ask a stranger to marry you, so why would you ask an influencer to endorse you right off the bat.

9. Strive for Relationships

Bottom line and most important tip: it's all about the relationship! The social web is full of people who are passionately engaged in topics that impact your business. But you have to build a relationship with an influencer before you can unlock their potential value.

You can put these tips to use with our 5-Step Action Plan for Influencer Marketing. Get the details and more in the infographic:

Microsoft Bing Testing Showing “Alternative” Search Engines In Search Results

We’ve seen how Google may display competitive search engines in their search results, based on an EU antitrust settlement. But how will it look for Bing if they did the same thing?

Aaron Wall at SEO Book posted a screen shot of what he saw Bing testing around displaying “alternative” results in the Bing search result listings. He searched for [pizza] and in a yellow box, below the top two organic results, displayed a line of results for Citysearch, OpenTable and Yelp.

Here is a picture:

Google’s version seems a lot more extreme but I believe Google, with their marketshare, is being pressured to ensure visibility of the alternative search engines.

Google’s April Fools’ Day Jokes For 2014: Google Maps Pok√©mon Challenge, Magic Hand & More

Is it just me, or does it seem like Google starts celebrating April Fools’ Day earlier and earlier every year?�No company on the web takes April 1st more seriously than Google, as we’ve been covering for years now.�So what about this year’s April Fools’ Day antics? Let’s have a look.

Google Maps: Pok�mon Challenge

It was a little past 12 pm ET today (March 31), when the Google Maps team posted its April Fools’ Day gag — the “Pok�mon Challenge,” a game/adventure where Pok�mon masters are tasked with using Google Maps to find game characters out in the wild. Winners will (facetiously) have a chance to become Google employees.

As with many of Google’s April 1st gags, this one’s kinda “real” in the sense that you can open up your Google Maps app (iPhone or Android), tap the search bar and then touch the new “Press start” button (just as seen in the video below). When my daughter, the family’s Pok�mon expert, did that on my iPhone, we were immediately shown a map of Mountain View (Calif.) where a Bulbasaur and Dragonite were hanging out somewhere near the Google campus.

My daughter loves this gag, by the way. Loves it.

Google Japan: The Magic Hand

April Fools’ jokes are a worldwide thing with Google. Via the unofficial Google Operating System blog comes a joke called “The Magic Hand.” It’s a big hand device that operates your smartphone for you. Kinda. I think.

Gmail Shelfies

The Gmail team is out with a joke called Gmail Shelfies, which lets you set a photo of yourself as your Gmail theme, and then share it with others. Or you can subscribe to a theme setting called “Top Trending Shelfies” and Gmail will automatically set your theme from those images. If you’re into that. Sorry Gmail team. This one’s kinda flat as far as I’m concerned.

Nest: Total Temperature Control

Nest, one of Google’s newest acquisitions, is even in the April Fools’ Day game. Their gag is about a partnership with Virgin Atlantic airlines on a feature called “Total Temperature Control.” Every seat on Virgin’s jets gets its own Nest device to let passengers set their own temperature preferences as they fly. (This would actually be potentially cool if it were real.)

Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson even stars in the parody video.

Waze Launches WazeDates

Waze, another fairly recent Google acquisition, has pushed out its joke: a service called WazeDates that helps you “navigate to love faster” when you spot someone attractive while driving. (That sounds like a Google Glass app just waiting to happen, doesn’t it?) I laughed when the guy in the video says he used to honk at attractive females, “but honking can only take you so far.” Heh.

Google+ Auto-Awesome Photobombs

Just after midnight, the Google+ team announced its joke: Auto-Awesome Photobombs. But not just any photobombs — this is celebrity photobombs. For starters, if you upload a photo to Google+, Google might insert an image of David Hasselhoff, like shown in this Google example:

It sounds like other celebrities will replace Hasselhoff at some point.

Google “AdBirds”

The AdWords team is going with a play on words called “AdBirds.” There’s no announcement I’ve seen, but people were talking about it on Google+ — and I found it in my AdWords account via an alert when I logged in. You can choose one of six birds for your ad, write copy and … I don’t know what happens after that, frankly, and I’m not sure I want to mess with existing ad groups to find out!

Google Chrome Emoji Translator

Google Chrome has announced Google Translate support for Emoji on its blog. Claiming to be built into Chrome for Android and iOS, the new translator tool lets you, “Read all your favorite web content using efficient and emotive illustrations, instead of cumbersome text.”

Not only did the announcement include the text conversation that served as the inspiration for the emoji translator, Google created the following video explaining how the written word can’t keep up in a new world where communication must be optimized for a smaller screens:

Interplanetary Reports from Google AdSense

The following Google+ post from Google AdSense lets advertisers know about the new “Top planets and moons” reports that offer insight on impressions and revenue coming from places other than earth.

“With our recent discovery of the interplanetary IP address repository, you’ll have access to even more reports that can help you improve user engagement on your site,” claims the announcement, because, if there’s anything we need, it’s more reports from Google.

Google Gas USB Fueling Nozzle

Googler Norman Cohen also took to Google+ to announce a new USB gas nozzle. “Running low on gas in the middle of the desert, with no cellular service for miles around?” asks Cohen, “Not to worry, Google gas allows you to cache up to 4 gigabytes of gas while you’re connected.”

Google Research Making Blockly Universally Accessible

This one’s really geeky. The Google Research blog says it’s making the Blockly programming language universally accessible, including a full translation in Klingon.

Okay. (I don’t get it.)

Google Analytics: Data-less Decision Making

This one’s quite good. Google Analytics jokingly introduces a new training class called “Data-less Decision Making.”

“Using Google’s computing power, we’ve determined that 50 of the time 99% of decisions can be made with only 38% of the data,” says Justin Cutroni. “In this course we’re going to explore many arbitrary ways you can make decisions about your data. For example we’ll talk about the dart board method….”

I think you’ll like this one.

Auto-Awesome For Resumes

The “Life at Google” team — much like the Google+ team — is having fun with the auto-awesome feature. In this case, the joke is that they can auto-awesome your resume, to give it things like a Pok�mon or Doge theme. Here’s the video.

Google Fiber & Coffee

Google Fiber announces “Coffee to the Home” — your direct coffee superhighway that delivers coffee to your house via Google Fiber’s backbone and “coffee servers.” There’s a “coffee now” button on the Fiber jack.

YouTube: Upcoming Viral Video Trends

The YouTube team is taking credit for writing, shooting and uploading “all of the world’s most popular viral videos” and in the video below, they’re pre-announcing what memes will turn into hot videos in 2014. Things like “clocking” and “butter fails” — when people “hilariously” destroy a piece of bread by trying to spread cold butter on it — are included.

Google Enterprise: Apps For Business Dogs

If you bring your dog to work, why not help him/her be more productive with Google Apps for Business Dogs. That’s the Google Enterprise team’s gag this year. Features include “Hangouts with bark enhancement” and “Dmail with translation.”

We’ll keep adding more to this post as we discover them. And, as always, we invite you to let us know if you find one we haven’t mentioned.

(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)

4 UX Tips That Will Improve Your Content Strategy

User experience (UX) focused marketing doesn't just extend to an optimized experience on your website. It's time that our content strategies focus on the user as much as our homepage design does.

So how do you think like a UX strategist, and how will doing so help you produce better results?

These four UX tips will provide direction as you plan, create, and implement your content strategy.

Planning1. Think: Users First

UX strategists have a gift for keeping the user at the center of everything they create. You should do the same when it comes to creating your content strategy.

Instead of deciding whether you should focus on white papers or how-to guides, think about what types of content and information your users want or need from a business with your expertise.

How to do it:

Create buyer personas. Then, every time you start to craft or modify your content strategy, ask yourself which buyer you're looking to make more aware of your brand, convert, or sing your praises.

Buyer-focused content will prevent you from creating a killer piece of content that won't resonate with your customers or potential customers.

Ask yourself these questions before you create your next content strategy:

Which buyer personas do I want to target in the next few months?How do these people consume content?At what stage of the purchase process does this buyer persona start to consume content from our business?

The last question is key. You don't want to create a content plan that will be rolled out in the next three months and is aimed at converting a particular buyer persona if it typically takes that persona five months to have a shift in attitude and become a customer. Instead, create targeted content for each stage of a persona's buying process.

Creating2. Customer Experience is King and Clutter Kills Conversions

Above all, UX strives to deliver the ideal experience to users. UX professionals know that in order for a first-time buyer to become a repeat customer and a brand advocate, their experience needs to be spectacular from the beginning. This mindset needs to extend to your content strategy.

How to do it:

First, understand your company's brand image and the experience it wants to deliver to its customers. Then, with every content piece, think about the experience it will deliver to your users. Ask yourself these questions about the content you're creating:

Will it answer all of their questions on this topic?Will anything about the information included or excluded in this piece frustrate the consumer?What do I expect the takeaway to be for people who read this content?

Understand the structure you want your content to take before putting together a new piece for your content strategy. The technicality and complexity of the information you want to get across should dictate the structure your content takes. Don't frustrate your users by becoming overly concerned with what the content should say instead of how it should be said.

3. People Make Snap Judgments

UX reviews take into account the visual appeal of a user interface. The end goal or most important information on a page should be clear. A good UI uses white space to its advantage and makes the information easy to navigate. Content you create should follow the same guidelines.

How to do it:

Your content plan should have a theme. Worry less about creating many unique pieces of content and more about how you can repurpose existing content so that it resonates in a different way with different users.

Your content may contain the exact information you need to show to a user in order to turn them from a window shopper into a repeat customer, but if it fails to meet a user's expectations within the first few seconds of delivery, then you've lost the opportunity.

Compelling headlines and section headers in blog posts, white papers, or case studies go a long way to deliver a good first impression.

Never produce a “how-to” guide that's promotional. People will make quick assessments about your work, and although your content strategy is ultimately a promotional tool for your brand, you don't need to scream your brand name for people to know it's from you.

Executing4. Funnel Analysis Can Tell You What Types of Content Your Users Need and When They Need it

A good UX analysis includes a break down of website goal funnels to identify the primary pain points for users. Before you roll out a content plan, find the areas of your conversion processes that are causing users to bail. Think about when you can deliver content to those users that will help push them through your sales funnel.

How to do it:

Use Google Analytics to analyze your website's goal funnels and tap into other resources such as your sales team or automation tools to help you determine where potential customers need a little nudge. Once you've identified the areas causing these people to leave your funnel, think back to those buyer personas and ask yourself these things:

What is it about our product or service that the buyer isn't confident about at this point in the process?What kind of content do we have on deck that can supplement this knowledge gap?What is the best delivery method for this content?

You may find that there is an information gap when it comes to a particular decision-making topic, and you simply need to add content to your website in a place that it will be helpful to users. However the more likely scenario is you should create content to be shared through email campaigns or social promotion that will deliver the missing, personalized information to your potential customer when they need it.

Conclusion

With a focused content strategy that a UX professional would be proud of you'll see better engagement from your users and help them become repeat customers.

Marin Software's Context Connect Helps Advertisers Identify Trends & Take Action

Brands integrate into the fabric of people's lives, and it's the marketers job to make sure the brand is there when people need it – like when they're staying inside from the cold.

Dubbed the "polar vortex," this past winter's storm system was a brutal one for many in the U.S. Marin Software data released today suggests that online shopping was up in response to the cold, but that there was plenty of missed opportunity for advertisers.

"Paid search impression volumes were 1,500 percent higher than historic trends for retailers during the coldest week of the polar vortex (January 19 to 25)," Marin said in its announcement. Click volume and spend also increased by 268 percent and 79 percent respectively, "but only at a fraction of the search impressions, indicating advertisers missed out on a captive audience."

In order to help brands stay relevant to their audience and become a solution in their consumer's lives, Marin announced today "Context Connect," allowing advertisers to "incorporate weather, television, inventory, sports scores, stock market fluctuations, and other contextual data into their digital marketing campaigns."

Context Connect lets marketers evaluate search, social and display performance alongside "contextual attributes to quickly identify trends and take immediate action by adjusting audiences, creative and bidding across campaigns. Paired with Marin Software's Dynamic Actions, Context Connect further empowers advertisers with the ability to automatically adjust keyword bids and visibility based on custom criteria."

"Digital marketers can't see into the future and predict for every factor that may affect a digital marketing campaign," said Matt Ackley, chief marketing officer at Marin Software. "Context Connect and the open-stack nature of the Marin platform allow advertisers to integrate contextual sources of data and optimize their digital campaigns based on their unique external factors."

YouTube Reveals the Secret Formula to Content Marketing Success

Until today, the only cryptic advice that YouTube was willing to give to content creators and brand advertisers about how to make videos worth watching and create content worth sharing was this little nugget hidden on the programming checklist in the Creator Playbook: "Create content that is unique, compelling, and entertaining or informative."

Instead of revealing the secret formula to content marketing success, YouTubers seemed to have adopted the policy of "letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend" in order to create "a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small."

In July 2008, the YouTube Spotlight channel uploaded an animated short by Jantze studios, "The Birds and the Biz," which claimed there was no "magic formula" or "secret potion" for content marketing success. "The truth," according to Papa Bear, was YouTubers "never really know what crazy new thing will be next."

That was then. And with Susan Wojcicki now the CEO of YouTube, this policy appears to have changed – big time.

Today, Suzie Reider, Google's managing director of brand solutions, will be giving the luncheon keynote at the 2014 ANA Media Leadership Conference. Reider will look at the key industry trends and tell advertisers and brand marketers what they can do (and should do!) to prepare for this next decade of rapid change in all things advertising. She will also announce The YouTube Creator Playbook for Brands.

The Brand Playbook reveals the tools and know-how developed by a generation of YouTube content creators in order to help brands as they develop content strategies that will resonate with 21st century consumers.

This newest playbook is divided into seven sections. Each section presents several optimizations or strategies for building engaged audiences on YouTube.

These best practices are explained in stages to help content creators and brand advertisers understand each point and guide them through taking action.

Content Marketing as part of Your Brand Strategy recommends, "Before making videos, create a content plan to ensure that your content both meets your brand's goals and engages your intended audience. Our five guiding principles will then help you define your content marketing specifically on YouTube using simple questions. "10 Fundamentals to Create Content People Love says, "A successful creative concept can have an enormous impact on a channel. Compelling videos can bring in new viewers, introduce them to the rest of your content, and build a loyal fanbase. While no strict rules govern content creation on YouTube, ten fundamental principles have emerged as the most important guides to a successful creative strategy."Schedule Your Content declares, "Now it's time to map out your overall channel strategy. How do you decide which video to release when? First you need to communicate what your channel stands for, and then you need to map out the different types of potential videos and the best times to release them."Optimize Your Content reveals, "Creating great content is essential to finding success on YouTube, but it's only half the battle. YouTube is a big place with lots of content for viewers to choose from. A successful optimization strategy will help you take full benefit of the platform's functionalities and avoid execution mistakes."Promote Your Content with Paid Media explains, "The key to success on YouTube is not only to produce great, relevant videos, but also to make sure your target audience sees them. In this section, we'll guide you through cost-effective strategies to help you get the most out of paid and earned video views and ensure effective promotion of your content on YouTube."Amplify Your Content with Social discloses, "Online video is an inherently social medium. People are drawn to online video and web series because they can interact with the creators in ways that they can't on television. In this section, learn how to optimize the social amplification of your content."Measurement acknowledges, "Measurement is key, both for defining success and optimizing towards it. In this section, we'll present you with tools that will help you track metrics around all of your paid, owned and earned media on YouTube. We'll also help you select KPIs that make sense for your objectives."

In addition to being more up-to-date than previous Creator Playbooks, the Brand Playbook is also more comprehensive. For example, Version 2 of the Creator Playbook, which was published in February 2012, was 73 pages long and organized into three sections: Programming and Producing, Publishing and Optimization, and Community and Social Media.

By comparison, the Brand Playbook is not only organized into seven sections, it is also 100 pages long. About the only things missing from the newest playbook are some of the best practices for leveraging Facebook, Twitter, and other social media that were included in earlier versions.

One of the few anachronisms in the Brand Playbook is a tip on Page 87 to "Partner with a third party such as Wildfire, Google's in-house social media marketing platform, to help you seamlessly execute consistent campaigns across multiple networks." Google started winding down Wildfire as a standalone entity on March 14, 2014, and began rolling its technology into the DoubleClick ad platform.

In addition to announcing the Brand Playbook during Reider's keynote, Vanessa Pappas, the Global Head of Audience Development YouTube, is also expected to post an announcement on the YouTube Creator Blog and/or the Official YouTube Blog.

A draft of the blog post was shared with Search Engine Watch on Friday. In it, Pappas asks, "Ever wonder why Smosh gets millions of views on every video posted to their channel? Or how Michelle Phan is able to attract and retain an audience of more than 6M subscribers who tune into her videos every week?"

Pappas then says, "To demystify what makes these top channels tick and help you better understand how to create a successful strategy for your brand on YouTube, we developed the new YouTube Creator Playbook for Brands. Similar to the Creator Playbook, which has helped over 2 million of our creators grow their audiences, the Creator Playbook for Brands walks you through the steps to help you create, plan, and implement a YouTube content creation strategy; from tips on how to create videos to video promotion."

In her post, Pappas also does some myth busting on the five most commonly misunderstood fundamentals about creating content for YouTube:

Myth #1: Virality is the only measure of YouTube success. The most successful creators release episodic series to generate high sharing and viral activity, as one video will often break out and then introduce massive audiences to the entire series.Myth #2: You can only be successful on your own. While brand advertisers should optimize their own channels for discovery, authentic collaborations with YouTube creators can be a hugely impactful way to help new viewers discover their brands.Myth #3: All videos must provide utility. Although how-to and informational videos play a key role in a content strategy, tapping into the cultural moments and memes that your audience is a part of on YouTube is an integral part of reaching new viewers.Myth #4: People will watch your video where you want them to. In reality, a significant percentage of your audience will discover your video from a social feed, search result, or a related video placement. You'll know you've done your job when every episode of your show can be fully appreciated by a first time viewer.Myth #5: To keep viewers interested, you need to constantly reinvent your videos. Most top creators agree that consistency is crucial to success on the site. Stay true to who you are and be consistent - in format (a recurring series), elements (intros and outros), and voice. This will set a clear point of view that accurately reflects your brand and keeps your fans coming back for more.

The LEGO Brand Channel on YouTube provides an excellent example of how to make videos worth watching and create content worth sharing.

With toy products, YouTube provides a unique opportunity to tell a story around the product, show the toys in action, and create a world that customers want to engage with. LEGO has turned their YouTube channel into a highly effective means of engaging fans, creating episodic content that entertains customers and encourages them to stay on the channel and watch more.

"We don't view our brand channel on YouTube as a means of selling products; rather, it's a great way for us to deliver against what today's kids need and want: to be entertained, inspired, informed and amused," said Michael McNally, LEGO's senior director, brand relations. "We've found that the LEGO brand can successfully deliver against those needs in an authentic and very distinct way, thereby making our brand channel a valuable means to more deeply engage fans in the LEGO brand.

"We plan our content, then, to optimize brand engagement, support promotional activities and generally maintain relevance among children," he said. "We program content at a global and regional level, depending on the scope, scale and focus of the content, and we're always motivated to keep content fresh, timely and frequent."

What are the most engaging content pieces? Short-form, humorous, bite-sized videos, McNally said.

"Also, we find that videos on how to improve building technique, behind the scenes sneak peeks and other inspirational brand content that will spark a child's imagination to continue building are also popular, because they convey that we understand them, what they like and what they are looking for, which strengthens the personal connection they have to the LEGO brand," he said.

In other words, now that YouTube has revealed the secret formula to content marketing success, content creators and brand advertisers can learn how to make videos worth watching and create content worth sharing. The rest is "kids' stuff."

Measuring Social Media ROI – Brands Pull Back the Curtain at #SMMW14

Marketers are increasingly faced with the challenge of proving the monetary value of social media marketing to the C-suite. Since social media is typically less of a sales tool and more of a means of nurturing new leads and maintaining a relationship with current customers, putting a price tag on social media can be a difficult thing to do.

The C-Suite will always be concerned with profit, so it�s imperative that marketers can either prove that social media is making their brand money by generating new leads or saving their brand money though customer retention.

Nick Robinson of SAP, Scott Gulbransen of DSI (formerly of H&R Block) and Lewis Bertolucci of Humana were all faced with the challenge of measuring social media ROI for their respective companies. At Social Media Marketing World, these big-brand marketers shared their secrets for measuring social media ROI in a session moderated by social ROI expert Nichole Kelly:

Why Do You Think Social ROI Is So Important For Marketers?

Lewis: We have to prove social ROI in order to get budget dollars.

Nick: We found that it was useful to think like a start-up: make a business case for why the C-suite should fund social media.

Scott: It�s important to show how social media is able to provide value to your organization. Get over the hump of being afraid of social ROI because you�re not new to social media anymore. You shouldn�t have a budget unless you can get results; do this by aligning social media with business objections.

What Challenges Did You Face When Trying to Measure Social Media ROI?

Nick: �One of our key challenges was that we were dealing with fragmented data systems that didn�t talk to each other or integrate with social media. We also struggled to find talent that understood social media, data analytics and CRM. At first, it was hard to find staff that was both socially and technically savvy.

Scott: Education was our biggest hurdle. We found that you have to teach people about social media on an on-going basis. Since hard metrics are sometimes difficult to quantify, we learned how to frame softer measurements because they�re still important. We experienced success when we lined our KPIs up with business objectives. It�s important to think like a C-level executive, not a practitioner.

We discovered that it was really effective to focus on the cost saving value of social media. We often focus on revenue going in but what about saving money? Saving money is just as important to the bottom line as bringing money in. And what about customer retention? It�s less expensive and easier to retain customers than it is to create new customers.

Customers want brands to provide them with customer support on social media sites. If you understand how to related to and help the customers, you will keep them longer. When we starting thinking about social media ROI, we realized that we need to service customers where they want to be serviced. That�s why H&R Block provides direct, private customer service through a Facebook app. Twitter has also helped us �save� frustrated customers. Retention and customer interaction is key to increasing social ROI.

Lewis: It was hard to know where to start and what to measure when we first starting measuring social ROI. We experienced success when we were able to align business objectives with key metrics.

We also learned that it�s important to speak in the language of the C-Suite: talk to the C-suite in dollars and cents not fans and followers. Talk about awareness, exposure and virality. Translate reach into something quantifiable like cost per impression. Make it simple: present the top three most important metrics to the C-suite and tie the metrics back to whatever�s most important to your company. You should also set expectations for your social media program: what did you try to achieve and have you made progress?

What Are The Top 3 Data Points That You Measure?

Lewis: Cost per impression and cost per conversion are the two main metrics that we measure because we want to know how we�re impacting awareness. We also want to know how social is influencing the customer journey and where the social touch points occur along the marketing funnel.

Nick: We measure cost per impression, cost per engagement, pipeline touch, and response time. We regularly send the C-suite a simple report and only show them detailed statistics if they have questions. We found that it was best to make the report simple and easy for people to digest.

Scott: We primarily measure social ROI by net promoter score and customer satisfaction score. (Net Promoter Score, or NPS is how likely are you to refer our company on a scale from 1 to 10.)

We measure NPS because the top of funnel stuff is squishier. The metaphor that we use is that we want to use social media to pass the customer the ball so that they can pass it through the funnel. We also want to know where the customer first touched us in their conversion journey and track them all the way through.

What Changed When You Started Showing the C-Suite Numbers?

Scott: People either became believers and wanted to start to participating in social media or felt threatened by the new opportunities that social brought us to connect with customers. This experience showed us that the more people in your organization who support social, the better. Everyone in the organization should play a part in owning social.

Nick: The moment we first measured social touch along the pipeline was the moment the sales team got on board. We found that the sales team was just as hard to convince as the C-suite. We experienced success when we were able to show how social media affects the sales pipeline.

Lewis: We found that social media marketing is about evolution, not revolution. We use our analytics to discover how we can better use social media. We also found that soft metrics are important even if they�re not profit driven.

What Attribution Models Have You Used?

Lewis: We found that the first touch model is better than the last touch model. The first touch model shows that if we hand the ball off, the lead can make a slam dunk. We also track third party clicks and integrate them into our CRM. Doing this allowed us to discover that engaged social users have a 300% higher MPS (motivating potential score) than non-social users.

Nick: We look at all of the touch points in a customer�s CRM record and a mixed media model helps us craft budget recommendations. We learned that you have to get the data right or you�ll have an incorrect budget forecast.

Scott: We prefer to measure first touch, but the C-suite always wants to see last touch. We found that you have to create your own mixed media model. Start by learning what attribution is and why it�s important to your brand.

What do you think about Facebook Decreasing Reach for Fans of Brand Pages?

Scott: Go somewhere else if Facebook isn�t the right thing for their business. Spend some time deciding which channels are right for your business and best align with your KPIs. Social media marketing is all about understanding your customers.

Nick: We know what channels drive results for us and we�ve seen our customers move from Facebook to LinkedIn. I recommend that you collect data before making spending decisions or choosing which social channels to focus on.

Lewis: Diversify! Facebook isn�t the only social platform out there. What about communities, forums or internal social media platforms? It�s time to become a social business. Start with social internally and grow out from there.

Are you satisfied with how your brand measures social media ROI? What metrics to you think are most important and what analytics tools do you use? Let’s keep the discussion going in the comments below.

24 Social Media Tools To Boost Your Marketing Performance #SMMW14

It appears that�Ian Cleary is the King of Social Media tools. With new social media marketing tools coming on the market just about every day, Ian is one of the people you can rely on to test them all – from free to paid.

We�re thrilled that he shared his knowledge of tools with us at Social Media Marketing World this year and now I’ll share them with you.

Tools to Target the Right People

As Ian says, don�t sell hot dogs at a vegetarian conference. You have to know your audience before you can market to them successfully. The social tools below will help you identify and engage with active fans, influencers, and industry relevant people to follow.

Tactics Cloud is a free tool that allows you to target Twitter followers and find relevant people on Twitter. The tool allows you to search for Twitter users by keyword, location and followers.Lead Social is a paid social tool that measures your Facebook ROI. The tool actually assigns a monetary value to your posts and Facebook ads in order to determine much value you�re getting from your posts Facebook posts. The tool also highlights who�s interacting with your Facebook content the most.Little Bird helps you find influential people in your target industry. Use this tool to identify influencers that you want to build relationships with. The tool also shows you relevant people who aren�t following you so that you can start engaging and building relationships them.GroupHigh is a paid tool that allows you to search a massive database of bloggers using a very precise search functionality. Use GroupHigh to find blogger�s contact details and recent posts. You can even use this tool to track your outreach and engagement efforts with bloggers and thought leaders!Tools to Get Better Results with your Content

Use the tools below to rate the success of your content and create viral and sharable content. Isn�t it time that you shook up your social content strategy?

Pikochart is a paid social tool that allows you to create visually appealing infographics for as little as $20. Infographics should be part of your content mix because they drive traffic, engagement, shares and embeds.Topsy is a freemium tool that allows you to search for content is popular for a specific keyword or industry. Use Topsy to find popular content to share or use as inspiration for your content. If you want to find content that gets a lot of links, use Topsy.Smo.KnowEm.com is a Moz application that allows you to find out if your website is optimized for sharing social media. You know how sometimes when you share a link on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ the image shows up wrong (if one shows up at all!) or perhaps the meta description is all wrong? KnowEm makes suggestions for what technical issues you need to fix or what schema you need to implement in order to optimize your site for social sharing.Moz SEO Toolbar shows a web page�s domain authority and page authority in all of the major search engine�s. In fact, Moz will rank the domain and page authority of every page on your website.SEMRush is a freemium tool that helps you discover what keywords your competitors are ranking for. Use this information to write strategic, keyword optimized blog content that will help you outrank your competitors.Tools to Convert More Traffic

Once you get visitors on your website, your next task is to convert them. Ian�s confident that the tools below can help you increase conversions.

OptinMonster is a paid tool that allows you to create custom pop-up forms that only appear when people are leave your site. Use pop-up forms to recruit more email subscribers, increase conversion rates and encourage return visits to your website. Even if you�re wary of pop-up forms, OptinMonster is less annoying because it only pops up when visitors are leaving your site.Viewbix is a paid social tool that allows you to embed clickable links and custom forms within your videos. Use your videos to increase traffic and and grow out your email list with viewbix.LeadPages is a paid tool that allows you to download templates of landing pages that are proven to have high conversion rates. Unless you�re an expert landing page builder, don�t re-invent the wheel�save time and increase conversions by using a great landing page template.Tools to Analyze and Improve Results

So your brand is socially active. Now what? Analyze and refine your content with the social tools below.

Post Acumen is a paid Facebook analytics tool. PostAcument provides information like the best time of day to post and which images are working and which are not. You can also compare your Facebook page against the Facebook pages of your competitors.Steady Demand is one of the only Google+ analytics tools out there. This freemium tool allows you to audit your Google+ page to gauge the performance of you Google+ posts, optimize your posts for search engines and compare your Google+ page against those of your competitors.Statigram is a freemium Instagram analytics tool. Use Statigram to track follower growth and engagement stats and discover the best times of day are to post photos. Statigram also offers a marketing package to help you run contests on Instagram.SimplyMeasured is a freemium tool that allows you to generate detailed and colorful social media reports for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube.Brand24 is a paid tool that monitors mentions of your brand or keywords on Facebook, Twitter, websites and blogs. Brand 24 is also includes sentiment analysis.Quick Fire Round for Social Media Tools

These are just a few more of Ian�s favorite free social tools. Did I mention that they�re FREE?

Post planner is a free tool that sources viral images and content. Integrate viral images into your Facebook content and schedule your posts ahead of time with post planner.Edit Flow is a free donation editorial calendar and WordPress blog workflow tool.Agora Pulse is a freemium social tool that allows you to compare your Facebook page against those of your competitors and run free Facebook contests.Canva is a free social tool that allows you to overlay text over your digital images.PicMonkey is a free image editing tool that allows you to edit image, overlay text and create collages.Pixler is like a free, easy to use version of Photoshop.inPowered�is a free social media tool that shows you popular content within your niche.

Social media marketing tools can save you time by helping you source great content, identify influencers and brand advocates and measure the success of your social media.

Does your company automate social processes with tools? Please share your all-time favorite social tools with us by commenting below!

Car Makers Drove 14.4 Million Clicks From Google Ads In 2 Months (And That Doesn’t Include Mobile)

A whopping 177 automotive manufacture sites drove�14.4 million paid search clicks from Google ads on desktops and tablets this January and February.

Of those 177 advertisers, the top 20 advertisers (roughly 11 percent) accounted for 81 percent of the paid search clicks in the two month period, according to new data from search marketing intelligence firm Adgooroo.

Looking at desktop/tablet impression share, Toyota led the pack with its two sites: Toyota.com and Buytoyota.com. Ford.com, Chevrolet.com and Honda.com round out the share of voice leaders.

Another 23 sites battled it out for a decent share of visibility, while the remaining 149 advertisers accounted for roughly the same impression share as Chevrolet.com alone.

A look at the highly fragmented share of impressions in the automotive sector, AdWords Desktop/Tablet.

Adgooroo looked at a mobile performance as well and found a similar fragmentation among advertisers. Chevrolet.com and Toyota.com hold the top spots in mobile as well, but Dodge.com and NissanUSA.com each hold a larger share of voice on mobile than they do on desktop/tablet.

Adgooroo looked at a subset of keywords in their mobile analysis, so they did not provide click or impression data for comparison to desktop/tablet.

I asked Adgooroo about historical trends for the automotive sector on paid search. A representative provided the following desktop/tablet spend data on U.S. AdWords in the Automotive Manufacturer category:

2010 $115 million2011 $165 million2012 $195 million2013 $178 million

Wondering why that steady growth trend appears to have slowed last year? Adgooroo suspects it’s on account of mobile, stating,

Although spend dropped between 2012 and 2013, we believe that dip is attributable to a shift in spend from Desktop/Tablet to Mobile Search. We do not have Mobile Search spend for 2013 because we debuted our mobile search product in 2014. However, our data shows that Mobile Search spend in January and February this year was at least $1.3 million and probably higher. Averaging the total for January and February ($1.3 million) over a full year, for instance, would add approximately $7.8 million to the Desktop/Tablet total, without even considering seasonality.