Bing: Adding Markup & Schema Is “Worth” It For Search Engines

Duane Forrester from Bing posted a new article on the Bing Search Blog named Mark It Up.

In the article, Duane explained the upmost importance of marking up your content with schema and meta data. Duane said “it’s worth completing this work to help the engines understand your content more clearly.”

Why? Duane explained that it enables Bing to “make richer search experiences” and while Bing says it “does not itself lead directly to higher rankings” it does however impact your click rates on your search listings.

Duane sums it up saying, “the bottom line here is this. If you�re marked up, and we enable a rich search experience, the opportunity for inclusion is much greater.”

Of course, Google also strongly encourages you to use markup.

Bing: Adding Markup & Schema Is “Worth” It For Search Engines

Duane Forrester from Bing posted a new article on the Bing Search Blog named Mark It Up.

In the article, Duane explained the upmost importance of marking up your content with schema and meta data. Duane said “it’s worth completing this work to help the engines understand your content more clearly.”

Why? Duane explained that it enables Bing to “make richer search experiences” and while Bing says it “does not itself lead directly to higher rankings” it does however impact your click rates on your search listings.

Duane sums it up saying, “the bottom line here is this. If you�re marked up, and we enable a rich search experience, the opportunity for inclusion is much greater.”

Of course, Google also strongly encourages you to use markup.

The Google State Of The Union: Strong Yet Vulnerable

Earlier today, Google published its annual Founders’ Letter. This is a kind of “Google State of the Union” missive that Google has published annually since it went public.

Many bloggers picked up on the following remark in the document penned by Google CEO Larry Page: “[I]n many ways, we�re a million miles away from creating the search engine of my dreams, one that gets you just the right information at the exact moment you need it with almost no effort.”

Some people also commented on the glaring omission of any discussion of privacy — an issue that has generated numerous problems for Google around the world, most recently in the form of the European Union Court of Justice’s establishment of a “right to be forgotten” (by Google). There was also no discussion of the myriad legal investigations and anti-competition claims still pending in India, Canada and, potentially, once again in Europe.

Overall the letter spoke about Google’s massive scale (“over 100 billion searches a month”) and equally massive ambition (project Loon: “a network of [internet access] balloons on the very edge of space”). There were also various points made about how mobile has impacted Google:

Voice Search . . . now works in over 38 languagesGoogle Now . . . provides information without your even having to ask . . .[W]e�ve also made significant progress understanding people�s context, which is crucial if we are to improve human-computer interactionImproved context will also help make search more natural, and not a series of keywords you artificially type into a computer.In less than six years, over one billion Android devices have been activated (and growing fast)�creating an amazing platform for the increasing number of app developers globally

In many ways these are the key points. Driven by the imperatives of the mobile device revolution and mobile user expectations Google is actively evolving search beyond the familiar query-in-a-box to something that is more “anticipatory” and “push-centric.” This drive to better meet mobile user needs is in part the source of many of the anti-competition complaints against Google.

Interestingly, many of the changes happening in mobile are making their way back to the PC, such as voice search and Google Now’s info-cards.

Several people at Google, including Matt Cutts, have indicated that, globally, mobile search volumes may surpass the PC this year. Google appears very well positioned; it has more digital and mobile ad revenue than any other company. Indeed, Google captures more than half of global-mobile ad revenue.

In addition, Google controls the world’s dominant operating system and also dominates mobile web search (94 percent global market share). Yet paradoxically its position in mobile is more precarious than on the PC.

Most consumer time (89 percent) in mobile is spent with apps, which have the practical impact of “disintermediating” Google — that is until it can integrate app deep links into mobile search, which it’s working on.� Moreover, a full third of Google’s paid clicks are coming from mobile devices, which are right now delivering lower CPC rates.

So while Google seems at the apex of power it is also vulnerable to changing consumer patterns and, to some degree, intensifying competition in mobile (especially from Facebook).

Modular Content – Creative Repurposing for Content Marketing

There are many content types and�tactics for content marketing. Each has it’s place. Each offers unique benefits.

Creating�original content on an ongoing basis�can be a challenge, so most marketers practice the fine art of content repurposing.

For example, you could take a long eBook and turn it into 4 blog posts, leverage for a newsletter and excerpt it in an article submitted to an industry publication. Or you could take a speech heavy video and transcribe the text into a blog post, using screen shots for the images. You could also modify content for different target audiences, which is a form of repurposing that is more about personalization than just getting extra mileage out of your content. After creating your “reimagined” content, the common next step is to deconstruct it into micro-content for social sharing.

Most of the repurposing of content that marketers are practicing is about deconstructing content into smaller pieces. A modular approach helps make this a smooth process – square pegs into square holes, so to speak. But have you ever thought of taking the opposite approach?

Here’s what I mean and what I’m now testing.

With a modular approach to content marketing planning, you can identify key themes and other elements within a template. Working with pre-defined key concepts as building blocks (mapped to your content plan and customer segments) ensures you’re covering what needs to be covered and it makes repurposing and personalization that much easier.

It’s not so different from creating a baseline content object that will be localized and personalized for different target audiences in different regions.

With normal content repurposing,�you go from a collection of ideas in a larger content object and then break that collection down into smaller ideas, remix and reimagine them to create other smaller content objects. �What I’m suggesting is that you try the reverse.

With the right planning, you could take micro-content like statistics, quotes, tips and examples used as individual social network shares, then compile them according to themes, like industry, into a larger content object: blog post, report, eBook or presentation.

I think the easiest thing to do would be to collect 25�or so statistics on a topic of interest to your target audience and then schedule social shares of those stats over time. Do the same with 25�quotes and 25�short, practical tips. That’s 75�social shares over whatever�period of time you decide that serve as a layer of your social curation. Then do�daily shares and interactions based on what’s happening now.

I have no doubt that the idea of creating a template and working with modular content and scheduled social messages is breaking somebody’s rules. But the reality is, it’s practical, useful to readers and doable. You can also iterate and improve with very little risk, since it’s micro-content.

Why would it make sense to evolve micro-content into something larger? �Here are a few reasons:

1. Publishing micro-content over time is like planting a seed amongst your community that this is information relevant to how you want to be known.�Establishing attention and credibility through that content is prep for the larger content objects to be published.

2. Micro-content is highly sharable and if you’re consistent about publishing useful nuggets of information, you’ll grow the audience you need to make a bigger splash with the larger content object.

3. Publishing short format content, especially on the social web, will provide you with data. Views, shares, engagement, links and with a URL shortening service, basic demographics. That data can then be used to influence how the individual component parts are assembled in the larger content object. The tips with the most shares and engagement are included in the eBook or blog post and those with low engagement are not.

4. �Curation of micro-content is easy, provides useful information to your target audience and can fit within a social content workflow designed to roll up to a larger content project.

5. Micro-content to big content is SEO friendly – Taking variations on a theme and compiling them into a larger content object is basically like optimizing that content for search visibility.

Repurposing content in this way means more than piecing together random facts and tips. Micr0-content would sserve as building blocks, or modules, to create a larger story that’s meaningful to the audience you’re targeting.

I think planning micro-content out to work with your social content and curation could evolve new content creation opportunities, especially if you�add community engagement and crowdsourcing to the mix.��It’s search and social friendly, plus you’re able to build up affinity for the thing you want to be known for before launching a big content project.

How are you repurposing content for marketing?�Have you tried reversing the process and building up a larger content piece from individual data points that were already published?

Image: Shutterstock


Content Marketing Trifecta: How to Repurpose, Reuse & Refresh Content – Intel’s @PamDidner at #C2C14

We all know the importance of creating original content, but the reality is, it’s hard.

Out of necessity many content marketers have developed their skills at “re-imagining” (h/t Ann Handley) their content to extend the life and value it can deliver.

Beyond the value extension of content through repurposing is the function of personalizing content for different markets and using a modular approach to segmenting useful information for specific audience targeting. Reusing content is efficient and it’s also effective when architected through a smart strategy that sees beyond simply publishing the same thing 3 ways.

At the B2B Content2Conversion conference in New York this week, my friend Pam Didner (Global Integrated Marketing Strategist at Intel) gave an excellent presentation on repurposing content.

Before you repurpose, reuse, and refresh content there are a few things to think about first.

Personas: �Who is your audience?Editorial: �What topics will you use to engage with them?Content: �What materials to use to engage with them?

It’s essential to know who you are creating and repurposing content for in order to create a more useful experience for buyers and to be more effective as a marketer. A few ways you can better understand your target audience include:

Buyer researchSeller interviewsKeyword researchSocial listening – sysomosDirect observations

Intel created a CTO persona for sales engagement, but �marketing’s focus is on IT Managers. The CTO persona is used to help educate the sales team on how to talk to CTOs.�For marketing, the focus is not on the CTO, but on IT Managers. As a result, the targets for sales and marketing will probably need slightly different content. For customer targeting and persona’s it’s important to see the difference in who marketing and sales need to connect with.

In the case of Intel, the persona they created is global. How can you do that? Focus mostly on the commonalities across regions and countries for that segment.

When identifying personas, also include who their influencers are (roles, vendors, companies). �A good persona provides insight for content ideation, creation and marketing.

Creating Personas:

NamePersonal profileJob descriptionChallenges or desiresContent needsPreferred media to receive information

How Personals Provide Insight into Editorial Planning

Pain pointsKeyword researchJobs descriptionAttributesDesiresUsed to brainstorm content

Be focused, but understand you cannot please everyone. Say �no� with a plate of cookies.

Editorial Topics & Content Continuum. Talk about content that relates to what customers care about relevant to your products and services. When you have to create a large amount of content, start with broad topics. Find a balance between content that is helpful and content that sells.

Yearly – StrategicMonthly – StrategicWeekly – Social and Paid TacticsDaily – Social and Paid TacticsHourly – Social and Paid Tactics

And example would be to create a calendar of topics and overlay a calendar of events (if your company is active with events) as triggers for content topics.

Select content planning tools:

Divvy HQGather ContentKapostCompendium (Now Oracle Marketing Cloud)WordPressTrelloOpal Moments

An example��of�repurposing content

One 18 page white paper can be repurposed as:

1 podcast interview author1 shor video animationw white board video5 short blog posts3 infographics1 presentation

For social media – break down long form content into smaller pieces for social sharing.

Another example of “Hero Content” that is repurposed was the Sophisticated Marketer�s Guide to LinkedIn.

BTW, this campaign won a Killer Content Marketing Award at the conference! Congratulations to Jason Miller, Deanna Lazzaroni and the team at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions as well as�the agency teams (including�TopRank Marketing‘s work with the eBook) that produced this amazing campaign.

Elements of this campaign included a consistent visual them repurposed in multiple formats for multiple specific audiences:

eBookInfographicsWebinarPresentationsPrint bookBlog postsGlobal versions of the eBook�in�different languagesVertically specific versions – CMO’s, Healthcare, Event Marketing, etc

This was done over a period of months

Repurposing content�is time consuming and it can be expensive. With no budget, you need to wear multiple hats�and you’ll need to get partner support.

Resources to find freelancers:



1. Evaluate your content, start with promotion in mind
2. It takes time, budget and effort to repurpose, reuse and repackage. You must�prioritize!
3. Create a RRR (repurpose, reuse, refresh) plan.
Start with flagship content�and connect the dots by pulling in materials form different pieces of content.

Here’s Pam’s full presentation below and a blog post as well (see how she practices what she’s preaching?).

How is�your company incorporating repurposing content in your content marketing planning? Have you seen any great brand examples of reimagined, repurposed, reused and refreshed content?

Graphic: Shutterstock

Google Brings NHL, NBA Video Highlights to Search Results

Google has launched a new feature that allows sports fans to see video highlights from the previous night's game when they search for the team name. The video is embedded at the top of the search results, with the score in a box on the left and the video beside it on the right:

All videos are from the official YouTube channel of either the NHL or the NBA, meaning Google isn't displaying videos that are posted to YouTube by the teams themselves or fans. The videos appear above the organic search results.

The videos are a few minutes in length, and provide a full recap of the game with commentary, so it's great for those who want to see the highlights from the game the previous night that they might've missed. You can also click the arrow and see the results for the previous seven games as well as information on the next upcoming game.

Google only shows videos for teams that played a game the previous night. So, for example, if you search for the Chicago Blackhawks or Minnesota Wild, teams that played an NHL playoff game Sunday, Google won't show any highlight videos.

You can also search for just the team name as well. For example, searching for [Spurs] brings up the details for the San Antonio Spurs complete with video, as does searching for [Canadiens].

This new feature seems to be restricted to just NHL and NBA games at this time.

If you search for any Major League Baseball teams, you won't find any highlight videos from YouTube in the search results, even if they just played a game last night. Although the MLB has a YouTube channel, their videos aren't in a game recap format; rather, they focus on specific plays from games without any commentary other than what was said live during the game.

Hat tip to Samuel Edwards from Tenthwave for spotting the change.

Break-Even CPC & Simple Landing Page Testing

In the relentless hunt for more conversions, being number one has never been so important in a digital marketing. But how to can you get on top and stay there? That will require a combination of tactics.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a great place to start, because your conversion rate drives a fundamental digital marketing formula – your break-even CPC.

Let's dive into simple landing page improvements, then talk about reinvesting gains into your PPC strategy:

The break-even CPC calculation.Review the 10 elements of a landing page.Breakdown a simple example of call-to-action testing on a button.Break-Even CPC = CPA Goal x Conversion Rate

Improving your conversion rate has benefits, but here's how it can improve your PPC strategy.

Let's say you increase your conversion rate from 5 percent to 6 percent. In simple terms, that means for every 100 clicks, you now get six customers instead of five. That's an extra customer, but for the same spend. Nice.

That means, you're making more money. Making more money means you can: Pocket the extra cash (more profit), or now, you can increase the amount you pay (bid) for keywords or placements.

Turns out there is a very simple equation that can help you determine the maximum you can pay per click and break even. And a big part of that break-even formula depends on conversion rate.

In search, when you increase your bid, you can move up in position. When you move up in position, the amount of clicks you receive increases (as does your CPC). Your clicks cost more, potentially eating into your newly minted profits, but you're taking share – a very good thing.

This is why optimizing your conversion rate is so important – it drives bid. Your bid helps determine your position, or your profitability. To be able to be in the top spots, you have to be able to afford it! And the break-even CPC calculation is the foundation of advanced bid strategies.

10 Elements of a Landing Page

How can we improve conversion rate? Landing pages are a great place to start.

With user-friendly, affordable tools like Optimizely, Unbounce, and more, landing page testing is easier than ever. But there are so many components to test, how do we make sense of it all?

First, let's break down what Bryan Eisenberg refers to as the 10 Elements of a Landing Page:

Logo (Who Are You?)HeadlineOfferPersuasive CopyProduct PresentationCall to ActionConfidence SignalsContact InformationProduct Evaluation InformationBasic Template Elements

Eisenberg says the goal is to have 10 of 10 landing page elements. But to start, select the top three elements and make sure they flow together and are easy to view on the page.

Let's jump into an example focusing on call to action.

Call to Action: Simple Button Test

Now even within the 10 elements listed above, there are countless tests where you can change images, copy, buttons, overall design, colors, and so forth. Where do you start?

Let's go over a very simple test. Recently Bing Ads ran a call-to-action button test. The button test included the terms "Sign up," "Get started," and "Launch your campaigns." While "Sign up" was the control term, "Get started" and "Launch your campaigns" are active and visual in a positive way that “Sign up" isn't. So which test won?

The results of the test, conducted over a high-traffic three-week period, were clear.

All three landing pages were served an equal number of times during the test period; the page using "Launch your campaign" performed 11 percent better than the control. That makes a difference over time.

There are countless other tests to run, for example varying button color or size. Turns out that "Launch your campaigns" on the button is significantly larger than "Sign up."

The big takeaway here is a very small change can make a difference – just test something. Because if you can drive an 11 percent gain in efficiently converting customers, as we talked about earlier, that has implications on paid media strategy.

Go Do This Now

Pick one element on your landing page to test.

Test three different versions of that element, keeping a control to evaluate against.Track results until statistically significant (see #14), likely three to four weeks.Re-work your landing page to incorporate the successful element.Pick another element on your landing page to test.Repeat steps 2 to 4 until your landing page is as excellent as it can be.Reinvest your gains with higher bids to take share, or enjoy the extra profits.

Let us know what your landing page test results are. We love hearing what's working and what's not.

10 SEO Myths Debunked by Bing's Duane Forrester

Hot on the heels of Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts discussing what he feels are the biggest SEO myths, Bing's senior product manager Duane Forrester has written about what he feels are 10 of the biggest myths in SEO. While some of them are true SEO myths, a few fall under best practices.

SEO Myth 1: You Need to Rank #1

Obviously, you ideally want to rank number one, but just because you aren't number one doesn't mean you're a failure. Sites can do extremely well in position number two or three, and even the top couple of results on the second page of the results. While the nuances are sometimes hard to determine, unless you have concrete data from being in different positions, above the fold is ideally where you want to be.

SEO Myth 2: Your Title Tag Will Save You

Yes, you need to have a well-crafted title tag, but not even the greatest title can save a site that's horrible in every other way. However, a great title amongst other not-so-great titles will end up giving your site a boost when it comes to click-throughs.

SEO Myth 3: Social Is All You Need

Social should be a part of every SEO campaign, however you shouldn't rely on it - you need to have things to back it up. BuzzFeed does amazingly well with social, but they back it up with content that gets a lot of traction. Social should be high on your priority list, but don't abandon everything else to pursue it exclusively.

SEO Myth 4: Videos Are All You Need

While some sites can do very well with the majority of the content in video, you need to consider that there is some limitations to the audience you can reach. Perhaps an employee is blocked from watching videos from work, so you could potentially lose that customer because of that reason alone. And if your video is hosted on YouTube, that YouTube page could rank higher than the originating page that has the YouTube video embedded in it. So while videos can be very important and can result in conversions, be sure to back it up with non-video content as well.

SEO Myth 5: Buying Ads Helps Your Rankings

This rumor has done the circuits for years, even in the years before Bing. While many would love the idea of throwing money at a search engine to rank number one, it isn't going to happen. Invest in ads for the sole purpose of converting those ads – don't put forth a large ad spend because you think there is an organic payoff.

SEO Myth 6: You Make Awesome Content

While you might think you write the most amazing content ever, consider it through the eyes of your site visitor. If your bounce rate is high, or very few people come back for a second visit, step back and take a look and see if maybe lackluster content is to blame.

SEO Myth 7: Links Are All You Need

Forrester stressed the importance of organic links. He said the best links are the ones you don't know are coming.

SEO Myth 8: Marking Up Your Content Will Help It Rank

While marking up won't give you an automatic boost, it can rank better for specific things, such as recipe searches. Marking up will become more and more important, so it is worth it to take the time and mark up your content before it becomes a higher priority.

SEO Myth 9: Usability Is Different Than SEO

Forrester said people should start thinking of usability and SEO as one rather than two completely separate entities. How often has a designer come up with the design that is horrible for SEO? They are two different things, but it's important for both teams to communicate so the design works for SEO and the SEO works for the design, and that neither usability nor search rankings are sacrificed.

SEO Myth 10: SEO Is All You Need

Again, while SEO is extremely important, it's only one part of the puzzle that will get traffic to your site so those coveted conversions can happen on your site.

Dorothy Hodgkin Google Doodle Celebrates Biochemist

A Google Doodle today celebrates the 104th birthday of British scientist Dorothy Hodgkin. The special logo features an X-ray crystallography of 3-D biomolecules, the method used by scientists to determine the 3-D structure of biological molecules.

Hodgkin was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in chemistry in 1964, which she won for discovering the biomolecule structure of the vitamin B12. At the time, she was only the third woman to be awarded the prize, and she is still the only British woman to have won the prize.

Later, she also contributed to the discovery of the structures of both penicillin and insulin, where she described her first X-ray photograph of the latter as "the most exciting moment of my life." She dedicated a large part of her later life to insulin research, cooperating with labs in their insulin research. She traveled throughout the world giving talks about insulin and its importance for treating diabetes.

She also taught Margaret Roberts in the 1940s, the woman who later became Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher later had a portrait of Hodgkin's hung in Downing Street.

Hodgkin began suffering pain in her hands at age 24, and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The arthritis became so bad that it deformed both her hands and feet, later confining her to a wheelchair.

Hodgkin died March 29, 1994 at the age of 84 of a cardiac stroke.

Top 10 India Companies To Buy For 2015

Top 10 India Companies To Buy For 2015: Stewart Information Services Corporation(STC)

Stewart Information Services Corporation provides title insurance and related information services required for settlement by the real estate and mortgage industries. It operates in two segments, Title Insurance-Related Services and Real Estate Information. The Title Insurance-Related Services segment offers services that include searching for and examining documents, such as deeds, mortgages, wills, divorce decrees, court judgments, liens, paving assessments, and tax records, as well as provides titles insurance for residential and commercial properties, undeveloped acreage, farms, ranches, and water rights. This segment serves attorneys, builders, developers, home buyers and home sellers, lenders, and real estate brokers. The Real Estate Information segment offers products and services, which primarily include lender services, title technology, foreign and domestic government services, mapping, title information, Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 tax-deferred property e xchanges, pre-employment services, and online filing and transaction management. Its customers include mortgage lenders and servicers, mortgage brokers, mortgage investors, government entities, commercial and residential real estate agents, land developers, builders, title insurance agencies, and others interested in obtaining property information, as well as accountants, attorneys, investors, and employers. The company has operations primarily in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, central Europe, Mexico, central America, and Australia. Stewart Information Services Corporation was founded in 1893 and is based in Houston, Texas.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By James Fink]

    My housing pick is Houston-based Stewart Information Services (STC), a 120-year-old real estate business founded in 1893, that is still owned a! nd managed by the founding family.

  • [By Ben Levisohn]

    Tower Group has dropped 12% to $3.88 today at 11:39 a.m., while Stewart Information Services (STC) has dipped 0.1% to $31.16, the Navigators Group (NAVG) has fallen 1.4% to $54.78 and HCI Group (HCI) has gained 1% to $38.16.

  • [By Ben Levisohn]

    Tower Group has dropped 40% to $4.43 today, and some other small insurers are also getting dinged this morning. HCI Group (HCI) has fallen 1.8% to $39.36, Stewart Information Services (STC) has declined 0.7% to $31.36 and the Navigators Group (NAVG) has ticked down 0.4% to $56.10.

  • source from Top Stocks Blog:

From Foursquare to Swarm: Mayor 2.0, Insights, Stickers & Goodbye Badges

The time has come to say goodbye to Foursquare mayorships as we know them. You may remember our recent post in which we discussed Foursquare's decision to split their app in two. Foursquare's new application, Swarm, will be launching this week. What do you need to know about Foursquare's plan?

1. Why Is Foursquare Making Moves?

Foursquare took to their blog to explain not only what the upcoming changes are, but also why they're making them. Some of the highlights include:

App Mechanics: In 2009 Foursquare had approximately 50,000 users, which their application could easily support. Now that they are up to nearly 50,000,000 the mechanics began to break down.Points: Unfortunately points began to be less and less reflective of actual achievement. The example that Foursquare shared was: "a check-in at a concert in Istanbul is really different than one at a dog park in New York (and the thousands of types of check-ins in between)."Badges: According to users, badges stopped feeling special, as Foursquare added more and more to meet the demands of different people around the world.Mayorships: It was becoming nearly impossible to earn a mayor crown as the number of users increased.

2. Mayorships Are Frozen & Will Be Changing

As of May 9, there will be no more ousting of mayors in Foursquare. If you currently hold a mayorship it is yours, for the time being. This is in order to may room for mayor 2.0 in Swarm.

How will mayors 2.0 function?

"In Swarm, mayors 2.0 is based on the same 60-day historical window, so if you're mayor of a place where you and your friends go now, you'll be mayor amongst your friends in the new app," according to Foursquare.

In addition to the information above, Foursquare also shared the following insight into mayors 2.0 on Swarm:

"We wanted to get back to that fun way to compete with your friends instead of all 50,000,000 people that are on Foursquare. Places can have many different mayors, one for each circle of friends, instead of just a single mayor at each place. [Meaning] you and your friends can compete for the mayorship of your favorite bar, without having to worry about the guy who is there every. single. day"

3. Gain Insight Into Your Life

Insights have been wildly popular with Foursquare. Swarm will continue to share tidbits with you such as "It's your 3rd week in a row at XYZ bar" (Foursquare used the example of the gym but I think a bar is much more realistic). Additionally, Swarm will alert you how long it's been since you've hung out with another Swarm user that you are connected to.

4. Introducing Stickers!

Users can choose free "stickers" from Swarm to express how they are feeling or what they are up to. As you begin to explore different places, you will unlock more stickers based on the places you visit.

Are You Ready to Swarm?

It appears that Swarm will be available for download as early as this week. Are you still on the fence with Foursquare's split or are you ready to give Swarm a try?

In their post, Foursquare teases that they've built a "spiritual successor" to badges, but there is little detail about how that will function. They've also built in a few surprises into the application. What do you think those are?

How to Audit Your SEO & PPC Agency or Consultant

If you employ, or are in the process of hiring, an SEO or PPC consultant or agency, these six points will help you assess whether they're doing their job.

Many business owners employ search engine optimization or paid search consultants – which are sometimes the same people. However, many business owners don't actually take the time and spend the energy to actually audit the activities of their own consultants or the agencies they work with.

Properly and periodically auditing your own SEO and/or PPC specialist is essential for business owners – not only to make sure they're maximizing the effectiveness of your budget, but also to ensure they're targeting the types of leads and traffic that will benefit your company most.

What's more, recognizing the way each SEO and/or PPC consultant works and the metrics they prioritize is equally essential – and agreeing upon and understanding the reporting metrics are equally important. After all, search consultants tend to start with an audit of your overall digital presence; you should start with one of your own regarding theirs as well.

What to Look For

Knowing what you don't know is only the beginning. Obviously, you don't need to be an SEO or PPC expert (we're assuming that's at least part of the reason why you're outsourcing in the first place), but previous successes are just the beginning when it comes to building your long-term relationship with a particular consultant or agency.

1. Defined Goals and Metrics

Start by understanding what your own goals and success metrics look like. Then, evaluate what your consultant or agency's success metrics are. Having a similar definition of success will make for a positive working relationship.

2. Clear and Accurate Reporting

A key element of the working partnership will be learning how to read and understand the reports they provide. This starts with agreeing on the software, metrics, key performance indicators (KPIs), and any other benchmarks that are valuable to you before you initially engage their services.

They should be able to walk you through their reports, answer questions, and easily address concerns. Googling the various metrics, KPIs, and other terms they use to see how other SEO and PPC consultants define them can be a helpful way to educate yourself in the field.

3. Clear and Accurate Initial Website Audit

Also, take a careful look at their initial audit of your website (not to be confused with your own auditing activities described in this piece, as well as your personal ideas and opinion of their services), benchmarks, and opinions regarding your Web presence, along with any other analysis they can provide.

These documents are the beginning of a solid foundation for future search marketing programs.

4. Accurate, Strategic Keyword Research and Audience Targeting Recommendations

In addition, understanding and verifying their suggestions for new keywords or audiences to target is essential. Nobody knows your target market better than you; this is where your responsibility to effectively communicate with your consultant/agency is most crucial. Your SEO and PPC consultants should be able to bring in new ideas based on their expertise as well as their outside perspective.

This initial documentation should encompass the full picture of your website and digital presence (landing pages, reviews, social media, etc.); not just organic or paid search traffic. After all, they may be able to deliver all the traffic in the world, but if those visits aren't converting, you won't see any benefit from it.

5. Sufficient and Continuing Industry Education

One way to assess their prowess is to ask how they stay up to date on current best practices, trends, and industry changes.

What sites do they read, what industry experts do they trust, and how do they keep updated on industry new trends and updates to the search engine algorithms? Even more importantly, how do they plan to keep you and your team updated?

How your search professionals educate themselves and their teams is a valuable indicator of their knowledge of best practices, and as such, their ability to maximize the effectiveness of your budget.

6. Progress in Essential Metrics

Compare leads, website traffic sources, monthly spend (both paid ads themselves and the consultancy's fees), and the overall ROI - and not just on a macro level, but per keyword and ad, if applicable.

Month-over-month organic search traffic is also important, along with quantity and quality of incoming links, social media traffic, indexed content, and query metrics from Google Webmaster Tools.

In fact, if your consultant isn't readily providing you with this information in the form of regular reports, it may be time to look elsewhere for SEO and PPC services. Similar types of activities should be performed on an ongoing, regularly scheduled (such as quarterly) basis – it's not simply a one-time line item in the marketing budget.


If you employ an SEO or PPC consultant/agency, assess each point above to determine whether they're doing their job. If you're looking to hire a new agency or consultant, address each point with them and ask for examples before initiating an engagement.

It's absolutely necessary to communicate your goals, needs, and desires before you engage with the consultant or agency. This goes beyond considering the overall costs (although that's obviously an important point), but also being perfectly honest with yourself about how realistic your goals are at the budget you have.

The consultant or agency depends on the information and feedback you provide to them over the course of your relationship. Keep in mind that as you consider the quality of their services, you're auditing the strength of your own marketing program as well.

Bing On Links: You Should Never Know In Advance Where A Link Is Coming From

Duane Forrester from Microsoft’s Bing team wrote a blog post today on the official Bing Search blog named 10 SEO myths reviewed. There are many good and obvious points Duane makes in the post but one point he makes about links is very revealing.

Duane wrote:

You should never know in advance a link is coming, or where it�s coming from. If you do, that�s the wrong path.

That obviously means you should not buy links, but it also goes as far as saying that you shouldn’t ask other webmasters to link to you. You shouldn’t do any action at all, that you know, for a fact, will lead to you getting a link from a source.

Technically, if you know that emailing me a story about search topics will lead to you getting a link in our daily SearchCap, that seems like it would be going against what Bing’s Senior Product Manager is saying is allowed.

Or maybe I am looking to much into what Bing wrote?

Bing On Links: You Should Never Know In Advance Where A Link Is Coming From

Duane Forrester from Microsoft’s Bing team wrote a blog post today on the official Bing Search blog named 10 SEO myths reviewed. There are many good and obvious points Duane makes in the post but one point he makes about links is very revealing.

Duane wrote:

You should never know in advance a link is coming, or where it�s coming from. If you do, that�s the wrong path.

That obviously means you should not buy links, but it also goes as far as saying that you shouldn’t ask other webmasters to link to you. You shouldn’t do any action at all, that you know, for a fact, will lead to you getting a link from a source.

Technically, if you know that emailing me a story about search topics will lead to you getting a link in our daily SearchCap, that seems like it would be going against what Bing’s Senior Product Manager is saying is allowed.

Or maybe I am looking to much into what Bing wrote?