Archive for the ‘SEO News’ Category

Key Takeaways from SxSW

Posted: March 25, 2014 in SEO News

Well, I’m finally both physically and mentally back from South by Southwest (SxSW). It was a great – but exhausting – week and a half. Like everyone else, I was there to both learn and have some fun doing it, which is one of the major selling points of SxSW. So, you’re probably wondering what I learned while I was there? Here are some of the key takeaways from the festival.

Oldies, but Goodies

First, let’s revisit some best practices in the field that are sometimes forgotten by marketers. I attended a session on branding, and I realized how these practices are often SxSW Key Takeawaysignored for the sake of getting a product or service out the door. So, these are worth revisiting.

  • Your brand is a collection of perceptions, and it is a promise: I’ve seen “brand” sacrificed for the sake of “getting things done”. But you have to remember that people associate your brand with their perceptions of it. If they have consistent bad experiences, they’re going to get turned off. You need to control what other people think of you and stick to your ideas because…
  • Company ideals are the ultimate driver of growth: Basically, most of your sales are driven by a small group of people who LOVE your brand. If you annoy these people by going against your brand, then you’ve lost the majority of your sales.
  • Research is only as good as what you do with it: Research for research sake is just a waste of time and money. I’ve seen so many times people that will do research, but only use research that supports their own points – or worse, they ignore the research altogether and charge on with what they “believe” is right. You must research your target audience, where they’re active, what they’re interested in, why they choose a certain brand over another, etc., to figure out if your brand matches your targets’ wants and needs.
  • Companies launch products; brands launch ideas: This was a quote by one of the panelists, and I thought it was fitting to end this section with it. This is how it should be, and it’s something to keep in mind for your marketing.

New Key Takeaways

Finally, here are some new tidbits that might be of interest to all of you.

  • Twitter considering taking away @ in replies: We’ve always been used to the “@” symbol showing up in replies to call out the person to whom you are responding. Twitter is considering removing these. Why? Twitter thinks they’re arcane. Let’s see what the the Twitter fanatics think about that.
  • Don’t use Facebook hashtags: Apparently, the Facebook hashtags aren’t working. In fact, they’re negatively affecting posts. Posts without hashtags get higher viral and organic traffic. Apparently, this is a #facebookfail.
  • College students are addicted to Snapchat: Want to reach the college-age audience? Use Snapchat. Nearly 80% of U.S. college students use it. And they’re sharing things on Snapchat that have never been shared before.
  • Social media is changing the language: Think about it. Would you have ever used the “@” symbol in anything besides email before Twitter? How about hashtags? Now, these items are pervasive. Hashtags are used on nearly all social networking platforms.
  • Everyone has “digital body language”: Physical body language says a lot about what you’re feeling and thinking, and digital body language also indicates what a person likes/dislikes, interests, income level, social popularity, etc. This information is being gathered by organizations from both foreground (what you say publicly on social networks, etc.) and background data (meta data like location, environmental, health, time, etc.)
  • Need to create brand love using neurochemistry: Neurochemistry of Brand Love: This was a rather interesting session. It tracked with brain waves how someone was reacting to an ad. Ads that had some type of emotional connection did better than those without it. According to the presenters, brand love and real love use the same neurochemical pathways. So anything that creates some type of emotional trigger can elicit brand love. But, you need to figure out what those triggers look like and what experiences create those emotional connections. The presenters predicted that the future of ads is personalized ads.

Did you go to SxSW? What did you learn? Share your experiences!

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What the Google Hummingbird Update Really Means
I was recently doing some keyword research work for a client. Part of that involved surveying competitor sites and seeing for what keywords they’re trying to rank. While I was doing this research, I was surprised to find that many of these sites (a few of which were very well-known sites)  were basically keyword stuffing their back-end. While not uncommon to see this problem, especially on older sites, what got me really thinking was the fact that many of the keywords were just so generic.

On these sites, I saw terms like lobbying, advocacy, politics and cartoons. There were no long-tail keywords, and certainly no thought put into these terms. Advocacy, but advocacy for what? Politics – in which country?

In the past, we SEO people were told to add as many keywords as possible, especially in the early to mid-2000s. It was just the way of the world. But then a few years later, we got to thinking about how people actually search. No one just searches “politics”, but they may search “how do Washington politics affect global industry”. Long-tail keywords just provided more targeted results. If anyone was just searching “cartoons”, they may find a few political cartoons, but they’re just as likely to get millions of results of anything from Garfield to The Oatmeal. So you’d have to search “Washington political cartoons” to find for what you are really searching.

Targeted searches provide better results, and the importance of that is nowhere better seen than mobile devices. Mobile devices don’t have a lot of battery life, and WiFi can be painfully slow. Mobile users don’t have the time (or the patience or battery life) to wade through thousands of results. The screen is small, and you’re on a mobile device because you’re probably on the move. Or worse, you’re sitting in a meeting and need to get the right result ASAP. Mobile users need to ask targeted questions to find what they need quickly. So people on these devices tend to search via questions or sentences, i.e. “I need to find the closest shoe store to 14th and Curtis, Denver”.

What the Hummingbird update does is simply look at this entire sentence and then finds the results that make the most sense for that person. This update is not another nail in the SEO coffin. It’s just the natural progression of what people are already doing. SEO people just need to get out of the mindset that they just need to focus on keywords or long-tail keywords, and actually start thinking about how people search. It’s our jobs to do that anyway.

So don’t fear the Hummingbird. Embrace it, understand it, and help your clients fly. (Bad pun, but hey, it works!)

In the past couple of weeks, Google made some updates to its webmaster rules. The updates were kind of quietly released, but it could have huge implications for PR agencies.

Some of the updates just made sense: Basically, don’t use paid content as you would earned content. All paid content links should be no follow ( <a href=”link” rel=”nofollow”>content</a>). Many online content producers have been recommending that people and businesses follow this rule for a while. No big deal.

Same goes with the “don’t think you can create thin content and market it on third-party blogs and think you can get away with calling that a real backlink!” If you’re going to be writing content on third-party blogs, make sure that the content is good. You can’t just throw together something flimsy and stuff it with backlinks. Again, another no brainer.

The third major update, however, is a DOOZIE! For years, businesses have been creating press releases and pushing them out on PR Newswire or other PR distributors for a double-edged advantage. Yes, it increases the chances that somebody in the news industry or blogosphere will see your press release and want to contact you or do a story. The other major reason was to create backlink juice. We all know that backlinks help increase your website’s PageRank, which is good for organic and SEM. It’s been the pattern for years, and no one’s complained….until now.

Google is now saying that all that backlink juice that you’ve been getting from press releases is a BIG NO, NO! All those links back to your website better be no follow, Mister. And further, don’t even think about repeating keywords in your press release. Google will think that you’re keyword stuffing, and it will penalize you for it.

The way Google released this update almost made it seem like it wasn’t that important. Just a “oh here’s a little update; now go about your business.” But this update is huge for many small and new businesses trying to improve their PageRank and get exposure. Only time will tell how much these updates will effect businesses and how bad Google penalties will be for not following the guidelines.

Read more about the topic on Search Engine Land.