Google+: Is it Important for Internet Marketing?

Google+ is a Distant Second in Social Media, but It’s Having a Powerful Impact on SEO/SEM

If you’re a social media maven, skip this post.  This article is intended for business people who have better things to do than follow the world of social networks like Facebook.

graphic showing Google+ plus sharing percentage vs. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

Graphic showing the percentage of users who share content on the various social media platforms

Many of our SEO clients ask us for help with Facebook.  Some, but far fewer, ask for a hand in optimizing Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.  But very few seem to be asking for our assistance with Google+, or even wondering whether it’s important to their marketing efforts, or our efforts to optimize their websites for search.  When we mention Google+, most of our business clients seem puzzled, either that it’s coming up for discussion, or, in some cases, what the heck it is.  The question that many business people carry, if they have one at all for poor Google+, is, “will Google+ ever be important?”

I understand the question.  In fact I would be stunned to encounter anyone who’s not into tech that pays much attention to Google+ at any level.  And the facts support my conclusion. In a recent study by social media management company Gigya, it was evident that people are simply not buying into the Google+ experience, at least not when it comes to sharing.

So does that mean we can dismiss Google+ in terms of the Internet marketing “big picture” ?

My answer is a definite, No!  In fact it already is very important for anyone interested in Internet Marketing.

The Honda Factor in the Success of Google+

In the late 1980’s I was the proud owner of a Honda CRX Si.  For those of you who forget (or never even knew), the CRX was a 2-seater sports coupe that Honda produced to go up against cars like the Toyota MR-2, a very popular and nimble sportster of the time.  I once read a road test in Road & Track magazine that compared the Honda CRX with the Toyota MR2 and several other sports coupes.  The goal of the comparison was to make an evaluation as to which engine placement was best: front, mid, or rear.

crx vs mr2

At the end of the article, the test team concluded (and remember this was in 1989) that the best engine placement for a sports car was mid-engine.  However they said that the CR-X, with it’s front engine placement, performed about as well as the MR2.  I don’t have the exact quote, but it went something like “this is Honda we’re talking about; if they want to make a front engine placement work, they’re going to do it, regardless of whether mid-engine is best in the end.”

I have some of the same thoughts about Google and Google+.  Does the world really need another social network?  Not really.  But this is Google.  If they’ve decided to make a social network work, they’re going to make it happen.  If your business wants to succeed on line, don’t bet against Google.

But regardless of whether Google Plus succeeds as a network, what about the question of whether Google+ is really relevant to your day-to-day business marketing efforts?  If search engine optimization and search engine marketing are important in your overall marketing strategy, then the answer is yes (even if you have no real need of Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or any other social medium).

The way that Google is making Google+ relevant is by leveraging their dominant position in search.

The issue of whether sharing a website post or post on Google+ will make it rank better is a matter of hot debate in the SEO community with some “studies” indicating that sharing content on Google+ makes it rank higher, and other studies showing it has no effect.

I believe that particular question can remain unanswered for the time being.  The important factor here is something called Google Authorship.  By tying your content into your own profile on Google+ you can raise the visibility of that content.  What it affects is how your content is displayed in search results.   Everyone has seen the small thumbnail pictures of people that appear next to many search listings (see my example below).

 example of search snippet showing Google+ authorship markup

The impact of this is considerable.  Human beings are hard-wired from birth to look toward human faces.  Which of the above listings do you look at first?  The ones that are plain text, or the ones with a face next to them.  Like it or not, the face draws the eyes of the searcher.  Increasingly you will need to make sure that a human face adorns your content in search results, not merely to stand out, but also to avoid fading away as your competitors adopt this tactic.

In a future post I’ll discuss how to get this done.  Or, if you want to get started taking advantage of this right away, contact your account representative at Horizon Web Marketing and we’ll help you get going with Google Authorship.

Embedding a Youtube Video on a WordPress Blog Post

Some things are almost too easy.  Take for example embedding a Youtube video in the body of your WordPress blog post.  What could be simpler?  Get the link, paste it into your post.  Except if you miss one little, non-intuitive detail your video clip wont show up and you’ll be left scratching your head.

In this video SEO consultant and trainer Ross Barefoot does a quick tutorial and points out the main pitfall to watch out for.  He also explains why it’s a good idea to compose a blog post for videos that you post on Youtube.  Total Video length is just under 6 minutes, so it’s a quick watch.

For more information on video SEO, please contact the team at Horizon Web Marketing.

Blended Search Results: The Impact on Your Local Business

It’s now possible for you to rank well in traditional search results on Google and yet be almost invisible.  This video explains why this phenomenon occurs for some businesses, and what you need to do about it.

SEO Consultant Ross Barefoot describes the impact of Google Local search.  The result of Google’s emphasis on providing local results to searchers is that many search engine results pages are heavily impacted by something known in the industry as the Google “7-Pack,” A block of local search results that can appear above all but the top 1, 2, or 3 traditional search results.  The 7-Pack will often show up for searches that have something Google calls “local intent.”   Here are the important take-aways from the video:

  • First, you need to be paying attention.  Do a search for your type of business (for example, if you’re a general contractor, do a search for “general contractors”) to see if the Google 7-pack is a factor for your business website traffic.
  • Secondly you need to understand where these local search results come from, and why you need to treat local search a bit differently than you’ve thought of it in the past.

Although the video doesn’t give you an in-depth lesson on everything you need to know about local search optimization, it lays out the way for you to determine whether you need to take action now.

 

Google Webmaster Tools and Blocked URLs

A Case Study in the Subtle Meanings Behind Webmaster Tools Verbiage

photo of a checkup illustrating website health checksWebsite “health checks”  are one of the standard services we provide to our online marketing and SEO clients.  The purpose of a health check is similar to that of a check-up in your doctor’s office: to alert you to any serious problems that can and should be caught as early as possible to prevent catastrophic problems later on.

Some basic health checks don’t require advanced experience to do, and a lot of in-house webmasters and even website hobbyists can keep their finger on the pulse of their site this way.

When we try to help one of our clients become a more active partner in managing their online marketing, we will occasionally introduce them to one of Google’s most powerful customer support mechanisms: Google Webmaster Tools.  You can perform some of your own Website “health checks” using Webmaster Tools, which is the primary tool we use for determine pain points in any website.

However, if you indeed are one of those intrepid DIY’s, there is a note of caution that you need to hear: Google Webmaster Tools can be notoriously open to misinterpretation.  Let’s take for example a recent request from a client to explain why they were showing a bunch of blocked URLs in Webmaster Tools.  They were understandably concerned.   Wouldn’t you be, if you opened up Webmaster Tools and saw the following:

screen shot of Google webmaster tools warnings

Click on the image to see it larger

But hold on there, you’ve run into one of the first gotchas of peering into the Webmaster Tools dashboard, especially if you only log in once in a while.  There might be a dire warning, but check the date.  Note the next screen shot:

Expanded view of Google Webmaster Tools dashboard showing warning messages

Click on the image to see it larger

 

In the case of this real world example, we can see that the notice is 2 weeks old.  So how do we find out if it’s still valid?

Simple, navigate to the “Health” tab and click on the (appropriately named) “Blocked URLs” tab.

An image of the health and blocked URLs tab in Google Webmaster Tools

 

So now we have another intimidating warning.  This notice says that Googlebot was blocked from 35 URLs, which in this case is basically the whole site.  Not only that, but notice that date, I don’t know what it means but it’s dated yesterday, so this is really bad, right?

Once again, not necessarily.  Notice the little question mark next to the “Blocked URLs” column heading.  Well, if it’s too small here’s a larger image, and also I’ve hovered over the question mark so we can reveal its secrets:

closeup of blocked URLs informational warning

So now we know: Blocked URLs are any that have been blocked in the last 90 days.  Again, this shows that the problem might exist, or it might already be an obsolete issue.  There’s one last place to go for us to render a pretty fair decision on this, namely the “Crawl Errors” tab.  What we see eases our worries, although there’s still some head scratching that needs to be endured:

screen shot of the crawl errors tab in Google Webmaster Tools

 

So here we see the report from Google, showing only one lonely “Access Denied” error.  If we really had 35 pages blocked, each one would show up as triggering an error.

The head-scratching comes in when we try to reconcile these screens.  Why does the Blocked URLs tab show 35 errors in the last 90 days, but this tab, even though it is covering the same 90 days, only shows one.  And not only that, but if you try to find that error in the blue line where error events are tracked, you won’t.  The blue dotted line shows 0 errors on each of the days in this period.

So the conclusion of this is simply not to immediately jump to a conclusion based on Google Webmaster Tools warnings or errors.  Take the time to look for dates and details.  In the long run, you’ll be ahead.