Marketing-on-Internet

Google-Proofing Your Business, Protect Yourself from Google Algorithm Updates

Eat24 Gives Facebook a Not-So-Fond Farewell

In business, your best friend is you. Build up your clientele and customer-base. Sell yourself on your own merits. And most importantly, don’t rely on third parties. Case in point:  Eat24. When a popular brand ditches social media, people tend to take notice.

Social media and web marketing outlineMuch like Google’s own fabled Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird, Facebook relies on complex algorithms to determine what shows up in a user’s news feed. However, as Eat24 notes in their “break up letter” to Facebook, the constant changes required by an ever-evolving online environment often have negative effects on businesses.

The trouble is that the algorithms used by Google and Facebook are more about furthering those companies’ own agendas, rather than servicing businesses. It’s become such a problem in recent years that some entrepreneurs actively seek to “Google-proof” their companies and protect themselves from Google Algorithm changes.

One of the most famous examples is Jason Calacanis, creator of the new app-based news service called Inside. Jason is the former owner of the website Mahalo, and when the Google algorithm “Panda” dropped in 2011, his business was heavily impacted. Essentially a human-run search engine, Mahalo nonetheless relied on traffic driven to it by Google searches. When Panda launched in February 2011, Mahalo took a 77% drop in site traffic, and has continued to drop since then (current estimates put it at a 92% decline as of 2013). Only one week after the Panda algorithm took its toll on Mahalo, Jason Calacanis laid off 10% of his staff due to the severe cut in business revenue.

Eat24 experienced a very similar story, but with Facebook instead of Google. Facebook applies similar algorithms (minus the animal-themed names), in order to direct what news an average user sees on their daily feed. Sometimes this shows relevant news stories or your favorite restaurant’s daily special…sometimes it’s Miley Cyrus’ new album cover or your next door neighbor raving about the sandwich they just ate.

Expressing  frustration very similar to Jason Calacanis’, Eat24 rage-quit Facebook once and for all, taking the opportunity to spell out exactly why in their blog “The Bacon Sriracha Unicorn Diaries” with a lengthy, sarcastic, and brutally honest letter about not just their reasoning, but how changes made by Facebook can affect businesses adversely.

“When we first met, you made us feel special. We’d tell you a super funny joke about sriracha and you’d tell all our friends and then everyone would laugh together. But now? Now you want us to give you money if we want to talk to our friends. Now when we show you a photo of a taco wrapped with bacon, you’re all like ‘PROMOTE THIS POST! GET MORE FRIENDS!’ instead of just liking us for who we are. That’s hella messed up.”

The letter continues in the same vein, mingling witty commentary with trademarked, food-centric attitude.

They continued to detail Facebook’s new attitude, “But we loved you, Facebook, so we tried to understand you and your algorithm. As far as we could tell though, it involves words like ‘affinity’ and ‘time decay.’ There also might be a Greek letter in there somewhere, but we’re not sure cuz we got bored and ordered a Panini. Look Facebook, all we’re saying is that we wanted to share a joke about chicken wings, not ponder astrophysics.”

That just about sums it up. Most businesses don’t have in-house tech support to decipher the Matrix. That’s where SEO comes in. You want Google-Proof? PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is one such way, allowing your company to stay at the top of the list for search terms, regardless of algorithm changes.

There’s an important point to be made in all of this: you can’t rely on any single third party. Your business’ best friend is you, the owner. Social media can be a powerful marketing too, but as Eat24 found out, even that is unreliable. The best way to keep your business from being held hostage by any single online marketing platform, be it Google, Facebook, or the “next big thing” is to ensure as much coverage as possible.  Post on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, as many social media outlets as you can manage. Make sure your website is constantly up-to-date, and blog about relevant topics weekly. The newest Google algorithm, Hummingbird, focuses on quality content, so create the best content you can think of, the kind that other people will want to link to. Most importantly, make your site visible to everyone and you will never end up on the receiving end of Google’s (or Facebook’s) algorithm changes again.

 

The Yelp Review Filter

Are you a business who depends on local customers?  If you are, then you probably are already keenly aware of the growing importance of client reviews in the health of your business, and the growing importance of Yelp when it comes to reviews.

Yelp icon: Why does yelp filter reviews?

Well yeah, maybe. But a lot of the people who love you on Yelp may never show up to your customers!

But have you ever had this happen?  A client tells you that they left you a nice review on Yelp.  Pleased and encouraged, you visit your Yelp page to see what they wrote.  You look and look and…to your confusion you can’t find their review anywhere?

If you know what we’re talking about you’re one of the many small businesses who have had their valuable Yelp reviews filtered.

Why Does Yelp Filter Reviews?

So why does Yelp filter reviews? They don’t trust the authenticity of them, because well, many of the reviews left on Yelp are fakes.

Now, while it’s understandable that Yelp would try to filter out fake reviews, it’s unfortunate that they do such a crappy job of it. For one of my clients, Yelp didn’t trust 21 of 24 reviews that legitimate Yelpers left on their site.  In fact, they filtered out all of this company’s positive reviews and only left 3 negative reviews.

Here’s how to see those phantom reviews.  Visit your business listing on Yelp.  Then scroll down to the section that says “About this Business.”  Right above that you might seem a line that says “[number] other reviews that are not currently recommended” (see screen capture, below).

screen capture of Yelp's other reviews button

If you’re missing some reviews that you thought had been placed, go and see if they are parked in Yelp’s “dead letter” graveyard.

Giving Your Reviews their Best Shot at Being Seen

Here’s how you can avoid having your best reviews end up in this lonesome place where no one will read them:

  • Yelp pays more attention to active Yelpers, so talk to your satisfied clients and, if they are looking for a place to leave you a positive review, and if they’ve never been on Yelp before, tell them to leave you a review somewhere else, such as Google+ or Yahoo local.
  • Don’t get a bunch of your customers to submit reviews in a short period of time, that looks artificial to Yelp
  • Try to find customers who are active on Yelp and then encourage only those customers to leave a review on Yelp

Keep in mind that all of the review sites prohibit you from soliciting reviews, so never offer to trade discounts, cash or favors for a positive review.  You can mention that you encourage reviews, but don’t tell them you want “positive” reviews or you could be in trouble with more sites than Yelp.

Have you had an experience, good or bad, with Yelp’s review filter?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments.  And if you’d like help with local search engine optimization, read more about what we offer.

 

 

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.
      

The CDC Zombie Apocalypse Post

image from the original CDC zombie apocalypse post

A Social Media Success Case Study

(Editorial Note: The CDC post mentioned in this post has been removed from it’s original location.  However you can still read it on the Internet Archive here. Be patient, the link takes a while to load.)

In 2011 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a quintessentially staid and stolid government bureaucracy, did something quite unexpected.  They explained how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse.  Yes, a zombie apocalypse. On May 16th, 2011, a blog post authored by Ali S. Khan, CDC Director of Preparedness, appeared with the strange title Social Media: Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.  Readers didn’t quite know what to think.

If you're    ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency.    emergency.cdc.gov

Of course the CDC had not totally lost its grip on reality.  Nor were Zombies a real threat.  The CDC was merely using a clever – and tremendously successful – method to attract attention to its annual push for disaster preparedness.  According to an excellent account and blow-by-blow timeline on The Benshi, the unexpected post was the brainchild of two CDC employees, Catherine Jamal and Dave Daigle, who were searching for a way to motivate people to do some disaster preparedness at the beginning of the hurricane season. Soon the post was generating incredible viral publicity (Writer Randy Olson reported that the CDC media analyst Cision valued the P.R. at $3 million), being featured on The New York Times, Fox News, the Huffington Post, Time Magazine and hundreds of websites.  In less than a week the post had received 963,000 page views. If you read the post, I think you’ll agree that it was indeed moderately clever, but certainly nothing breathtaking.  So what was the secret to it’s success? I think it has to do with three things:

  1. They tapped into a powerful cultural meme: Zombies.  AMC’s show The Walking Dead and countless zombie movies beat a path and the CDC followed it.
  2. They did something unexpected.  What do you expect from the CDC?  I know what I expect: dry warnings about the flu and smoking and HIV and reports of medical research.  No one expects anyone there to have fun with anything.
  3. They followed up well.  In fact the campaign is still generating traffic 3 years later and you can still embed zombie-flavored CDC code on your website (in fact, we’re showing you some of their embeds below).  They’ve added a zombie poster, zombie educator tips, and more.

Return of the Zombies

Of course there are consequences.  In 2012 the CDC was once again enmeshed in zombies, but this time repeatedly, and incredulously, trying to debunk the rumors that the dreaded zombie apocalypse had actually begun (see the Huffington Post report here).

The Zombie Preparedness List

Oh, and by the way, in case you’re curious, the following is the list of the most important items to have on hand for when the undead are unleashed:

  • Water (1 gallon per person per day)
  • Food (stock up on non-perishable items that you eat regularly)
  • Medications (this includes prescription and non-prescription meds)
  • Tools and Supplies (utility knife, duct tape, battery powered radio, etc.)
  • Sanitation and Hygiene (household bleach, soap, towels, etc.)
  • Clothing and Bedding (a change of clothes for each family member and blankets)
  • Important documents (copies of your driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate to name a few)
  • First Aid supplies (although you’re a goner if a zombie bites you, you can use these supplies to treat basic cuts and lacerations that you might get during a tornado or hurricane)

For a full disaster preparedness checklist, the CDC has a less humorous, but certainly more complete page.

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.
      

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.

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.