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Posts Tagged ‘SEO’

Mobile is here at last! Now where are the marketers?

December 1st, 2011 No comments

Camels photo'd with mobile phoneWe’ve been hearing about mobile marketing for years. But until recently most pundits would only point the misty future and say “It’s coming! We just don’t know when it will be here!”

At last, it is safe to say mobile is most definitely in play. But we tend to see a wide range of interest and knowledge among marketers, which reminds me of social media circa 2008/9. Back then, most were asking fairly basic questions about social - what it is, what it means, etc. The usage numbers back then were rapidly increasing and already so astonishingly huge at that time that it really shocked marketers; the ensuing scramble for knowledge and understanding is still playing itself out to this day. That said, almost no one raises an eyebrow anymore when you mention “social media strategy”. They might ask you to be more specific, but they don’t question the concept or the need.

But that’s not necessarily so today when it comes to mobile. Does your organization have a mobile strategy? Based on experience, I’d have to bet it doesn’t. You may have run one or two pilot projects, and by now have an app or a mobile-ready website. But no long-term, holistic plan.

And the thing is, mobile is already plenty big enough to merit having a plan. And it’s going to keep getting bigger.

  1. Most experts suggest that by 2014, more internet sessions will happen on mobile devices than on PCs. There are 5.3 billion mobile subscribers (that’s 77 percent of the world population). Growth is led by China and India.What other medium offers that reach?
  2. Mobile devices sales rose in 2010, with smartphones showing strongest growth, Nokia remains number one in both smartphones and mobile phones, but Android is expected to become the top OS for new smartphones in 2011.
  3. Feature phones sales (let alone ownership) still outnumber smartphones 4:1. If your mobile strategy doesn’t include feature phones, it doesn’t include most of your customers.
  4. Top mobile network operator for subscribers and revenues is China Mobile; for average revenue per user is 3UK; for lowest monthly churn is NTT DOCOMO Japan; and for proportion of revenues from data is Smart Philippines. But it’s not all good news. Mobile operators in developed countries could run out of profit in the next two to four years if they do not change their business models.
    (source: Mobithinking.com)

In light of all this, here are a few interesting (disturbing?) things you should probably already be addressing:

  • Mobile IS social: 91% of mobile internet access is to socialize. Are your Facebook apps mobile-ready? Is any aspect of your Facebook experience mobile-purposed? These questions are merely examples. There are more than 350 million active users [44 percent] currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices. People that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook as non-mobile users. – Facebook official statistics (November, 2011).
  • The mobile marketing universe has probably expanded since you last looked. What haven’t you yet tried/considered? Near-Field Communication (NFC), Mobile device security, Mobile cities, Device detection, Mobile health (m-health), B2B mobile marketing, Mobile research (m-research), Mobile barcodes, Mobile applications: native v Web apps, Design for mobile, SMS marketing, Mobile social networking. Lot of potential ground to cover here.
  • The way people use search is going to change because they will increasingly be doing so on mobile rather than a PC. This represents a huge threat and concurrent opportunity for Internet marketers, and it is only those that can truly appreciate how the Internet will be consumed via these various new mobile devices that will prosper. A few examples*:
    • Using mobile to type-search. Using a traditional keyboard to enter a search query into Google is usually easier and quicker than doing the same on a mobile device. It is highly likely therefore that users will search for shorter keyword strings on mobile devices, or rely more heavily on tools such as predictive text or Google Suggest. This will likely influence the way sites optimise their content and carry out their link building.
    • Search by image. Tools such as Google Goggles allow users to very quickly search the Web using images on their phone or photos taken on the fly. Applications of this technology include taking a picture of a book in a store to find the best price, or using the picture of a restaurant front to find customer reviews. Ensuring your content and imagery are optimised for this form of search is likely to become increasingly important.
    • Sociability.  91% of mobile Internet access is to socialize, compared to 79% on desktops. If Internet marketers haven’t been listening to the “search turning social” talk of recent years, then they certainly should be now. If they still cannot engage with individuals and groups on a social level they will be missing out on a massive proportion of mobile Internet usage.
      (*Source: Duncan Heath via Forbes.com)

Let us know if you’d like to talk mobile strategy. We’re all ears (and thumbs!)

This post was also published to the Gage Marketing Blog.

Era of the Person, Part 2: The Dark Side

August 18th, 2011 1 comment

So, my last post was about how the integration of search and social has the potential to transform search in a good way. Scott Bryden, my analytics counterpart at Gage, then wrote me the following note:

Hi Chris,

I read your blog post.  Good stuff man.  I have a question for you.  After the webinar, it occurred to me that if Google incorporates their +1’s into search results, what’s to stop someone from trying to “artificially” manipulate this variable as well.  Will you be able to run a promotion and require someone to +1 your site as consideration for entry?  Or have they already thought through that and it’s not allowed as part of the terms and conditions?

– Scott

Great point, Scott. First the short answer: we don’t know yet. Google hasn’t given any explicit guidance that I could find on what brands can and can’t do to entice users to “+1″ them, or add them to their Google+ Circles (by the way, you heard it here first: “Circle me!” is probably going to take on a whole new meaning once Business get active in G+). I do know that shadowy types are already offering clandestine services to game the +1 system. So it has already begun…

But let’s consider the dark side of integrating search+social more broadly. I used this PPT slide in a recent pitch to illustrate a point on Facebook strategy:

Facebook value model

Makes sense, right? Brands that put out a Facebook presence dominated by salesy deals and such to win fans will naturally tend to attract low-value, “mercenary” fans who will seldom if ever do anything valuable for them. Conversely, brands that cater to and encourage a bona-fide fan base will attract fans that will actually do something of value for the brand if asked. Of course the challenge is then to put ways to generate value in front of those true fans, e.g, activities that help build awareness, increase engagement, drive conversions and advocate for you.

But because of its implications on search, the integration of social + search has the potential to turn this paradigm into a much more mercenary thing – for example, a brand in Google+ won’t necessarily have a business obligation to care at all why you +1 or add them to your G+ Circles, because those acts are beneficial ends in and of themselves. Each “end” has a direct immediate potential benefit to their search outcomes – regardless of what you, the fan, might choose to do at any time thereafter.

Google+ Value Model

Note that the Actual Value to Business was once a green triangle – but now it’s a fat trapezoid. This is obviously different than the Facebook model, where you still have the essential task of coaxing a new fan to do things of actual value before you can make any statement about the business benefit you’re getting from them. A dark side, indeed.

On the other hand, you could make the argument that adopting a totally mercenary strategy in G+ will be transparent to audiences and turn them off. But surely, effectiveness for G+ will end up being somewhere north of the level of “mercenary-ness” that represents the virtual ideal for a brand in FB? What do you think?

Note: This post was also published on the Gage Marketing blog.

What is SEO?

November 18th, 2009 1 comment

I’ve found myself asked this a few times of late by divergent questioners, from a small business marketer to a marketing executive at one of the world’s largest global companies.

It occurs to me that SEO appears to many to be people a dark, murky, misty part of the online marketing world – something like that swampy area outside of Mordor in Lord Of The Rings which the protagonists had to slog through to get to their destination. People know it’s important they move in this territory but they don’t know what’s there, and aren’t sure they want to find out.

OK, so what is SEO? The definition is simple, actually. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is the practice of improving the performance of web properties by crafting webpages (and their links) to “optimize” the chance that these pages will appear in the first few pages of a search engine’s results page (SERP) for a given keyword search.

There. That wasn’t so bad, was it? Now for the inevitable wrinkles:

  1. Back in the mid-90s when they really began to come into their own with the public, search engines used to only rank web pages for a given search based on eacg page’s content relevance to keywords users entered. Then SEO tacticians got good at fooling search engines into ranking their pages highly using what are called “Black Hat”- or illegitimate – tactics such as spamming. So in 1998, Google and their competitive ilk came up with a new way to rank pages that measured popularity in addition to relevance. Google calls their version of this methodology – one of the first of its kind and by far the most commercially successful – PageRank.
  2. Lately (last 2-3 years) the focus in SEO has shifted from improving search engines’ popularity and relevance rankings for a given page by using link, title, meta, and keyword-rich content, to doing this PLUS adding Web 2.0 and Social Media platforms such as blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to improve popularity rankings and thus increase SERP rankings. These new tools and approaches work because popularity is (simply expressed) a function of how many visitors your site gets, how many sites linking to your site (and the popularity score of those sites, too), and in terms of relevance, how often your content is regularly refreshed (e.g., via blog posts or Twitter feeds).
  3. Because 1 and 2 are not universally known, people hear bad things about SEO and believe them, which only increases the fear and loathing of SEO and fails to increase anyone’s knowledge or understanding. People hear bad things because there are still a lot of Black Hat practitioners out there, and SEO is also good fodder for pot-stirring online marketing bloggers who write provocative headlines like “All SEO practitioners are worthless” or “The only SEO you need is from developers” to get traffic and readers. Sad to say, such posts are generally successful at driving traffic because so many marketers are interested in SEO and so many of those are new to it and are highly impressionable.
  4. Ethical SEO involves giving clients sound advice, such as the best way to display text and label pictures and tags. Ethical practioners also encourage clients to develop and maintain good web content (and show them how) and use back-linking techniques to increase the number of incoming links to a page, which in turn boost’s that page’s popularity score. Ethical SEOs also warn clients off from practices that might be seen by search engines as spamming. Ethical SEOs and search engines consider themselves partners who, by exchanging information and tips, together improve search quality. However, unethical SEOs and search engines are continually in a state of battle. Every time one side seems to have the upper hand, the other side comes up with a new way to regain an advantage. And although their relationship is adversarial, some believe they are an essential part of the web food chain, because they drive innovation and search R&D.

What Social Search means for users and marketers

October 26th, 2009 No comments

OK, I see a recurring pattern with Google. It’s Microsoft circa 1995-7 all over again. Remember when there were browser wars that people really cared about? Gradually and as surely as the sun rises, Microsoft used its gigantic resources – development, market reach, war chest – to displace Netscape as the world’s #1 browser and render all challengers impotent.

Of course there are situational differences, but today’s Google seems to succeed by doing the same with all things search. As soon as any competitor gets a little traction with a new search wrinkle, Google either buys them out or co-opts the new approach, releasing the same or superior capabilities to their massive user base and integrating into their suite of functionality, thus ensuring their position as the first stop for information online is indefinitely retained.

Case in point: Google’s new Social Search. It competes directly or indirectly with a host of similar relatively new Social Media information aggregation ventures, including GetGlue, Bing Twitter Search, FriendFeed, Cliqset, and many, many others.

So what is Social Search?

Basically, Google figures out people you trust and then makes content from them show up in your search results:

It’s a simple idea. Companies have approached this in various ways (see Search 4.0: Social Search Engines & Putting Humans Back In Search). Typically, the social concepts for refining results have been to allow people to form social networks, then:

  • Refine search results based on actual search activity within their network
  • Share results with each other
  • Define only certain sites that should be included in their results

The first two have privacy concerns, among other issues. The last two especially involved work on the part of users. Users have to actively choose to share results or actively define a set of sites they want to search against. Not many people would be likely to do this. And with Google Social Search, there’s still some work required, but  it’s minimal if you already use of Twitter, Flickr or an existing public social network. In fact, if you use Gmail or Google Reader, you may already be social-search ready.

What Social Search Means for Users and Marketers

Although it’s early, I believe this is mostly good for both users and marketers. Instead of having to worry about registering, interacting, etc. with dozens of functionally overlapping aggregators, users can have Google Social Search pull some this into the same search routine most people use most often today. For marketers, it means Social Media will be even harder to ignore in coming months, as more users use input from their social network to help them make purchasing decisions. For more on this aspect, please check out: The Rise Of Help Engines: Twitter & Aardvark.