All posts in Search Engine

According to Local SEO expert Mike Blumenthal, Google is quietly adding a new feature to the places page that will show current events for specific venues; like theaters, concert halls, museums, and more. For these venue owners, it allows another useful step in optimizing the local page, providing more specific information and search terms. And for the searcher, this new places addition provides a more social experience to their search.  Starting in major cities, this feature will allow searchers to find their venue, add the date of the concert, opening, gala, etc. directly to their Google Calendar. From there, users can then notify and invite friends about the event.

Though this isn’t a mind-blowing update, it does represent another step in the direction of Google closing the gap between the search and the social. Less than one month ago, Google unveiled the +1 feature, citing that relevance (one half of the goal of their elusive algorithm) is about as much about the relationships as the content on web pages. This +1 feature appears next to results on the SERP, and searchers only need click once on the tiny tab to give their virtual thumbs up that the result is relevant and worth checking out. These kudos will start to show up to other people searching for the same thing. The idea is that you’ll see your friends, family, and those with opinions you generally respect (those with Google accounts anyway) pop up next to the result you’re searching for, and their approval will inspire you to check it out.

Also this month, and perhaps a bit more mind-blowing is Google’s take on the take-on of social consumerism, a la Groupon and Living Social. About a week ago, Google began a preliminary release of Google offers in a few select cities, promising future bargains of 50% off or more from local vendors, restaurants. These offers will be distributed by email as well. Given the success Groupon has had from a networking perspective with its daily deals, it’s no surprise Google has found its own style and flair for its own daily deals. While Google may not have been the first to come up with any of these concepts, it’s constant overhaul of “what’s working

In order to get the maximum effect from your website, it needs to be search-engine friendly. So search engine optimization (SEO) is very important. When you type a word or phrase in a search engine, it scours the web to find sites with relevant content. Sites the search engine considers the most relevant – the one’s with content related to the search term – are listed at the top.

Notice how the emphasis in SEO is content and not graphics or flash. If you wanted your site to be an SEO shrine, you’d have a bunch of pages with only relevant phrases and words. Sure, that site would rank high, but the bounce rate would be outrageous. That’s why you need a balance between good design and relevant, keyword-heavy content with SEO writing.

Using keywords and keyword phrases is probably the most effective way to maximize SEO. The more keywords you use, the more search engines will recognize your site as relevant and you’ll be ranked higher. Another thing that increases SEO is link building; this not only builds traffic to your site (inbound links), it helps you make friends (outbound links) with relevant content. If they like your work, they’re most likely to link back to you.

Maximizing activity to your site can seem pretty daunting. Just keep in mind what’s most important – relevant content and links – and you’ll be slowly crawling to the top of those search results.

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The Google/Apple war rages on. With the release of the iPad, and a thickening plot that adds Verizon Wireless, Adobe, and even China to the expanding list of Google foes, it’s impossible to ignore the situation.

But why should we care? As consumers, what implications does this have for us? And as business professionals, what lessons can we take away?

Competition breeds innovation.

Google and Apple – two companies with formerly divergent products – now compete with hardware, software, and even advertising. When two similar brands battle, greater innovation and lower prices ensue, and consumers inevitably emerge victorious.

Google has struggled to profit from anything but search, which is why hardly a week goes by without word of another Google innovation. The Nexus One left the iPhone in its dust with features like a better camera and copy/paste capability. Only time will tell how Apple will retaliate. (Some speculate that Apple may eventually lower prices.)

Brand trust is a must.

Google had been criticized of rushing to get Nexus One on the market, and letting customer service fall by the wayside. While Apple conducted years of research and nailed down all necessary patents before bringing the iPhone to market, Google’s entrance into the mobile market was rushed in comparison.

This raises the question of how much money consumers will invest in Android apps, knowing Google might not continue with the Nexus One. Apple’s iPhone, on the other hand, already has apps that will work on the iPod and iPad. For the time being, Apple has the key advantage of higher consumer trust.

All eyes are on search.

It’s obvious that there’s plenty of money to be made in search, specifically in paid search. Turning search queries into leads has become huge business. Google commands this market, generating money through online advertising. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster recently predicted another significant result of the feud: Apple’s foray into the search realm:

We believe the odds of Apple developing a search engine in the next five years are 70%. One hurdle for Apple in developing its own search engine would be generating enough advertiser interest to form a competitive marketplace; however, we believe the rationale for an Apple search product is to protect data rather than generate profit.

Apple may not seem like a big threat in the search world. However, since it controls more than half of the mobile Web market share, Munster suggests Apple can use the data it has captured from having Google maps and search accessible on the iPhone to improve its own products, ultimately surpassing Google in the search arena.

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Realizing the brand-building potential, savvy business owners are leveraging Twitter to interact with customers. Twitter enables brand-to-customer conversations through comfortable, open forums. In fact, 20% of tweets are about brands, and they come from both consumers and businesses.

Comcast uses Twitter to scan for complaints and engage with customers. The idea was born when someone in the company realized scores of public complaints against Comcast were being vented via Twitter. In response, the cable company built a team of 11 people whose function is simply to scour the site and respond to Comcast-related tweets. Much to many users’ surprise, the Comcast team responds to tweets, identifying themselves as a company representative and asking if they can help. Comcast execs are highly satisfied with the unique dialogue Twitter has enabled, noting that the conversations are dissimilar to the typical phone complaints the company receives. “[Twitter is] a little more personal. More back-and-forth discussions, and it’s less formal. And it gives immediacy to interactions,” says Frank Eliason, Comcast’s director of digital care.

For instance, an angry Comcast customer wrote, “I would suggest you tell the people in charge of the money to do their jobs.” A moment later, she was compelled to tweet again: “P.S. If my credit score is negative, it is your fault for not paying enough attention or not calling off your dogs.” In response, Eliason suggested (to a BusinessWeek writer who was observing his work) to reply and simply thank her for her suggestion, with a period at the end. “I wouldn’t do a smiley face when we’re doing a collections issue,” he says. Although not a quick fix for some deeply rooted business issues, Eliason and his team’s work has made Comcast accessible and trustworthy to customers. When Twitter users think Comcast, they think Eliason. “Right now I have 5,700 followers. They know about my family Web site. It gives a face to Comcast,” he told BusinessWeek.

A number of corporations have followed Comcast’s lead, using Twitter as a means to reach out to consumers and resolve complaints. Travel companies like Virgin America use Twitter regularly to communicate everything from vacation specials to possible flight delays. But Virgin takes its Twitter presence a step further than the competition, communicating much more than just deals and flight status, and asking for open communication from its customers in return. And its more than 20,000 followers deliver, filling Virgin’s Twitterstream with photos of themselves aboard Virgin flights or on vacations made possible by the airline. Virgin also retweets its passengers’ posts. During one flight, a recent medical school tweeted her excitement about her accomplishment and about being aboard Virgin America. Rather than congratulating her, Virgin retweeted and asked someone to buy her a drink on the flight. There was an immediate response and the surprised grad was quickly presented with a drink, compliments of Row 11.

Businesses and organizations have also made use of Tweetups to further their brand. For instance, in April 2009 the National Hockey League (NHL) worked with fans to organize a series of Tweetups that occurred simultaneously around the world. The Tweetup effort brought together 1,200 fans in 23 cities, and reached an estimated 240,000 through Twitter and millions more through press coverage, which included a mention in USA Today. Increased Twitter action on the day of the Tweetups also spurred countless brand impressions. On the opening night of the playoffs, the term “NHL” was mentioned on Twitter more than twice as often as on a normal day. And #NHLtweetup became a trending topic for the day. Now the league has a dedicated social media department and has planned more Tweetups for the 2009-2010 season.
Twitter has emerged as the hottest brand building and customer service tool on the market and, ironically, it was not created for that purpose. But corporate tweeting has spread like wildfire and has been met with praise from consumers, who appreciate the fact that there is a human being at the other end of that Twitterstream – a welcome change in today’s impersonal business world of stiff corporate policies and procedures. Using Twitter is not just for the large corporations. Twitter also gives smaller, local businesses a voice and a solution to some of the complaints of the consumer. Look out next week for some strategies and helpful tools to help you monitor your brand on Twitter and other social media.

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In the past few weeks Google announced that they were no longer offering Radio and Print ads. Just another reason why Search Engine Marketing is here to stay. The inventory that Google was providing for these services were on a remnant basis and when we approached clients that may have been opened to these advertising outlets, they were not confident that these inventory sources would help them reach their goals.

The services did not offer attractive pricing for clients that have used print and radio in the past. The fact that they were not able to get choice positioning was also a negative factor that could have contributed to the downfall of Google Radio and Print ads. It was a good effort on Google’s part to try to bring in more revenue, but the fact remains that Search Engine Marketing still remains to be the best ROI producers for most companies and businesses that advertise. This is simply why print ad revenue continues to dive down year after year.

What we thought was attractive about these two particular services was the reporting capabilities that Google so often emphasized. It is hard to measure these advertising sources and even with Google’s cool tools and gadgets, it was hard to correlate the results to the advertising.

The main lesson learned from this endeavor: Search Engine Marketing is the best bang for your buck.

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