Is It Time To Rethink Online Marketing Strategies?

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The introduction of Bing to the search engine field has brought with it a flurry of new search engine features. Google, Yahoo! and Bing are all trying to out-do each other with the ultimate prize being an increase in search share. The question is, are they fighting the right fight? While they are busy trying to outdo each other, other online sites are quietly moving into the search field. YouTube is the second biggest search vehicle for users and Twitter and Facebook are not that far behind. The outcome of this increase in activity by search engines and social media sites may have serious ramifications for future online marketing strategies, particularly search engine marketing.

The recent introduction of ‘real time’ indexing of content will bring about a renewed interest in social media marketing. Search engines love to index fresh content and it has been noticeable that content that gains rapid prominence on bookmarking sites like Digg or StumbleUpon, has been indexed by Google quite quickly.  Twitterers and bloggers have already acted by putting their posts on ‘auto-Tweet’, thus being open to fresh content indexing. Twitter has become the most prominent instant communication tool around and while bloggers have been quick to utilize it, it has has opened up possibilities for many other areas of marketing.

What effect will this have when it comes to  online marketing? This is the gray area at present. Tweets that carry links to content may lead to that content being indexed quite quickly. This may help under-utilized strategies like press releases increase in popularity. It may also lead to content being accessed directly rather than through search engines. If that’s the case, will search engines become redundant when it comes to real time information?

Article marketing is another area that may gain in popularity. It has been the realm of spammers for a long time. However, if high quality articles can be indexed quickly using tools such as Twitter, spam may finally get the boot. Popular article sites like Ezine Articles are already undertaking tough anti-spam campaigns. This is even leading to paid members being removed.

Is it time to rethink online marketing strategies? Perhaps. The online marketing tools that have been successful in the past are still useful. Blogs, traditional social media marketing, article marketing, press releases, SEM, SEO are just some of these tools. What may change in the future is the mix. Up until now,  SEO has been the tool of choice by most web site owners. Many have dabbled with article marketing, even fewer have ventured into press releases – the time may right to revisit these and many of the other online marketing tools that may have been scorned in the past.

While it is hard to envision a time when the main focus wont be on search engines, I think we may in for a period where it’s dominance could be threatened by social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. What do think – are times changing when it comes to online marketing? Will the focus move from search engines to other media outlets?

MSN Video gets a Bing facelift.

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Microsoft ups their video search offering by launching an all-new Bing video search engine which replaces the MSN video search. According to a recent release by cynopsis: digital via contributor Wayne Karrfalt,

“the new Bing Video site provides a straightforward interface that points users to videos that are gaining steam or are new to the web. Partnerships with Hulu, ABC and YouTube give Bing access to over 900 TV shows in all. The new Bing also now includes results from its recent licensing deal with next generation search system Wolfram Alpha

I checked out the new Bing Video section, and was impressed by the clean Hulu-like design. Here’s a link from CNET if you want to read more or just click on the video, which weirdly features the MSN video logo and not the Bing logo. What’s up with that?

Want repeat traffic? Digg and Facebook deliver.

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Want repeat visitors coming to your site? New data coming out of Chitika Inc., an online advertising network with over 30,000 sites and over 2 billion monthly impressions, suggests that Facebook and Digg delivered repeat traffic at much greater rate than Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and Twitter.  Google delivered overall numbers, but when it comes to driving repeat visitors,

“over 20% of all visitors from Facebook visited the site four or more times per week. Digg came in second place with slightly over 16%.”

Note that Google, Bing! and Twitter came at the bottom of the “repeat traffic” list hovering around 11% each. Google, obviously delivers the most traffic overall. But for loyalty, you can’t beat Facebook. This is why it’s important for brands to engage customers across multiple networks to satisfy multiple strategies. If you want repeat visitors coming to your site, you may want to consider putting a little more elbow grease into your brand’s Facebook effort. To see the data in chart format, visit Chitika here.

My search box is bigger than yours.

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It’s no secret that companies make slight changes to their products to get you to use more of their products. The most powerful example of this came to me via an old time ad executive who was telling me about an incident in his younger days on Madison Avenue when he was in the office of a very large toothpaste maker.  As a young copywriter, he was brought along to the high-powered meeting with the senior account executives and creative team. The ad agency and the toothpaste executives were trying to figure out a way to create more demand for their toothpaste. Ideas were thrown up on the wall one at a time: increase the media budget, hire a famous spokesperson, testimonials, dentist recommendations, new flavors, etc., All of the ideas had been tried before and were instantly canned. The solution came from the young buck, who blurted out, “why don’t you just make the hole bigger?” Bingo. That was it. Making the hole where the toothpaste came out bigger meant that people would use up more toothpaste faster, thus running out sooner, thus needing to run down to the store and pick up another tube. In other words, creating more demand. The technique was tried and sales increased. Crafty? Maybe. Evil? It’s a dog eat dog world out there. The truth is, companies will stop at nothing if they are trying to increase demand. So when I came across a recent article on Google‘s official blog titled “Now S-U-P-E-R-sized“.  I was not surprised to find out that Google was making a slight change to the design of their homepage. The main design change is the size of the search box. After taking a gander at the old vs the new Google search box It seemed like a tiny change. The reason given for the change is,

“it symbolizes our focus on search and because it makes our clean, minimalist homepage even easier and more fun to use.”

But really? Is that the reason? I did a little digging and found others that had a differing opinion for the change. On Tech.Blorge they suggest that
by making the search box more prominent, users are ever-so-slightly more likely to try a new query rather than thumbing through page after page of results. The post goes on to suggest that they are trying to compete against Bing’s search page. This brought up an interesting question. Who had the bigger search engine box? Who had the bigger hole for the toothpaste to flow through? I took screen shots (from a Firefox browser on a Mac) and compared the two sites side by side. The result is that Bing had a much bigger search box, even after Google increased their size? Does this mean more people will be apt to search more on Bing because the search “hole” is bigger? Makes you wonder. Just like it makes you wonder why you can’t get that darned toothpaste back into the tube.

Moving pictures speak louder than words.

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I was chatting with a friend who’s an SEO expert and we were discussing the value of video content versus the written word. We both agreed they both have their merits. But let’s face it, video gets the point across in a more condensed way and it infuses a tone that you just can’t get with the written word. The speaker’s mannerisms, way of talking and clarity all effect how you absorb the content. To me, that’s a good thing. But the written word also has benefits. For example, if you’re a fast reader you can easily scan the text to see it’s worthwhile enough for you to read the whole thing… doing that with video means waiting for the vid to download and hoping you can move the slider around with little technical difficulty. My friend and I discussed the power of each format and wondered if the moving picture was more powerful than ink. If you look at the newspaper business versus the news telecast business which one do you think more people prefer? As a test, I thought it would be interesting to wordify / transcribe a video and compare it to the video and see what you get out of each format. The article I have chosen is from SEOmozBlog Whiteboard Friday. Keep in mind that I did not transcribe the video word for word; I left out the conversational bits and wrote it so that you could get the context. Here is a direct link to the video or click on the embed below. When you’re done, scroll down for the text version. Happy reading/watching.

SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday – Generating Unique Content from Scott Willoughby on Vimeo.

Text

SEOmox.org. The Web’s Best SEO Resources.
Whiteboard friday: generating unique content
by Scott Willoughby  Featuring Rand Fishkin/CEO SEOmoz 8:18 sec

Rand Fishkin looked at both the start-up world and large established companies for this video.
He asked the following questions.
What makes content unique.
Why do I have to engage in it
And why do i have to do it.

Why do search engines want unique content?
Search engines want unique unique content because it helps their users.

Users who find repeated results get very frustrated. You see this a lot in the travel world. If you do a search for Kayaks you see the same thing on Expedia and Hotels.com…it’s weak because you get reviews that are coming from the same place. Not a good experience for the user.

Mr. Fishkin mentions a site like Oyster.com , which contains very independent, lengthy reviews of hotels and travel related content.  The search engines want these unique kinds of results and they are very very good at identifying them.

if you think you’re going to pull the wool over the eyes of the search engines, think again. Search engines are very good at looking at a page’s structure, identifying elements that are in common navigationally and picking out the completely unique pieces of content inside the page and then being able to determine what percent of content inside the page is unique then deciding if that makes this a worth while page.

Some pages can have tons of content, and just a little bit of unique content and it gets picked up as being very important. Again, search engines are very good at picking out those sorts of things.

Spammers used to take content, run it through an English to French translation, then a French to Arabic translation and then an Arabic to English translation and then claim it as completely unique.

These days you’ll see spammers getting much more advanced by using things like Amazon’s mechanicalturk.com where they pay writers to rewrite content sentence by sentence a penny at a time. But be wary of this method because the search engines are working on how to identify that sort of thing.

Mr. Fishkin suggest that human beings are pattern oriented creatures  and they have patterns that they build and if search engines can reverse that method they can try to figure out who is trying to spam.

In terms of the user experience you create with unique content..it is a serious upgrade. Finding something that is interesting and unique is valuable for your visitors and the search engines look at this as a good thing.

There’s an unfair advantage that some outlets get just by their presence and size. For example, if you wrote an article that then later got picked up by CNN, guess who would get the credit for it? It’s on your blog, it’s on CNN, guess who will get more links? CNN will because they most likely will have a much larger audience. The engines want to find who is the original source and they also want to make sure the duplication doesn’t create a “citation worthiness” where only the rich get richer and no one who is unique and interesting and small is getting value out of that. They also want to find a lot of diversity in those results. You can take a search results page and listing one through four are all the same…it’s miserable. Nobody wants to see exactly the same thing. They want to see those unique takes.

Finally, Mr. Fishkin covers some strategies in order to take advantage of the unique content demands that the search engines require and figure out how you can scale that and create content for your business. These kinds of content fall under three categories.

1. The first is Editorial. What is editorial? It’s Mr. Fishkin making this video. It’s a blog. It’s coming up with content yourself or hiring out journalists or copywriters to write content for you. Outsourcing it to South East Asia or Eastern parts of Europe where you can find affordable writers to write content for you. Or using sites like oDesk or those types of services. You can have lots of unique content written by humans and it is considered editorially built content. That brings us to the second kind of content.

2. The second kind of content is machine-built content. This kind of content is usually data-driven. Results you would see Inside an Expedia or Farecast (which is now Bing travel). Folks like payscale.com and salary.com do this in the job world. Simplyhired does this around searches for a particular job and how well the market is rising. They take data sources and produce automated kinds of content. You have to be careful with this.  It’s a good strategy because it is scalable, it’s useful and not too expensive. Keep in mind engines can have issues with the uniqueness of the content.  Sites like (one of Mr. Fishkin’s clients) zillow.com create data which becomes content. Users find the data useful.

3. The third kind of content is user-generated content. UGC is some of the best kind of content that you can generate, but it’s tough. You have to build a community, incentivize the content creation and you have to get them to do it for free. You have to get people to contribute. Some examples of this kind of content is Wikipedia, digg, readitt and Youtube. UGC is very powerful, and very scalable but difficult to get to get growing in a large network scale manner.

Rand recommends that you sit down and strategize which kind of content is appropriate to your business. For small sites, editorial makes sense. If you are trying to go big and dominate a niche or industry, you will need machine-built and UGC or maybe all three forms of content depending on your strategy.

It pays to have that strategy in mind before you set out to create content instead of while you’re doing it or even after. Strategize and pick the solution that’s best for you.

OK, as you can see, it’s a lot of text considering that I left out a lot of the conversational words. I first viewed the video and then went back and transcribed as best as I could. I have to admit, watching the video was a more pleasant experience. I was also surprised the video was a little over 8 minutes long. It seemed much less. Maybe that’s because the experience was so effortless, whereas reading (or writing) took some effort. Who likes to read when you can sit back and absorb? What do you think?

Social networking site gets facelift. Renames itself “discovery engine” .

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As everyone knows, Twitter is the hot new social networking site that has both regular Joe and businesses all excited. Recently, a Twitter Blog Post announced a freshly painted front page. Big deal, you might think if you’re an avid Tweeter, because you rarely interface with the front page. But when you think about it, it could be a big deal to a newbie coming to the site for the first time. You’ll notice that the “what are you doing” tagline has been replaced with a much more direct, “Share and discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the word.” And just above a search-like query box, there sits “See what people are saying about…”  Also, at the bottom of the main content area we see icons and feeds that list search, hot trends, and popular topics. This all leads to how Twitter is repositioning itself as a “discovery engine for what is happening right now”. This new strategy is aimed at newbies and businesses who want to get in on the gotta-have-it-right-now user base. So now Twitter is a discovery engine? I can’t keep up with all these new terms. I thought Wolfram Alpha was the discovery engine. Or, wait, was that Bing?

Google’s creative commons image filter makes debut.

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Google lobs one back into the Bing court by announcing a “creative commons” search filter for images that are queried on Google. This is good news for bloggers and art directors who scour the web for free images that can be used to spiff up that blog or make their comps sing. According to Business Insider, “search results can be filtered by “labeled for reuse,” “commercial” reuse,” “reuse with modification,” and “commercial reuse with modification.” It”™s a pretty cool feature, but in my opinion, it still takes longer to find images on Google than it does on Bing. Bing is lightening-fast and has some nifty filters categorized under size, layout, color, style and people. For me, speed trumps nuance filters like the one announced by Google. But don”™t let that sway you. Take it out for a test drive yourself right here.

SEO for pretty, pretty pictures.

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Images are presented differently than text. For example, when you do an image query on Bing you get results in a rapid fire of five columns across and a mile deep. This eliminates the need to be within the top three spots on search rankings. According to Search Marketing Standard optimizing an image can help search rankings. That’s because search engines rank and classify images in the same way they do text on any given website. In addition, if someone is searching for an image and one of your images appear, the searcher may click through to your site. This could potentially work well if you are in the business of selling online. Let’s say for example you have a shoe business online. You have the latest Nike X basketball shoe that all the kids have been raving about. Kids want to see all the different colors the Nike X comes in, so they search for Nike X in the images section of Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. They see one of your photos, and they like what they see. They click through, and suddenly they are on your site. Okay, that may be oversimplifying it, but the point is getting your photos indexed and tagged can bring you more traffic and may even get you more sales. Hey, you know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand bucks.