Matt Cutts gets a cut.

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You gotta love a guy who follows up on a bet by posting a video of himself (below) getting a new hairdo by his fellow office mates on YouTube. It’s even more impressive when you are  Google’s SEO guru. Here’s the bet; Matt Cutts wagered with his team that they couldn’t keep up with an undisclosed turnaround time for a full quarter. Needless to say, Matt lost the bet.

The coiffure began as a chrome logo delicately chiseled into the back of Mr. Cutts’ head, but soon gave way to a full-fledged Telly Savalas … viola! It was an entertaining way to celebrate a milestone in a company; one million video views on the official Google webmaster video channel.  Again, nice work. Now maybe Matt would consider a future bet with the eyebrows included? Just a thought.

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?

Microsoft goes all in with 80 to 100 million bucks.

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According to a recent Adage article Microsoft is set to launch a massive advertising campaign to announce its latest version of a search engine called Bing (aka code-name Kumo).  Will it work? The article claims that Microsoft will “focus on planting the idea that today’s search engines don’t work as well as consumers previously thought by asking them whether search (aka Google) really solves their problems. That, Microsoft is hoping, will give consumers a reason to consider switching search engines, which, of course, is one of Bing’s biggest challenges.” Way before I got into the advertising business I can remember a similar effort by an upstart company that intended to unseat the number one soda company in the world. I’m talking about the famous Pepsi challenge. That was over 30 years ago and it is, in my opinion, a fantastic example of how marketing dollars can be used to eat into a market leaders profit by simply suggesting there’s room for a contender. In the Pepsi challenge, it really came down to convincing people that one caramel colored sugar water was just as good or even better than the other. In fact, in blind taste tests, Pepsi claimed that more Americans preferred Pepsi over Coke. I took the test back in the mid-seventies at the Los Angeles County Fair and was dumbfounded to discover that I too chose Pepsi over my favorite Coca-cola drink. The sales guy who conducted the test planted doubt in my mind about what I liked. OK, so I never switched, mostly because I love the Coke brand like a biker likes his harley, but for a second there I actually kinda sorta considered it. Other Coke loyalists however, did end up going over to the dark side. Is Microsoft trying to lead us in the same direction? It seems so. Now, when are we going to get a taste of bing?

Enzo F. Cesario

Bing wants the bling.

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Has Microsoft zeroed in on Google’s Achilles’ heel, or will their latest effort be way too little way too late. According to a recent Business Week article Qi Lu, Microsofts top dog of search, believes it’s his duty to improve search experiences online. The article states,  “while Web surfers may say they’re happy with search technology, the data show they don’t find what they’re after almost half the time.” Is this a kink in Google’s armor? This kink is exactly the kind of weakness Microsoft is building their new Bing engine around. How will they do it? A couple of things Bing offers to help searchers get to what they want faster: hover-over pop-up summaries, a side panel table of contents that lists related options to refine the search, health-related queries from reputable sources on top, simultaneous displays of reviews and photos for product searching and much more. Microsoft is positioning Bing not as another search engine, but a decision engine that helps you overcome search overload. I had no idea I was being overloaded, but apparently Microsoft tells me so. To get a better look at bing, visit this link.

Enzo F. Cesario

KUMO, WOO and WTF

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Launching something on the web with a three or four letter word can be a great idea if you have the chutzpah and marketing muscle to explain it to the world AND it catches on like wildfire. But the latter is hard to control. Case in point, Yahoo announced WOO to world last week with mixed response. WOO, Yahoo explains, stands for Web Of Objects. WOO has been under the radar for two years is Yahoo’s attempt at making search less about searching for words or pages and more about searching for meaning. In a press release Prabhakar Ragahavan, who oversees Yahoo’s search strategy said, “We need to move away from a Web of pages to a Web of objects.”   A lot of people disagree with this and think that Google does a fine job with search and the only way to improve it is for Yahoo to partner with Microsoft and give Google some competition. In a  recent CNN article, Nicholas Carlson, editor at Silicone Alley Insider, states that “holding an event and telling reporters the future is “WOO” and spitting our jargon-y white board stuff like “Web of objects” isn’t going to move the needle for Yahoo or its shareholders. Merging its search advertisers with Microsoft’s and driving up prices in cost-per-click keyword auctions, however, might do the trick.” Ouch. Also check out Kumo, Microsoft’s under-the-radar overhaul of their Live search, codenamed Kumo. OK, at least it’s still a code name and not really intended for the public to see (or was it). You can learn more about this top-secret Microsoft leak right here. Enjoy, and keep on kumo-wooing.

Enzo F. Cesario