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Monthly Archives: March 2011

New #MarketingNerds Podcast: Statistics and Removing Bad Links with Russ Jones by @johnrampton

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By John Rampton

In this podcast recorded at Pubcon Las Vegas 2014, I had the chance to discuss statistics and removing bad links with Russ Jones from Virante. In this episode of Marketing Nerds, we cover: Statistics Russ uses to protect his brands online. Blackhat methods that people use and a cost/benefit ratio. He walks you through how to asses if what you’re doing is blackhat or whitehat in your SEO methods How important trust is with every business online. SEO’s need to learn the double-tap method for link building and link retrieval To listen to Marketing Nerds with Russ Jones: Download or listen to the […]

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Local Search Marketers: Optimize Your Physical Location For The Virtual World

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By Chris Silver Smith

Google is combining Street View images, neural network analysis, and a reverse Turing Test via reCAPTCHA to analyze the exteriors of storefronts.

Welcome to the 21st century, where you may need to perform “optimization” on the real-world exterior of your stores to help ensure the best rankings in Google!

While at SMX Milan last month, colleague Luca Bove, in his presentation on the “Making Sense Of The Local Landscape” session, mentioned how Google potentially employs an algorithm with its local search systems in order to improve maps’ locational quality.

I was struck by how the data was very likely also used in validating business addresses for purposes of eliminating spam as well.

Google’s development of these capabilities is just one part of its data collection about the actual world around us that folds into the local search algorithms.

The Neural Network by rajasegar (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

There are some reasons why these sorts of developments are becoming more important to local businesses and local search marketers.

In the earlier days of the internet, a business tended to assume that anything about them on the internet was placed there by them and thus controlled by them, much as their presence in the yellow pages directories may have been handled in days past.

Of course, as the internet has matured, perhaps most businesses have come to realize that they do not solely control their online presence — numerous online directories, search engines, and other types of sites all compile data about entities and display it in various ways.

In the Web 2.0 world, many of us have learned and continue to learn how our online reputations and presence are something of a gestalt, formed of all the disparate pieces of information that are collected together and served up in multitudinous ways. (Indeed, this evolution resulted in the need for search marketing agencies and the more specialized niche of online reputation management or “ORM.”)

Even considering how the information age has evolved to find, collate and deliver up data about businesses and organizations, I’m not sure there has ever been a time when the physical reality of the world itself has been more intermingled with the virtual world.

More and more, things that happen in the physical world are having a direct effect upon your online presence, and so it’s becoming vital for local businesses to pay more attention to how these elements may affect their presence within local search.

Using Real-World Data To Pinpoint Locations

The location itself is one prime piece of the online presence, as we all realize. It’s sometimes a challenging datum.

As I described in my article from 2008, Top Causes Of Errors In Online Mapping Systems, online mapping systems have often been challenged with translating street addresses into the geocodes and pinpointing the locations on maps (though this situation has been steadily improving for many years).

In the past, there was a large element of estimation involved in mapping. As I described in 2008, there were instances when digital systems knew that an address was on a street, and on a particular side of it, but these systems had to interpolate in placing the addresses — spreading out all addresses equally along one side.

There were also instances when businesses’ addresses were clumped — such as at shopping centers and in tall office buildings.

As you may know, Google and some other systems incorporated building outlines for a great many cities into locational determinations. This sort of data likely helped further in determining actual organization address locations.

In addition, more and more types of street data pours into Google and other mapping systems, which map data sources from a variety of city, state and national government data sources.

Two different methods for pinpointing addresses include “rooftop” and “front door.” Using satellite images and/or building outlines, the centerpoints of buildings could be used, as well as front-door entrances, when computing location geocodes or when calculating driving directions.

Even considering the sophisticated mix of location determinations, there can be a lot of instances when geolocations are incorrectly calculated.

For businesses that like to “touch” their data a lot — either by uploading bulk files of multiple business locations in the case of large chain store companies, or small-to-medium businesses that simply take greater care in updating and customizing their online profiles — Google and other mapping providers will tend to have greater confidence in the geolocations associated.

In many cases, these companies will upload the precise geolocations of their outlets themselves, or they may hand-tweak them, such as with Google’s map pinpoint correction tool in Google Places interface.

But, for the countless businesses that are less “touchy-feely” with their online presence — and, this number remains in the many millions, I believe — mapping providers are less-confident with their generated location pinpoints.

A New Google Patent For Identifying Addresses

This may be one prime reason why Google developed the patent that was granted in July of this year entitled, “System and method of determining building numbers.”

In cases when you have longer facades of buildings with many doors on them, you begin to have a great chance of algorithmically determining door-front locations of addresses if you could have a system that would read the numbers off of the doors and doorframes.

On the face of it, this sort of system seems simple: Google’s mapping vehicles capture the fronts of many buildings, including storefronts, many of which include address numbers affixed to the building fronts.

Once these many image files are associated with geolocations of the street spots where they were captured, it’s a matter of running an OCR system through the images to capture any words, and most especially numbers.

Once you have this dataset, process it against the business/organization addresses in your database and see if the locations are close enough in proximity, or whether you need to adjust and update your business location.

Extracting the numbers from the images is a complex task, but Google research papers indicate it has developed a deep neural network system that can be trained to identify numbers of up to five digits long.

Google has apparently employed this system with a fairly high success rate and is automatically translating the numerals from images.

In practical application, this functionality is quite involved, and still prone to some percentage of errors or numbers that the neural net simply cannot identify. To combat this, Google apparently mixes in a human quality-check, according to its patent:

If an extracted value corresponds with the building number of the address of interest such as being substantially equal to the address of interest, the extracted value and the image portion are displayed to a human operator. The human operator confirms, by looking at the image portion, whether the image portion appears to be a building number that matches the extracted value. If so, the processor stores a value that associates that building number with the street level image.

How Is Google Incorporating Human Input?

Google has already incorporated such a system, perhaps in a couple of ways. First, it has been known for a while that Google has made use of a staff of humans to verify new business information by phoning these new businesses after they submit their listings to Google Places.

It’s quite conceivable that Google could display the scanned image number information to these individuals when they are performing their duties in validating new business listings, using some interface to display the numbers and asking the validators to click “yes” or “no” to determine if the address number images should associate with the physical location of businesses.

I’ve had reason to believe that these individuals were previously viewing Street View images, anyway, in order to help validate the businesses.

In cases where there is a suspect Street View image, such as if the validators don’t see buildings at the location, or if it seems to be of a cemetery or some such thing — then those listings get suspended. These building numbers could be used in the same way.

Indeed, if we look at the images that Google is sometimes delivering through its reCAPTCHA interfaces (a service Google offers for free to webmasters for the purpose of validating submission form content to reduce spam and harvesting of data by automated systems), then we see what are clearly building numbers being offered up in order to obtain the free labor to get back text validating their OCR system translations — use of the reCAPTCHA system is essentially a reverse Turing test. (Though Google has recently announced a change to its reCAPTCHA API, it will still be serving up these real-world images.)

Below are examples of Google’s reCAPTCHA interface and building numbers translated through it, according to Google’s research paper, “Multi-digit Number Recognition from Street View Imagery using Deep Convolutional Neural Networks”:

Google reCAPTCHA system showing street numbers to be translated, along with examples of other street address numbers translated by Google's number recognition system.

However, I’ve also seen Google leveraging its free captcha (now “reCAPTCHA”) systems for validating and improving quality on OCR translations of book text, and this is also an area where Google is obtaining human participation to improve address numbers and location associations.

In addition, Google’s reCAPTCHA service page indicates that it is also using these images for the purpose of reading the text on street signs. So, the data is further enhancing local search by verifying the street names and street locations from the Street View images (example below).

Street Signs translated and verified by Google reCAPTCHA system

Now, Google already held a patent from further back that involved potentially identifying details from Street View images in order to help validate online business information in connection with building exterior information such as business name signs, hours of operation, street numbers and menus.

With the vague name, “System and method for the calibration of a scoring function,” this patent was granted in 2012. (Bill Slawski wrote of these developments back when the patent was granted and joked of posting a robots.txt disallow sign on his home to instruct search engines to not index his home images!)

System and method for the calibration of a scoring function - Google Street View Patent

I would say that the new patent, and the fact that Google’s reCAPTCHA images are apparently containing street address image numbers and street signs, indicate that it’s highly likely that Google is now coordinating this data in the way that the recent patent describes, and is likely folding this into the data quality of Google Maps/Local Search.

The ongoing development of these ideas indicates that it’s an important and prioritized area of the local team’s development efforts.

How Does This Impact Local Search Marketers?

Knowing that this real-word data is getting folded into Local/Maps and is potentially able to have an effect upon your online presence and local rankings, what should you do?

  • Do Nothing: In most cases, local businesses need to do nothing. Most local businesses probably make an effort to ensure that the exterior of their shops make a good impression upon potential customers, and work to make sure that their signage is all accurate.
  • Inaccurate Signage: If your signage is inaccurate, you need to update it! Various organizations such as the Better Business Bureau may ding you anyway if you are found to be misleading consumers in some way, so accurate representations on the exterior of your business place ought to be kept updated at all times.
  • Business Name Change: Did you acquire a business and change the name, but not update the exterior sign? This sort of thing could now contribute to having outdated listings continuing to exist and rank in local search results, even if you set up a new business listing in Google and flagged the legacy listing for deletion. Or, did you attempt to add a new listing, only to have it go into a “pending” status that never resolves? Your business name is a key element and your exterior signage had better coordinate accurately with your business name in Google Local. Those of us in local search marketing have long harped upon auditing one’s citations online and correcting any that are out of sync, and this activity now extends to your offline, brick-and-mortar location information as well!
  • Building Signage: Is the signage outside of your building confusing? This can happen with a great many strip shopping centers and businesses that are abutting each other in dense metro areas. Does it appear another business is located where yours is? Increase the user-friendliness of your exterior by trying to make it clear which businesses go with which signs.
  • Signage Legibility: For that matter, is your signage easily legible? If your sign was painted up in a kooky font that is virtually illegible, or if your building number was painted on in a funky way by your favorite nephew, re-think it, and perhaps replace it.
  • Hours of Operation Visibility: Are your hours of operation posted in large letters outside your business? If so, you may want to be sure they reflect the same info that you post online in directories and in local search engines. One of the illustrated embodiments shown with the earlier patent showed an hours of operation sign on a shop window — so, this might not be as farfetched as it sounds.
  • Street Sign Visibility: Are the street signs in your area legible? I once spent an hour driving around the streets of a small town in Texas, searching in vain for a special sale — all because the words were completely worn off of all of the street signs! You may see computer technicians on investigative TV shows performing all sorts of cool image-clarifications on digital images, but I really doubt Google has much if any of this sorts of enhancement on their images. So, if your street signs in your area require psychic assistance to read, campaign to your local government to have them fixed and updated ASAP!
  • Mail Store Location: For those companies using a mail store as their business location (a risky proposition for local search marketing), you may need to see if the Street View representation of the location makes it clear that your business couldn’t possibly be in this location. Increasingly, attempting to fool Google Local may work against you, as my fellow columnist Greg Gifford stated a few weeks ago.

I could take this even further to a more obsessive level and mention things like avoiding having your business look like a dump, or having consumer-unfriendly jokes such as your door sign always displaying a “CLOSED” notice (as Bernard Black’s bookshop sign did in the hilarious British sitcom, “Black Books”).

Black Books - BBC TV Series - Door Eternally CLOSED sign

The eternally-closed door sign in the British sitcom, Black Books, behind actor Dylan Moran. Copyright of Channel 4.

(Your hours of operation were already a ranking component, particularly on mobile devices!)

But, these things really ought to go without saying! Give people a good experience when they attempt to find and visit your shop.

The real takeaway of all of this is that local store operators must always keep up their brick-and-mortar location’s real-world presence, in addition to feeding and watering their online presence.

Don’t let your exterior signage get out of whack — your exterior must be maintained both for the sake of your local search rankings as well as for making your business friendly and easily-approachable for the people who would be your customers.

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SearchCap: SEO Mistakes That Could Penalize Your Site, Bing Ads Offers Close Variants On Phrase Match & More

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By Amy Gesenhues

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

From Search Engine Land:

  • SEO & SSL: A Conversation With Jon Henshaw Of Raven Tools

    Google says it will boost rankings for HTTPS sites, but, in an interview by contributor Clark Buckner, Henshaw recommends SEOs hold off.

  • 4 Easy & Honest SEO Mistakes That Could Penalize Your Site

    You did everything right when optimizing your site for search — or so you thought. Contributor Neil Patel explains where you may have gone wrong.

  • Type Or Speak “Hodor” To Google & Get A Game Of Thrones Surprise

    Google and its Google Search App now have a special surprise for “Game of Thrones” fans. Saying or typing “Hodor” causes Google to respond as Hodor would — speaking all in Hodor. Along with recent updates including new Now cards and a “flip a coin” feature, Google’s Search App has gained the Hodor support. Saying, “Ok Google, […]

  • For The Trifecta, Bing Ads Rolling Out Close Variants On Phrase Match

    Bing Ads has already announced the switch to include close variants on Exact Match and Broad Match Modifier keywords. Now Phrase Match keywords will also get the close variants treatment. With close variants, ads trigger on search queries that closely resemble the keyword — plurals, misspellings, abbreviations, and the like — while still adhering to […]

  • French Court Trying To Impose Right-To-Be-Forgotten Decision On Google Worldwide

    Google is facing daily fines of €1,000 in France, under a punitive ruling tied to the Right-to-Be-Forgotten (RTBF), unless it removes links to an article from its index globally, according to The Guardian. Several politicians in Europe have recently suggested that the RTBF should extend to all Google results worldwide, not just country level indexes. […]

Recent Headlines From Marketing Land, Our Sister Site Dedicated To Internet Marketing:

Search News From Around The Web:

Industry

Local & Maps

Search Marketing

Searching

SEM / Paid Search

SEO

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Developing Innovative Content: What You Need to Know

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By richardbaxterseo

Posted by richardbaxterseo

A few weeks ago, I attended a breakfast meeting with a bunch of entrepreneurs in the technology, space (yes, space travel), software and engineering industry. I felt so blown away by the incredible talent of the speakers. You know, there are people out there building things, like private satellite networks, bio printing facilities, quantum computers and self-driving cars. I was completely transfixed by the incredibly future facing, innovative and exceptionally inventive group in front of me. I also immediately wished I’d worked a little harder in my twenties.

After the presentations, one of the questions that came up during the Q&A session was: “what’s the next big thing?”

Wow. Have you ever thought about “the next big thing”?

Part of the magic of predicting innovation is that it’s really, really hard to get right. Those that can accurately predict the future (in my humble opinion) are those that tend to understand how people will respond to an idea once they’re exposed to it. I think predicting this is a very special skill indeed.

Then again, we’re expected to be able to predict the outcome of our marketing, all the time. While predicting it is one thing, making it happen it is a whole different ball game.

Competition for the attention of our customers is getting tougher

In our industry, when you really boil down what it is we do, we’re fixing things, making things, or we’re communicating things.

Most of the time, we’re building content that communicates: ideas, stories, news and guidance–you get the idea. The problem is, no matter which vertical you work in, we’re all competing for something: the attention of our customers.

As our customers get smarter, that competition is getting tougher and tougher.

The most successful marketers in our industry all have a special trait in common. They are good at finding new ways to communicate ideas. Take a look at classic presentations
like this from Ross Hudgens to see just how powerful it can be to observe, imitate and develop an idea with astounding viral reach.

I particularly enjoy the idea of taking a piece of content and making improvements, be it through design, layout or simply updating what’s there. I like it because it’s actually pretty easy to do, and there’s growing evidence of it happening all over the Internet. Brands are taking a second look at how they’re developing their content to appeal to a wider audience, or to appeal to a viral audience (or both!).

For example; take a look at this beautiful
travel guide to Vietnam (credit: travelindochina.com) or this long form guide to commercial property insurance (credit: Towergate Insurance / Builtvisible.com) for examples of brands in competitive verticals developing their existing content. In verticals where ordinary article content has been done to death, redeveloping the medium itself feels like an important next step.

Innovative isn’t the same thing as technical

I’ve felt for a long time that there’s a conflict between our interpretation of “innovative” and “technical”. As I’ve written before, those that really understand how the web works are at a huge advantage.
Learn how it’s built, and you’ll find yourself able to make great things happen on your own, simply by learning and experimenting.

In my opinion though, you don’t have to be able to learn how to build your own site or be a developer. All you have to do is learn the vocabulary and build a broad understanding of how things work in a browser. I actually think we all need to be doing this, right now. Why?

We need more innovation in content marketing

I think our future depends on our industry’s ability to innovate. Of course, you still need to have your basics in place. We’ll always be
T-Shaped marketers, executing a bit of technical SEO here, a bit of content strategy there. But, we’re all SEOs and we know we need to acquire links, build audiences and generally think big about our ambitions. When your goal is to attract new followers, fans, links, and garner shares in their thousands, you need to do something pretty exciting to attract attention to yourself.

The vocabulary of content development

I’ve designed this post to be a primer on more advanced features found in innovative content development. My original MozCon 2014 presentation was designed to educate on some of the technologies we should be aware of in our content development projects and the process we follow to build things. We’ll save process for another post (shout in the comments if you think that would be useful!) and focus on the “what” for now.

At Builtvisible, we’re working hard on extending our in-house content development capabilities. We learn through sharing amazing examples with each other. Our policy is to always attempt to deconstruct how something might have been developed, that way, we’re learning. Some of the things we see on the web are amazing–they deserve so much respect for the talent and the skills that surface the content.

Here are some examples that I think demonstrate some of the most useful types of approach for content marketers. I hope that these help as much as they’ve helped us, and I hope you can form a perspective of what innovative features look like in more advanced content development. Of course, do feel welcome to share your own examples in the comments, too! The more, the merrier!

The story of EBoy

eBoy: the graphic design firm whose three co-founders and sole members are widely regarded as the “godfathers” of pixel art.

The consistent styling (as well as the beautifully written content) is excellent. Technically speaking, perhaps the most clever and elegant feature is the zoom of the image positioned on the Z axis in a container (more on this in a moment).

An event listener (jQuery) helps size the canvas appropriate to the browser window size and the z axis position shifts on scroll to create an elegant zoom effect.


View the example here:

http://www.theverge.com/2014/6/17/5803850/pixel-perfect-the-story-of-eboy.

is an HTML element which can be used to draw graphics using scripting (usually JavaScript). This can, for instance, be used to draw graphs, make photo composition or simple animations.

Colorizing the past

Take a look at
Pixart Printing’s Guide to Colourizing the Past (credit: Pixartprinting / Builtvisible.com) for a clever example of in use. Here’s one of the images (tip, mouse-over and click the image):

The colorization feature takes advantage of the power of the canvas element. In this case, the color version of the image is applied to the canvas as a background image, with the black and white version on a layer above. Clicking (or touching, on mobile) erases portions of the top image, revealing the color version underneath.

Chrome Experiments: Globe

Globe is “simple” global data visualization of the Earth’s population growth over a set range of dates. The 3d visualization based in
webGL: a JavaScript API for rendering interactive 3D graphics and 2D graphics within any compatible web browser without the use of plug-ins.


View the example here:

http://globe.chromeexperiments.com/.

WebGL is a really exciting, emerging option available to content marketers who might want to experiment with immersive experiences or highly interactive, simulated environments.

Some of my
favourite WebGL examples include Hello Racer and Tweetopia, a 3d Twitter Hastag visualizer.

If you’d like to see more examples of webGL in action, take a look at
Chrome Experiments. Don’t worry, this stuff works in the latest versions of Firefox and IE, too.

Polygon’s PS4 Review

You might have seen me cover this long form concept over at Builtvisible. Polygon’s Playstation 4 review is a fully featured “long form” review of Sony’s much loved gaming machine. The bit that I love is the SVG visualizations:

“What’s SVG?”, I hear you ask!

SVG is super-fast, sharp rendering of vector images inside the browser. Unlike image files (like .jpg, .gif, .png), SVG is XML based, light on file size, loads quickly and adjusts to responsive browser widths perfectly. SVG’s XML based schema lends itself to some interesting manipulation for stunning, easy to implement effects.

View Polygon’s example here: http://www.polygon.com/a/ps4-review.

That line tracing animation you see is known as
path animation. Essentially the path attribute in the SVG’s XML can be manipulated in the DOM with a little jQuery. What you’ll get is a pretty snazzy animation to keep your users eyes fixated on your content and yet another nice little effect to keep eyeballs engaged.

My favourite example of SVG execution is Lewis Lehe’s
Gridlocks and Bottlenecks. Gridlocks is a AngularJS, d3.js based visualization of the surprisingly technical and oft-misunderstood “gridlock” and “bottleneck” events in road traffic management.

It’s also very cool:

View the example here:http://setosa.io/blog/2014/09/02/gridlock/.

I have a short vocabulary list that I expect our team to be able to explain (certainly these questions come up in an interview with us!). I think that if you can explain what these things are, as a developing content marketer you’re way ahead of the curve:

  • HTML5
  • Responsive CSS (& libraries)
  • CSS3 (& frameworks)
  • JavaScript (& frameworks: jQuery, MooTools, Jade, Handlebars)
  • JSON (api post and response data)
  • webGL
  • HTML5 audio & video
  • SVG
  • HTML5 History API manipulation with pushState
  • Infinite Scroll

Want to learn more?

I’ve
amassed a series of videos on web development that I think marketers should watch. Not necessarily to learn web development, but definitely to be able to describe what it is you’d like your own content to do. My favourite: I really loved Wes Bos’s JS + HTML5 Video + Canvas tutorial. Amazing.

Innovation in content is such a huge topic but I realize I’ve run out of space (this is already a 1,400 word post) for now.

In my follow up, I’d like to talk about how to plan your content when it’s a little more extensive than just an article, give you some tips on how to work with (or find!) a developer, and how to make the most of every component in your content to get the most from your marketing efforts.

Until then, I’d love to see your own examples of great content and questions in the comments!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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Ahead Of Black Friday, Google Adds Shopping Details For Mobile Users

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By Ginny Marvin

Google says that shopping searches from smartphones have increased 3.5 times compared to last year and that Google Shopping is already sending more mobile traffic to retailer sites than it did during the first week of December last year. To capitalize on this growth, Google has is now providing more detailed product information available from Google Shopping on mobile devices.

When users search for a specific product on their smartphones or tablets, there will likely be a “See more” arrow below the Google Shopping ad on search results (note that text ads are being driven to the bottom of the page). Clicking on the arrow shows more information about the product, where to buy it online, which stores have it available nearby and customer reviews.

Some products, like this Lego spaceship now have 360 degree views available from Google Shopping on mobile devices.

google shopping 3D mobile view black friday

Lastly, Google is expanding Local Inventory ads to tablets. These ads are now available across all devices.

Google is clearly aiming to drive more mobile product searches straight to Google Shopping this holiday season, and beyond. With the huge growth in mobile search volume, retailers should make note of these changes to ensure their listings are prominent in Google Shopping and understand that mobile text ads for specific products are likely to see less and less action if this format succeeds.

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SPONSOR MESSAGE: What Are The Marketers of The Future Learning?

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By Search Engine Land

For this unique white paper, Oracle asked 8 professors from top marketing universities to comment on the state of marketing today, what marketers need to focus on, B2B vs. B2C marketing, social, mobile and more. Some of the answers might surprise you.

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