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Monthly Archives: April 2011

SearchCap: King Of The United States, Break Up Google Conflict & More

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By Barry Schwartz

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

From Search Engine Land:

  • German Legislator Calling For Google Breakup Has Serious Conflict Of Interest

    The German member of the European Parliament behind the call to break up Google, Andreas Schwab, has a conflict of interest. According to the NY Times, he has ties to and earns money from a German law firm that represents anti-Google publishing interests in Germany. German publishers lobbied for the passage of the “ancillary copyright” law […]

  • How To Write A Meta Description That Gets Click-Throughs

    I feel sorry for meta descriptions. Google has long held that meta descriptions do not impact search engine rankings. From a 2007 post on the Google Webmaster Central Blog: Google reiterated this point yet again in 2009 in a post stating that the meta keywords tag was not used as a ranking signal: Thus, people have […]

  • Looking Back At The Top 13 PPC Marketing Articles Of 2014 (So Far)

    Yes, it’s that time of year again already. You haven’t even sat down for Thanksgiving dinner with friends or family, and already everybody is clamoring to compile their “Best [insert topic here] Articles of 2014″ lists. Well, this round-up of 2014’s best paid search articles is worth checking out, because these posts offer tips, tricks, and […]

  • According To Google, Barack Obama Is King Of The United States

    Ask Google who is the [King Of United States] and Google will inform you that it is Barack Obama, the current President of the United States. The Google Answer is pulled from Breitbart, a story they posted five days ago named All Hail King Barack Obama, Emperor Of The United States Of America! It appears […]

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

Search News From Around The Web:

Industry

Searching

SEO

SEM / Paid Search

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4 Tips for Producing Great Event Coverage – Whiteboard Friday

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By kanejamison

Posted by kanejamison

Conferences and trade shows can be sources of wonderful ideas, and covering these events in a way that spreads some of those ideas around is common practice. Not all event coverage is created equal, though, and in today’s Whiteboard Friday, Kane Jamison details four areas you should keep in mind as you spread the wealth of knowledge.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video transcription

Hey, Moz fans. My name is Kane Jamison. I’m the founder of Content Harmony, and today I want to talk to you about four tips for producing really great event coverage. Specifically, I’m thinking of going to trade shows, conferences, those types of events and doing coverage for your company that’s focused on your industry, your clients, or whoever you might be wanting to attract.

1) What type?

The first thing when you get into this that you really need to decide is what type of coverage you are going to focus on. What most people first think of is doing live tweeting or live blogging. Both of those are all right. I have a couple of problems with them. Live tweeting is really short-lived. It’s great. You can build some followers, but unless you put it into Storify and then a blog post or something of that nature, it’s gone. It’s just in your tweet history.

Live blogging has a different problem. It’s there. It’s easy to access, but it’s your notes, and it’s not fun to read other people’s notes. Unless you are really good at encapsulating what the speaker is saying and putting it into a narrative as you’re typing, which most people are not, then it’s just going to look like a bunch of bullet points and somebody’s notes. I don’t really enjoy reading those a lot of the time. I have done them both in the past and come across these problems.

2) Prepare everything!

The next stage that a lot of people will think of is what I would call a value-added recap. This is after the event, you go back and you write a narrative of what the themes were for the event that you were at, where your industry is trending, and you recap some highlights from individual speakers. This works really great. But usually after three days at a conference, I’m really lazy. I want to catch up on sleep that I’ve missed. I don’t want to spend time writing 2,000 words about what happened at a conference that I just attended and putting all of my notes into a blog post. These can work out great. I’d refer you to Matt Gratt’s, from BuzzStream, 2013 MozCon Recap. That’s a favorite of mine for somebody who did a good job of pulling a lot themes together on an event recap.

What I prefer doing, and what we’ve done for MozCon at Content Harmony the last two years, is what I’d call live visuals or a visual recap. Live visuals, I mean Twitter images that are coming out on Twitter almost live with what the speaker is saying. A visual recap, another method we’ve used is putting quotes and speaker highlights into a SlideShare deck for each day of the event, so that users can look at those slides, paw through them, and see the event highlights in a visual format rather than trying to read a long form blog post. That’s my favorite and what I’m really going to focus on today.

There’s another fourth format that I have less experience with, but want to highlight, because if you have the manpower to tackle it, it’s another great way to produce some visibility for you and your company, and that’s just broader event coverage. A great example of this would be going to an event and filming Q&A and interview sessions with event attendees and maybe speakers as well. You might be talking with the speakers about what they are talking about on stage and kind of continuing it off the stage in a more casual format. You could just be asking people about their take on the speakers. Really, you’re doing coverage that’s less focused on what’s being said on stage and more focused on who is there and what they think about everything. That’s great, and it’s a good way to meet people you want to talk to at the event as well.

As you’re getting into something along the lines of live visuals or a visual recap post, you want to do your best to prepare everything that you can in advance. Specifically, you want to prepare everything except for what the speakers will actually say on stage. Anything that can be known in advance, you want to have that done, so that when you get there the first day, you can sit down, start typing notes into whatever your medium is and hit “Publish.” You don’t have to worry about formatting and all these other little quirks that come along with content assembly and creation.

The first thing, especially if you’re going to be doing anything visual, is to have all of your graphics prepared in advance. For our coverage for MozCon 2014, we did live Twitter images. We had all of our Twitter images, everything except for the actual quote from the speaker, prepared in advance the week prior that we worked on with our graphic designer.

If you don’t have a graphic designer, that’s great. That’s okay. There are easy ways to get around that without having a lot of design skills. My favorite is to just open up PowerPoint, use a nice looking color and big white or black font for your titles. Just type whatever you want into the slide. Right click on it, click “Save as Picture,” and you can save that slide as a 4×3 JPEG, which works great for Facebook and Twitter, without having to pull some graphic designer in to help you. So it makes it really easy to produce nice looking visual coverage on the spot, save it, publish it, and you’re good.

The next thing you want to do is pre-build your post. We like to host everything on one URL that people can tweet and share and come back to after the event. If you’re doing this in WordPress or whatever blog, CMS, you want to pre-build everything that you can. For MozCon, what we’ve done is we’ll have an introductory text about what it is. We’ll have our image in the top right. We will have H2s down the page, marked up for the titles for every speaker name, their session title, and we’ll have jump links created like you would see in a table of contents on Wikipedia. Somebody can go to the post, click on the speaker name, and they will go right down to whatever the notes or highlights are for that speaker.

We can build all of this the week in advance. We know what the speakers’ names are. We know when they are going to be talking. We usually know the name of their session or what they’re presenting on. All of this can be built out before we ever get in to the city or town where the event is actually happening. Getting all that done makes it a lot easier to sit down, start taking notes, and really do what matters, which is recording what the speakers are talking about.

The third thing you want to have handy while you’re working is what I’d call a notes clipboard. This is just a quick, one-page text document that has all of the hashtags that you’re going to use, all the URLs, like the short Bitly links to the posts that you’re writing, and then finally micro-copy, so maybe 40 or 50 character type little bits that you will keep copying or pasting into Twitter or wherever else that you are sharing content. You know you’re going to use this throughout the day.

The example for our recent MozCon coverage would be “See more MozCon coverage at” and then the short link to our post. MozCon was already a hashtag, so I know that it’s going to be seen in that feed. Everything is all pre-built. All I have to do is around a hundred characters of custom content, add the photo, paste in our little suffix to the tweet, hit “Publish,” and I’m good to go. I can move on to the next one. Having all of this prepped makes things a lot easier when you’re actually there and live.

3) Buddy system (or automation if you don’t have buddies with you)

The third thing you want to think about is how exactly you’re going to take notes and record everything across a few days of speakers talking. The best way to do this to use a buddy system. Have one person that’s taking notes, recording everything that’s going on, taking down URLs, taking down quotes and tools mentioned by speakers, and have an opened, shared Google doc between the two of you so they can be taking notes in a bullet, and you can be taking those notes and publishing them either to the blog or to Twitter or wherever you might be doing the event coverage.

The backup option, if you don’t have the buddy system, or even if you do and you want more comprehensive notes, is to automate the process. Zapier is a great tool, very similar to If This Then That, which most of you are familiar with from past MozCon content. Zapier allows you to take tweets for a specific hashtag and push them to a Google doc. Every time there is a new tweet, it will push it into a new row of a spreadsheet, and you’ve got full, live, automated robot notes coming through Twitter. If you miss a link that’s shared, if you miss a quote, you can capture that from somebody else. If you do this, I highly recommend thanking the people on Twitter that helped you push through those notes, mentioning them in your posts.

The final thing, regardless of whether you’ve got a buddy or whether you’re automating the process, is to just grab the speaker slides while they’re talking. It’s kind of cheating, but as long as you don’t get ahead of yourself, it’s a really easy way to rely on what the speaker’s putting out in their slides. Whether they’ve tweeted a SlideShare link or mentioned a Bitly link on stage or whether the event has actually published a link to it, you can grab these, follow along while they’re talking.

If you do this, you have to be careful not to get ahead of yourself and just start copying things from slides. You’ll be sitting there. It’ll seem easy to do so because it’s right there and it’s easy for you to get ahead. The problem with this and the danger is that you’ll miss the context of what the speaker is actually saying. If you start putting out notes that are based off of the slides and not based off of the speaker and what they’re actually saying, that’s the fast track for danger and getting called out by somebody for publishing something that the speaker didn’t intend, from what their slides may look like they meant to say. So be careful with that. Don’t abuse it. But it’s a great way to get backup notes while you’re trying to take live quotes and coverage.

4) Optimize for the medium

The fourth and final thing that you need to focus on is optimizing for the medium. Specifically, the example I want to use is Twitter images, since that was our most recent focus. In advance, you want to create some kind of personal or fake Twitter account that you can do some testing on. You want to make sure that visuals are sized exactly the way they should be. After a lot of testing with our graphic designer and reading blog posts about ideal Twitter sizing, what we settled on, for MozCon 2014, was 880 pixels wide by 660 pixels tall, a 4×3 ratio, and an image that would scale down nicely on Twitter and look good.

What we did with that is create a header and footer that had information on MozCon and information about the speaker title and a URL to go find more information. In the center, we had the actual quote from the speaker, the speaker photo, and name. The reason we did this is from these cut lines you see, in feed when somebody is scanning through a hashtag or their own feed, they will see a smaller, cutoff version of the image that is more like a two to one ratio of width to height. We designed it in a way where they would see a nice slight border on the top and bottom of the image. The only thing they would see in their feed is the speaker, name, photo, and the actual quote from the speaker. The real substance, we’re not forcing the MozCon imagery or our own logo and links on them each time they’re looking through their feed. They’re only seeing new stuff, even if they’re seeing a lot of these images.

If they do click on the tweet or if somebody links them to the actual tweet URL, they’ll see the full header and footer. They’ll know where it came from. They’ll know what the event was, and they’ll know where they can find more similar images.

Another nice part about 880×660 for us was that this image size worked well on LinkedIn. It worked well on Facebook. So we could reuse the same image on other mediums as we were going as well.

The other part about other mediums is even if you’re focusing on one, like Twitter, you need to optimize your actual posts across a number of mediums. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest all have their own graph metadata that goes into a post. You need to make sure, before the event even starts, that all of this is perfectly optimized in your CMS and that when you share this on different social networks, it’s going to look great. People are going to want to share this content for you, and you want to break down all the barriers that are in their way to doing so. Make sure that all the descriptions look nice, titles aren’t cut off, images are properly sized for each social network, and you’ll have a lot better time getting coverage from industry peers and people that want to share that content.

Thanks for your time. I’d love to hear more feedback on what you think could improve a live event coverage and other tips and ideas in the comments, and have a good one Moz fans.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Google Officially Launches “Mobile-Friendly” Labels In Mobile Search Results

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By Barry Schwartz

After months and months of testing, Google has just officially launched the mobile-friendly label in the mobile search results.

In an effort to help mobile searchers know which sites they may click on are mobile-friendly versus which ones are not, Google has added a text label under the URL in the snippet that reads “Mobile-friendly” as the first part of the search result’s snippet. Google said it can be a “frustrating experience for our mobile searchers” to end up on a web page that is not mobile-friendly, thus they are adding the label to their mobile search results to communicate this to the searcher.

In addition to the mobile-friendly label, Google is experimenting with a new ranking algorithm for mobile friendly web sites.

Here is what the mobile-friendly label is officially launching with today, note, it may change in the future:

google-mobile-friendly-label

How do you qualify to show such a label for your web pages? Google said it depends on if GoogleBot detects the following criteria:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

How does Google know how a user can experience your mobile site? Well, Google has been dropping hints that they understand mobile experience for some time now. They recently launched mobile usability reports to help webmasters find issues with their mobile web sites.

Google also recommends you test your site in the new Mobile-Friendly Test tool, review their mobile friendly guidelines and use various third-party tools to go mobile-friendly with your web site.

This new mobile-friendly label is now rolling out over the next few weeks.

The post Google Officially Launches “Mobile-Friendly” Labels In Mobile Search Results appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Google: We Acted Quickly On Right To Be Forgotten Requests To Avoid Litigation

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By Matt McGee

Google’s Peter Barron (far left) and fellow panelists at Web Summit in Dublin, Ireland.

Although there was little guidance on how to handle “Right To Be Forgotten” (RTBF) requests, Google’s PR Chief in Europe says the company acted quickly to process those requests and remove some URLs out of a fear of being sued.

Peter Barron, the head of Google’s European communications, told a packed session today at the Web Summit in Ireland that the company would’ve liked more guidance from the European Court of Justice on how to handle the thousands of requests it started receiving soon after the ruling was announced in May.

“The terms of the ruling were vague,” he said. “There wasn’t guidance as to how we should implement it. But we respected the court’s ruling and decided to follow it. Should we have waited for official guidance? We’ve had 160,000 requests, so our feeling was that we could’ve opened ourself up to litigation if we didn’t act.”

Google was criticized when it started notifying publishers affected by the RTBF removals, and for how it added a blanket removal notice on some search results pages. Some critics suggested that Google was doing that to make a mockery of the ruling, or to make it appear that the company lacked the resources to implement RTBF more precisely. Not so, according to Barron.

“We weren’t processing requests in a way to save money, or make a point about the ruling itself, as was reported and suggested in the coverage,” Barron said. “When the ruling was announced, we said we were ‘disappointed’ by it, but we didn’t say anything stronger than that.”

Barron says Google now has “scores” of employees and paralegal assistants working on RTBF requests as they come in. In a funny back-and-forth with reporters from The Guardian, who were also on the panel, Barron wouldn’t reveal the exact number, but said it was more than dozens and less than a hundred — settling on “scores” as the best answer. And all of that is being done with a human touch, not via algorithms or automation.

“We’ve taken the view that every case requires human intervention and judgment,” Barron said. “Now, some cases are easy and quick. But some require a huge amount of thought, and weighing the pros and cons — often with very little information.”

UK Data Regulator: More Guidance Coming Soon

A UK data official, also part of the panel, announced that privacy regulators are aiming to release guidelines this month for Google and other search engines to follow when dealing with RTBF requests.

Steve Wood, Head of Policy Delivery for the UK Information Commissioner’s Office, says the guidelines will help everyone understand better how the ruling should work in practice.

“Even in the data protection community, we admit the [court’s] decision didn’t get into enough details. We’re making good progress and hope to publish some guidance criteria by the end of November across Europe,” Wood said. “This is going to be a long, long process. It’s good that we’re moving away from the myths and misunderstandings and finding solutions.”

After the initial criticism of how it notified publishers about content removals, Barron says Google changed the wording to say that the removal request may not have come from the person that the article or web page is written about. But regardless of the upcoming guidance from the data privacy regulators, Barron says Google doesn’t plan to stop notifying publishers when a URL is removed under RTBF.

“We think notifications to publishers is extremely important,” he said. “We think it would be very dangerous to be in a world where we’re removing things without letting anyone know about it.”

Barron said Google has received about 160,000 RTBF requests so far, involving more than 500,000 URLs. He says Google has denied about 58 percent of those requests. (Forget.me, which runs a paid RTBF removal submission service, says 60 percent of its requests have been denied.) Search engines can deny removal requests when, for example, they find the online information to be of strong public interest and/or about a public figure.

The post Google: We Acted Quickly On Right To Be Forgotten Requests To Avoid Litigation appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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How To Spend Your Remarketing Budget Wisely: An Interview With Erin Sagin by @lorenbaker

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By Loren Baker

At Pubcon 2014 in Las Vegas, the SEJ team had the opportunity to catch up Erin Sagin of Wordstream to talk about remarketing with PPC ads. One thing you may notice about remarketing is that you tend to be followed around be the brands you visit online, especially with companies Amazon. That can sometimes be interesting, and at other times it can be downright creepy. On the other hand, sometimes you can get remarketed to by a company you haven’t visited in months, and that may not be the greatest way to spend advertising dollars. But I’m not an expert […]

The post How To Spend Your Remarketing Budget Wisely: An Interview With Erin Sagin by @lorenbaker appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Personal Brand Punch: Why Your Brand Should Be Represented by Real People

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By MarkTraphagen

Posted by MarkTraphagen

What do you think was the biggest leap forward in human evolution?

The ability to walk upright on hind limbs? Stereoscopic eyesight? Opposable thumbs?

I’d argue that our most beneficial adaptation was our propensity to be social. While many other animals are also social to some degree, humans combined the advantages of the pack for defense and hunting with a brain capacity that allowed advanced levels of communication.

That social instinct combined with speech gave us an extraordinary survival ability that led to us becoming the dominant species on the planet.

This article isn’t a science lesson, but I’m proposing that
understanding the social and interpersonal aspect of our humanity is crucial to effective marketing.

Now that may seem like a “duh” to many of you. You get that in this social web era
brands need to be more “human” and be more “engaging,” that they need to foster real “conversations.” However, in this article I’m going to contend that no brand is really fully tapping into the potential of any of those social marketing aspects until they are doing so with real people: actual company representatives who become the “face” for that company in its content and social media interactions.

I intend this as a follow-up and further development of my last two articles for Moz:

  1. Why Your Brand Shouldn’t Fear Assigning Authorship
  2. Author Photos Are Gone: Does Google Authorship Still Have Value?

Both of those articles were about Google Authorship, a
Google Search feature that no longer exists. Yet it is my strong belief that the principal value of Authorship is alive and well. That is, there is tremendous value in having a recognized personal brand with trusted, authoritative content, connected to your company brand.

This article will explore that principle value in four parts:

  1. The power of a social brand
  2. The power of brand EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness)
  3. The power of the personal for social EAT
  4. Putting the power to work

Parts one and two are introductory. They lay the groundwork for what I see corporate personal brands doing most effectively. If you think you have a good understanding of why brands need to be social, and how expertise-authority-trustworthiness contribute to real business goals, then feel free to skip straight to part three.

Parts three and four demonstrate how the power of a social brand that understands the value of expertise, authority, and trust can be supercharged by tying itself to powerful personal brands.

1. The power of a social brand

Before I build this out any further, I want to distinguish between what I’m calling a “social brand” and the popular term “social business.” A social business is defined either as
a business that invests heavily in social causes, or as a business that encourages its employees to be active online on behalf of the business. The latter type of social business is probably more effective in being a social brand, but it is not necessary to be a social business to be a social brand.

So what do I mean by a social brand? Simply this: a social brand is a brand that actively pursues use of online social platforms for the purposes of marketing and branding by taking advantage of the full spectrum of social interactions. In other words, a social brand does not just post to social networks. It actively engages there, seeking to enter into and create relevant conversations with real people.

Coca-Cola and Denny’s Restaurants are
examples of social brands by that definition. Coke’s Hub Network command center follows a listen > analyze > engage process to catch relevant online conversations, quickly assess whether Coke has something to contributed, and when it does, create social engagements that enhance the conversation and win the brand new fans and friends.

Coke hub network

Denny’s has a much smaller social team, yet they have proven themselves just as agile and creative as Coca-Cola in developing conversations around their brand. They built on the idea that the kinds of conversations people have online are similar to the chats people have with friends around a diner table to develop their “America’s Diner” brand.

Denny's social media

In both cases, these brands were able to use social conversations to enhance and reinforce the kinds of associations they wanted people to have with their brands.

Those kinds of social engagements make the best use of
what social media does best for marketing. While it may be true that social media rarely creates either direct customer acquisitions or direct sales, smart marketers realize that they have to be planting the seeds that may one day sprout in the leads and sales that are their ultimate objectives. And that’s where social media is immensely useful.

On social networks brands have the opportunity to share content and engage in conversations that build the expertise, authority, and trust that make real people more likely to buy from them when that moment of decision comes. In the next section, we’ll explore the value all that brings to a brand.

2. The power of brand EAT

What is brand EAT? The EAT acronym comes from the most recent version of the perennially-leaked
Google Quality Rating Guidelines, the handbook for training the humans who help evaluate how well Google’s algorithm does at assessing the quality of web sites. Google now wants those evaluators to focus on three main quality criteria: Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (hence EAT).

Even though those are criteria for determining quality as a search ranking factor, we should realize that Google emphasizes them because they are the “in real life” factors that affect how real people evaluate not only web pages, but entire brands. Let’s briefly explore each factor.

Expertise

People want to do business with brands that seem to know what they are talking about. Even though it’s generally cheaper and more convenient for my wife and me to deal through big box home improvement chains, we go to our local independent hardware store whenever possible. Why? We got tired of sales people at the big box stores who knew less than we did about paint or roofing materials or lighting fixtures. Our local storefront hardware supplier has won our loyalty and business because he’s always able to answer our questions.

It can work the same way online. I’m severely graphically challenged. When it comes to creating effective visuals for my content, I’m a great nuclear physicist (and I had to look up how to spell nuclear!). But via some social media shares I ran across the
very helpful design tutorials at Canva.com. Those guides were so helpful, they caused me to want to look into Canva’s user-friendly image creation tool. And now I’m a loyal customer.

Authority

Authority is expertise taken to the next level. You can be an expert in your topic and just be crying out in the desert, but when people start listening to you, recommending you, and resharing what you say, you’ve graduated to the authority level.

At the risk of being slightly sycophantic to my publisher, I’ll point to the Moz brand as being a recognized authority. Through the high level of content associated with Moz, whether on this blog, in Whiteboard Friday videos, or at conferences, a great many people have high confidence in pointing to Moz and having their own names associated with Moz in the areas of SEO and digital marketing in general.

When I’ve published here in the past, I noticed that within seconds of my post going live, people were already sharing it on social media. Given the length of my posts, they can’t possibly have read them in that time! But that’s where the Moz authority kicks in. People have learned to have confidence that if Moz publishes it, it must be good. And so they hit that share button even before they read. Of course, that makes me always want to bring my A game when I write here!

The value for Moz is that the authority generated by their high quality content gets associated with the tools and services they sell.

Trustworthiness

It’s difficult to tease out trustworthiness from the other two factors, as it seems to me to be a natural by-product of expertise and authority. In other words, people are willing to place their trust in a brand that has helped them, enriched their life in some way, or to which others they trust point as being worthwhile.

Just as in human relationships, brand trust is never instantaneous. It has to be earned over time. And so I might propose that trustworthiness is the time dimension of the expertise and authority factors. Another way of saying that: trustworthiness is reliable expertise leading to true authority expressed consistently over time.

If you’re a regular consumer of content online, inevitably you’ve reached a point when you had to make decisions about whom you’re going to give your limited attention. Brands that have achieved trustworthiness with you are far more likely to be on that short list. And they are therefore much more likely to be top-of-mind when you are in the marketplace.

The missing dimension

As important as expertise, authority, and trustworthiness are for establishing quality, standing alone I believe they lack something that could bring them to life and make a brand truly stand out from the crowd. In the next section I’ll unveil that missing dimension.

3. The power of the personal for social EAT

The fourth dimension

Back in elementary school you probably learned that we live in a three-dimensional world. The
dimensions of length, width, and height create space, the place in which we live and move and have our being. When you advanced further in your education, you probably heard, though, that a universe does not exist by space alone. Space must be accompanied by a vital fourth dimension: time. Time allows for motion within space, and everything we know and love comes from that.

I believe the three “EAT” dimensions described above (expertise, authority, trustworthiness) also need a fourth dimension to bring them to life and set them in motion.

That fourth dimension is the personal.

What makes us humans

Remember my little evolution lesson at the top of this article? I highlighted two characteristics of humans that contributed powerfully to our ability to survive and thrive:

  1. Our innate desire to be together, especially with our families and tribes.
  2. Our ability to communicate.

Together, those two factors not only contributed to human survival and development, but eventually enabled what we call civilization.

While most marketers don’t have goals quite as lofty as civilization building, we do want to do more than survive. We want to build our own brand empires, so to speak. In that endeavor, the social and communicative aspects of humanity are our allies, just as they were to the very creation of humanity.

Face up to it

Take a look at the image below. What do you see?

Of course, it’s a common US electrical outlet. But I’m betting you couldn’t help seeing a human face. The mere suggestion of two eyes and a mouth in the right configuration, surrounded by a circle, and our brain fills in the rest. What’s more, doesn’t this “face” suggest to you some emotion? Perhaps fright, or dismay? Pretty powerful for a piece of plastic from a hardware store!

Scientists call this phenomenon
pareidolia. It’s the persistent human tendency to see human faces even in inanimate objects. The fact is that as humans we are powerfully drawn to other humans. So powerfully that we often project human attributes on to non-human things. That’s why we can even speak of “humanizing” brands, brand “personalities,” and brands being “social.”

But even though it is possible for faceless brands to achieve a certain level of humanization and socialization, there is no substitute for the real thing. That is, the power of human connection is most powerful when it occurs between two or more real human beings.

Even Google understood it

Even though Google recently abandoned its Google Authorship program that displayed a face photo (sometimes) and a byline name in search results for content by qualified authors, the fact that the experiment lasted three full years demonstrates that Google understands the power of a personal connection.

I find it interesting that Google has retained Authorship-style snippets in personalized (logged-in to a Google+ account) searches for Google+ posts by people you have circled.

That means that even if Google decided Authorship snippets were too much for regular search, seeing a name and a face are still powerful and useful signals
if that name and face are familiar to the searcher.

So it stands to reason that when a real face and name become associated with authoritative, trustworthy content, people will more naturally make a personal connection with that content. And they will look for that same face in the crowd when they need to know more.

Let our powers combine!

Let’s put this all together now.

We’ve already seen the power of EAT, that a combination of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness adds up to real value, something Google thinks worth recommending as a valuable exchange for your time after you click.

We’ve also seen that humans connect most easily and naturally with other humans, and those associations can be long-lasting and sought after when accompanied by the EAT attributes.

So here’s the simple idea, the thesis of this entire article:
Your brand will most rapidly and successfully gain the social trust of its audience when it is closely associated with powerful personal brands.

The long journey home

When your brand begins to market, a journey has begun. You hope to get prospects to join you in your journey. Your authoritative, relevant content is the table you set to entice those prospects to board your train. But you still need to extend an invitation, and invitations are most powerful when they come from someone we know and trust.

It’s the difference between getting a flyer in my mail box inviting me to try out a new restaurant, and a friend calling me up to ask me to come along with him to check it out. I’m much more likely to go in the latter case. Now imagine how much more powerful that invitation would be if my friend were a respected restaurant critic, who had already visited the eatery and was now telling me I shouldn’t miss it!

Why wouldn’t you be using the method that is more likely to get more people on board your brand train faster, and with more confidence about their decision.

A challenge to all brands

Before I get into my recommendations for how to put the power of personal brands to work for your brand, I want to issue a challenge.

I know what I’m asking here seems like a huge hurdle for many brand marketers. Once upon a time all you had to do was put ads in the right places and hope the right people would see them and be moved by them. Then along came the Internet and search engines, and suddenly you had to be producing authoritative content to attract traffic and give that traffic the confidence to buy from you.

You’d no sooner put in the hard work and investment to build all that content then along came the social web. Now you’ve got to make personal connections with your prospects and engage them in ways that they will pay attention to your content, come to trust your brand, and eventually become customers.

In some ways the journey has become longer, but it can also be much more richly rewarding. Helpful, engaging content channeled through social connections can bring exactly the right people to your cash register at exactly the right time.

And now I come along wanting to add more engines to your already hard-working customer journey train. But I wouldn’t ask you to do that unless I myself had seen how much faster those new engines can drive the train.

Here’s my challenge: In the coming year,
hire and/or cultivate from within at least one powerful personal brand intimately associated with your brand who represents you via his or her content and social presence. Make this one of your highest marketing priorities.

I believe with all my heart and mind that as the
great battle for attention heats up in the years to come, those brands that had the courage and foresight to put their best personal brand representatives on the front lines will emerge the winners.

Objections, Your Honor!

Whenever I push this challenge, whether while speaking at a conference or conferring with a client, I tend to get the same objections to the proposal that brands put real people front and center in their marketing:

  • Wouldn’t it be better for our content to be branded with our company name/logo?
  • Will individual author authority really translate into better exposure, trust, and (bottom line) new customers for our brand?
  • What if the employee author leaves our company?

Thankfully, I answered those objections in my
Moz article about why your brand should have real authors behind its content, and I’ll refer you to that post if any of those questions are buzzing around your head right now. I still stand behind the answers I gave there.

Now let’s move on to my recommendations for how to put the power of personal brands to work for your brand.

4. Putting the power to work

First, let’s look at some case studies of people whose personal brands have had a powerful positive effect on the corporate brands for which they work.

Erica Campbell Byrum, Director of Social Media, For Rent Media Solutions and Homes.com (@ericacampbell)

When social media started to become an emerging marketing channel in 2006, Erica Campbell Byrum couldn’t even access it because of IT department blocks at her company. She tirelessly campaigned for the value of social media, and eventually won over senior management.

She went on to create and champion online brand ambassadors for each of their 65 offices around the country. Erica always set the example and model, steadily building her own online audience. Based on overwhelmingly positive data showing how here efforts brought ForRent and Homes.com real business, the company expanded her responsibilities to oversee a 20-person social media team.

Erica is now the unmistakable face of the ForRent and Homes.com brands. Her engaging social presence led to invitations to speak at huge industry events, and eventually to New York Times Best Selling author Jay Baer selecting her to co-author his latest book,
Youtility for Real Estate, vastly increasing her “youtility” to the brands she represents.

Sarah Hill, Digital Storyteller for the Veterans United Network (@SarahMidMo)

As an anchor for KOMU-TV news, Sarah Hill made TV journalism history when she became the first television newsperson to incorporate Google+ Hangouts and Google Glass into her online newscasts. She became an early
Google+ celebrity, where she now has 2.7 million followers. She went on to become the live video spokesperson for Veterans United Network, a mortgage lending service for US military veterans. She used her journalism skills combined with her vast social following and reputation to create a strong association between VUN and various veterans causes. As a result, VUN has become a first choice for veterans looking to buy homes.

Space doesn’t allow for dozens more stories I could include, but here’s a list from Rand Fishkin of people he knows whose powerful personal brands helped build their company’s brands:
Heather Brunner at WPEngine, Hilary Mason formerly of Bitly, Oli Gardner with Unbounce, Caterina Fake at Flickr now Findery, Dan Shapiro at Robot Turtles, Sean Ellis of Qualaroo, Marie Steinthaler of HopsterTV. (Rand told me he had to stop the list there or he could go on all day!)

How to make best use of personal brands for your brand

Now on to how to make this work for you and your company. My recommendations are based both on my own experience as well as my careful observations of top-performing personal brands like those listed above.

The Right Stuff

When I look at people who have built influential personal brands and try to assess their common qualities, the old nature vs. nurture conundrum always surfaces. Does someone have to have an innate gift and the right personality qualities to be effective in this role? I won’t try to solve that here, but whether natural or developed, people who do well representing their brands in public tend to exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Likability. I put this first because even though it is the hardest characteristic to quantify, given how much the effectiveness of a personal brand is dependent on the ability to make personal connections, the tendency to be well-liked is key. That doesn’t at all mean someone who sacrifices personal integrity or refuses to take a stand in order to “win friends and influence people.” A truly likable person can maintain relational ties even through disagreements.
  • Smarts. By this I mean the person has to have a deep understanding of your business and your marketplace. They really should be an expert in at least some aspect of your business. You’re looking for the kind of person who in a press conference or Q&A session could authoritatively answer most any question thrown at him or her.
  • Gift of gab. Here I don’t mean “chatty,” but rather someone who truly enjoys getting into conversations about his or her passions and interests. They should feel comfortable in front of a camera or life audience. She or he should also have the ability to create coherent, compelling content that displays your brand’s attributes and expertise.
  • Integrity. This person should be someone you trust enough to be on their own without bringing embarrassment to your brand. For a personal brand to be effective, the person can’t be babysat every moment. They need to have the flexibility to respond and engage when the opportunity arises, without having to vet everything through the home office.

Remember that your hope is for the qualities of the personal brands representing your business to “rub off” on your brand. People will make this transference quite naturally, so make sure you have the right people in place.

Insource vs. Outsource

The first question you’ll face once you are convinced of the value of developing personal brands for your company is whether to develop them from within or recruit them (or even outsource entirely).

In my experience developing your personal brand representatives from within, from existing employees, is going to have the most impact and be most effective. Your own people know your brand best and (we hope!) will have real passion for it. The advantage here is that training is minimal so content creation and social audience building can commence immediately. The only downside I see is that many companies, especially smaller ones, may not have a person who fits the bill readily at hand.

In such a case it may be necessary to recruit someone who can become your personal brand representative. In fact, that’s how I ended up representing
Stone Temple Consulting. CEO Eric Enge had come to know me online. While he was already a very effective personal brand for STC in his own right, Eric had grown the company to a place where he was ready to expand its inbound marketing efforts. He saw that the content I was producing and the audience I had attracted were both highly relevant to and valuable for Stone Temple. So he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: come be yourself for us. I’m pretty good at being myself, so I accepted (and haven’t regretted it for a moment!).

The least desirable choice, in my opinion, is completely outsourcing your personal brand representation. In other words, hiring a freelancer to create content and speak and engage on behalf of your brand. This might be better than nothing, but since I believe the best personal brand representatives grow out of a vital relationship with the brand they represent, I doubt it can be as effective. Your best bet here might be simply to get some recognized subject matter experts to publish content on your site, rather than try to palm them off as actually representing you. Inauthenticity gets sniffed out way too quickly these days.

Even if you don’t currently have any in-house, ready-for-prime-time stars in your stable, I would invest in ferreting them out and nurturing them to where they can do the job.

Give them creative space

If a personal brand representative is going to be effective for you, they have to have the freedom to create and experiment. Of course, that doesn’t mean without any guidelines or boundaries, but if you give your representatives too little freedom and initiative, you risk squashing the very thing that would make them most productive for you.

Make sure you have a good, clear mutual agreement with your personal brand rep of how your brand is to be represented. He or she should feel completely at home with your brand’s values, chief goals, and tone.

It’s also important that you give your representative the time they need to do their job. If you’re serious about getting the most benefit for your company from what they do, then their work as your representative should be their primary—perhaps only—responsibility. Creating great content and engaging with your audiences both take a lot of time to do well.

Make the brand connection clear, but subtle

Because you’re obviously hoping for the reputation, trust, and authority your personal brand representative builds to reflect on your brand, you might be tempted to push the connection too hard. By that I mean pressuring the representative to mention your brand frequently or even to be “selly” in her or his content and engagements.

In my experience that’s a mistake. If you push the corporate connection or sales pitch too hard, you kill the goose laying the golden eggs. You destroy the very thing that makes a personal brand so powerful. People have to be able to make a sincere and personal connection with the representative first, not with your brand. Once that connection is made, the connections to your brand will be obvious and much more meaningful. People will see that his or her content is home-based on your site, and of course your brand will be clear on all the profiles of your reps.

If you let people make the connection on their own, the transference of their trust in and liking for your reps over to your brand will occur more naturally, and therefore will be more “sticky.”

Multiply the connection opportunities

This recommendation is closely tied with the one about giving your representatives enough creative space and time to do their work well. In addition, make available to them multi-faceted, multi-channel opportunities to gain exposure. This is one of the secret weapons of real personal brad representatives: they can get into places where your brand logo never would.

For example, set aside budget to get your reps to important conferences. As they gain reputation and stature, they will get opportunities to speak at such events. Never underestimate the value of these in-real-life opportunities. Though they may not seem to have the potential reach of things like social media posting, they can be just as effective, sometimes more so. While Eric Enge and I believe that our content and social media presences help create fertile ground for business opportunities, we know that we have landed many of our best clients through our conference appearances.

You should also encourage your reps to take opportunities to get in front of
other people’s audiences online. Whether by guest posting or being interviewed on podcasts, Hangouts, or other media shows, such occasions are yet another way where personal brands can get exposure in places to which you otherwise would have no access.

Your turn

Have you built an effective personal brand? If so, how has it benefited your company? Do you see it as worth the investment?

If you haven’t taken advantage of personal brands to help market your business, why not? What fears or concerns hold you back?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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Google Down Slightly, Bing-Yahoo Up In October comScore Search Report

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By Matt McGee

Google saw its share of the US search market drop slightly in October, while both Bing and Yahoo saw corresponding gains. That’s according to comScore’s October 2014 search engine rankings.

ComScore estimates Google’s US market share at an even 67 percent for October, down from 67.3 percent in September. Yahoo was up the same 0.3 percentage points, from 10 percent to 10.3 percent. Bing saw a smaller gain, from 19.4 percent to 19.5 percent.

These are desktop searches only, so they don’t reflect Google’s strength in mobile search.

The post Google Down Slightly, Bing-Yahoo Up In October comScore Search Report appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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