The Votes Are In: Bing, Internet Explorer, & CNN Partner for 2014 Elections

For the 2014 elections, Bing wants to provide all Americans with an educational opportunity. To do so, the search engine has formed a partnership with Internet Explorer and CNN that could in fact be a game-changer.

What are some of the features included in Bing’s new venture? 

U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and Governor Predictions

As part of Bing’s BETA Elections & Voter Guide, users can get a sense of whether their state is leaning toward a Republican or Democratic candidate, learn political trivia, and find their nearest voting location.

senate-mn

Additionally, users can create a “ballot” to track the candidates they want to watch closely.

my-ballot

Bing Pulse Through 2016

For both the 2014 and 2016 elections, Bing Pulse will be a resource for viewers that want to participate. It will allow users to provide real-time feedback on political events and “vote” on reactions to what is happening in live debates.

Below is an example of the Florida gubernatorial debate that took place on Tuesday, October 21. As you can see, users identify which party they side with and vote on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” throughout the broadcast. Also present is a Twitter stream that shows tweets related to the topic at hand. In this case it was the hashtag #FLDebate.

fl-debate

Magic Wall

CNN chief national correspondent John King uses a multi-touch collaboration wall that has been dubbed the “Magic Wall.” Apparently, the wall has received a significant upgrade and CNN in partnership with Internet Explorer has launched a website that can be used in unison with broadcasts. The website allows users to explore segments of different hot topics such as immigration and state-by-state battles for the Senate.

magic-wall

The 2014 elections are without question the most interactive we have seen to date. Bing, CNN, and Internet Explorer have partnered in a way that will draw in those already in tune with U.S. politics as well as those who may not have interacted or voted in years prior.


SES LondonOptimising Digital Marketing Campaigns with Search, Social and Analytics

At SES London (9-11 Feb) you’ll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.

Gmail, Google+, and Hangouts Suffer Outage Across Europe

Google services suffered a major outage in Europe earlier today, knocking Gmail, Google+, and Hangouts offline.

Websites including Downrightnow and Downdetector show that the outage occurred in the U.K., France, Germany, and the Netherlands at around 8 a.m. BST on Thursday and lasted for about an hour.

During the downtime, users reported that services such as Gmail and Hangouts were throwing up 500-error messages. Google+ was reportedly showing the error message, too, but it’s unlikely that too many people noticed that Google’s social network was down.

One user confirmed the downtime on Twitter, saying: “Some Google services seem to be down/inaccessible… Got a error 500 in G+ and Gmail.”

Another added: “Archived 1,000s of Gmail messages and all i got was this lousy 500 error message. Did this bring Gmail down?”

Google has advised users on its support page that services are back up and running. “The problem with Gmail should be resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support,” it said.

“Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better.”

Google has yet to acknowledge the cause of the outage, but we have contacted the company for comment.

This latest downtime comes just months after Google experienced its last major outage.

Some users reported in July that Google services were displaying 500-error messages after the firm suffered an intermittent server error.

This article was originally published on the Inquirer.


SES LondonOptimising Digital Marketing Campaigns with Search, Social and Analytics

At SES London (9-11 Feb) you’ll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.

Penguin 3.0: A Proven Roadmap to Recovery

Many wondered if recovery from Penguin was even possible; in this case study, we’ll show you that it’s not only possible, but exactly the steps we took to accomplish this recovery.

Overview

A site came to us with a severe manual penalty, one that included a complete absence of their BRANDED terms in the SERPs. Their money terms had been banished to Antarctica, but even branded and very long-tail terms were banished, too.

It took us four months and three reconsideration requests to get the manual action removed, but unfortunately, the site’s traffic didn’t come back as we’d hoped. Instead, it took the Penguin 3.0 refresh for us to see regained rankings for branded terms, and movement on money terms.

The Recovery

We noticed an increase of traffic that started Friday evening. All of the tools we use showed promising signs:

SEMrush Keywords Ranking

penguin-keywords-ranking

Webmaster Tool Search Queries

penguin-webmaster-tool-search-queries

See the percent change in the average position column – significant for a large number of keywords.

Webmaster Tool Search Queries by Top Pages

penguin-webmaster-tool-search-queries-ranked

Again we saw many penalized pages that had lost all traffic and new pages starting to improve in the rankings.

Top Search Queries Chart

penguin-top-search-queries-chart

In the graph above, you can see the increase in search queries over the weekend of Oct 17, getting progressively higher since the update.

As you can see the site shows evidence of a recovery, also apparent in improved keyword rankings across the board.

Now that we see evidence of recovery, let’s talk about what it took to get there.

The Problem

The client came to us with a serious problem:

penguin-traffic

They had been hit by a manual penalty that took away about 90 percent of their organic traffic.

This site had more than 6,500 referring domains, many that were low-quality links acquired through private blog networks, article marketing, and directory submissions.

The profile looked like this:

penguin-link-detox-risk

There were many different footprints that we discovered:

penguin-footprints

At least 25 percent of the profile had money keywords in anchor text:

penguin-money-keywords

Unfortunately, they had earned their penalty by pursuing unnatural links.

The Process

We started with a comprehensive link audit, then performed link removals, uploaded a disavow file, and filed for reconsideration…three times.

The Audit

The first step was to use tools to identify patterns and footprints, followed by manual inspection of all links, to fully classify the link profile. We looked for patterns in the following areas:

  • Backlink Patterns Analysis

    • Date Discovered
    • URL Patterns
    • IP Patterns
    • NameServer Patterns
    • Whois patterns
  • Anchor Text Patterns and Analysis
  • Keyword Classification
  • Link Detox Risk Analysis
  • Sitewide Links Analysis
  • Paid Links Analysis
  • Redirect Analysis
  • Link Growth Analysis
  • Link Network Analysis
  • Country Ratio Analysis
  • Deep Link Ratio Analysis
  • Link Status Ratio Analysis

The tools used helped us identify patterns that we wouldn’t have seen with a manual audit. Using these tools while manually looking at the sites in the backlink profile helped us gain a more comprehensive overview. Here are a few examples of the types of data we looked at:

By URL Patterns

penguin-url-patterns

By NameServer Patterns

penguin-nameserver-patterns

By Link Discovered Date

penguin-link-discovered-date

Unfortunately the first two reconsideration requests failed because we tried leaving sites out of the disavow file in order to minimize further loss of traffic and rankings. For the third reconsideration request, however, we decided to disavow as many links as possible and gathered links from the following sources:

  • Webmaster Tools
  • LinkResearchTools
  • MajesticSEO
  • Ahrefs
  • Bing WebmasterTools
  • Moz
  • Scrapebox
  • ScreamingFrog

We used pattern analysis and scraped sites in order to uncover as many linking domains as possible and included all of them in our audit.

Link Removals

Having identified all the potentially toxic links, we emailed the websites and asked them to remove our links. We uncovered contact information from visiting the site, using WHOIS data, scraping the site for contact forms and email addresses, and using a social media scraper to contact them via social media (usually Twitter).

We took screen captures of the contact form emails and social media messages sent, and saved the source code of all emails, referencing them all on a spreadsheet. Each site was contacted at least three times to request removals.

penguin-referring-pages

In the image above you can see the amount of referring links and domains decreased exponentially with our link removal work.

The Disavow File

We included thousands of URLs in the disavow file, including:

  • 404 links
  • Nofollowed links
  • Pages no longer indexed in Google
  • All toxic domains

Why include 404s and nofollowed links, you may be wondering? Our goal was to be incredibly comprehensive for both the manual audit and the algorithmic update, so we figured it wouldn’t hurt to add 404 and nofollowed links, as they were surely not helping anyways.

Our Disavow file contained 7,369 domains:

penguin-disavow-file

Less than 100 high-quality links were left in the profile, with more than 98 percent of the profile being disavowed.

The Manual Penalty

After four months and three reconsideration requests, the manual penalty was lifted…but the traffic and rankings did not.

penguin-manual-penalty-rankings

So many links were disavowed, including many of the links that were actually helping the site to rank for long tail terms.

Overall it seemed our efforts had been futile.

Penguin 3.0

In the last few days since Penguin updated, we are seeing the following:

penguin-3-update

Rankings have improved exponentially, and traffic is increasing.

The penguin penalty that was suppressing so many keywords was removed, allowing the site to regain some old positions, while attaining new ones, as can be seen in the charts above.

Are traffic and rankings back to pre-penalty levels?

Not yet. The improvement is clear, but there is still a long road to full recovery. The comprehensive disavowal of almost all links from the profile left the site devoid of the signals required to rank well. The site was left with high trust rank but low citation flow given the amount of disavowed links.

The current challenge remains – to create powerful, compelling content that attracts links.

The Future: A Penguin-Safe SEO Strategy

To keep moving forward, the future strategy for this site will include:

  1. Authoritative, comprehensive content
  2. Blogger outreach to create awareness for the content
  3. Influencer outreach to amplify promotion of the content
  4. Paid social amplification to promote the content to psychographically relevant audiences
  5. Brand amplification via social signals and social media outreach
  6. Press mentions using social amplification and PR

With powerful, unique and engaging content as the foundation, all that’s required is a scalable amplification strategy using a variety of channels, as mentioned above. Amplifying the content generates editorially earned links, which is what Google seeks to reward.

Repurposing content from article to e-book to presentation to infographic to video creates a more varied link profile, all with social amplification as the foundation.

If you’d like to learn more about the process, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for our Google Penguin Penalty Recovery e-book – it’s free and explains in detail the steps we take for all penalty recovery clients. We look forward to hearing from you!


SES LondonOptimising Digital Marketing Campaigns with Search, Social and Analytics

At SES London (9-11 Feb) you’ll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.

Hootsuite’s Benchmark Study Reveals Common Social Media Benefits And Challenges For Business

Here are some hard facts: 88% of organizations know that social media is a valuable source of competitive and industry-specific business intelligence—but only 40% actually use the data generated by social media to inform business decisions.

Why the discrepancy?

This year, Hootsuite discovered that as confidence and investment in social media grows, so too do common challenges within the organization, including inter-departmental alignment, and understanding which data to acquire and share with the people in your organization.

The Social Business Benchmark 2014 is a survey conducted on behalf of Hootsuite by Harris Poll of over 750 respondents from enterprise organizations. The findings benchmark similar outlooks, behaviors and challenges with social media. See why you’re not alone, and how to develop strategic solutions to overcome any challenges you may be facing in your own organization.

Drill deeper into the findings of the Social Business Benchmark—and learn how you can turn social data into actionable insights—in our upcoming webinar:

Hootsuite Social Business Benchmark Webinar

DATE: Wednesday, November 5, 2014
TIME: 8am PST / 11am EST / 4pm GMT

Register for Webinar

We’ll explore the key findings of the Harris Poll in our exclusive webinar, but if you can’t wait to find out (and who can!), you can also preview the results of the survey here, or check out our infographic below.

Social Business Benchmark - Harris Survey Infographic

Global Agency Partner Program: Deliver Best in Class Social Media Solutions

Enterprises are now taking advantage of social media far beyond the marketing department. As social media becomes integrated into core business practices—from talent acquisition to business development and sales—agencies have an opportunity to add more value for customers by driving social business transformation throughout the modern organization.

Hootsuite has developed successful partnerships with thousands of agencies to deliver proven social media strategies. Today, we are officially launching a new program tailored to the unique needs of global agencies. The Hootsuite Global Agency Partner program provides a deeper level of education and support, empowering agencies to advise on new strategies and execute comprehensive social media services for every portfolio.

“Social media is integral to new business strategies, and agencies need to stay ahead of the curve to deliver successful digital services for their clients,” said Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite. “Hootsuite has long been the partner of choice for global agencies helping enterprises drive social across their business. Our experience working with some of the world’s top brands will arm digital practices with insights and tailored tools that translate into tremendous value add for clients.”

This inclusive and collaborative program marks a new opportunity for select global agencies to drive social business forward. It empowers partner agencies to provide greater innovation and strategic insights for their clients by leveraging Hootsuite’s ever expanding infrastructure, technical expertise and domain knowledge.

Charter members of the Hootsuite Global Agency Partner Program include FleishmanHillard, M&C Saatchi, Mindshare World, Ogilvy Digital Health and Lost Boys (part of the DigitasLBi family).

Key benefits of the Hootsuite Global Agency Partner program:

  • Education & Certification: Tailored workshops to enhance your team’s social business practice and exposure to current industry trends.
  • Resources & Tools: Gain access to Hootsuite Enterprise; leverage Hootsuite support and technical insights to promote your agency, serve your clients and map your clients’ social footprint.
  • Relationship Manager: Access to a designated relationship manager to work with account teams.
  • Partner Advisory Council – Become a member of an exclusive community of agency  leaders to discuss current industry issues with Hootsuite subject matter experts and executives.

“This is a welcome and timely program from a company that understands the needs of network agencies. The Hootsuite Global Agency Partner Program provides valuable support in delivering social programs for clients at the scale and speed of social media,” said Christian Purser, Chief Digital Officer, M&C Saatchi.

“Hootsuite’s approach to working with agencies shows they understand our business model, work culture and client delivery model,” said Ephraim Cohen, SVP and Senior Partner for Social & Digital at FleishmanHillard. “The result is a relationship that delivers a better solution not just for the agency, but, more importantly, for our clients.”

Are your clients demanding extensive social business expertise? Learn more about the Hootsuite Global Agency Partner program.

Google Panda and the High Risk of Using Aggressive or Deceptive Advertising

In my previous posts about Panda, I’ve hammered one important point over and over again. User engagement is critically important. If users are showing low engagement, and yielding low dwell time, then that’s a giant invitation to the mighty Panda. So, when conducting Panda audits, I keep a keen eye on factors that can negatively impact engagement, present obstacles for users, and create virtual bamboo.

One consistent problem I have seen while analyzing Panda hits has been aggressive and deceptive advertising. And I’ve seen that much more since Panda 4.0 (including P4.1, which just rolled out on September 23).

Specifically, sites employing deceptive or aggressive advertising are facing big problems Panda-wise. For example, sites that trick users into clicking affiliate links, blended ads, low-quality supplemental content, etc. In addition, I noticed a number of sites impacted by both 4.0 and 4.1 that heavily used pagination to break up articles into many component pages (to gain more ad impressions). And I’m not talking about two or three pages of pagination. I’m talking about 10, 20, or even 30 pages of pagination. Yes, I can feel you cringe as you read that. I did, too.

The Traffic Monetization Catch

So, when Panda focuses on user happiness, it’s not hard to see why sites employing deceptive tactics like what I mentioned above would have a hard time battling the mighty Panda. But you might be wondering why those sites would employ such risky tactics (especially when our furry black and white friend is actively roaming the Web). There’s an easy answer. Money.

With larger-scale websites, there are typically multiple teams working together. And I use “together” loosely here. You have the marketing team, content team, dev team, design team, etc. And of course, if the purpose of the website is to make money, you have the monetization team (or ad team).

Advertising-wise, as traffic climbs the ad team sees the potential of boosting revenue. And that’s totally fine. I get it…companies need to make money. But in my opinion, some ad teams have been too aggressive and have caused situations that heavily contributed to Panda attacks.

Like this one. Notice the giant bamboo slide to no traffic on May 20 (Panda 4.0):

panda-advertising-traffic-drop

And there’s the catch. The marketing team drives traffic. The ad team monetizes that traffic. And they often don’t see eye to eye. Part of the problem is SEO education, and part of the problem includes financial goals. Sure, everyone has goals and the ad team has their own. But that can lead to aggressive ad tactics that put websites at risk.

Let’s Run Some Numbers

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say a website is generating $200,000 in revenue per month via advertising and affiliate relationships. But let’s say the site is employing overactive ad tactics like many full-screen floating ads, blended ads, low-quality supplemental content to third-party sites, masked affiliate links, etc. Panda 4.1 rolls out and kicks the website in the gut and it loses 70 percent of its traffic. By the way, I’ve had a number of companies reach out to me with severe hits like that. I even had one company lose 90 percent of its traffic overnight with Panda 4.1.

The site that was generating $200,000 per month could lose $140,000 per month in advertising revenue due to the Panda hit. If that’s the case, then it would be left with only 30 percent of its original $200,000, which is just $60,000. Wow, that’s a huge loss, right? I’ve seen this scenario many times during my Panda work (to various levels). It’s ugly and causes massive amounts of stress for everyone involved.

panda-advertising-drop

The Sinister Surge Doesn’t Help… That’s Why It’s “Sinister”

Another phenomenon that upsets the Panda balance is the sinister surge in traffic prior to an algorithm hit. I wrote about this disturbing situation after seeing it many times since February of 2011 when Panda first rolled out.

Google ends up dishing out more and more organic search traffic, even when there are problems on the site engagement-wise. That means that Google is getting even more engagement data during the surge, even when the site has serious problems. And if Google sees unhappy visitors in aggregate, then Panda can stomp all over the site. I’ve seen it a thousand times.

Warning: Important Point Ahead…Pay Attention

So, you have a surge in visits from Google organic and many of those users are experiencing deceptive or aggressive ad tactics. Both marketers and the ad team often mistakenly believe the surge is a good thing, since they aren’t familiar with Panda. Then boom, the wave crashes, and takes a huge portion of those visits with it (including ad revenue). Then you’re left with serious questions, stress, and confusion. And all of this can happen overnight by the way. Not good.

panda-advertising-surge

Advertising Problems and Panda – What I’ve Seen

While helping Panda victims, I’ve come across some glaring advertising issues that cause serious engagement problems. I thought it would be important to list some of them below so you can better understand what I’m referring to. I already mentioned a few above, but I’ll list them below for clarification purposes. Note, these are not the only ad problems that are being employed across the Web. They are simply some of the most common issues I have come across.

Full-Screen Floating Ads (aka Overlay Ads)

If you are employing full-screen ads that take over a user’s entire browser window, then you need to understand a few things from a Panda standpoint. Users hate them, so be very careful when you trigger full-screen floating ads and how often you employ them per session. The more people that get annoyed by takeover ads and then jump back to the search results, the more bamboo you are building. Engagement drops, dwell time is low, and you are sending horrible signals to Google about user happiness.

A mockup of an ad overlay:

panda-advertising-overlay2

If you do employ full-screen floating ads, then make sure users can exit out of the takeover and that’s it very clear how they can exit. During some audits, I found myself extremely frustrated being forced to watch a full-screen ad (which I would never normally do by the way). Full-screen ads that literally take over my screen, don’t let me exit, etc. annoy the heck out of me. And many others feel the same way.

Auto-Play Video Ads (or Audio Ads)

There’s nothing like hitting a Web page for the first time and immediately seeing a video trigger with audio. Most users frantically try to pause the video or at least mute the audio. I’ve seen ads like these on many Panda victim websites.

And there are times that I’ve seen multiple video ads on one page, and both have started playing! I wish I had video of myself trying to find, and then pause, multiple video ads at one time. Needless to say, employing autoplaying video or audio ads can kill engagement.

An example of an autoplaying video ad, plus other serious ad problems:

panda-advertising-video3

My recommendation is to make sure users trigger the video and/or audio. Do not autoplay those ads. Again, think about the user and what will drive strong engagement.

Roadblocks (Interstitials)

A roadblock is similar to a full-screen ad, but often redirects to you a different URL where an ad is displayed (in between page visits or even before the first page a user visits). Not only does this completely interrupt the user experience, but you are sending users to a different url automatically. Upon experiencing a roadblock ad, many users frantically try and return to the page they were on or to get through to the destination page. Roadblocks tend to anger a lot of people.

panda-advertising-roadblock2

If you are using interstitial ads, I can tell you that a distinct portion of your traffic is not enjoying the roadblocks you have in place. And there’s a chance that many of those users are popping back to the SERPs. And as I’ve mentioned before, low dwell time is something you want to avoid.

Blending of Ads With Content

During Panda audits, I have seen affiliate links and ads cloaked as content. They match the content so well in design, color, etc., that it’s hard to tell they are ads. But when you click them, you sure know they are…

Being transported to some random third-party site is not exactly what I had in mind after searching for a product, service, or solution. And some of those third-party sites are aggressive with their own tactics (and some even have malware problems, viruses, risky downloads, and more.)

panda-advertising-blended2

“Hell hath no fury like a user scorned.” If you deceive users into clicking ads, then it will come back to bite you. And a Panda bite is worse than your typical animal bite. The pain can last for months (or longer). Do the right thing. Don’t deceive users. Stay out of the gray area of Panda.

Heavy Pagination (for Ad Impressions)

This isn’t as much deception as it is just a horrible user experience. Many publishers charge per impression (typically a CPM, or cost-per-thousand impressions). So, if you have 1 million impressions per day, breaking up articles into smaller pieces across a paginated set could yield 10 to 20 times the number of impressions. The ad team might run the numbers and push to do this.

And I’m here to tell you that excessive pagination can drive users crazy, while also yielding horrible engagement signals. I’ve seen the use of heavy pagination a lot during Panda work (and I’ve seen a serious uptick in sites employing this tactic get hit during Panda 4.0 and 4.1). I’m not sure if that signal was added to Panda recently, but I saw it a lot during my analysis.

38 pages of pagination:

panda-advertising-pagination3

And it contains a “view all” page, which would be great if the site didn’t force me to register to see it…

panda-advertising-pagination3-register

As a quick example, I’ve been helping a company that got pummeled by Panda (losing more than 60 percent of its traffic overnight). Upon analyzing the site, I noticed they were breaking up their articles into many small pieces (sometimes 10, 20, or 30 or more component pages). On desktop, it was painful to go through an article. Each component page only housed a paragraph or two of content. Then I had to click through to the next page, which of course loaded more ads. But desktop was a breeze compared to mobile. Trying to click through 30 component pages on your mobile phone will literally drive you insane…It was a horrible user experience.

Excessive Pagination – Possible Solutions

Each website is different, and there are several ways to tackle excessive pagination. You could simply migrate all content to one page (the best solution SEO-wise). You could also add a “view all” page and set that up properly SEO-wise – and not force people to register to see it! Then Google would surface that page in the SERPs. And then of course, you could add more content per component page and cut the pagination down by 50 to 75 percent. That’s not the best scenario, but better than providing 20 or 30 pages of pagination.

Low-Quality Supplementary Content

Supplementary content (used by Google in its Quality Rater Guidelines) is any additional content on your Web pages that’s not the core content on the page or ads. For example, you might be providing related articles, your right sidebar probably contains a lot of supplemental content, you might be employing content syndication links from Outbrain, Taboola, and others. And of course, some sites are stacking several content partners on their pages (adding even more supplementary content).

You need to be very careful with the quality of supplementary content and the amount of that content included on your website. Many users don’t know where that content will take them, and they are inherently trusting that clicking those links will be OK. But in reality, some of those links lead to ultra-low-quality pages. I’ve come across many examples of heavy sales landing pages, irrelevant content (based on the original article being viewed), and even some sites with malware and risky downloads.

And as mentioned earlier, supplementary content has made its way into Google’s quality rater guidelines. So yes, this is on Google’s radar for sure. Always think about your users, where you are sending them, and what type of experience they will have. If you can’t guarantee a positive experience, then don’t do it.

An example of supplementary content. Can you tell which links are external vs. internal?

panda-advertising-content-ads2

Fixing Advertising Problems After a Panda Hit

Once ad problems are identified, the solution is clear from my standpoint. Companies hit by Panda need to significantly cut back on their aggressive ad tactics. That means removing roadblocks, cutting down full-screen takeover ads, removing blocks of low-quality supplementary content, removing deceptive blocks of advertising, and more.

I explain to clients that they need to do this quickly, so users can start sending positive engagement signals to Google. I also make it clear that this can take a while (months). Some clients move fast to follow my recommendations, and they can often see recovery in a quicker timeframe. But then there are the companies that experience a civil war over advertising strategy.

For example, some ad teams might have sold through deals that they need to honor. But the problem is that there’s no traffic. So the ad team wants to monetize the remaining traffic even more. The marketing team (typically being guided by me), now understands Panda, how severe it can be, and how long recovery can take. They want to recover quickly, so they are ready to take action.

In my opinion, Band-Aids are not a long-term Panda recovery plan. Temporary recoveries can happen (as I documented in a recent case study). Avoid the Panda rollercoaster by making significant changes based on an audit. That’s how you avoid subsequent Panda visits.

A Final Note About Panda Recovery and Ad Tactics

When clients recover from Panda, I’m quick to explain a few key points. First, now is not the time to turn back on the ad fire hose! As I explained above, I have seen temporary recoveries. Panda rolls out frequently and if you add the problems back to your site that got you hit in the first place, then you are asking to be hit again. Panda is about long-term quality changes to your site. Don’t revert back to aggressive advertising tactics once you see a surge in traffic.

Second, now is also not the time to stop working on Panda remediation. My advice is to act like the recovery didn’t happen yet. Keep driving forward to fix the problems that were surfaced during the Panda audit. There’s an inherent gray area to Panda (and all algorithms). You want to get as far out of the gray area as possible. If you barely cross the threshold, you can get hit again. I’ve had companies reach out to me with rollercoaster Panda trending over the years. It’s maddening. Avoid that at all costs.

Summary: Understand Your Ad Problems… Because Panda Does

There’s a fine balance between simply providing advertising on your site and annoying the heck out of users to the point of insanity. From a Panda standpoint, it’s critically important that you don’t cause serious user engagement issues by employing aggressive or deceptive ad tactics. If you do, users will be unhappy, they will bounce off your site back to the SERPs, low dwell time will ensue, and Google will pick this up. And that’s a recipe for SEO disaster. Always think about user engagement. Panda does.


SES LondonOptimising Digital Marketing Campaigns with Search, Social and Analytics

At SES London (9-11 Feb) you’ll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.

Facebook Ads: Lessons From the Trenches

trenches-meme

OK, enough with the random “war time meets Pirates of the Caribbean” analogy and onto the Facebook Ads strategies! Facebook Ads has been around long enough that it is no longer considered new. However, much like it’s search-cousins AdWords or Bing Ads, the feature sets change frequently. This leaves all of us in a constant state of learning and testing to find what will generate the best performance for our campaigns. Or at least it should!

In this vein, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned with many of the recent (ish) changes in Facebook Ads.

It’s All About the Creative

Targeting is pretty darn important, too, but creative is where the real magic happens. You get the creative “right” and you will achieve great performance.

  • A picture speaks a thousand words and will make or break your Facebook ads.
  • Getting the image “right” is a considerable challenge. Keeping text at 20 percent or less? Keeping within brand guidelines? Does the image convey your core message or benefits? Is the image visually attractive or attract attention? My two cents: hire a talented graphic designer.
  • Don’t assume anything about the order, length, or substance of your copy. If you are coming from the traditional PPC world, set aside your text ad writing skills and prepare to learn a NEW skill. A desktop newsfeed ad has three text entry points (headline, link description, and body text) and the testing opportunities are endless.
  • Facebook’s motto is “hack” and you should live by that motto. Specifically in regards to copy length. If you build your ads in the Web interface, you will receive errors if you try to write copy past the standard character limits. Not so if you promote a page post or create ads within Power Editor. Tread with caution – when you go over you stand the chance of copy being cut off – just review your work in the live preview and test, test, test.
  • Don’t assume anything about device or placement. Some Facebook ads will kick butt across mobile, desktop, newsfeed, and right placement. Some ads will only work for a single device or placement. Why do I state the obvious here? Because Facebook makes it quite easy to run all devices and placements together in the same ad unit by default. Don’t give in to the temptation – SEGMENT.

Creative Is King, but Targeting Rules the World

You could have the most amazing copy and images in your ads, but if you are targeting all users in all countries, you will end up with nothing but an epic bill from Facebook. Targeting matters.

  • Custom audiences rock. Upload your email or phone number lists and deliver a laser focused message to a VERY specific group of Facebook users. The possibilities are endless.
  • Custom audiences based on conversion and/or site tags also rock.
  • And if you didn’t figure it out already, lookalike audiences based on your custom audiences or conversion/site tags rock, too. I have entire accounts that have run at times exclusively on lookalike audience targeting to great success.
  • Generally speaking, Facebook’s targeting features just keep getting deeper and deeper. We started with only interests. Now we have partner categories, demographics (including cool stuff like job titles, industry, financial, and ethnic background, etc.) and behavior-based targeting.
  • The relationship between campaign > ad set > ad is crucial to success. The campaign is merely a container and designator of the campaign’s objective. Ads are merely for testing images and text copy. This means that the ad set is truly the king of the hill where your targeting must reside – audience, interest, device, and ad placement segmentation.

Facebook Works for Direct Marketing

I know, I know… this still blows a lot of people’s minds. The truth is that Facebook Ads drive conversions, sales, and a plethora of Facebook-oriented actions. Frankly, it blows MY mind that so many people are stuck on “Facebook Ads are only for branding and social engagement.” Think again, friends.

  • Campaign Objectives were a stroke of genius. Facebook has always had a tendency to give us ALL THE THINGS with regards to ad types and features. This caused chaos and confusion. Campaign Objectives solved that problem. Your objective will determine the types of targeting and ad units available to you – and once set cannot be changed. Website conversions, events, likes, app downloads…take your pick.
  • Optimized CPM (OCPM) was also a stroke of genius. Bid automation has its place in all manner of biddable media, but Facebook hit it out of the park with OCPM. Remember those campaign objectives? How about setting an automated bid based on a cost-per-acquisition (leads, sales), cost-per-action, etc.? It works. And it works well.
  • OCPM requires patience. Trust me, I learned the hard way. Once you’ve launched your ads with OCPM in place, you have to let Facebook accumulate data for OCPM to truly be effective. What does that mean for you? Don’t make knee-jerk decisions and switch to CPC bids or to pause the ads altogether. Give them a few days to marinate (actual time varies based on targeting, conversion action, etc.).
  • Don’t be afraid to test custom OCPM. Facebook has default targets for the various Campaign Objectives. For example, website conversion CPA is $30 by default. Your target CPA may be higher or lower – set a custom CPA accordingly. But it is also worth noting that if you are struggling to get conversion volume with OCPM, set a custom OCPM that is well above your target CPA. You will be pleasantly surprised at the (positive) results!

So many features. So many possibilities. As with any digital advertising platform, your results may vary. But one thing is for certain: Never. Stop. Testing. With that, I’m headed back to the trenches – I’ve got a few ads to write for Facebook!

Image via quickmeme.com.


SES LondonOptimising Digital Marketing Campaigns with Search, Social and Analytics

At SES London (9-11 Feb) you’ll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.

A Simple Traffic Generation Strategy You’re Probably Not Using – Take It!

This is a strategy for boosting traffic and exposure to your site that I came up with on the fly during a recent SPI fan meetup. After sharing it, everyone was pretty stoked about it, so I’m happy to pass it along to you.

Here’s what to do, why this will work, and some follow-up notes to help you get the most out of it.

What To Do (in 6 Steps)…

Step 1: Find an Active Forum or Group in Your Niche

To find a forum, you can simply type “forum:keyword” into Google.

google-forumsTo find a Facebook Group, type in Groups Named Keywords in the search bar at the top of Facebook.

facebook-groups

 

To find a LinkedIn Group, switch the search bar to find Groups, and then type keywords related to your niche in the search field.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 1.01.37 PM

The bigger the group and more active it is, the better.

Step 2: Contact the Owner of the Forum or Group

For a forum, you may have to search around a little, but typically you can find a contact button on the forum page, or you can locate an admin’s profile within a discussion by looking for the word admin or administrator under their name.

Note that an admin of the page isn’t necessarily the owner. You can, however, use an admin you make contact with to contact the owner.

On Facebook, click on members, and then use the drop down to find the admin.

facebook-group-admin

On LinkedIn, click through to a group and you can find the owner(s) listed in the info box within that group.

linkedin-group-owner

Step 3: Interview the Owner

If you have a podcast, you can invite them to come on your show. If not, an email interview would work too.

I’ll share some messages you can send to request the interview, and some sample questions you can ask during the interview later in this post.

To the finale…

Step 4: Publish the Interview

Self-explanatory.

Step 5: Send a Thank You Message and a Link to the Owner of Your Interview

Again, self-explanatory.

Step 6: Enjoy the Promotion of Your Brand from a Community Leader

Why This Will Work…

Everybody who owns a forum or group is looking for ways to grow, and most (humans) will be happy to talk about themselves.

Giving a group owner an opportunity to highlight his or her community, while also demonstrating leadership and authority is a complete no-brainer for them. As a result of the relationship they have with their members, and the value that they’d be providing for you, it’s likely that they are going to share that interview with their community.

Traditional methods of getting in front of someone else’s audience, like guest posting, can be difficult. There’s a lot involved across both sides, from writing a unique post that would be acceptable to a prospective site owner, to being able to schedule a post within that person’s editorial calendar.

Guest posting is a huge deal, which is why it’s not always as easy as it sounds.

On forums and groups specifically, self-promotion is typically frowned upon, which is why having someone else (and in this case, the forum owner!) post for you is a much better.

Additionally, depending on the forum owner, you can suspect that they would have some incredible insight and information to share with your audience about your niche as a person who is connected to a whole bunch of other people in the space.

You could even use the interview as a means to validate potential business ideas based on hot topics within the community.

Imagine coming back to that person weeks or months later with a solution to a problem or need that the entire community has.

Instant target audience (the community), and instant potential affiliate (the community owner).

5 Things to Know Before You Start…

You may be getting excited and already searching for groups and communities within your niche.

Great – but keep reading, because there are a few key things to mention before you give this a shot.

1. Not all Forums and Groups are Created Equal

Some communities will be better than others, and it’s your job before reaching out to make sure it would be a great fit for you and your brand.

Of course, you want the niches to align. If the discussions happening within the communities aren’t ones that you could see potentially happening on your own site, you may be in the wrong place.

Second, you want to make sure the forum is active. When was the last time someone left a comment? How active are the current threads? If it’s a ghost town, a promo from an administrator won’t do you much good.

Third, try to see how often the group owner gets involved. Perhaps he or she is the most dedicated forum participant, or maybe they just simply own the group and let the others do the talking. The more the owner is actually involved, the more likely the community is to follow along and respond, and the more value the owner would be able to provide in the interview too.

2. Offer The Owner’s Community Something in Return

Anything you can do to make it more likely that the owner will share this interview with their community is a plus.

Asking is one thing, but giving is another.

If you have a product or giveaway that you could offer their community, that could go a very long way.

Let’s say you’re in the fly fishing niche (I don’t know why I always choose fly fishing – perhaps it’s because it’s on my bucket list to do someday), and you have an eBook for sale on Amazon for $4.99 titled DIY Fly: The Ultimate Guide to Tying Your Own Flies. 

Make an offer to the forum owner to give away 10 free copies (or more) of your book to their audience. Maybe you make it free for anyone for only 48 hours after the interview is published.

You can be creative here, but a giveaway will help the forum owner stand out even more, as they would also be providing more value to their community at the same time.

And of course, your book should link back to your main site anyway, so it’s a win for all.

3. During the Interview, Have the Owner Highlight Members of the Community

Highlighting community members is a great excuse to message those members and make them feel special. Ask questions about the community and any special “stand-outs”, success stories or “power-users”, and you’re more likely going to get people within the community to read or listen to the interview and talk about it amongst each other.

4. Ask the Owner to Speak Directly to His Community

Here’s a question you should ask during the interview:

If you could ask your group members one thing and get an answer from all of them, what would that question be?

If I had the chance (especially with my voice) to answer this question, I’d definitely share it with my community. As a group owner, it would be a great way to indirectly ask your audience for something.

5. Make Sure it’s a Community Your Own Audience Would Benefit from As Well

So far, we’ve been talking a lot about the forum or group owner, but don’t forget about your own audience too! They’re the ones who will listen to or read that interview, so you want it to be useful and valuable for them too.

After the interview goes live, with the strategies above, yes – you will get new people coming your way, but you’ll also be sharing a new resource with your audience too.

That’s why I wouldn’t run this style of promotion too often, and I’d make sure that there’s value within that community as well.

A Sample Script for Your Message to the Owner

The more I can give to you, the more I know you’re likely to take action on this, so please feel free to use the email or message copy below as inspiration when reaching out to forum or group owners.

I recommend that you use this as base-copy while including your own style and voice.

Subject Line (when applicable): Featuring you and [Name of Group or Forum]

Email or Message: Hi [Real name of Person]! My name is [Your Name] and I have a site over at [name or URL of your site] which also helps those interested in [your market or niche].

First, I just wanted to introduce myself and say hi. I’d love to help you out in any way I can. Actually, would you be interested in doing an interview that would be featured on my site about you and your community? I’d love to direct my audience there, and also have them get to know a bit about you, the owner, too.

Let me know what you think. Thanks!

This is short and sweet. There are no details about how the interview will be conducted or when it’ll go live or any of that. It’s simply an introduction and what’s in it for them – a way to get them interested without scaring them off with details.

If you don’t get a reply within 48 hours, one additional follow-up message (a quick one-liner) usually does the trick. When reaching out cold to Food Truck owners when launching FoodTruckr.com, for example, it was my follow-up emails that actually received the highest response.

Questions to Ask During the Interview

Whether you conduct an audio interview for your podcast, or simply just send a list of questions for the owner to respond via email, here’s a batch of sample questions you can use. Use as many as you’d like and add your own too:

  1. When did you start your forum/group, and why did you create it?
  2. What do you feel makes your community special?
  3. If you could magically give all of your community members one thing in this world, what would it be, and why?
  4. If you could ask your group members one thing and get an answer from all of them, what would that question be?
  5. Feel free to give a shout-out to some of your power-users or most active members. Does anyone come to mind, and what do you like most about them?
  6. What are some of the hot topics that seem to always be discussed within the group?
  7. For someone new to this community, how do they get the most out of it?
  8. Has anything surprised you about owning a forum about [niche]?

In addition to the above, don’t forget to ask questions that are specific to your niche that would be directly helpful to your existing audience. Tap into this person’s brain, and give him an opportunity to show off in front of their community.

Try it Out, and I’ll…

If you’re going to try this out, let me know in the comment section below. Once you have your interview or post published on your site, please link to it in the comment section. Be sure to bookmark this post so you can easily come back to it.

Your link in the comments will be your entry into a giveaway. I’ll randomly select 10 participants and send a $25 Amazon Gift Card to the winners. I’ll email the winners on November 22nd, 2014 and add them to the bottom of this post too.

This isn’t a formal reader challenge (I know I haven’t done one in a while), but I’m happy to get you all to take action again. In 2015, there will be more consistent reader challenges that will get you to take various actions to help grow and monetize your online presence, and give you more opportunities to win stuff from me too.

Cheers, and I look forward to your posts and hearing all about your results!

How to Set up Facebook, Twitter and Every Other Major Social Media Profile

Setting up social media profiles on Twitter, Facebook or any other social network can be a lot of work. And if you’re starting from scratch, it feels like a big impediment to overcome before using a new tool. We need to choose a photo or fill out a bio when all we want to do is start sharing content and engaging with friends.

Your social media profile is a window into your personality, your job, your interests—sure, but, if done correctly, it can be so much more than that. It can drive people to your website or other online assets; it can promote some of your best content; and it can lead to new clients and sales. When you reach out to a new contact or prospect, the first thing they’re going to do is look you up online. Your profile needs to be both impressive and discoverable.

With so much potential value in each social media profile, it’s worth investing the time and effort required to set them up properly. (Or, if you’ve neglected yours for an extended period of time, it can be just as important to give it a complete overhaul.) Here’s our complete guide on how to social media profiles.

Jump to:

General Rules

Bio/Description

Why is your bio so important? In addition to sharing basic information about yourself, adding your website and email address turns any social network bio into a potential source of referral traffic. Especially on company pages, the opportunity to describe your products and link out to an external website makes bios a powerful marketing and sales tool. Plus, including your Twitter handle or Google+ page in the personal information section of another social network is a simple form of cross-promotion that could help grow your social following across the board.

Social media bios should always be catered to the social network and the audience of that particular profile. Your personal Facebook bio can be more fun and interesting than your LinkedIn bio, which should be very focused on professional skills and job history.

Though each profile bio will differ, your name or handle should be consistent across all networks. This allows people to find you more easily. If they see your Twitter handle, they can then enter that into Instagram and immediately find your personal or branded account. Online service know’em allows you to quickly check if a desired handle is available on almost every social network.

Finally, if you’re curious about which of your social networks need work, there’s any easy way to check: Google yourself.

Images

You should always strive to have photos fall within the dimensions recommended for a certain network. Why? A square is a square, right? Well, you never know when profile images will be reused elsewhere on a social network. Even though your giant headshot might look nice in the profile picture, it might look weird when appearing on a mobile device or in a home feed.

With profile images, simple is usually better. Don’t try and fit tons of information about your business or product into a cover photo. The cover photo’s job is to be eye-catching and reflect who you are, so focus on that. The profile picture should be of you, or of your logo, so people know who they’re following or talking to.

Finally, image consistency across social networks will help people connect with and trust you. If someone follows you on Twitter and seeks you out on Instagram, using the same profile photo will increase your chances of them finding the right account, and following you. Much like with account names, consistent imagery results in better discoverability and more immediate trust. It’s a very easy way to cross-promote your social accounts.

Extras

Like the rest of your social media presence, your profiles should be regularly updated. Bios should be updated with the latest information or the latest content to ensure everything is accurate and fresh. Set yourself a reminder to check your profile information every couple of weeks, and don’t ignore it.

In the same vein, regularly changing cover photos keeps your profile interesting to existing followers and gives you an opportunity to re-engage people who weren’t impressed the first time. Meanwhile your static profile picture will help you maintain brand recognition and consistency across networks.

Facebook

header-facebook

Your Facebook profile is one of the largest social media profiles on the web. Since Facebook is also the biggest social network on the planet, with 1.3 billion users, it’s important that people are able to quickly find you and connect.

Bio

Both your personal information or company information will fall under the “About” tab on your Facebook profile or page. For personal profiles, the About tab contains an overview on which you can update the following fields:

  • Job
  • Education
  • Location
  • Contact information
  • Website
  • And relationship status

Social Media Profiles - Facebook Personal About Page

Each of these sections can be further expanded on in addition tabs within the About page. If you’re using your Facebook profile for public or professional purposes, we recommend keeping the relationship status out of your bio. People want to know where you work and how to contact you. That being said, you can change the reach of each piece of information in your bio by editing the audience setting so certain information can only be viewed by friends.

For Company Pages your about section offers the opportunity to include the following information:

  • Location
  • Products
  • Founding date
  • Release date
  • And contact information

Social Media Profiles - Facebook Company Bio

Take the time to fill out these sections with care, as customers and prospects will turn to them frequently. You also have the opportunity to write a lengthy “About” description of your company. Use this space to show visitors who you are, what you do and why they should care.

Follow Facebook’s directions on how to update your bio info.

Images 

Social-Media-Profiles--Facebook-Photos-600 (1)

  • Facebook profile picture: 180×180 pixels
  • Facebook cover photo: 851×315 pixels 

Your Facebook profile picture is the square photo on the left side of your profile. It’s the same photo that shows up on other people’s walls or homepages when you post. For that reason, your profile picture should be a headshot. If you’re creating a business page your profile image should be your logo. The image you choose for your profile picture should be square and should also be clear in small and large sizes.

Your Facebook cover photo is the large image that appears behind your profile picture. The larger size of this image offers opportunities for your to make an impression, sell your business or get creative.

Learn how to add or update your profile or cover photo here.

As Facebook image sizes will change with redesigns, you can stay up to date with their recommended image sizes here.

Extras

Facebook photos you’ve added or have been tagged in will also figure prominently on your profile. Make sure you keep a close eye on photos you’re being tagged in so you can untag anything you don’t want others seeing on your page. To avoid this process you can also turn on Timeline review, which allows you to approve tags before they appear on your profile. 

Interest categories, from sports to music, can also appear on your profile if you so choose. If you’re using a profile for professional purposes, you may want to avoid these sections unless they are industry-relevant or they offer relevant insight to connections.

Twitter

header-twitter

Whether it’s a personal or branded account, Twitter profiles are exactly the same for everyone. This should be an advantage, since you don’t need to learn different processes if you’re building a profile for you or your business. That isn’t to say these profiles don’t require effort. Just like the network’s approach to social media as a whole, Twitter profiles are a test in brevity. Have a look: 

Bio

Your Twitter bio is very minimal in comparison to networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. There are only five fields you can update:

  • name
  • bio
  • location
  • website
  • and theme color

Social Media Profiles - Twitter Bio

Each of these sections should be filled out but, with so little opportunity for customization, special attention should be paid to the bio field. In true Twitter fashion, your bio is limited to 160 characters, so you can’t go into much detail. Instead, focus on sharing insight into what you’ll be talking about on Twitter. This saves visitors the trouble of scrolling through your Tweets to see what they can expect from you. If you manage the Twitter account of a bank, you might want to state in your bio “Tweets about personal finance, insurance and investing.” No gimmicks, but a strong incentive to follow for people who are after that information. 

To guide new followers effectively, your bio could cross-promote other relevant branded accounts as well. A bank might include in their bio,for example, “For cust serv, @bankhelp.”

The bio writing process will be a test of your editing skills. If you’re having trouble, ask yourself ‘does this really need to be in here?’ for each section and work to trim the fat. Take your time and do it right. And if you’re stuck, look to the accounts of other industry leaders for inspiration.

Follow Twitter’s steps to update your bio information here.

Images

 Suggested Twitter image dimensions
Suggested Twitter image dimensions
  • Twitter profile photo: 400×400 pixels
  • Twitter header image: 1,500×500 pixels

Your Twitter profile photo is the smaller, square image that appears on the top-left side your profile. Your photo should be clear and recognizable whether small or large, since the same photo you choose for your profile image will be used within other people’s streams, and in Twitter’s “Who to Follow” section on the right side of your feed.

Just like on Facebook, your Twitter header image is the much larger, rectangular photo that appears behind your profile photo and across the top of your profile page. This large photo is a great asset. It’s the first thing most people will notice when they visit your profile, and should therefore serve the purpose of piquing their interest right from the get-go.

Learn how to add or update your Twitter profile or header image here

Twitter profile image sizes may change with a redesign, so stay up to date on recommended image sizes here. 

Extras

Social Media Profiles - Twitter Pinned Tweet

Earlier this year Twitter added the ability to pin a Tweet to your profile. This Tweet is one of the first things someone who lands on your profile will see. It’s is also an amazing opportunity to promote your content to new contacts. Choose a Tweet that promotes a strong piece of content you or your brand has created, and includes an image or video. Discover how to pin a Tweet here.

Google+

header-googleplus

Many people are quick to brush off Google+, when in fact it has some of the most passionate social media users today. Add the fact that Google+ profiles have a role in Google search results of your name or brand, and you shouldn’t need any more reason to work hard on your Google+ presence.

Bio

Google+ offers several choices to customize what information appears in your profile bio. Make sure you go through every part to see what you want made public and what is better off private. 

Social Media Profiles - Google+ Small BioThe bio section of your Google+ profile can really be split into two parts. First, there is a small section under your profile picture containing some info about you. On personal profiles your work, school and location will appear in that position, while on business pages your website will appear there. While you may not want your school or workplace to appear on your profile, you should always have your website in that position if you run a business page. Users are drawn to your profile picture, so having your website right there is a great way to point followers back to your other online properties. 

Second, every profile has an About tab containing much more information about you or your brand. This tab can contain simple details like your job and education history as well as contact information. However, there are 3 sections worth focusing your attention on: 

  • People: This section shows how many people you’ve circled, and how many people have you in circles. People are more likely to follow you if they know you will probably follow them back. They’re also more likely to follow you if they see that lots of others do, since it adds credibility. As a result, you may want to keep this information private until these numbers are impressive to profile viewers.

Social Media Profiles - Google+ People

  • Links: Google+ has done us a favour by including cross-promotional opportunities from the get-go. Use this section to point to other social network profiles, all of your websites as well as blogs you’ve contributed to. The value of this section can’t be understated.

Social Media Profiles - Google+ Links

  • Story: This section is where you have lots of flexibility to get creative. It is comprised of three different categories. Tagline is where you should offer people a quick sell of yourself. Who you are, what you do and why they should follow. Make sure it includes keywords you want associated with you in search. Introduction is where you can delve into a little more detail. If you’ve lured them in with your tagline, this section will be the next information they’re after. The Introduction could also include a call to action, like “Add us to your circles today!” The third section of your story is “bragging rights.” This is a section for awards and accomplishments. If you don’t have anything relevant, don’t force it.

Social Media Profiles - Google+ Story

Follow Google’s instructions on how to edit your Google+ profile bio here. 

Images

 Suggested Google+ image dimensions
Suggested Google+ image dimensions
  • Google+ profile picture: 120×120 pixels minimum
  • Google+ cover photo: 1080×608 pixels

Your Google+ profile picture, unlike Facebook and Twitter, will appear as a circle rather than a square. That being said, you still upload that picture as a square; you just need to be aware of what will be cut off when Google crops that photo.

The Google+ cover photo is the large rectangular image that sits to the right of your profile picture. One opportunity unique to Google+ profiles is the ability to make your cover photo a gif rather than a static image. Hootsuite’s cover photo on Google+ is currently a gif that we use to showcase our brand, product and one of our best pieces of content. The purpose of a cover photo is to capture a visitor’s interest, and a gif is a very appropriate and effective means of doing that. If a gif fits with your branding, you may want to get creative and take advantage of this feature.

Learn how to add or update your profile or cover photos, and stay up to date on Google+ recommended profile image sizes here.

Extras

Google+ also offers a variety of options to customize what information publically appears on your profile. You get to chose if photos, YouTube or other videos, +1s and reviews by you can be seen by profile visitors. When it comes to photos and videos you’ve produced, you likely want your audience to see them. They show off your content marketing efforts and offer a bigger picture of who you are and what you do. Public +1s and reviews may not be the best fit for professional profiles however. Consider each field carefully before deciding which to make public. 

LinkedIn

B2B leads with LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s personal and business pages are so different that each one needs its own section. We’ve broken them down separately below.

LinkedIn Personal Profile

Bio 

On LinkedIn, your bio is at the core of effectively using the social network. LinkedIn is a professional social network where you list your experience and expertise in order to attract potential employers, clients or connections. Being that your profile is so essential for this purpose, LinkedIn has made their profiles very substantive. In fact, there are no fewer than 21 sections to your LinkedIn profile. While almost all of these should be filled out, we’ve ranked them roughly in their order of importance and added a line about each one:

  • Name – First and last
  • Headline – Will default to your current job title, but you can customize for more punch and to include key terms for search
  • Summary – LinkedIn describes it as info “about your mission, accomplishments, and goals.”
  • Contact Info – Email, phone, IM, address, Twitter handle and websites.
  • Experience – Professional positions and experience, both jobs and volunteer work.
  • Recommendations – Professional recommendations displayed on your profile are a major asset while on the job hunt.
  • Skills & Endorsements – The skills you list should represent your real strengths, since your contacts will ideally be endorsing you for them. Spend time to make this section very representative of you and your abilities.
  • Industry – Choose from their drop-down menu
  • Location – Important to let people know where you work
  • Education – Where you went to school and what you studied
  • Certifications – Do you have a specific certification that would benefit your job?
  • Publications – Specifically relevant for marketers, writers and researchers
  • Projects – Have you worked on a noteworthy project that would impress connections or employers?
  • Languages – Being bilingual or trilingual can be a major career asset. Share your language skills.
  • Volunteer Experience & Causes – Organizations you support, causes you care about, and the types of volunteer opportunities you’re looking for.
  • Additional Information – If it isn’t professional, keep it out of this section. Your marital status isn’t particularly relevant on LinkedIn.
  • Honors & Awards – Keep these to large, noteworthy awards. Not your ‘most improved softball player’ trophy.
  • Organizations – Be careful of noting political organizations. They could influence hiring.
  • Courses – Only fill this out if your school courses are very relevant to your desired field.
  • Patents – Not very relevant for most of us, but a select few can benefit from this section
  • Test Scores – Generally, skip this. Unless you got a perfect score on the bar exam.

Social Media Profiles - LinkedIn Experience

As a general rule, your LinkedIn profile should be strictly professional. Avoid the humorous or quirky in favor of the straightforward. LinkedIn also favors profiles that are 100% complete, so put in the effort to check off all the boxes in the creation of your profile.

Follow LinkedIn’s instructions on how to update any of your profile sections here.

Gain insight on how to be found on LinkedIn.

Images

 Suggested LinkedIn profile image dimensions
Suggested LinkedIn profile image dimensions
  • LinkedIn profile photo: 200×200 pixels minimum
  • LinkedIn custom background: 1400×425

LinkedIn profile photos should be square headshots. This is a standard that exists for a reason. You can also choose a custom background photo for your profile. Since it is LinkedIn, we recommend choosing a photo with some professional context, or something that speaks to your career.

Extras 

Last year LinkedIn made its publishing platform open to all users, a move that turned the social network into a veritable blogging platform. When you publish a post on LinkedIn, it will appear high up on your profile. This important real estate is a major incentive to start writing posts for your LinkedIn audience. It’s an easy way to extend your reach and impress profile visitors. Think of it like your own mini thought leadership program.

LinkedIn Company Page

Bio

LinkedIn Company Pages require a much smaller set of information than LinkedIn profiles.

  • Company name
  • Company size
  • Type
  • Website
  • Main industry
  • Operating status
  • Year founded
  • And location

These fields are all either self-explanatory or are chosen from a dropdown menu. This leaves only three sections that require effort to fill out.

Social Media Profiles - LinkedIn Company

First, your company description should describe who you are and what you do, and appeal to both prospects and prospective hires. Include links to your website and careers page in this section. 

Next is your company specialties. In this section list key terms that someone who uses your product or service might search for. There are several slots open, so you can get very specific with these specialties. 

Finally, there is a featured groups section which is meant for LinkedIn groups that you participate actively in or are an administrator for. LinkedIn groups are a great way to make connections on the social network, so we recommend actively participating in them. If you see a void on a particular topic, starting a group is a great way for your company to be perceived as an authority or leader on that subject.

Follow LinkedIn’s instructions on how to edit your LinkedIn Company Page. 

Images

Your LinkedIn Business Page has three main images you should take time to optimize.

 Suggested LinkedIn Company Page image dimensions
Suggested LinkedIn Company Page image dimensions
  • LinkedIn standard logo: 100×60 pixels
  • LinkedIn banner image: 646×220
  • LinkedIn square logo: 50×50 

The first is your standard logo, the small icon that appears in a box on the top right of your page. This image will be reused in LinkedIn’s “Companies You Want to Follow” section, which is a great reason to make this image stand out. Make it clear and appealing, since it will be the first impression many LinkedIn users have of your brand. 

Next is your banner image. This appears on your business page under your logo and is the LinkedIn equivalent of a cover image. It’s a bigger, landscape image and should be used to capture people’s attention, while telling your company’s story.

Finally, your business page will need a square logo. It will be used when you post updates and when users search for you, so make it clickable.

Extras

LinkedIn is now an incredibly important part of hiring for many businesses. With that in mind, the social network offers an opportunity to highlight career opportunities on a separate tab within your Company Page. While not immediately visible, this tab would appear on your profile and is worth completing. 

Instagram

Bio

Instagram is likely the simplest social network you will deal with when it comes to your bio. Aside from your username and real name, the only information that appears on your public profile is your website and a short (maximum 150 characters) bio. For your bio, since you’re limited in terms of length, keep things straightforward, but not serious. Say who you are and what you will be sharing photos of, but don’t make it dry.

Social Media Profiles - Instagram Bio

For business accounts, always include any branded hashtags you use. This allows people to browse the hashtag and see what kind of content you produce and promote before they follow you. 

Follow Instagram’s instructions on how to edit your Instagram bio.

Images

 Suggested Instagram image dimensions
Suggested Instagram image dimensions
  • Instagram profile picture: 180×180 

Instagram is unique in the sense that you’ll likely be setting up your profile on mobile first, with only secondary considerations about the web version. Most people use Instagram on mobile, but you can’t ignore the fact that some people will view your profile on their desktop browser. As a result, with Instagram it’s always a good idea to use higher resolution images with greater resolution than required for mobile. 

Your Instagram profile picture will be cropped into a circle on the app, so make sure you choose an image that will look good in that shape. Though the profile picture will be 110 pixels in diameter on the mobile app, it is recommended that you choose a larger square image since it will appear larger on the web.

Learn how to change your Instagram profile photo.

Extras 

It’s worth noting that your Instagram profile will showcase your latest Instagram photos. As a result, every photo you take will potentially take a prominent place on your profile and be the first thing a visitor sees. This is a big reason to take time and share only the best photos, especially if the profile is a professional or branded one. You may be tempted to share a mediocre or low-quality photo because it was taken in a specific context, or features people you want to recognize. However, visitors to your profile won’t understand the context. All they’ll see is a bad photo, and they almost surely won’t follow you.

Consider sticking to a certain style of image, keeping to a specific set of filters or one style of cropping. Doing so will give your Instagram feed a specific brand, making it more recognizable to followers and more consistent to new profile visitors.

Search Engine Marketing Checklist for Hotel Marketers

There are four key channels consumers use when searching for and booking hotels online. These four major online channelsare:

  1. Search engines 
  2. Comparison websites 
  3. Hotel booking engine websites 
  4. Hotel chain/brand websites 

Unless a hotel booking engine website has a stronger brand value than that of major competitors – where the majority of Web traffic will be direct traffic – the most effective channel for generating optimum traffic is from search engines.

Here is a checklist for hotel marketers looking to maximize hotel bookings in multiple Asian markets (including China) from search marketing. 

Search Engine Optimization

  • Always check pages are being indexed by Google and Baidu (or the major search engine of your market) 
  • Identify and optimize the content of the top 100 pages in terms of the highest Google and Baidu organic search traffic from a Web analytics program (e.g. Google Analytics) and review and optimize the internal linking structure of the top 100 pages with the highest Google and Baidu organic search traffic  
  • Also identify the top 100 pages in terms of highest organic search impressions from Google Webmaster Tools reports Review and improve the page title tag, H1 tag, and the META description content of the top 100 pages in terms of highest Google and Baidu organic search impressions 
  • Check the content of the top 100 pages against the content of your other pages in order to eliminate possible duplicate content issues 
  • Examine page URL structure, especially for URLs that may cause duplicate content issues
  • Regularly review suspicious inbound links from Google Webmaster Tools reports and Baidu Webmaster Tools reports 

Paid Search

In paid search accounts, including Google AdWords, Baidu Tuiguang, Bing Ads, and any other local specific search engine accounts, ensure all brand keywords and brand variation keywords are covered, and are all pointing to your hotel booking homepage as the landing page.

Ensure all keywords (and/or all the variations) of the top 100 or even the top 1,000 destinations are covered, and pointing to the correct destination hotel search result page as landing pages.

Keywords (and/or all the variations) of the top 500 or even the top 5,000 hotel names should also be covered, and ensure they are pointing to the individual detailed hotel pages as landing pages.

See the example below: 

6oct2014-gordon-choi-ses-image

You should also review the budget being spent on each type of keyword by reviewing the number of bookings and revenues generated from each type of keyword, and the performance of ads for each keyword.

Landing Page Optimization

A hotel booking engine website should always have three major page types and they normally serve well as landing pages for both paid search campaigns and search engine optimization campaigns:

  1. Homepage 
  2. Destination hotel search results page 
  3. Hotel individual detailed page 

Ensure the main hotel content and layout of the homepage is optimized as a landing page for SEO and paid search, and do the same for destination hotel search results. This is also the time to check the main hotel content and layout of the individual detailed hotel page is optimized as a landing page for SEO and paid search.

Then:

  • Optimize all the elements of the hotel search box on the homepage
  • Optimize the sequence of the hotel search results for each of the top 100 (or even top 1,000) destinations for the destination hotel search results page  
  • Adapt a responsive design for the homepage, hotel search results, and individual detailed hotel page for mobile device users Check the loading speed of the homepage, the destination hotel search results pages, and the hotel individual detailed pages 

Data Reports and Analysis

In order to understand the behavior of website users, examine the data of paid search traffic and organic search traffic against hotel booking engine websites. I will expand on this in a later column, but in short, a good checklist is as follows:

  • Review the ratio of conversions of different device types (i.e. desktop/PC, tablet, and mobile) from paid search traffic 
  • Review the bounce rate metric and the time on-site metric of both paid search traffic and organic search traffic 
  • Review the ratio of new versus returning users of both paid search traffic and organic search traffic 
  • Review the frequency of both paid search traffic and organic search traffic
  • Review the goal funnel reports for both paid search traffic and organic search traffic 
  • Review goal flow reports for both paid search traffic and organic search traffic 
  • Review goal flow by location (i.e. country and/or city) for both paid search traffic and organic search traffic 
  • Review the click and conversion attribution models of paid search traffic in order to maximize the output of paid search marketing budgets 
  • Review the multi-channel funnel data of both paid search traffic and organic search traffic within all traffic sources 
  • For the China market, setup Baidu’s Analytics tool on your website and integrate it with your Baidu paid search account

SES LondonOptimising Digital Marketing Campaigns with Search, Social and Analytics

At SES London (9-11 Feb) you’ll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.