Google I/O 2013Google I/O wraps up today, and now it’s opportune to highlight the coincidences of trends and announcements that Google is trumpeting in their Google gloryfest. My approach is to examine each of the highlights from their 3-hour keynote (!) and point out, from a business and web user perspective, what’s missing. Google has had their I/O… now, I get my Google I/O/U.

With assets such as annual revenues larger than that of all states except New York and California and Google Chrome’s 750M active users, Google is becoming the steward of your future. (“Good morning to the Senator from the great state of Google!”)

Google leverages their wealth of data and huge ad revenues to provide web users worldwide with free services. Americans are quite familiar with this revenue model. News comes in a free form, but you will be force-fed ads to earn the right to consume it.
In an effort to keep a clean balance sheet, it’s time to consider, “What does Google owe me?” and “What do I owe Google”?

Unification of Google Services
Microsoft Office Suite. Adobe Creative Suite. User Experience has vaulted thanks to some of the most-visible integrations of programs and cloud support. Uniting apps and functionality common to a vertical is old news. (We won’t even go into the controversy of ‘subscription-based software’ in the cloud). But it’s easy to see the wisdom behind merging Google+ and other Google services. User interfaces have undergone cosmetic changes that make them much more consistent across services. The integrations must go well beyond superficial, and that behind-the-scenes sharing of data has begun. Sharing of data within Google is well within their Terms of Service, so there is no protest. But has their integration efforts gone far enough? Most think not, if you read the forums and comments.

Google I/O/U: More effective options to combine accounts for improved cross-functionality and User Experience. Merge Google+ Local (formerly Places), Gmail, YouTube, etc. Put users in control of how the merging works.

Google I/O/U: While I am at it, let me state that Google services require better interfaces. Across the board. Most users I consult with on a daily basis have the same disregard (and sometimes, disrespect) for Google User Interfaces and User Experience. They suck. The level of simplicity and cosmetic appearance has improved, but have they become more intuitive? Many think not.

Big Data is a Big Deal
Google has earned their seat at the Big data table (Hadoop, anyone?), as advertisers push the edge of peta-scale data accumulation and synthesis. Some appreciate the targeted advertising that results. Some are horrified by the creepiness of so much ‘personal’ data being shared and sold and acted on.

The lack of debate about whether this is creepy or cool, the technology industry has been ranked the world’s most-trusted for the seventh consecutive year, according to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer.

At the same time, Android developer Dan Nolan of Australia found that Google provides programmer access to personal identity of app buyers, reviewers and trials.

Google I/O/U: There is nothing more valuable than User Trust. Earn it. Don’t burn it.

Google+
Google+ has a lovely, new layout on the desktop that has been described as being more like Pinterest. More columns. Wow. More data visible at once on the screens of a dying race of desktop machines. Zzz.

Google I/O/U: Mobile experience of Google+ on iOS is only fair at best. It needs better profile edibility, for one thing. Make it so.

Cards are a visual nicety, that ‘flip’ over to reveal more data on the reverse (shades of MacOS ‘Widgets’). This plays on a visual metaphor that is familiar to consumers, and provides a framework for greater use of that convention. Cards come in six ‘flavors’ and mix your habits, searches, commuting routes and more into an ever-tightening web of useful information.

Google I/O/U: Droid Voice Search and Cards have invaded iOS. How long before advertisers have the option to use the reverse of these cross-platform cards to flip to reveal Ads? Better still, ads that use all of the Circles, Search and other data to be tightly targeted, at massive scale?

Related Hashtags emerged from Google I/O as Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr and other Social Networks ride Twitter’s coattails to parlay content keywords into an ecosystem that enables better-informed Search, brand messaging and tracking of trends. google’s version will likely leverage their hoary old content analysis algorithm to discern keywords, and then their AI backend of search queries and subsequent search queries and personal preferences to add Related Keywords in the form of #hashtags. Excellent integration of a maturing user convention is on the horizon. Whether this becomes reflexive or intrusive depends on implementation, thus, it’s a crapshoot, but worth the gamble.

Google I/O/U: Bottle that Related Hashtag ability. Make it a form of metadata (similar to Facebook’s pervasive OGP) to reside in the Social Media, or, as an App that can be added. Open Graph Protocol affords Facebook an eye into one’s off-network web activities, provides authentication services, and records Likes and other forms of interaction. Could Google drive in the harpoon to leverage a similar inside job on Facebook and other Social Media? If so, Google’s own ability to provide incisive hashtagging could also feed those instances into search for general consumption. The mind reels at the possibilities. Better perception of social mentions for Google. Better and more immediate social monitoring for users, right there in their Search. For free, the Google way.

Auto-Enhance. OK, welcome to the club. Auto-Awesome. Better. Auto-Animations. All bets are off. The claim is that image processing and AI can store and examine all of your photos (those that you don’t hide from Google) and integrate portions to arrive at a better result (described as gathering all smiling faces from a series of group portraits to amalgamate one image where every subject is smiling. Other features include Collages (which any graphic software can do), Animations (AniMoto and other web services have done this for years), Panoramas (heck, my daughter’s Fuji digicam does that during shooting), Collections (from masses of uploaded photos). The good news and the bad news are simply two sides of the same coin. Yes, it’s automated. And, yes, it happens without you.

Google I/O/U: Control, Privacy — ask first. Give users an editing environment so they can have the fun. They will endorse the result better when they have put their fingerprint on it. Sharing will likely increase as a result. Oh, and please retrain all of those artists and photographers.

Google Talk Voice Search
Better than Siri? This could be the case, as Google sells the public back Google’s accumulated knowledge of themselves (G+, Google Search, Gmail, etc.).

Google I/O/U: Conversing with a personal digital assistant (RIP, Steve Jobs) is fun and all.  Give me the rest of the robot.

Music to My Ears

All Access, Google’s newly-announced $9.99 monthly streaming music service provides interest-based ‘radio station’ playlist suggestions (patent issues, anyone?). It also enables local ‘storage’ of songs. Great. Rdio and Spotify must be quaking in their boots. Owing to the service’s ubiquity, iTunes may develop a small tremor.

Google I/O/U: Wired magazine described the Netflix contest to inspire a better algorithm to surface “content suggestions” for movie-watchers. This is a huge challenge. Will it be any easier for All Access to stimulate users to more listening based on recorded interests?

Google Play
A Google developer advocate announces that they, “want the whole world to play together”. Development APIs come and go, morph and change, but their own Play developer API is now open and platform-agnostic. This goes beyond the “Open Garden” concept of moving one’s gameplay fluidly from a tablet to a laptop. Games developed on this platform can be platform agnostic. Droid devices can play games against iOS devices and other platforms.

Google I/O/U: Riveting games.

Google Maps
On the desktop, more usable screen area will be devoted to map. Then, Google will now scatter data all over the Map. Connections. Nearby. Search data.

Google I/O/U:
Be graceful in the visual interface. Some users will not appreciate clutter on the maps they are trying to see.

What’s Missing
Google Fiber did not make it to the list of Keynote highlights. As their noble experiment proceeds, to provide connection speeds 100 times faster than most of today’s broadband internet access, are consumers excited over the prospect of instant downloads and high-def communications? The tech industry, media execs and others in industry have been following the progress as it rolls out to more cities (experiment, or slow roll-out?). Yet, as disruptive as this could become, where is the hoopla? I recall a time recently, when networks ran to keep up with CPU speed. Now, CPU speeds offered by mobile devices and a faltering desktop PC industry will race to chase new throughput speeds. Whoa. Paradigm shift.

Google I/O/U: Testimonials. Consumers need to tell America whether Google Fiber has been a life-changing experience, or not.

Google Unity
Google’s efforts to entwine ‘products’, combine knowledge bases, share user profiles, and cross-pollinate are well-received. This is a welcome attempt to make strategic sense of how, “Google’s own services have been fragmented or confused at times”, according to Google Android Leader Sundar Pichai.

After-the-fact, ad hoc hybridization is a sloppy, inefficient process. In addition to opportunity, it creates development dead-ends and evolutionary cul-de-sacs (anyone recall the duck-billed Platypus?). But that process is organic and evolutionary. God would have a plan. Google has a process. It burgeons, however inefficiently, into the future. Skynet, anyone?

Google I/O/U: Continue innovating, but for goodness’ sake, don’t be evil. Have a plan, and share it.

SEO 101 - WebiMax.com

In the early days of the Internet, text was the predominant medium through which information was shared with the masses.  In a time before broadband connections, HD videos and even Facebook, the Web was more about functionality than style.  While these technical limitations made for a lackluster user experience, they did create a solid blueprint for today’s Internet.

When the Web was ruled by text and rudimentary HTML code, pages had to be coded very efficiently in order to load quickly and images and videos were simply out of the question.  Although text still plays a crucial role in the modern Internet, technological advancements have placed multimedia and rich content front-and-center.

NCS Mosaic vs. Google Chrome - WebiMax.com
A Tale of Two Browsers: From Mosaic to Chrome – The Evolution of Digital Content

A Changing of the Guard
As YouTube, Pinterest and other popular sites geared toward images and videos continue to grow, the focus has begun to shift away from text as the primary form of content on the Internet.  Today, virtually every website utilizes extensive imagery or video content to engage audiences.  Social networks are certainly no exception.

In fact, social media posts or tweets containing images or videos are more likely to be shared or “liked” than those exclusively comprised of text.  The bottom line is – rich content is the key to a more effective Social Media marketing strategy.

How to Engage Your Audience with Photos & Videos
Though I specifically cited YouTube and Pinterest as “media-focused” networks, other social profiles can equally benefit from rich content.  Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn have all recently added enhanced video and photo integration capabilities for user and business profiles.  This functionality allows users to more easily display rich and engaging content.

However, it is always important to consider your audience.  When creating new rich content, first ask yourself if your consumers would find it helpful or intriguing.  Originality, creativity and even humor are all elements of successful content.  Keep it relevant, fun and informative.  Developing infographics, instructional videos, customer testimonials and new or upcoming product photos are all engaging ways to reach your social following.

Every successful Social Media Optimization and Marketing campaign begins with delivering quality content to your followers.  By offering up unique, captivating videos and images as part of your content strategy, you’re well on your way to Social Media success!


Want to learn how to get even more from your Social Media marketing campaign?  Ask our Experts or share your thoughts in the comments below!

SEO 101 - Bringing It All Back Home

A common concern (or more accurately, misconception) amongst business owners is that Internet marketing is an unquantifiable or even abstract enterprise.  Although any SEO would vehemently disagree and offer up a plethora of resources which serve to disprove such claims; there are still doubters.

So, how exactly does one measure the ROI of search engine optimization, social media marketing, public relations or any other aspect of online marketing?  It all comes back to where SEO began – Google.

Thinking Analytically
Before Google Analytics was first unveiled in 2005, there were only a handful of third-party traffic and conversion statistics reporting tools available on the Web.  While some of these proved to be fairly effective, none have quite lived up to Google’s proprietary service.  In fact, Google Analytics remains the most widely-used application of its kind to this day.

WebiMax - Google AnalyticsAn SEO’s Best Friend: The Google Analytics Dashboard

Not only does Analytics provide advanced functionality for experts, but it delivers viable real-time data that business owners can understand and use to get more from their site and improve their bottom line.  By tracking traffic sources, gathering visitor data and learning which pages on your site are receiving the most views, you’re able to not only improve conversion rates, but easily re-strategize your entire online marketing plan with relative ease, as well.

The Winds of Change
Traditional marketing and advertising initiatives are still effective for many businesses; however, determining the cost-benefit of these efforts is still a difficult process.  Today, even some of the world’s largest and most recognized companies have turned to the Internet to increase their sales and utilize Analytics to boost their lead generation and conversion optimization efforts.

As more brands begin to hop on the digital marketing bandwagon, traffic and conversion reporting has become an even more valuable asset.  With Google firmly maintaining its position at the forefront of the analytics game, the search engine that started it all is bringing it all back home by offering one of the single most useful tools for businesses.

Thanks to resources such as Google Analytics, much of the skepticism surrounding Search Engine Optimization is beginning to dwindle.  With statistics reporting and tracking tools providing solid facts and definitive data to back the claims of marketers, one thing is evident – a strong online marketing plan is a necessity for virtually every business.

Over the years, link building has changed. Anonymity, once a tool of the trade, will no longer take you far. If you truly want a link building campaign to succeed, you need to stay two steps ahead of your competition and three steps ahead of Google.

No longer can you afford to do the bare minimum when building high quality backlinks. You need to make sure that your competitors cannot duplicate them. By building a relationship with a fellow website in your related industry niche, you will be able to reach out to an audience you were unable to before and receive a high quality backlink that will make Google give you goo-goo eyes. You’ll also leave your competitor wondering how you got that perfect link.

Outreach emails are one method of building relationships, but they can be tricky.  So, for this Manager Monday, I thought I’d go over a few simple tips and tricks to make the job easier.

Simple Outreach
Let’s pretend you’ve done your research and have compiled the perfect list of websites you would like to reach out to in order for them to share your spectacular content.

First, let me start off by saying outreach isn’t easy. But it isn’t hard either.  Below you can find a few tips that will hopefully improve your email-to-link ratio.

  1. First and foremost, make sure your email is free of spelling and grammatical errors. There is nothing worse than receiving an email that sounds like it was put together by a third grader–or worse. Also, if the language you use isn’t your native tongue, own up to it. There should be no shame in being multilingual.
  2. What’s in it for them? Let’s be honest here; no one does anything for free. So why should the recipient link to you? If you can’t answer that question then they won’t be able to either. Don’t assume that they will be able to connect the dots. Do it for them. Perfectly lay out what they will get in return.
  3. Personalize. Make each and every email as unique as possible. Does this take a little extra time? Definitely. But the results speak for themselves. There is no point in sending out 1,000 cookie-cutter emails if you don’t receive a single link in return.  In this day and age, spam is everywhere. Make your email stand out by talking about previous posts the recipient has done or by mentioning something they said on one of their social media profiles. Show them that you did your research and it will greatly increase your chances in either a link back or the beginning of a relationship.

Outreach Tools to Make the Job Easier

Buzzstream
Buzzstream manages all of your link building needs. If you are unorganized, like me, this will be extremely useful.

Buzzstream

 

Rapportive via Gmail
Rapporative is a Gmail plugin to help you manage your contact information.

 Rapportive

Boomerang via Gmail
Boomerang is an easy-to-use Gmail plugin that will help you schedule emails and reminders–nothing like reaching out for a linking opportunity and missing out on it because you forgot to follow up.

Boomerang

Raven Tools
Since they discontinued their rank tracker, Ravel Tools has been updating older tools and offering new ones.  For outreach, I use their CRM and Link Manager.

 Raven

And That’s It
To wrap it up: do your homework, make sure you don’t sound like a third grader and tell them how they benefit. That’s it. Like I said earlier, outreach isn’t easy but it isn’t hard either. Let me know if you have any questions about the above tools in the comments!

Think of the world of content marketing like an aisle in a grocery store. Google is in charge of stocking the shelves, and they place the best products right where the shopper can see them. In the world of supermarkets, companies pay for that prime space. In the world of organic SEO, Google chooses the products that offer their “shoppers” the best value.

So, the question is, how do you offer the most value in a competitive environment? You present your products in a unique and engaging way. By being unique, your website can enjoy the equivalent of a showcase display at the front of the aisle.

Help your visitors find what they need quickly with great content. Help visitors find what they need quickly with great content.

Our marketing experts need the answer to two simple questions to get the ball rolling on an exciting and unique content marketing strategy:

1. Who is your target consumer base?

2. What do you offer your customers?

After these questions are answered, your onsite content needs to be reviewed to ensure you are at least providing the essential message your visitors are looking for. Your pages should be set up to offer the maximum convenience to your guest. Keywords and links will naturally find their way into the copy when written with this strategy in mind.
When users are unable to scan your website and determine if you have the information they are looking for within seconds, they are gone. And, if it is clear what you offer, your content better keep their attention with a great hook.

Hook ‘em with Humor

In organic SEO, there is no better bait than engaging content.

While there are several ways to hook your audience, one of the most overlooked avenues is humor. The Internet is about connectivity–people love to share something interesting or humorous with their friends and family. When your content has your customers saying, “You have to read this!” Google will recognize the value you offer searchers.

Of course, before you ever add humor to your webpages or daily blogs, you need to realize that humor is the seasoning to the informational steak. It’s okay to be funny when your core message is clear. When the two merge, your website can start turning readers into buyers.

Sometimes standing out from the crowd takes courage. Many businesses shy away from humor at the risk of being offensive. This is certainly understandable, but not all humor has to be so blue. For instance, think of Google. They once debuted Gmail Motion on April Fool’s Day. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a special occasion for Google to bring the funny. Think of all the different Google Doodles on their homepage that always provide sharable, buzz-worthy content. As long as humor is geared toward your user base and is sprinkled in with plenty of high-quality and informative copy, it can be a great way to separate your company from your competitors.

Utilizing humor through infographics or instructrographics is another great way to provide fun, sharable content for your social media campaigns. When you create something funny, promote it through your Facebook, Twitter and other social outlets. It will humanize your business and help potential customers build up some trust in your brand.

If humor isn’t an outlet your business can work with, don’t worry. When you inform, instruct, or relate to your audience in creative and valuable ways, it produces a relationship with your customers, and that’s the hook you need. Then, when SEO techniques bring in more traffic, your content can help reel in the sales.

The folks at Nielsen are pretty good at media market research and providing extensive (and more importantly accurate) data within various verticals including entertainment, advertising and recently, a growing industry which combines both:  Social Media.

In this year’s Social Media Report which Nielsen released earlier today, a staggering statistic was revealed regarding social media usage – Americans collectively spent 121.1 billion minutes on social networks in July of 2012 alone!

Nielsen's 2012 Social Media Report
Image Courtesy of Nielsen

According to the infographic published by Nielsen, 5.7 billion of those minutes were logged via mobile devices, 40.8 billion were through apps and somewhat surprisingly, 74 billion minutes were attributed to desktop/laptop users.  Even more surprisingly, apps and PCs experienced significantly more growth in this sector than smartphones and tablets.

What’s less shocking is Facebook’s continued dominance in the social media industry.  The world’s largest social network accumulated an average of over 300 million visitors per month this year.  Facebook also proved to be the most engaging network in terms of audience retention, as users spent more time on the site than any networks such as Google+, Twitter or Pinterest.

Speaking of Pinterest, the up-and-coming, visually-appealing social startup has earned the title of Fastest Growing Network of 2012, having grown by over 1,000% since 2011.  Blogger, Twitter, WordPress and LinkedIn were amongst the other top networks this year.

What do these stats mean for business owners?  Most importantly, they’re an undeniable indicator of social media’s staying power and usefulness as a marketing tool.  Every minute that a user spends on a networking site sharing, following and liking is another opportunity for businesses to achieve greater consumer awareness and gain new customers.  With literally billions of minutes a month being spent on social media, those opportunities are virtually limitless.

Furthermore, these statistics show that while Facebook is the most obvious target for Social Media Optimization & Social Media Marketing campaigns, rapidly emerging networks like Pinterest are truly capable of gaining market share and getting noticed in the social media landscape and shouldn’t be overlooked as potential marketing platforms.  The data speaks for itself: Social Media is a valuable resource for businesses and those not utilizing it are undoubtedly missing out on one of the world’s largest and most effective promotional outlets.

What are your thoughts on Nielsen’s 2012 Social Media Report?  I’d like to know your thoughts on how social media marketing will change in the year ahead.  Leave a comment below, send an email or a tweet with your opinions and insights on the future of Social Media!