On May 31, Microsoft premiered a “Release Preview” of Windows 8 on their website which features a downloadable version of the upcoming operating system with limited functionality.  Additionally, the release includes several applications that will be integrated into the new Windows environment; which is based on the “Metro” language seen on the Windows Phone OS.  Among the applications included with the preview is a new program called “People”, which is an obvious indicator of Microsoft’s recognition of the impact of social media on Windows users.

Operating Socially
The new Windows People app is designed to seamlessly integrate social media platforms such as Facebook and Google+ directly into the operating system itself.  People’s interface will display notifications from various social networks and allow users to interact and engage on those platforms via the program.  By making social functionality available on a user’s desktop, the accessibility of networking sites is greatly increased and is likely to appeal to a broader audience.

A New Era for Online Marketers?
The impending final release of Windows 8 creates almost endless possibilities for Internet marketing companies and social media marketers and advertisers.  The ability to deliver rich content such as photos and videos directly to a user’s desktop as well as enabling sharing capabilities is very beneficial to SMOs.  Essentially, the People application will not only enhance the reach of such campaigns, but their value, too.  Microsoft’s recognition of the social media trend is not only a milestone for the social networking industry, but it may be the beginning of a new era for online marketers, as well.

In the weeks following the much-discussed Penguin Update, many things have changed for Internet marketers.  Last week, I covered the topic of link building and how it has evolved since Penguin first struck on April 24th.  Today, I’m going to address another major issue affecting digital marketers, bloggers, content developers and business owners alike: Content.

Out With the Old?
It was once said that “Content is King” and until very recently, that was certainly the case.  On-page content was one of Google’s known ranking factors for organic search results and it was considered a crucial one, at that.  Although content still plays an important role in SEO efforts, relevancy has become the new king of the post-Penguin Internet.  Going forward, originality, quality and relevance will be key elements of content development and new marketing strategies will replace those which were rendered ineffective by Penguin.

Re-Inventing the Wheel
Inevitably, search engine algorithm changes lead to new online marketing techniques.  Traditional “article marketing” strategies no longer have substantial value to SEOs.  Additionally, spun articles and paid links are being penalized by the Penguin Update.  In order to remain successful in the SERPs, optimizers and content developers should enhance their social media efforts and use various popular social networks as a marketing platform.  Sharing and promoting articles and blog posts via Facebook, Google+ and Twitter will be increasingly beneficial to campaigns.  The utilization of public relations is also effective in raising brand awareness.  Delivering press releases and guest blogs or articles to legitimate online media outlets helps to establish a company’s identity and authority.

The Future of Content
In the months ahead, Google’s Penguin will continue to analyze content and link profiles and penalize sites for their failure to adhere to best practices.  Blogs, social media and P.R. outlets are legitimate platforms for digital marketers to consider and these are likely to become even more valuable in the future.  With relevancy reigning as the new king, quality will undoubtedly become the foundation of the successful Internet marketing campaigns of tomorrow.

Over the past several years, Google has slowly expanded their business beyond search and even Web-based technology. While the entire Google brand was initially built on the revolutionary search engine pioneered by Larry Page and Sergey Brin; the transition into email, social media and other areas has mostly proven to be a success for the company. Gmail, Google+ and subsidiary, YouTube, are amongst the most frequently visited and most profitable sites on the Internet. In addition to those entities, Google also developed the immensely popular Chrome browser and Android mobile OS. These and other innovations have helped Google maintain a large percentage of the market share in the Internet tech sector and made many of the company’s properties a target for Internet marketing companies and advertisers. However, some of the company’s newest endeavors have left even the most devout Google supporters concerned.

Until somewhat recently, autonomous cars and augmented reality glasses were considered by many to reside in the realm of science fiction, but Google is currently testing these technologies and plans to make both of them publicly available within the next few years. This apparent shift in priorities may seem unusual for Google, but it is actually a hallmark of the brand. When Page and Brin created the first iteration of the Google Search algorithm, it was a radical departure from every other search engine on the Web at the time. However, the fledgling company grew rapidly when its new approach to search proved to be a “game changer” within the industry.

Google’s other subsequent innovations have also contributed to the brand’s success. However, the company has traditionally been structured around emerging and proven Internet-based industries. There is no existing infrastructure to support self-driving automobiles or Google Glasses, which may be a concern for investors, businesses and marketers which have previously profited from the company’s offerings.

There is already much speculation surrounding the search giant’s plans for the future, but it is too early to tell if Google cars and glasses are going to be viable. It is impossible to predict the future, but history has taught us that the past can be an indicator of things to come. If that proves to be true, “Google watchers” should stay informed on all of the company’s works-in-progress. After all, it wouldn’t be Google’s first time conquering a new and potentially competitive industry.

SEO in MexicoI haven’t spent that much time discussing the internet and the potential for internet marketing and SEO in Latin American -yet. It has been an area that just hasn’t received great attention. This is largely due to the fact that internet penetration in Latin America has been slow and the market for building an optimized online presence is not fully developed. Thus is the nature of developing markets, they hold great potential, but each country’s situation is different – it depends on whether they are three years, six years, or more from entering a space where they have the infrastructure, support, business presence, and computing public to push for all the benefits the internet brings. A developed internet landscape not only brings a market for internet advertising and SEO, but it also brings marked social and economic benefits in terms of international development and progress. A McKinsey study interestingly addresses this very point.

With this context, we turn our attention to a leader in internet in Latin America – Mexico. The country has seen significant growth in the internet during the last six years and the government is making it a priority to continue to advance in this realm. From a business perspective, the Mexican market, although being the third most connected in Latin America, is largely underdeveloped in terms of marketing. But as the internet advances in the country, the growth will spell great opportunity for many companies who serve the Mexican market to utilize SEO and optimize their web properties and essentially be ahead of the curve.

The Mexican Market
The Mexican government has unveiled its National Digital Agenda affirming the goals of the government as it outlines its ICT strategy for the years to come. In broad terms the plan sets out to “reduce the digital gap and make a positive impact on the telecommunications markets in Mexico,” according to Mexico’s secretary of communications and transport, Dionisio Pérez Jácome. The stats offered are significant, the number of internet users has doubled since 2006, now reaching 40 million, and in terms of broadband connections, there were 13 million fixed and 7.8 million mobile at the conclusion of 2011. A leading issue is access, as it is far from universal.

Check back tomorrow for the rest of my thoughts on internet in Mexico and how specifically businesses and SEOs can benefit from its advance. For more information on internet use in foreign markets or how international SEO services can benefit your business, reach out to me directly at rbuddenhagen@webimax.com.

Whether your business is based within a brick-or-mortar institution, or it is a solely online venture, one thing is certain: e-commerce is one of the most important aspects of your business to focus on. Why? Well, there is a great deal of data and statistics to support the fact that online shopping – and purchasing – is experiencing a huge increase that is not likely to be slowing down. More importantly, it will never reverse. If you want your business to compete in this new digital age of commerce, it is about time that you extended its products and services to the online world.

For this reason, an essential component of your SEO marketing plan should be the optimization of the design of your online properties, focusing especially on that of your company’s main website. However, if you and the developers on your team have been experiencing some trouble on figuring out the best design, take some tips from a recent article from Mashable. This article provides four great ways to improve the visual appeal of an e-commerce site. Read below to find out what they are.

1. Show off your products with great photography. Your products are the stars of your business’s show, so why wouldn’t you want to display them in the best light possible on your website? Have some great, professional portraits taken of them to feature on your site.

2. Prioritize when it comes to layout and design. In other words, think about what the most important parts of your pages should be, then go downwards from there.

3. Don’t go overboard with dynamic code. Although it may seem tempting to use what will make your page look its best, you must keep in mind the capabilities of the browsers that most of your audience will be using.

4. Optimize your site for mobile devices. E-commerce is very quickly going down the m-commerce route. Stay ahead of the curve by optimizing your site for mobile from the get-go.

Just putting a good deal of thought and creativity into creating a great-looking e-commerce site can go a long way. Don’t hesitate to start improving the visual appeal of your site.

SEO and cultureIn Monday’s post, I introduced the idea of cultural characteristics and looked at power distance. Certain characteristics of culture influence the way people act and experience their world and, of most interest to those in international SEO, experience the internet. Many aspects of certain cultures have changed over time, however core elements of culture tend to remain unchanged, they only adapt to the times. As such, certain tendencies of those from a specific culture can be expected, and as internet marketers, we must cater what we do to best suit the tendencies of a certain market.

With that said, by no means is it a hardened rule. Tendencies are just that, the ways people tend to act when looking at an overall collection of a group – averages. So there are people in a given culture that will receive information differently as they experience the internet, but we are trying to cast the biggest net to purposefully engage the greatest amount of people in the target market. With this understanding, we press on to look at another characteristic of culture, whether a culture is high or low-context. I describe this pair of characteristics in our Casual Friday video for today -check that out for more detail and to hear Todd and I discuss other international SEO issues.

High Context vs. Low Context Cultures
High and low context addresses how much meaning is in the literal words versus the meaning that is attributed to the context in any given conversation or communication interaction. In low context cultures, meaning is more literal and received mostly through explicit descriptions utilizing more in-depth explanation and examples – essentially resulting in more words. In high context cultures, more meaning is given to the context of the interaction, the time of day, the roles of those involved, the place of the business in their industry, the standing of their brand, and any other unspoken understandings – so less explicit, fewer words.

It’s Relevant Impact
How does this impact internet marketing? In terms of web design, on-site content, and social media content, you want to connect with your audience, so if you are targeting those in a low context culture, like German culture for example, you want more explicit detail and explanations, utilizing many examples and thoroughly presenting information. This will give members of the target audience meaning in the form that are most used to dealing with. Conversely, with low context environments, like Japanese and Chinese cultures, content should be more based on contextual understandings based on unspoken understandings like the company’s place in the society, their relationship to their customers, their place in the industry and their resulting responsibilities to the environment for example. Here, marketers want to be less explicit overall, concentrating on offering interesting features that will engage the audience instead of extra detail and descriptions.

In this case with high context-cultures, you do not want to take detail away at the detriment of SEO value, so this needs to be weighed against each other. On one side of the spectrum, you can go high on detail for SEO purposes (while moving away from the cultural norm for high context cultures). On the other side, you can offer less overall detail (appropriate for high context cultures) which equates to less opportunity for SEO. In the end, it is not a black and white issue, there is a middle-ground that you can strike, balancing informative detail for SEO gain and catering to the high context characteristic. Working with search engine optimization consultants to strike this SEO-culture balance without sacrificing either is ultimately a business’ best option at successfully navigating these matters.