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The Marketing Spark

How To Spy on Your Online Startup Competition

SEOmoz Logo, Spyfu Logo, Seesmic Logo, IceRocket Logo, TweetDeck Logo MashupIt can be difficult to keep up with changes in the search engine optimization industry. If you’re a small startup it can be even more of a challenge.

How do you decide what tactics to use for your business? It’s a good idea to try checking in on your competitors in your industry and see what they’re using. For instance, set up Google Alerts for each of the companies you want to keep your eye on.

When Google finds something new as it travels through the Internet it will e-mail and let you know. Set up a spreadsheet for each competitor that includes tabs for links, blogs, directories, industry publications and other facts about each. You can easily see how companies are talking about your competition and find other marketing opportunities.

As a small business owner you also want to be sure that your business is mentioned in the right places online. Get your competitors saved as search terms and like Google Alerts you will receive e-mails from Social Mention detailing who is talking about your competition, what they are saying and whether the sentiment is good or bad. You may also want to check out Icerocket, Addict-o-matic, Seesmic, or TweetDeck to be kept up to date.

Another idea is to use Open Site Explorer to get details about the sites that link to your competition. Other options are the SEOmoz tools: Competitive Link (Link Analysis), Research Tool, Keyword Analysis and Crawl Test.

If you are running or thinking of running a PPC campaign for your business then you should think about getting SpyFu. This allows you to download keywords that your competitors are using and borrow and improve ideas for your own successful campaigns.

4 Ways to Find Who Is Linking To Your Site

The quantity and quality of links to your website is still the most important factor that determines your site’s rankings in Google and Bing. If you are putting in a lot of effort and resources in gaining these precious links, you will want to keep track of the progress you are making. Tracking your links can be as simple as entering the links that you have won in an Excel spreadsheet or Google spreadsheet. I like to keep a list of links in Google Docs in order of the date they were won with additional information like authority metrics of the linking site. It can be very rewarding to see this list grow substantially over time into a much bigger list.

1. Look at Referring Traffic From Google Analytics
If you are getting traffic from other sites then they must be linking to you. You can periodically check your Google Analytics for all the sites that are sending you visitors. Then scan the list for sites that you didn’t know were linking to you.

2. Use Multiple Third Party Link Tools like Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer
SEO tools that index the Internet’s links are very helpful in finding the sites that link to you. SEOMoz and Majestic SEO index billions of webpages and provide significantly more link data than Google provides. These are both paid tools, although Majestic SEO allows you to check your own site’s links for free if you sign up for a free account. It is a good idea to use both because each tool can find links that the other tool has missed.

3. Look in Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools allows users to see a portion of your inbound links that it knows about. Additionally, Bing Webmaster Tools recently released a beta version of their link tool called Link Explorer. It shows a list of links to your site and can also show a list of links to other websites as well.

4. Search in Google for your URL
Although this doesn’t work perfectly, if you search in Google for your URL the search results will include webpages with a link to your site. You can narrow your search to within the last week or month by clicking on “Show Search Tools” on the left side of the search results page.

Then look for webpages that show up. Some of these pages (often a good portion) will have a link to your site. You can also check the source code to see if they have your URL on the page by right clicking and selecting view page source and then using Control+F to search for your URL.

Microblogging vs. Traditional Blogging (Why Social Matters)

There are several reasons for the demise of traditional blogging.

For one thing, writing a blog post takes time, energy and grammar skills. The cycle of sharing of ideas and thoughts, has in many forms, outgrown blogging, or evolved beyond the concept of blogging. The ability to share a recommendation or a vote of confidence for thoughts, interests and predictions within the online marketing industry in a more instantaneous way is more gratifying for some bloggers.

Someone using Twitter can became less interested in the traffic and ad impressions, but more engaged in the conversation.  Does this mean that blogging is not as fun or influential as it once was? No. Blogging is still a powerful medium. But in the same way blogging once complemented established websites and news vehicles, microblogging – or micropublishing – now complements blogging.

Social Media Equals Social Proof

Links no longer need to be uploaded to a server using poor dial up service. Now a link can be shared from a phone in only seconds. What Facebook, Twitter and Google+ do is bring authenticity to content because these social networks are transparent, as user interests, likes, groups and followers all can define the intent and relevancy of the user. When someone shares a link that is associated with a “like” it’s a vote of confidence. By adding a like button to a website or blog post, that same vote of confidence and authenticity is attributed to its source.

Almost anyone can become an influencer on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and Google+ and some even have without knowing they have. Incorporating social media metrics into SEO is powerful.

It’s true that the bulk of an SEO algorithm is still very dependent upon a style of linking which has been around for many years and involves publishers. Yet, with social network based Instapublishing, the people who never wanted to blog, and never really were exposed to it, are getting to be almost as influential as publishers.

Are Social Signals Equal to Crowd Sourced SEO?

According to Bing, they look at the social authority of a user and Google confirmed that the sharing of information via retweeting and sharing is influential in organic web search and Google News. These confirmations are heavy reasons to get started utilizing the social web and microblogging as ways to grow your site or business in the eyes of the search engines. Google+ essentially confirmed that social signals are paramount to web success and the visibility that Google search results page offer.

Google & Bing are looking at more than the coded link and on-site content to rank and file web search results. Essentially they are looking at how the microbloggers of the world, share and process information. By embracing and engaging the world of insta-publishing, businesses and publishers can gain an upper hand on their competition.

The link has evolved over the past decade and ultimately search has evolved along with it. We’ve gone from hand coded HTML to blogging to tagging and now tweeting, reblogging and recommending. Push button publishing and voting is now a part of the normal online lifestyle and whether Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr users know it or not, they are part of a publishing migration that the search engines are slowly adapting to.

3 Signs Your Startup Needs a PR Firm

I Love Public Relations ButtonMany companies try to market themselves on their own. The problem is that expertise in technology can only go so far when it comes to building a brand, creating influence and inspiring the kind of word of mouth that can lead to more sales.

Without an understanding of how the world of print, digital and social media work, marketing efforts can fall flat or become a giant waste of time. These are three possible signs a company may need to enlist the expertise of a public relations firm.

  1. Not enough press. When an industry publication or blogger mentions your company, it’s one thing. When those publications tell a story about your company in a way that inspires readers to find out more or even buy from you, that’s another. Random and casual media coverage will not grow a business.
  2. You’re boring. Companies that create technology are often so close to it, they only see the original problem and solution. This story can’t be the only one a business tells. Publications lose business without interesting news. PR firms can help find interesting stories and know how to develop a media list, research writers and plan editorials.
  3. The CEO isn’t friendly with media. Company founders often can’t imagine why anyone would not be as excited as they are about their company. If a CEO insists that someone look at their product and is too pushy that can start things off on the wrong foot and kill any chance of coverage in the future.

Mozcon 2012 Liveblog

We are here at MozCon 2012 to provide semi-live coverage of the awesome group of speakers that SEOMoz has brought together (the Wifi is spotty so updates are slightly delayed).mozcon

DAY ONE:
MozCon Intro - Rand Fishkin
-Content marketing is becoming more critical for SEO.
-The algo changes this year have been remarkable/huge.
-Seomoz received an unnatural link message.
-Seomoz has 56.9% keyword data not provided.
-Google is taking an impressive stand on social issues.
-Penguin was needed for the credibility of whitehat statements.
-In 4 out of 5 searches Rand doesn’t see a difference when using Bing.
-There are a ton of niche social networks.
-Average conversion on Seomoz has visited 7 times.
-Last touch attribution is important.
-SEO is more dynamic than say orthodontics.
-You can’t retain people in this industry if they don’t love their job.
-Tailwind creative built a job board at jobs.inbound.org
-Seomoz has a new API.
-Stonetemple did a survey analysis on Seomoz vs Majestic and they were about even.
-Seomoz is around 76 full time folks (last year about 50).
-Amazing having Brad Feld of Foundry on the board.
-Big announcements coming up in about 30 days.
-Moz.com/rand is a new regular blog by Rand.

35 Ways to Get Links - Paddy Moogan
-Link building is not that easy.
-It is easy for sites like Mashable that have the authority.
-Rand’s link building tool is the publish button.
-Back in 2005 Rand’s blog had few comments and links.
-Inbound marketing has gotten Rand to where he is today.
-Paddy still has to do monthly SEO reports.
-It’s hard to report when you didn’t get any links.
-If you are not delivering results monthly, clients will get nervous.
-The tactical wins help you keep your job.
-Bookbait is to get a lot of people’s input and put it into a book.
-Put an embed code in an embed code.
-dis.tl/mozcon-embed
-Take photos, ask people for photo credit if they link to it.
-Google image reverse search can help find your photos on the Web.
-Search for byline of competitor’s guest posts. They often use the same byline.
-Search competitor’s links for “guest posts” in OSE.
-Tools: blogdash, bloggerlinkup, guestr.com.
-Provide partial access to paid content if traffic is from a link.
-Use rapportive to find emails. It provides information if you guess the right email address.
-Buzzstream shows your conversion rates for different email templates.
-Provide an embed code for good photos when someone right clicks.
-dis.tl/moz-script
-Use Google image reverse search to find sites that have added your competitor’s badge.
-Restaurant created a sign showing blogger recommendations.
-Ask bloggers what type of content their community wants.
-Search followerwonk for “writer for mashable”
-Boomerang is a tool that can schedule emails.
-Boomerang tells you when someone hasn’t replied to your email.
-When someone is quoted, it is easier to ask for a link to the individual’s profile page.
-If they tweet about your content, they may be willing to embed it.
-Use IFTTT to follow up with people who mention you on Twitter.
dis.tl/if-this
-It is quite easy to build a pool of freelance writers.
-Offer to double fee if writers also place the article on a site.
-dis.tl/mozcon-tweet
-Sponsor a meetup in your area (find them at Meetup.com). People will love you if you sponsor the drinks.
-Do a local meetup for bloggers and give them SEO tips.
-Getting people to like you gets you links.
-Secret tip about affiliates.
-Check my links chrome plugin. Use OSE to find sites linking to the same 404.
-Create a Spotify playlist for your niche.
-Create a product page that lowers the price when it gets a certain number of Tweets.
-Ask people if they have a website in the conversion form.
-Put a Konami code on your website to activate different discounts every day.
-dis.tl/link-recipes
-Use infogr.am allows you to build an infographic in about an hour.
-This is a good idea to get buy in for your infographic idea.
-Find blogger’s Amazon wishlist, buy it, and include a note.
-Search Google for Amazon top reviewers that have their own website.
-dis.tl/moz-guest a custom search engine for guest posts.
-dis.tl/guest-blogs a list of guest blog sites.

Build the Agile SEO Framework - Jon Colman
-Google told us in April that they made 52 changes
-REI.com has 27% not provided.
-Shoppers are using mobile to do price comparisons in the store.
-Big organizations are incapable of making changes and adapting quickly.
-One thing at a time doesn’t work.
-Agile marketing helps your organization change faster.
-Do user research and customer personas.
-Bring customers in to test and then adapt right away.
-Balsamiq provides rapid prototypes.
-Enable direct conversations between silos.
-Break down silos and minimize meetings.
-bit.ly/meetcost calculates the cost of a meeting.
-Most good things happen when teams work together, not at meetings.
-A daily standup meeting focuses on what you did, what you are doing today, and any obstacles.
-Trello.com is a great tool for agile.
-Stay biased on action.
-One team member does nothing but remove imediments (scrum master role).
-Figure out what you do that doesn’t provide value and get rid of it.
-Ship often. It makes adapting to changes easier.

Community as Inbound – Jen Lopez
-UWrightnow showed what was going on in their community every hour.
-Your community includes your brand advocates, content generators, customers, forum participants.
-A cake pop recipe got 8 thousand pins
-Seomoz received 1.9 million visits in one month.
-Get help from your team.
-You have to care about your community.
-There is a Google plus search.
-Listen to what you community wants and make it happen.
-Seomoz uses Cotweet

How Relationships Drive Link Building – Jon Henshaw
-Building relationships is hard.
-People don’t want to be sold something.
-Full contact is a useful tool (requires coding).
-People see when you leave comments or share their content.
-Use a CRM like Raven. It allows you to add tasks like Tweet to a person every 3 days.
-If you do things for people they will often reciprocate.
-The outcome is you will connect with the friends of your friends.
-Go above and beyond can and it can result in links.
-Helping others can result in natural links.
-You can get invited to secret groups of influential people.
-Helping out your friends when they need help can result in them helping you a lot in the future.
-Think about relationships as long term.

Badass Excel Tips and Tricks for Your Data – Annie Cushing
-You can add any tool to the quick access bar (Windows).
-Format your data into tables.
-This allows you to filter your data.
-Control, down is a shortcut to go to the end of a column.
-Control A can select all the cells in your table.
-You can format cells to be different colors.
-You can create links to a tab from a cell – great for creating dashboards.
-You can add data bars to cells with conditional formatting.
-When meeting with clients find out what makes them tick, like ranking for SAT prep.
-bit.ly/annie-mozcn pw mozcon
-Search Annie Cushing Excel for more Excel SEO tutorials
-Pivot charts don’t work on Mac Excel.

Web Spam Research: Good Robots vs Bad Robots – Matt Peters
-Seomoz working on a spam metric.
-Google already uses a spam metric in their algorithm.
-Machine learning gathers data and then predicts something.
-Google will ban a legitimate site with a lot of spam pointing to it.
-Long title tag correlates with spammy sites.
-High percentage of anchor text is a potential spam signal.
-Banned is a manual penalty where the site is not in the index.
-Seomoz found that MozTrust is an strong predictor of spam.
-Larger unbranded anchor text correlated with higher percentage of spam.
-Low internal anchor text correlated with higher percentage of spam.
-High CPC can indicate commercial intent of a keyword phrase.
-Fake blogs have no comments, tweets, or shares.
-The Google algorithm also detects near duplicate content.

Beyond Link Building: Real Companies Do Real Things – Wil Reynolds
-You shouldn’t talk about linkjuice to clients, talk about revenue.
-3 way link exchanges is not real company stuff, and is why SEO doesn’t get respect.
-Frame your work in a way that sounds like a real company would do it.
-Google is rewarding brand activity.
-Wil didn’t go to school to be a dofollow finder.
-Work with companies that stand for something and are willing to give freely (like data).
-If you need to do a reinclusion request you want to be able to point to real company stuff.
-Find journalists and writers who are following you on Twitter.
-Show if your competitor’s followers are top writers.
-Find events your company is doing.
-Seer did a blood drive at their office to help the community.
-Use ubersuggest with your head keyword, check the rankings, and highlight the ones that are not ranking.
-Set up Google alerts for major content to see if anyone copies it.
-Wil gets a lot of ideas from Google Suggest.
-Look at Quora suggest for ideas.
-Get as close to revenue as possible.
-Clients love it when you increase revenue.
-Search: your product vs : people are deep in the funnel for this search.
-Do things that actually add value.
-Search strategy should be driving content – a marketing VP.
-SEO is the bottom-feeders of the marketing industry.

Social Tools & Data Mining: Making a Case for Content Strategy – Mike King
-Mike starts off with an amazing rap to the Mad Men theme
-You need a compelling data driven pitch to sell content.
-Content is the glue of inbound marketing.
-You have to take a stand if the client doesn’t want to do content.
-SEO people should be doing marketing research.
-iAquire creates a one sheet summary of customer personas.
-Personas need empathy for the individual who use the product.
-Nielsen segmented everyone in the US into 66 personas.
-Google consumer surveys can provide market research.
-You can compare personas in Yahoo Clues.
-Map your keywords to the customer funnel.
-People looking at infographics aren’t ready to buy.
-Social crawlytics provides share counts by URL.
-When you are pitching, it is all about the story.
-There are 7 story archetypes: comedy, rebirth, monster: stick to them.
-Don’t overpromise when pitching.
-Authora is a new author search engine. It helps you find authors by topic.
-Use Topsy to see how your content is being shared.
-Brokenlinkindex.com helps find broken links. Go to the wayback machine and determine if the content is worth rebuilding.
-Focus on the story not the data.
-Tie everything back to ROI.
-You going up against guys like Don Draper.
-Speak in the language of your client.
-Causes of failed pitches: weak presentation via email, leaving out key stakeholders, not showing the value, relying too much on data.

mozconDAY TWO:

Link Analytics Through API – Richard Baxter
-You can create an Excel version of SEOMoz using the API, which can present data in different ways.
-APIs are really just a source of information.
-You can pull a list of links and what IP address they are using.
-Jason is a useful API for social media data.
-Things you can pull: whois email, PageRank, Twitter handle.
-Seogadget provides a links API extension for Excel
-Seomoz APIs: URL metrics, links API, anchor text, top pages.
-The extension grabs all this data with simple functions.
-Bit flags are helpful.
-Asking for batches of data instead of one URL at a time is friendlier to the API and quicker.
-SEOgadget has free Excel templates that use the Seomoz API that you can download from their site.
-One template fetches the emails of your competitor’s best links (this is in Alpha)
-Another helps find high volume, low competition keywords.
-Another example: find emails of people on Google+ who blog about food
-SEOGadget’s Links API Extension http://seogadget.co.uk/mozscape
-Seogadget has their own API (it is still a baby so be nice).

High ROI Content Strategies for SEO – Cyrus Shepard
-Google is making more changes targeted at SEO.
-A lot of the techniques we have relied on are going away.
-Every time a link techniques become popular it is taken away after 1 or 2 years.
-Most SEOs in the Seomoz forum are 1-2 years behind the cutting edge.
-Google+ is a knowledge network.
-Google+ has followed links in profile and in posts.
-Google+ helps your page get indexed quickly.
-Only major platform with author photos.
-A lot of people are not seeing the higher CTR with profile photo.
-A good photo helps. Test different photos.
-Cyrus increased CTR by 56% and traffic 35%.
-Allmyplus.com provides statistics on your Google+ profile.
-Infographics seem like they are overplayed.
-Don’t use an embed code, most people will naturally give credit.
-Don’t link to your homepage from infographics, you can’t 404 your homepage.
-Cyrus uses Ebooks to build links.
-Ebooks can be $250-$500.
-There are eBook directories.
-99% of press releases don’t earn editorial links (best guess).
-When press releases are republished, they often have too much exact match anchor text on low quality sites.
-The press release is not link bait, it should promote linkable assets.
-Hire people on oDesk or Elance who are good at writing press releases.
-When using HARO (help a reporter out), link to the expert page, use a canned email, link to top articles.
-Google has so many signals it doesn’t need anchor text anymore.
-Cyrus tells clients that 30% of things he tries are going to fail and 10-20% of things are going to do really well.

How to Earn Links without Doing Anything – Ian Lurie
-portent.co/ideagraph
-Stop trying to hard at link building.
-Link building is a bad long term strategy.
-Link building is not a technique it is a result.
-Content is how you build audience which will build links.
-There is no such thing as content marketing.
-Tell them about providing marketable content.
-Say what matters when you talk content.
-The idea graph: people who like one idea often like another.
-Use Facebook ads: when you type in an interest, it shows related interests.
-It’s not life insurance, it’s death insurance, but what matters now is peace of mind.
-7 wonders of the RV world – earned 37 links.
-Stumbleupon – $27 for 2700 views, 2-3 links.
-Talk about what matters now.

Redefining Business Models in a Post-Penguin World – Greg Boser
-Spent 14 years as consultant/small boutique agency
-Big gap between great boutique agencies and big bloated large agencies that does poor work.
-Caffeine update greatly expanded the index. Google receives bad press for poor quality articles.
-Penguin is not about getting rid of links, it was to change your behavior.
-You can’t build integrated marketing if your company has silos.
-They broke down the silos and focused on client lifestyle.
-They stopped doing channel specific budgeting.
-Allowed ideas to come from anyone.
-You have to pick if you are a consultancy or vendor.
-They don’t sell infographics or articles, they sell the strategy.
-Clients like when they are paying more for the things that are providing value.
-Not every client is a good fit.
-Just say no to RFP (request for proposal).
-Say no to ‘dangling carrot’ from client.
-They put client obligations and responsibilities into contracts.
-If the client drags, let them know they will still pay the same.
-Document your processes.
-They have an internal marketing team to focus on marketing the company.
-Find the clients that are a good fit, embrace them, and keep them forever.
-Link building is not a stand alone offering.

Online Reputation Management – Rhea Drysdale
-Stuff happens like Penn State that will take decades to recover if ever.
-When a brand disaster happens it takes about 3 years to recover.
-70% of McDonalds shareholder value is from their brand.
-Social media policies, brand development campaigns, listening tools can help insure against bad events.
-Affiliates can write negative content to rank for your product unless you disallow it in your guidelines.
-Our industry has not caught up to crisis communication.
-Read the book The Advantage.
-Bad leadership is the biggest cause of ORM problems.
-Not everyone is going to like you.
-Outspoken doesn’t take on clients that lie or are unethical.
-Data helps when you need to tell the client that their baby is ugly.
-Socialmention.com provides really good data on social media.
-Net promoter score is one way to quantify your brand.
-Look at your competitor’s Google suggest.
-Build reputable, relevant, and authority-building content.
-Complicated ideas won’t make it through legal.
-The Airforce has a process map for blogs.
-Use monitoring tools (there are a lot).
-Have an after action review.
-You can’t insure your brands, you can only protect them.

Persona Modeling Unhinged: The Zen of “Whole” Customer – Marty Weintraub
-Create a dashboard for conversion cost for different mediums (like Facebook, Adwords, etc.).
-See blog post Psychographic Targeting Unhinged (this talk is based on this post).
-If you are too specific in a demographic you can run out of users.
-Marty uses the example of driving people interested in something on Facebook to your landing page and then tagging them with a cookie so they can be targeted on YouTube (or other sites with the Google Ad network).
-Google gives you free retargeting tools.
-Remember to target people who influence a lot of people.
-Convention center personalities is a gold mine.
-This will be the norm in the near future.
-Marty recommends Acquiso.
-You can layer in attributes in Google’s ad network.
-PPC hero and Joanna Lord are good resources for retargeting.
-You can set retargeting cookies on your landing pages.
-”We manipulate to serve”.

A Secret Algo Project Launch – Pete Meyers
-Dr. Pete put out a resource about the Google algorithm change history.
-There is still so much that we don’t know.
-The algorithm is changing in a way that is shocking.
-2003-2012 has 20 named updates.
-Eric Schmidt said there 516 changes to the algorithm in 2010 (in federal testimony).
-8,157 side by side experiments and 2800 click evaluations (tested live on Google).
-Bill Slawski wrote a great post on 10 most important SEO patents.
-Pierre Far is a Google person worth following.
-Inside Search is a worthwhile Google blog.
-Google’s Search quality highlights – a monthly update on past changes.
-2012, so far 198 reported changes.
-About 500 changes per year in the last 3 years.
-Panda has had 16 updates over 17 months.
-Google is feeding us a lot of information but not really telling us anything.
-Webmasterworld.com archives chatter from webmasters.
-When Matt says no update it means nothing we care to name.
-Dr. Pete is tracking 1,000 keywords to measure the “Deltas”
-6/4 was what Dr. Pete called the “Bigfoot Update”
-Top rankings were getting multiple positions on the first page.
-There might have been some unintended effects of Penguin and tried to fix it.
-5 big sites dominate the top results – wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter.
-Weekend rollouts are extremely rare.
-There are often big changes that don’t have names.
-In May and June, 79.7% of SERPs change every 24 hours (of sample set)
-Google’s busiest day in Monday and is pretty slow on weekends.
-Dr.Pete talked to someone who lost their house because their site was hit. They didn’t do anything shady.
-Google controls most of how we see the world’s information.
-Mozcast.com went live today. It shows the weather of Google. The average is 70%. Higher temperature means more change.

The D Word: Leading the Way to Great Design – Jenny Lam
-Mint is often used as an example of great design.
-They started with user experience first.
-Every dollar spent on design yielded $415.17 (Gillette Venus case study).
-Study showed that design look is the #1 factor in site credibility.
-Great design takes many years of practice.
-The user experience element of design is very new.
-It is unrealistic to expect everything from your designer.
-Don’t have your designers code.
-People can be really great at design or coding, but rarely both.
-Look for a designer who has shipped something.
-A designer should be the one evaluating design work (consider hiring a design advisor).
-Design is a way to get visitors to stay.
-Good design elements: integrity, harmony, radiance.
-Stay true to your core message.
-Radiance is the pleasure we fell when we experience the design.
-Littlebigdetails.com
-Happy people are more forgiving of mistakes.
-The purpose of the critique is to gather information from various perspectives to move the design forward.
-Start recruiting now because it is hard to find a great designer.

Google+ SEO & Authorship – AJ Kohn
-Wall street Journal says Google+ is a ghost town.
-The data shows Google+ is here to stay.
-Android has 52% of smartphone update.
-If you are on Android, Chrome, and Gmail they will push Google+.
-Danny Sullivan said if you care about search you have to care about Google+.
-AJ wrote a Google+ SEO guide.
-If you circle Gucci, your personal results will show a lot more Gucci.
-42% increase in traffic for clients actively using Google+ -SEOptimise
-Connect your social profiles to your Google+ page.
-Rel=publisher is supposed to go on your homepage.
-Make exclusive content on Google+ and promote it on Twitter and Facebook
-Have a Hangout on air (you get an instant YouTube video).
-Ask followers to circle you on Google.
-Add a title to your posts on Google+.
-Use keywords in your posts (but don’t spam).
-Build a circle of your evangelists.
-If someone shares something of yours put it in the evangelist circle.
-If you @ or + something you get in their inbox and added to the red number box.
-Make sure that your site has a +1 button.
-When you +1 something it affects the personalized search of the people who follow you.
-+1 has disappeared from search results. It is now replaced by “share.”
-We are in a digital content explosion.
-Usually gains of CTR of 30-40% with authorship image.
-Link to you goes to your Google+ profile (when authorship is in the SERPs).
-Three link monte method (doesn’t break).
-Branded email address method (breaks a number of times).
-Authorship shouldn’t be on every page of your site.
-You need a person’s face for authorship to work.
-Author stats is reported in Google webmaster tools.
-Google wants to use authorship for rankings.
-Google wants to order people (authors) by topic.

DAY THREE:

If MacGyver did SEO – Martin Macdonald
-This will be a blackhat free zone.
-MacGyver is famous for getting out of tough situations with limited resources.
-Search metrics is really nice. Semrush is okay (these are indexes of search results).
-The world revolves around going to Google first, but we are not using it for business intelligence.
-Martin’s tool can find competitor’s historical keyword ranking.
-You should use Advanced Web Ranking. It is a great rank checking tool.
-Optify’s keyword click through study is really good.
-http://connect.icrossing.co.uk/url-tools-addin-excel_5458 : a good tool.
-They analyze who won and who lost as a result of the previous day’s algorithm update.
-Being able to show historical ranking data of your industry is a very compelling selling point.
-Social Crawlitics (“closed” beta) crawls sites and finds social metrics for each URL.
-Tweet Hi @Ysekand at #mozcon @searchmartin said if we tweet we can get free credits.
-Martin plans to make it opensource. If you follow him he will let you know when it is available.

SEO Project Management – Aleyda Solis
-Supervise the SEO salespeople.
-Meet the parties involved in the project at the start.
-Explain that the project will take time and implementation to be successful.
-The client needs to validate the goals of the project.
-Tell them that they should hear from you frequently and allocate time to meet.
-Develop a checklist to use with each client.
-Talk about what your client cares about instead of what you care about.
-Consider spending time at the client’s office.
-You can run a pilot SEO project on a part of the client’s website if they are not sure about SEO.
-Provide SEO training to all the involved parties (if you conduct the training online you can record it).
-Create short, straight to the point recommendations.
-Gamify the implementation of SEO for developers.
-Provide feedback to developers and other team members when SEO results are achieved to make them feel part of the SEO team.
-Tools should help facilitate our work, not add more work.
-Create easy reports with statuses to show progress of the team’s tasks.
-If implementation launched without controls being set, it is hard to see whether there is an improvement.
-Use screenshots to make your recommendations as clear as possible.
-Use Mockingbird or Balsalmiq for mockups.
-Automate your reporting for things like rankings.
-You can create custom SEO reports in Google Analytics.
-Google Analytics can send alerts if your metrics hit specified changes (like 20% traffic increase over last month).

Attribution Modeling: Why You Must be Doing It and How to do It Easily with Google Analytics – Mike Pantoliano
-ROI is fundamentally broken because the customer journey is really complex.
-Attribution modeling is not specific to Google Analytics
-bit.ly/excel-ninja
-Who gets the credit if there are multiple visits from different sources before the purchase.
-Most analytics tools assigns credit to last touch point.
-Cookies crumble, they are cleared, etc.
-Google glasses could potentially measure brand exposures.
-In the linear model every touch point gets some credit.
-U-curve assigns most of the credit to first and last touch.
-Time decay, credit lessens over time.
-Google analytics premium has a attribution modeling tool.
-Custom allows you to weight sources as you see fit.
-Path length report shows the number of interactions per each conversion.
-Assisted conversion report is good for showing social media impact.
-It is very possible that affiliates are very early in the conversion path.
-Google Analytics Premium is $150,000 per year. It’s attribution modeling tool is pretty awesome.
-The conversion path report sucks.
-bit.ly/mozmodeling (a free attribution modeling tool in Excel)
-Google Analytics only allows 30 days look back for conversion.
-This tool doesn’t work for Excel for Mac.
-To get more budget you need to prove that your efforts are bringing a return.
-This allows you to have confidence in investing in things that are killing it that you didn’t previously know were killing it.
-It is old media that loses with budget reallocation.
-Mongoose is a good call tracking tool for attribution.
-Attribution modeling favors SEO and social a lot.

Estimating Traffic Based on Keyword Research – Jessica Bowman
-The challenge of keyword research is to make the leap from keyword information to revenue.
-Listings are not equal: they have author photos and rich snippets now.
-Personalized results must be taken into account.
-Before you begin you need to know traffic levels, site weaknesses, market competitiveness.
-You need to know search volume of kw, average ranking position, average CTR = estimate lift.
-Get both Google and Bing search volume (66% + 15% market share). Take average of the two projections for all search engine search volume based on market share.
-The search results account for multiple search intent.
-Search results have a combination of informational and transactional pages.
-If 80% of results are transactional, you should adjust your search volume down to 80%.
-Define a range of positions that you think you can rank based on competition.
-Two recent CTR studies are by Slingshot and Optify.
-Emphasize that it is not easy to estimate and explain how you came to your conclusions.
-Use a range and not a finite number.
-Explain any risks that might stop you from reaching your goals.
-Compare to other channels like PPC, email, etc.
-Email presentations@seoinhouse.com to request the Excel template.

A New Form of CRO – Joanna Lord
No one cares only about lead forms and on-site.
-Pinterest want their visitors to contribute and categorize their Pins.
-Coke creates microsites to get people to evangelize, etc.
-Today’s marketer does a little bit of everything.
-Now digital marketers are being asked to drive thing offline (like taking physical classes at REI).
-Your story is really important but no one tests it.
-Watch Simon Sinek’s TED talk. What? How? Why?
-Seomoz doesn’t do a great job on the “How.”
-Think about how you can your story in front of people.
-You wouldn’t want to share Etsy’s mission statement page.
-Kiva does a great job of telling their story.
-When there is buyoff on something really big people get excited (like the Dropbox video only homepage).
-If it fails, that is okay because you can iterate.
-Andrew said we need rethink how we feature our partners.
-You have to ask yourself if your relationship with partners are still worthwhile.
-Video is a great medium to show the partners you work with.
-Nueromarketing is extremely critical now to our jobs.
-We have three brains, new brain (process rational data), middle brain (emotional), reptilian brain (primitive, makes final decision).
-Many marketers don’t see to all 3 of our brains.
-Squarespace is an epic website. It hits all 3 brains.
-Zappos changes and tests their unique value proposition. They have multiple UVPs.
-You need to evaluate whether your UVP is still unique or if your competitors have caught up.
-Test the things that you have scheduled. Be willing to change it around.
-The CRO tools are growing as fast as any in the marketing industry.
-GWO is going away (Google Website Optimizer).
-There are many affordable and free CRO tools.
-CRO companies know how important CRO is and are evangelizing it like crazy.
-Tools: UserTesting.com, Fivesecondtest, Usabilla, Unbounce, Visual Website Optimizer, Optimizely, Reinvigorate, Luckyorange, Crazyegg.
-Optimize the way you thank your customers.
-If you send an email, there should be something useful in it.
-How are you saying thank you to people and how can it be improved.
-Joanna spends half of her time on trying to get people to do something and the other half on measuring it.
-You can not succeed as a marketer without working with customer feedback.
-SEOMoz puts live chat on the billing page.
-Listening tools helps find places on the Web where people are complaining about you.
-Dare to change your best performers.
-Don’t say let’s just set up a test.
-Think about the big things to test – stop pushing pennies.
-SEOMoz is looking at NetAds as a performance metric. Also customer feedback and Net Promoter Score.

Rock Your SEO With Structured Social Sharing – Dana Lookadoo
-You want to take control of the image that shows up in a social post on on Google+ and Facebook.
-Both Facebook and Google honor opengraph code.
-If image too small Google will ignore the image directive.
-Add UTM variables for tracking (or you can’t get social referral data).
-Don’t use hashtags on Facebook
-Add UTM tracking tag to end of your URL for Tweets
-yseo.us/sssfw – a SSSF worksheet
-Yoast has a good WordPress Plugin for this.

The Best Citations to Get and Other Local SEO Tips – Darren Shaw
-bit.ly/MxLpWG Getlisted.org has list of top citations across different categories.
-Hyperlocal citiations can produce great ranking improvements.
-Link Prospector bit.ly/xu1mud
-Most small businesses can rank with just 2-3 super high quality links, example sponsors of .edu
-Find authority accounts in Google+ and incentivize those people to come in and review your business.
-Do On-page optimization on Google+ Local Page. You can also build links to this to increase it’s ranking.
-Add “near=” can check ranking without geo location.
-Offer local businesses a digital coupon to get links.
-Mapmaker is a trusted source of information.
-Getting 10 reviews adds a Zagat to your listing that can improve your CTR.

Creating Awesome Video on a Budget – Jeff McRitchie
-Started a YouTube channel in 2007.
-Left it for 4 years.
-Has 3,000 articles in his name about binding machines.
-Panda killed all the article sites where the articles were published.
-They turned their attention to video.
-Set goal of 2000 videos in 2011 with a positive ROI.
-They leveraged existing content by gathering vendor videos.
-It was a moderate success because they didn’t control the message.
-Outsourced animated videos for $10 overseas but customer feedback was negative.
-Finally created product demos and how to videos.
-They make 10 videos a week at a cost of $50 for each.
-Don’t use faces or scripts.
-Used analytic data to come up with lists.
-Group similar videos together.
-Video creation is harder than it seems but not that hard.
-Result: 2000 videos with ~2.5 million views. Product pages with video has higher conversion rate. Referral traffic from YouTube. Have become an authority in the space.
-Kodak Zi8 cameras $90. First setup cost less than $500.
-Still chasing after the viral video that they haven’t found yet.

E-Commerce SEO — Tips & Tricks – Fabio Ricotta
-Invested in new and unique product descriptions.
-Requested freelancers via Twitter and Facebook and hired 300 freelancers.
-link-assistant.com/rank-tracker/
-Mash up page titles and ranking in Excel (and rankings of competitors).
-Focused on keywords between 10th and 15th positions.
-Choose products on your homepage and category pages, don’t allow it to be random.
-They are getting engagement from infographics.
-Put products below the infographic.
-Mergewords.com.

Head-to-Head: How to Make Your Content Marketing Efforts Reach Further – Tom Critchlow
-SEO is not dead. On-site SEO is booming. But there is a crisis.
-There are a lot of people running scared.
-We don’t really know what we are talking about in terms of content strategy.
-Dollar Shave was not created by an SEO agency but an advertising agency.
-We are getting beat by creative agencies. SEOs can not do the really creative stuff.
-Author: got featured in NYTimes, Oprah, and wrote a guest post for Tim Ferris. The guest post blew out the other two out of the water.
-Media is changing.
-Influence online is held by people with large engaged audiences.
-Guest posts are in trouble.
-The SEO industry has a PR problem.
-When we talk about content marketing lets throw out the stuff that is done by creative agencies.
-Building things of high value and getting them in front of highly engaged audiences.
-Distilled has been trying to pitch to the CEO because they have the leverage internally.
-You can just buy eyeballs. We need to rely on highly engaged audiences.
-Build content capabilities and outreach capabilities. And measure relationships.
-Infographic has to be about you if you don’t have the footer link.
-Huffington Post doesn’t drive you very much traffic.
-Tom doesn’t care if it is not an authoritative site if it has an engaged audience.
-An ebook about Kapost on content marketing and it breaks down cost for different categories. It takes 2 years of content marketing to break even with paid channels.
-Cut out the tactical crap for the quick win.
-You need the budget to do the outreach.
-Content for Tim Ferris only has to work for Tim Ferris.
-Distilled created infographic content specifically for 1 person at Mashable who they had a relationship with.
-Coke’s 2020 content marketing strategy says they want a disproportionate share of popular culture.
-We should be pitching companies on reaching highly engaged audiences.

Head-to-Head: How to Build a Content Marketing Strategy – Rand Fishkin
-bit.ly/mozcontentstrategy
-Content is a great way to bring in traffic, but the conversion rate sucks.
-Thinking of content that will go viral is not a strategy.
-Some content marketing is designed for things other than acquiring customers.
-Why does marketing exist at your company? Usually traffic, retention, conversions.
-Who do I need to reach?
-Reaching the press to get more media attention to get funding can be a strategy.
-What will earn familiarity, likability, and trust?
-Great answers will lead to a great strategy.
-Tableau worked with the Wall Street Journal to provide a visualization of the growth of 100 entrepreneurs. Was one of the most linked to pages on WSJ.
-Attorney’s main customers came from referrals so they created a comic to build awareness.
-Checklist: marketing goals, target customers, target channels, influencers, experience to deliver (answer these questions for a great strategy).
-Invest for a 5 year ROI
-Dan Shapiro spent 50% of his time creating serendipity.
-The only way you can invest in serendipity is to invest for the long term.
-For 6 years Rand and Gillian went into horrific debt.
-Consider involving your target market.
-Don’t be afraid to take the insights of others and use it.
-Expand content to APIs, news, 404 page, boring pages, workspaces.
-Their office has to be incredible.
-Google is offering 50-100k more than they can pay engineers.
-Life tip: choose short men. We unfairly bias against artificial things.
-Short men get an disproportionate number of unsolicited emails so there is a better chance of success.
-Best marketing is a music video by Seattle Children’s of patients
-Rand and Geraldine will match donations to Children’s Hospital today: Donate Here

Wrap-Up: Give It Up Session w/ Closing Thoughts – All Speakers
Check back in 30 days for this part (we are not allowed to share this information for 30 days).

More Mozcon Liveblogs:

MozCon 2012 – Day One – Hood Web Management

Dozens of Content, SEO and Social Tools From #Mozcon 2012 – Thomas Høgenhaven

List of Tools Mentioned by Speakers:
Mozcast.com – shows the amount of change in the Google algorithm on a daily basis.

Links API Extension for Excel for Mozscape – SEOGadget’s tool that pulls SEOMoz link data into Excel.

Authora – a tool for searching for authors on a specific topic by iAcquire.

Check My Links Chrome Extension – a great Chrome tool that quickly highlights any broken links on a page which is perfect for broken link outreach.

Rapportive – a Gmail plugin that provides additional information about a person when you are sending them an email. It also allows you to find email addresses because it will often show information only when you guess the email correctly.

Spydermate – I met the makers of Spydermate at Mozcon, a tool that provides a lot a great information including low hanging fruit – keywords that you are ranking well for but have not yet optimized for.

Infogr.am – Neat tool mentioned by Paddy Moogan that makes it easy to create your own infographic.

Boomerang – a great Gmail extension that can schedule emails for the future.

Amazon Wishlists – build a relationship with an influential blogger by sending them a surprise gift.

Raven Tools – good relationship management tool for link building.

StumbleUpon – Ian Lurie mentioned their paid traffic as a good way to promote content.

Meeting Cost Calculator -calculates the amount of money it is costing for each meeting.

If there is anything I missed, please leave a note in the comments below.

Mozcon 2011 Recap

In preparation for Mozcon 2012, here is a recap from some of last year’s top Mozcon presentations. You can buy all the videos from last year’s presentations at Seomoz.org/mozcon-videos

Content Strategy: What Works (and What Doesn’t) – Ian Lurie
-Ian is taking a medication that might make him sweat.
-Ian is cursed whenever he comes to Mozcon. He stepped on a hornet nest and ripped a hole in his pants.
-Good content costs money. You can’t outsource content on Elance about superconductors.
-Someone once asked for 10,000 words about superconductors for $250!
-Along came the Internet and content became valuable.
-Good enough isn’t good enough anymore.
-Panda is now ranking content sitewide. Poor content on your site is an anchor.
-Do opportunity gap analysis: look for the easy wins where you can rank quickly.
-Example: if you are #5 and you know you can get to #3 and quintuple your traffic.
-Use an allintitle search shows pages that have that exact title.
-Create a keyword map with: current traffic, ranking, competitor’s rankings.
-Learn to use Excel.
-If news is emerging right now, you want to make sure you capture that. Keyword data is after the fact.
-Create a Google alert, go to manage subscriptions, make it a public page which has a RSS feed, then put these RSS feeds in a folder in Google reader.
-Add n?=75 in Google reader will give you more items.
-Portent has a full time writing staff.
-You’re going to have to go out and find experts. You can’t pay poorly or you will get poor content.
-Recruit freelance writers constantly and score them.
-Become an established curator of content in your niche that you are publishing content in.
-Find 5-10 interesting things and use Timely and it will schedule your next Tweet.
-Create a Google Spreadsheet that automatically takes a tagged feed from Google reader goes into Hootsuite to publish throughout the day.
-You are not building a printing press, you are building a process before the printing press.
-Marketing is hard work.

How to Earn the Links the Lazy Link Builders Buy – Wil Reynolds
-Wil is really sick of being beat by people doing low quality link building.
-Edu’s have a great backlink profile, has great domain age, and links out to great stuff.
-People were using Fivr to get a bunch of low quality links via a .EDU ticketing system.
-Consider sponsorships for university clubs.
-Look at EDUs that list scholarships and create a scholarship for $1000.
-Name the scholarship with your keywords.
-Web 2.0 awards earned very strong links but hasn’t been updated since 2008.
-Reverse engineer a badge program by using Google image search.
-Don’t ask people to Retweet your stuff (especially with DMs).
-Use Exportly and Open Site Explorer to see who follows you but doesn’t link to you.
-Monitor when people Retweet you: that is a perfect time to ask for a link.
-Exportly and Rowfeeder provide a certain amount of data for free.
-Look for people who follow you and rank for your keywords.

Automating + Scaling Keyword Research – Richard Baxter
-Keyword research is not directly tied to revenue (unlike links and content).
-A Google Adwords API can provide keyword volume directly into Excel (using the Adwords API Excel Extension)

Head to Head: Stealing from the Web’s Best – Rand Fishkin and Will Critchlow
-Social shares provide social proof and improve rankings.
-Rand highly recommends Influence by Robert Cialdini.

-The reason people buy is not what you do but why you do it. -Simon Sinek
-Rand’s salary is about $22,000 per year.
-Will wants people to be more edgy with their marketing.
-People will do almost anything on Fivrr for $5.
-When you can get on the ground floor of something (like Google+) there are lots of opportunities.
-You can make an updated version of something really cool from a few years ago.

Photo courtesy of Thos Ballantyne

Get Your Startup on the Map with Content Marketing

When you’re the new kid in the startup world with a great product but limited resources, content creation should be the key to your marketing strategy. Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as a “marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” Essentially, what this means for you is to create a way to reach your customers without pitching your products or services.

Remember these three C’s in your content strategy: Conversation, Contribution, and Convenience

Conversation: When potential and existing customers visit your blog, or your social media profiles, they should be able to engage with you. What good is a blog if the comments are closed to discussion? Conversation is key to engagement, and engagement will lead to your customers coming back for more.

Contribution: Don’t be the company standing in the corner with your sales pitch without any real contribution to the conversation. As a content provider, your contribution to the industry should be long-term. If you have a company blog, keep your current and future readers in mind. If someone googles a key term in your industry five months down the line, will they come across your blog?

Convenience: You have great content but is it convenient for your customers? Don’t bury your blog, or your social media presence, on your website. It should be conveniently located so your customers can find it easily to engage with you. Your website and blog should be mobile-friendly so that they can be easily accessed on-the-go.

With a solid content marketing plan, your company will go from being just a service provider to a content provider in the long-term. Potential consumers will want to know what you can provide to them besides just a great product. With the great content you create in addition to your product, you will break through the noise and begin building awareness, as well as an audience. A great content marketing strategy will help you become a thought leader in your industry.

Before you begin creating, do a little research. Check out your competitors, including the big names, in your industry. What’s the key component in their content strategy? They’re getting their consumers to come back and engage with content marketing. Study their strengths, as well as their weaknesses, and incorporate both to your own content marketing strategy.

Foursquare Introduces Local Updates from Businesses

We wrote about how foursquare is finally growing up and with the introduction of their local updates feature, they’re one step closer to advertising. Local updates from businesses gives the merchants on foursquare (nearly one million of them) a chance to communicate their offers to those who will appreciate them the most. The updates will show up from the places you frequent the most on your friends tab. Looking to explore a new city? You will be able to see the local updates, “kind of like the chalkboard where a restaurant writes its daily specials,” says foursquare.

The service is currently free for merchants and is not just limited to restaurants. Universities and chain stores, such as H&M, have also signed up for the service. This means that there will be a broader range of use for the service, in addition to just daily specials and coupons. The best part is that there is no extra work for the user, unless they no longer want updates from a business.

With local updates, businesses are allowed to send up to three pictures, a text message and any updates on promotions or new deals. The updates won’t have any push notifications attached and will only be received by current customers who are within a certain proximity to the location. Updates will also be available to users who look for places in Explore.

On the business side, this provides an additional way for brands to communicate with its users and potential customers. This could lead towards targeted advertising on foursquare based on who’s checked into it, or potential customers who have yet to explore your services. It’s worth checking out while it’s still free to see if this is something that should be incorporated into your marketing and advertising strategy. At the very least, it’s just one more way to show your loyal customers your appreciation.

Image credit: foursquare

Google Unveils Nexus 7, Declares Tablet War

Google Nexus 7 TabletGoogle has officially entered the tablet wars and has taken dead aim at Amazon and Barnes & Noble in a seeming rebuke for mishandling its Android platform.

The Nexus 7, unveiled at this year’s Google IO developer conference, is a direct competitor to Amazon’s Kindle Fire and the B&N Nook. What makes it better for Google is that the unmodified Android interface directs users to the “Google experience.”

What makes it better for users is everything else.

Tablets are the newest gateway to the Internet, and the World Wide Web’s ecommerce titans are fighting for control over where these devices direct traffic via their applications and functionality. The best way to do this, though, is still the way it’s always been done in the consumer electronics industry: give customers a product that is cheaper than the competition that works better.

Critics are nearly unanimous in their agreement that Google has accomplished just that with the Nexus 7. It’s too early to comment on durability and bugs, of course, but the specs are impressive. The tablet runs on a Tegra 3 processor with 1GB of RAM and either 8GB or 16GB of data storage. The screen is the same size as the Fire’s and has a higher resolution … even though the whole unit remains lighter. And, there is even a front-facing camera for videoconferencing.

Google has partnered with Taiwanese manufacturer Asus to pull off the magical feat while still keeping the price below $200 for the 8GB model. That’s the same as the Fire and Nook for what everyone seems to agree is far more horsepower and style.

All that said, it’s important to note that Google’s first foray into battle was directed at Android OS users – not the iPad. The Nexus 7 doesn’t stand up to the iPad in many ways, but critics argue that it may be the better choice for people who use tablets for “regular” stuff like surfing the Web, playing games and checking email. In other words, if you’re not running your business off of it and are not an Apple OS worshiper then this may be the way to go, especially considering the smaller size and the price.

What brings it all together is the newest version of Android, known as Jelly Bean. It offers users the ability to multitask between apps and gives the tablet a better overall response rate. It also does well by targeting brand-new Android users by providing an easy instructional overlay that can be toggled off by experienced users.

Google may have left iPad off of its bombing grid for the moment, but after so easily dousing the Fire and putting the Nook in its place you can bet the Apple team is gearing up for Armageddon.

Google Product Search Goes Commercial

google product searchGoogle’s attempt to marginalize competition in the online shopping arena has led it to shift from a free comparison shopping search platform, formerly known as Google Product Search, to a for-pay marketplace called Google Shopping.

The change, projected to take place October 2012, will require merchants interested in advertising their products in the new digital space to pay for their placement in a bidding scheme that some critics fear may squeeze out the small-business owner.

Product ranking will also involve an algorithmic component that will take into account the relevance to consumer searches, the freshness of the product information and other factors, but the bid will be a factor as well. Generally speaking, the higher the bid the better the placement, all other things considered.

Google reps say they’re moving to a commercial model because they believe it will encourage merchants to keep their product line and prices updated and help create a more robust marketplace for consumers. There’s little doubt this is true, but one must ask whether that could be accomplished simply by letting the algorithm weed out the less relevant merchants and/or products.

Merchants who choose not to pay will still be a part of Google’s organic search results based on its Web crawling and data collection, but they will not be included in the new Google Shopping area or new product areas dedicated to paying merchants in “sponsored” parts of search engine results pages (SERPs). The search giant will continue with experiments on how SERPs will look as they refine the effort through the summer, but the rollout is projected to come well before the 2012 holiday shopping season.

The response from critics and merchants is mixed, but of course it’s not hard to find the voice of dissent whenever Google decides to start charging for something it once provided for free. The biggest general complaint revolves around the additional cost and time it will take for small businesses to compete with larger retailers. Some businesses will likely fail to adapt quickly enough when it comes to things like understanding the bidding process and managing the data feed.

Of course, none of that is Google’s fault and it should be no surprise the company would like to monetize a service it’s been giving away for a decade. As the war for online merchant space between Google, Amazon and other players heats up all of them will try to find new ways to compete and make money, and the costs of combat will often be shouldered by the “little guy.”

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