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Category Archives: Social Media

German government officials have pressured Facebook to stop spamming people to join the social network after a contact uses the Friend Finder feature; apparently these messages went out even to people that hadn’t been expressly invited by a human.

The company agreed to change this after the city of Hamburg’s data protection office made official complaints to Facebook, according toDer Spiegel. The officials had responded to gripes from people who got emails that included images from profiles of contacts from messaging address books.

The spam had showed signs that Facebook retained the contents of users’ address books from third-party applications well after said users had sent out invitations, and messages went out to people who hadn’t specifically been invited by the person who’d used the Friend Finder feature.

“For many, it wasn’t clear at all how Facebook could know that they knew certain members of the social network in real life,” says Johannes Caspar, who handles data protection issues for the city-state of Hamburg. “Facebook will be required to alert users that they should only send invitations to those contacts who they know personally and who, in their opinion, want to receive such an invitation.”

Now the Friend Finder will make a disclosure to the user whenever that individual loads an address book and ask permission before sending any invitations. Recipients of these messages will also see an explanation of why they received an invitation and have the option to block future mail from Facebook.

We’ve asked Facebook to clarify whether the improved transparency in the Friend Finder will become available only in Germany or worldwide. So far, the social network hasn’t answered that same question when posed by Der Spiegel.

 

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Do you ever embed YouTube videos in your web pages? If the answer is yes, you shouldcreate an XML Video Sitemap as it will help improve your site’s performance in Google and other search engines.

Why Create XML Sitemaps for Video?

Video Sitemaps are plain text files containing a list of videos that are either embedded or hosted on your website. During regular crawling, Google mostly ignores video content that’s embedded in web pages but with the help of a video sitemap, you can easily inform Google about all the videos that are on your site.

Video Sitemaps will help your site pages rank in both video search results as well as Google’s universal search. If you would like know more about XML Sitemaps for Video, watch this video or visit google.com/videositemaps for more technical details.

How to Create XML Video Sitemaps?

If you run a WordPress blog, you can use my Video Sitemap plug-in to generate an XML Sitemap for your site with a click. Install the plugin, click the “generate” button and it will instantly create an XML Sitemap file in your site’s root directory using all YouTube clips that are on your site.

Once you have created your Video Sitemap, you can either ping Google directly or use the webmaster tools of Google and Bing to permanently associate your video sitemap with your website or web. Here’s a video demo:

The Limitations with XML Sitemap

The XML Sitemap plug-in currently works with YouTube videos only though future versions may support Vimeo, Facebook, Flickr, Daily Motion and other online video hosting websites.

This will generate video sitemaps for self-hosted WordPress blogs only. If you are on Blogger, WordPress.com or Tumblr, I may have something for you at a later date.

 

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Google is preparing to launch Google Offers, the search giant’s Groupon competitor, Mashable has learned. We have the documents to prove it.

One of our sources has sent us a confidential fact sheet straight from the Googleplex about the company’s new group buying service. “Google Offers is a new product to help potential customers and clientele find great deals in their area through a daily email,” the fact sheet says.

Google Offers looks and operates much like Groupon or LivingSocial. Users receive an e-mail with a local deal-of-the-day. They then have the opportunity to buy that deal within a specific time limit (we assume 24 hours). Once enough people have made the purchase, the Google Offer is triggered and users get that all-too-familiar $10 for $20 deal for that Indian restaurant you’ve never tried.

From what we can tell, Google Offers will be powered by Google Checkout. It also includes Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Google Buzz and e-mail sharing options.

Google is actively reaching out to businesses now to get them on board with Offers. It even apparently has a writing team in place to craft the write-up for offers.

Google famously tried to buy Groupon for $6 billion just a few months ago in order to bolster its local advertising business. Groupon rejected the offer though and is instead preparing for a $15 billion IPO.

The search giant clearly isn’t giving this market up without a fight, though. With its vast reach, huge resources and brand recognition, it could prove to be a powerful player in the space. We’re going to be watching these developments closely. We’ve reached out to Google for comment.

Below, we’ve embedded the entire fact sheet Google is sending to local businesses:

Update: Google has responded to our inquiry and sent us the following statement:

“Google is communicating with small businesses to enlist their support and participation in a test of a pre-paid offers/vouchers program. This initiative is part of an ongoing effort at Google to make new products, such as the recent Offer Ads beta, that connect businesses with customers in new ways. We do not have more details to share at this time, but will keep you posted.”

Google essentially confirms Google Offers is real. It looks like Google Offers is in the testing phases, though.

Update 2: We’ve also learned that Google will pay out 80% of a business’ revenue share three days after its deal runs. Google will hold the remaining 20% for 60 days to cover refunds before sending the rest.

 

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With all the excitement and planning that comes along with a New Year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with newfangled ideas. You probably have a long list of  SEO tactics in the pipeline for 2011. Finding the resources, whether time or money, is the real trick.

The point of this post is to minimize your to-do list by covering 32 SEO tactics that you shouldn’t focus on. If any of these buggers have made it onto your 2011 task list or are still lingering in the queue from years past, go ahead and cross ’em off. They won’t help you reach your goals and some of them can even hinder your progress.

If you are still looking for things to do, check out these New Years post for ideas.

Alrighty then, lets get on with the list of things for you to take off your list.

32 SEO Tactics to Avoid in 2011

Hiding Stuff On-Page
There are a hundred ways to hide keywords and links from your users’ view and still have them reside behind the scenes on a web page for the search engines to crawl. Some of these methods are smarter than others, but the collective mind of Google’s web spam team is smarter than all of them. From just plain silly to downright sneaky, numbers 1-5 in this list of SEO tactics to avoid, we cover off some of the most well known methods for hiding copy and links. At best, you could experience a small, temporary boost from some of these tactics. At worst, you’ll land yourself a penalty.

Do not…
1. White text on a white background (I know what you’re thinking, but black on black won’t work either.)
2. Hidden text over an image
3. Hiding text with CSS
4. Linking/keywording in tiny text (font size ‘0’ doesn’t work either, smarty pants)
5. Linking from a hyphen, period, comma, or any other little character

Keyword Stuffing
There are a number of ways to overdo your keyword usage beyond the hidden methods mentioned above. Here are a few to give you an idea of the type of things to avoid.

Do not…
6. Use the Meta Keywords tag. This is a giant waste of time.
7. Use your Title Tag as a place to list keywords.
8. Fill up your Meta Description with keywords, forgetting about click-thru rates
9. Name your images with the character limit in keywords
10. List every city and zip code within a 10 hour drive
11. Put 2000 words of keyword rich content below the footer
12. Keep track of your keyword density (Thankfully, I’ve heard a lot less from eager website owners on this topic in 2010 than I did in 2009.)

Link Network Schemes
If your link building plans involve any of the following, you need to do a little more research on link building. 🙂

Do not sign up for…
13. Link Schemes
14. Reciprocal Linking
15. Link Farms
16. Link Wheel
17. Link Exchange (unless it is a real and substantial business partnership or relationship)
18. Three Way Linking (or Two-way, Four-way or any other way)

Other Link Types to Avoid
Ah links. It isn’t just the networks that are a waste of time. Here are some other link acquisition tactics to avoid.

Do not…
19. Forum/comment spam (thanks Rob)

20. Submit to thousands of directories for $12.42.
21. Segment your content and launch sub-domains so you can link to yourself

Publish/Index as Many Pages as Possible
Just because you have 4 million pages doesn’t mean they should all be indexed. Just because you have come up with a list of 800,000 keywords and misspellings to describe pepper mills, doesn’t mean your e-commerce site should have a web page to represent each. Quantity is not quality. More pages in the index does not mean more traffic. Here are a few SEO tactics to remove from your to-do list.

Do not…
22. Try to get the search engines to index all of the search result pages on your site.
23. Publish a new page for every single keyword target.

Google Local Tricks
Google Local is still fighting spam that works, which I won’t be covering here. Lets not perpetuate the issue, right? Here are a few things that they’ve figured out and should be avoided altogether.

Do not…
24. Place location keywords in your places page categories.
25. Create a bunch of Google Places pages that all list the same physical address.
26. Torment your customers so you’ll get plenty of (negative) reviews. (this one got a lot of attention late last year)
27. Provide different keyword rich business names to local sites.

Random Uselessness
Take these ideas straight to the curb. No recycling please.

Do not…trash
28. Measure your website’s strength or success with PageRank.
29. Find out which pages are ranking well and never touch them again.
30. Blindly target keywords just because your competitors are.
31. Submit to hundreds of search engines automatically for $9.99.
32. Use robots.txt to control robot access (I’ve harped on this before)

If anything here is on your 2011 SEO tactic list, go ahead and cross ’em off. See how I’m helping you out?! No doubt I’ve missed a bunch of old-school spam. For example, I’m certain I haven’t covered every type of link scheme that has ever existed.

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Twitter has just launched the Korean version of its popular service, bringing the total of supported languages to seven.

As is typical for the microblogging company, it made the announcement in Korean. In its blog post, Twitter revealed that it chose Korean as the next language for launch because the number of Twitter users from Korea has increased tenfold in the last year. That’s an astounding growth metric.

Not only is Twitter.com now translated in Korean, but so are the official Twitter Android and iPhone apps. It has also launched a recommended user list of Korean users, including actor Park Joong (@moviejhp) and novelist @Oisoo.

Twitter now supports seven languages. The others include Spanish, Italian, German, French, English and Japanese.

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Last week I was talking to my Uncle about a company he has been invested in for quite some time. He asked me what I thought about the way they were using Facebook to market their medical device. Yep, a medical device. I said to him, “what do you need a fan page for?” He simply replied, “well, everyone seems to have them so we thought we should, too.”

And that’s when I proceeded to thrust my forehead into my hand. Just one of thousands of cases where people create a fan page because of Facebook’s buzz. It’s as if people think that if they create a page on there, people will not only find it on their own, but they would love to cloud up their newsfeed with your corporate propaganda. Who wouldn’t?

Now I’m not saying that he shouldn’t have one, I’m just saying that unless you plan on doing something more than throwing it up there and regurgitating your RSS feed – there really isn’t a point in investing time in it. At that point your fan page is doing nothing for you or your fans.

Which brings me to what should be the simplest conclusion in marketing: if you’re going to enter a market, you need a strategy. Facebook, Twitter, anything really, all need their own custom marketing strategy. Without one, you’ll be doing nothing but spinning your wheels and all of that time you spent doing so could have been used to sell more of your product/service.

How do we go about creating a marketing strategy for Facebook? The first step is easy: research. You need to get an understanding of whether or not your audience is even interested in seeing you on Facebook. Remember, they are on there to socialize with family and friends. Take a look at what your competitors are doing, or even your industry associations. Any company that is related to your industry is a case study you can study to determine what type of market exists for you on Facebook.

You should be taking note of engagement metrics like comments, likes, wall posts and their total number of fans. Which updates receive the highest engagement from fans? What time of day and day of the week are fans participating the most?

And the big question you want to answer is: what is their unique value proposition? You’re going to need to answer this one, too. You need to convince your potential fans that if they don’t “like” your page, then they’ll be missing out on unique content they can’t find anywhere else. You’re fan page is much more than an RSS feed dump, its a resource for them.

How can you go about making your fan page a resource? Unfortunately, there isn’t a general option that any company can use. It’s going to depend on what your product/service is. The first thing that comes to mind is Facebook-only coupons and discounts. Let’s say your a local restaurant who is looking to do more than the traditional coupon strategy. You could post Facebook-only recipes, announce daily specials and giveaways to only your Facebook fans, and even take polls from your fans for what the daily special/desert should be.

The point is, with as crowded as our online lives already are, if you want someone to do more than just “like” your fan page – you need to give them a unique experience. All of the case studies that are referenced have this. They are thinking outside the box and are looking to take advantage of the personal relationship Facebook can create between their company and their customers.

What are you doing to create the perfect Facebook experience for your fans?

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There’s no doubt that mobile and, by extension, local search is hot. Technology pundits have been declaring every year since 2005 “The Year of Mobile” – that magical moment when everyone suddenly starts using their mobile device for more than just playing games, texting, calling friends, checking email, downloading/using apps and occasionally browsing the web and… I don’t know… browses the web more?

If I sound a bit cynical on the topic of mobile it’s not out of a disbelief in the power of mobile devices or the acceleration of their influence on our technological connectedness. It’s because I think we’re, to a large extent, already there. The smartphone has won our hearts and minds, and this year, it will finally be more popular than the feature phone:

Nearly half of us already have iPhones, Blackberries, Androids or similar in our pockets when we’re on the proverbial “go.” But search – the process, the intent, the results –  just isn’t that different on mobile devices vs. laptops and desktops.

Yes, mobile searchers are more likely  to perform local searches than other varieties, but I actually believe this trend may be overblown. A substantive portion of searches performed from a laptop/desktop have local intent as well. As the mobile experience gets ever closer to mimicing that of the laptop/desktop, I suspect we’ll be searching on our mobiles in a remarkably similar fashion to how we search everywhere else. In fact, the top mobile searches of 2010 are similar (and surprisingly non-local) to the top general searches of the year.

Increased speed, functionality, screen size, resolution, readability, battery life, multimedia capacity, etc. don’t sound like features that make the mobile experience unique; they strike me as moving toward feature parity.

 

Research from Doubleclick, comparing search on mobile devices w/ full browsers vs. computers strongly suggests that we’re moving towards search parity, too. Queries are similar, clicks are similar, click-through-rate is similar, even conversion rate is getting close (though mobile is still a much more research-based experience, with a tough-to-measure influence of offline conversions).

This doesn’t mean you can or should ignore mobile/local as a powerful organic marketing channel, but it does mean that you don’t need to be building separate mobile sites or separate mobile experiences. Unless your site/content is seriously challenging for mobile users, even those with fast, impressive devices, you should worry more about other marketing avenues.

The big trends I see in mobile search are:

  • A lot more queries – mobile search is growing faster than traditional search and that bodes well for search marketers.
  • A single set of SERPs – I searched for a good 20 minutes on my laptop and Android phone without finding a query where the web results are in a different order (both are location-aware to “Seattle, WA”)
  • A chance to make your mobile-focus known – Yelp does a great job with their overlay on mobile devices encouraging searchers to download their app (though some have complained it gets annoying having to say “no” every time if you don’t want it).
  • Little need for a separate mobile site – Mobile copies of websites seem to me to be more likely to cause duplicate content issues, technical challenges, waste engineering resources and draw away attention from real mobile opportunities than to earn slightly higher rankings in mobile searches. Until/unless things change dramatically, I can’t, in good conscience, recommend this practice (unless your regular site is absolutely unusable on a mobile device).
  • Definite need for a separate mobile ad strategy – Unlike SEO, the paid search results can and do differ dramatically on mobile devices. CPC is generally lower, as are conversion rates, though the latter may be on an upward trend (especially if I’m right about device convergence)
  • Apps are still beloved – I don’t know if the long term future of mobile will continue to focus on apps, but for now, it’s a huge part of what differentiates the device. It’s certainly a great way to “contain” users in your brand and provide a more tailored experience, and for those who can make it work effectively, the effect can be great.
  • Geography matters – mobile and traditional search are both getting more and more biased by geography. My opinion is that Google currently sucks at this (I have yet to find a search I like better with location-biasing than without, maps/places not withstanding), but they certainly won’t be giving up. As a result, if you can tailor your content and your marketing to effectively serve and be seen as local, you can seriously benefit.

 

 

 

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