Facebook has begun testing the use of fancy emoticons in status updates on their site. The new development which was originally adopted by the old Myspace allows users to pick symbols to indicate what they’re doing.
On this front, Facebook is playing catch-up as Google+ already supports animated emoticons on their mobile app and Path allows users to ‘smile’ at each other’s posts. So has Facebook come a little late to the party?
The new options include glasses to show someone is watching films or an event, headphones to indicate that they’re listening to music and a fork a knife to inform people when they are eating. As well as emoticons, users can choose from a list of options- such as Watching: ‘Harry Potter’, Feeling: ‘excited’ or can just enter their own text and thus spice up their status messages.
The social networking giant has kept tight-lipped about the feature but has said:
“The new development is an opportunity for people to visually represent what they’re doing and how they’re feeling through their Facebook posts.”
Before Facebook users get too excited, the new feature is only available to a handful of people during this initial testing phase. If these users report that they enjoy sharing their actions in a more visual way, the rest of us could be free to pepper our statuses with a variety of fancy emoticons.
Some critics claim that if the new development does become permanent the information could potentially be used to target people with adverts and therefore turning Facebook into a goldmine.
Advertisers would be able to know users’ likes and dislikes at a much deeper level. For example, if a user put a status about a particular album they’re listening to, it will become easier for advertisers to target them for ads regarding that type of music, particular concerts and promotions.
Facebook could potentially integrate this new status sharing method with Graph Search to load the new search method with additional information. The new status emoticons are being tested on both the web and mobile applications.
Even though it doesn’t quite carry the same weight this side of the pond, the Superbowl is still by far the biggest (and most expensive) event in the marketing calendar. Huge companies fight for the prime position advert spots in the hopes of pushing their products to the 110 million people watching.
As part of our series on Social Media for businesses, Sentho Pembleton looks at LinkedIn and its benefits for small, medium and large businesses in the UK.
LinkedIn as a Marketing Tool
Unlike other social media sites, LinkedIn is viewed as an online network of influential people all over the globe. Most of us know, it can be difficult to get an audience with those in a position of leadership – Managing Directors and CEOs are well-protected through normal channels of contact. The advantage of LinkedIn is that it brings business people together in a new and unique way. If utilized properly, even an office junior would be able to engage in discussion and build relationships with company CEOs.
Find Business Partners, Clients and Service Providers
LinkedIn can help most businesses build a network of useful contacts. Just a simple search in your field will reveal thousands of experts, service providers and potential clients. Even if you don’t personally know an individual, you can request to be introduced through a mutual contact or you can send an introductory email.
For recruiters out there, LinkedIn can offer easy access to potential candidates. Businesses can locate a particular candidate that fits their required level of expertise and contact them directly. Companies can also post a job ad for a monthly fee dependant on the location.
This business networking site offers a unique tool called LinkedIn Answer. It aims to facilitate information and idea sharing online. The service allows you to post business questions to both your network and the rest of the LinkedIn community. LinkedIn has always been used for knowledge sharing. Users have always been able to communicate through their mailbox to pose questions to connections.
Promote your blog
LinkedIn is a great way to share and promote a business blog. Users have the opportunity to add a blog or website to their individual profile in order to give it more exposure.
The recommendation feature can also be used as a business tool. Once you’ve added a product or service to your business profile, you can request recommendations from your customers. In doing this it will boost your company’s credibility and help you gain new clients.
LinkedIn and SEO
LinkedIn enables you to make your profile information available for search engines to index. LinkedIn profiles do receive a high page rank in Google and this is great way to influence what people see when they search for your business. In addition it now gives users the ability to share content. This activity will influence your search engine ranking positions.
More companies are now taking advantage of this feature for their businesses to network and grow. You can even add your website link in the group profile for great visibility. Sending weekly messages to your group can maintain interest and enthusiasm too. To make the most of your group, you need to find a niche/area business that is under- represented and aim to be the authority of the subject. The more quality content you produce to back this up and the more effectively you run your group, the greater the support you will get from your community and the more likely you are to appear as an authority in your niche fields.
LinkedIn has over 120 million users worldwide and has extensive targeting capabilities to entice advertisers. The business network has followed Facebook’s example and introduced a ‘self service’ system ‘LinkedIn Ads’. This provides an opportunity for all LinkedIn users to advertise on a cost per click or impression basis. Advertisement can be tailored by job title and function, industry and company size, seniority, age, gender or certain LinkedIn groups.
For advice on setting up a LinkedIn profile or any other aspect of Social Media strategy, please contact eSterling on 0121 766 8087 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter is renowned for the light-hearted attitude of it’s 500+M strong userbase, and as we all know, humour can be a brilliant way to win over your customers.
Presenting your company in this jaunty, fun fashion can be challenging, but here’s an example from the local Solihull Police force on how to do it right:
Courtesy of @SolihullPolice
The Solihull Police twitter account is a great example of how you can make a potential grey and serious topic a little more cheery quite easily by just injecting a little fun – We highly recommend giving them a follow!
In other slightly less jolly news, disgruntled staff of failing music and DVD giant HMV took to Twitter in a guerilla-style hijacking of the retailer’s account. The peeved employees managed to broadcast several tweets to HMV’s 68,000+ fans, including:
“We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired. Exciting!! #hmvXFactorFiring”.
The prank didn’t seem to go down too well with those in charge, however, as the renegade tweeter posted:
“Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask “How do I shut down Twitter?”
The higher powers at HMV finally managed to regain control of the account and all of the tweets were removed, but not before the rogue poster managed to squeeze in a final tweet:
“So really, what have we to lose? It’s been a pleasure folks! Best wishes to you all!”
Nearly 190 jobs were axed at HMV yesterday, as the company begins the step toward restructuring. All is not lost, however – restructuring company Hilco have bought the company’s debt, in hopes of reopening half the chain’s stores across the nation. Something makes us think they might not be offering the Twitter troublemakers their jobs back though!
The introduction of Google Authorship into Google’s ranking algorithms could seriously shake up the SERPs – We take a look at why, and how you can start to prepare!
In-bound marketing techniques have made quite a large shift in the last few years, as I’m sure regular readers are aware by now – the importance of inbound link building has subsided to make way for a content and usability-based ranking system known as TrustRank.
This shift has, however, brought with it a new breed of unscrupulous strategies – poorly generated content with no real substance, article spinning (the chopping-and-reforming of articles in order to make them appear unique – often with less than perfect grammatical results) and article directory sites full of worthless content that is read by no one, created solely for the purpose of manipulating positioning on search engine results pages.
The Authorship concept was conceived a lot longer ago than you may first think; the relevant patent was approved way back in 2007. Originally dubbed Agent Rank, the patent has now undergone two continuations (the first in 2009), but the most recent continuation is the most significant.
This is the first claim in the most recent update:
“1. A computer-implemented method comprising: evaluating a document that is hosted on a site, the document including a content item to which a maker of the content item has applied a digital signature; determining whether the digital signature is portable; if the digital signature is portable, using a reputation score associated with the maker in calculating a quality score for the document; and if the digital signature is not portable, using the reputation score associated with the maker in calculating the quality score for the document only if the digital signature is fixed to the site.”
(I know, it made my head hurt too!)
The most important bit is the mention of a “portable” digital signature. This allows the author to create content for various blogs, websites and article directories, whilst carrying through their reputation from their other online content. The name of this portable digital signature? The big G’s very own social network, Google Plus.
This allows you to associate all the content you personally produce with your own Google account. Google can then use this to determine how useful your content is, by judging how well received your previous content has been. If you continue to write good, useful articles with meaningful content, then you can expect to see your Author Rank increase, and as a result, your articles will reach higher positioning in search results. If you write rubbish articles with spammy content that are of no use to anyone, then you can probably expect the opposite to happen.
Authorship works by utilizing a new tag introduced in HTML5: the rel=author tag. This tag can be added to any <a> tag to denote that the link refers to the author of the content. Using this tag in conjunction with your Google+ URL allows you to link your content to your Google+ account, et voilà! You’ve claimed your first piece of content.
Of course, it isn’t quite that simple. In order to verify your authorship of the article, you must first add the URL of your blog to the “Contributor to” section of your Google+ profile, in order to prevent people from claiming their content was written by any Google+ user that takes their fancy.
Being able to verify your content with your Google+ account will help your content rise above the sea of poorly written junk-content of the black-hat SEO practitioners and article spinners.
It’s important to remember that at present, authorship doesn’t offer any actual boost to your search engine rankings (although studies have found that the “rich snippets” that authorship can generate can increase your CTR by 30-150%, and there’s another hidden benefit of authorship too!); it is simply just a way of claiming credit for your work. However, Google have frequently voiced their intentions for a method of distinguishing and validating content in search results, so it is extremely likely to become a deciding factor in search engine rankings in the near future. Whilst the introduction of Authorship as a factor in deciding rankings isn’t likely to penalise sites, and it probably won’t have anywhere near the SERP-smashing effects we’ve seen from our furry friends Panda and Penguin, it’s going to carry some sort of weight, and it makes sense to begin preparing for it to come into swing now, as those that don’t are putting themselves at a disadvantage already. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail!
We all know that making a good first impression is crucial when it comes to converting a potential customer into a buyer. This is even more important when it comes to online marketing, as a visitor to your website has so much choice. If your home page does not meet a visitors needs immediately, they will go elsewhere in a matter of clicks.
Your homepage will be the point of entry for many visitors to your website. As such it must be a positive reflection of what your company is about and, most importantly, how you can help your visitor. Think of your homepage as your online shop window – it must be tidy, eye catching and show off your company to its very best. Getting your homepage right will encourage your visitors to stay on your website and take the next step to becoming a paying customer.
Exactly what is needed for your homepage will depend on the type of business you have. For example, an e-commerce website will be very different to an online portfolio. However, there are some general guidelines that you can follow in order to achieve a well-organised home page that sends the right message to your visitors. A successful home page will have the correct balance of the following:
The use of colour on a home page can be a powerful tool to catch the eye. It doesn’t have to be bright – subtle use of contrasting or complimentary colours can be a great way to reflect the personality of your brand, whilst directing visitors to the correct place by using brighter tones for buttons. Your company logo will be a great starting point for your colour scheme.
Photographs and illustrations are easier for visitors to interpret than lots of text, as images can instantly convey what your business is about. Pixelated and blurry images will create a bad impression, so make sure your homepage images are professionally shot or buy images from a stock website. A popular website layout is to have images above ‘the fold’ and text underneath, as once visitors have digested the images they can read more about what you do.
Having text content somewhere on your homepage is essential for SEO purposes, but as lots of text can overwhelm a visitor, you must get the balance right. Make a bullet point list of your unique selling points and expand these into a punchy introduction for your new visitors. Keep things simple and short – you can expand your points further on other pages.
- Calls to action
These prompts can be used on your homepage to direct your visitors to the right place to make an enquiry or purchase. Your call to action could be a button directing visitors to ‘contact us now’, or ‘get in touch’ that will take them to your contact form. You should also place your telephone number and email address on your home page to make it simple and easy for visitors to contact you.
Every year thousands more companies are jumping on the social networking band wagon to attract potential clients, yet some of them are missing the key weapon – honesty. Anyone could bombard their Facebook profile with successful stories of their services or blow their trumpet about their discounts and promotions.
What they need to be doing is understanding exactly what their clients want, helping them and sharing photos or videos. Whether it’s offering useful information, asking them for feedback or posting where the team went on their Friday social, this will help build a relationship between you and your potential customer.
The internet is sometimes brutal and competitive so if you happen to post something which is false or is outright dishonest someone will catch you out and you will lose credibility. You might start to see your number of likes decrease on Facebook or receive a back lash from your loyal customers.
Either way there’s nothing worse than devoting time, posting content on your pages and then becoming an internet laughing stock. Being honest, truthful and upfront will help you avoid embarrassing mistakes and allow you to build strong relationships with your followers.
Social networking users perceive social marketing as a means of social interaction rather than direct advertising because there are no limitations. People aren’t able to find out who made the dazzling new John Lewis advert let alone the characters within the company itself but when reading Facebook posts on a regular basis or following someone on Twitter, a true personal relationship will develop.
Your social networking posts should be more of a conversation rather than a collage of adverts. That’s why those who ask relevant questions and participate in Facebook or Twitter comments get more attention and plenty more likes! Sharing photos of your colleagues (professional ones of course!) or even company work does will add colour to your profile and prove to your fans that you’re not just another faceless business page.
Overall honesty and openness makes the social marketing world go round and helps companies to forge long lasting relationships with their clients. The more open you are about your company, the more trusting your supporters will be. When it comes to placing the right content on your page, it’s better to give than receive! Clients would prefer to receive free information or help with something they’re struggling with rather than a constant barrage of ‘look how fantastic we are.’
Facebook’s new Graph Search tool could threaten Google’s search domination
This week, the hottest internet news seems to be the new addition to Facebook: Graph Search. Graph search is a new search tool that allows users to search for information based on how their friends (and other users) display information or have interacted with pages. For example, it will allow a user to search for “restaurants in Birmingham that my friends have liked”, or “people in my home town who enjoy fishing”.
Aside from the privacy implications (Graph Search is reported to be fairly invasive when it comes to personal data, and leaves no option to remove yourself from the service), the new addition to the social network could resurrect the Facebook “like” as a marketing metric, as businesses finally see a return on investment for the huge “likebase” they have collected.
This new search tool has the potential to revolutionise the way we trawl for information on the internet, and by extension of this, the way we market and promote online. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has emphasized that (at the moment at least) there is no intention to make money from Graph Search – but it should be noted that it is still in beta.
Graph Search invites comparison between Facebook and one of the other internet big boys – our good friend Google. After treading on the toes of Facebook with the inception of Google+, Google now risk a very bitter taste of their own medicine, as Facebook encroaches on their primary specialism: searching the internet. Whilst at this stage, Graph Search is only capable of searching Facebook’s own content, partnership with another big rival to Google, Bing, could stand to change all of this. We are already seeing ever-increasing proportions of time online being spent on Facebook, and if the possibility of searching the whole internet via Graph Search becomes a reality, then it could really hurt Google’s traffic, as more Facebook users discover they don’t ever need to leave the site.
Facebook and Bing seem to be operating on a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” policy, too – with Bing’s search results now being bolstered by recent Facebook updates (provided you link your account to Bing, of course). From Bing’s recent blog post:
“Starting today, five times more of your friends’ content on Facebook is searchable in the sidebar – including status updates, shared links, comments and photos from your friends. With the addition of status updates, shared links and comments to the sidebar, it’s now easier to see who knows and what they’ve shared related to your search. So when your friends aren’t around, Bing is the perfect stand-in.”
So, as far as inbound marketing is concerned, how should we approach Graph Search? I think currently the best course of action is simply to watch and wait. The idea is still in infancy, and regardless of statements issued by Facebook, once the platform is more established, paid advertising and other promotion strategies will begin to emerge.
Whilst Facebook Graph Search is not available to the public yet, you can read more about it, check out a video explaining how it works, and sign up for beta testing here.
Image copyright is in the news again – but who has the rights to what we publish through social media?
In the aftermath of the horrendous helicopter crash in central London yesterday, images and videos were shared on social media sites, including Twitter. These photos were then picked up by major media outlets including The Daily Mail, The Sun, The London Evening Standard, The Guardian and Sky News among others, and used in breaking news stories covering the crash. Although there has been a historical acceptance in using so-called ‘user-generated’ content, rules about copyright of images posted on Twitter has changed the stakes.
According to Twitter rules, sharing images on the social media site does not constitute a free-for-all and the owner of the photo still retains the rights to it. News outlets are required to credit the owner and should not use their images without permission and most ethical agencies appear to have a policy which supports this.
So how does this affect you, a web site owner? How can you protect your images online and where should you source your images from in order to protect yourself from potential litigation?
Using your own images
Many companies choose to take their own product or general images for the company web site, either taking a hands-on approach or hiring a photographer to take and edit any images ready for use. This allows you to get exactly the type of image you require and negates the need for lengthy trawling of image banks or seeking permission from other image owners. It is important that if you do use a photographer (whether professional or casual) you discuss issues such as ownership and copyright from the outset. In some cases, you may be happy to share your images but once you do, there is the chance that they could be sold on, leaving you out of the loop. It pays to have a conversation about this and make some sort of formal agreement.
Using other people’s images
In a lot of cases, smaller companies may not have the time, funds or resource to take their own photos and may only need a handful of strong images to populate the web site. It is in these circumstances that you will need to look for images that belong to someone else. Good old Google images makes it possible for us to search for and find a ton of photos which may adequately fit our purpose but DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT be tempted to pinch these and use them on your web site believing ‘nobody will know’. Copyright infringement is big business and it isn’t something you want to get into. Instead choose a reputable design agency who will advise you about which images to choose and will source them ethically for you. Stock images can be bought relatively cheaply (starting at a couple of pounds) and the small investment you will make is pennies in the long run.
The internet encourages sharing, social media is ALL about sharing, but just be careful. Sharing doesn’t mean transferring ownership, so look but don’t touch.
Expanding your SEO strategy for 2013 and beyond.
2012 was a turbulent year for SEO and eMarketing professionals – amongst a slew of algorithm updates and tweaks from Google, we have seen several other game-changing factors that have really tested the adaptability of our dedicated SEO team here at eSterling.
Google have been working hard to negate any unscrupulous SEO activity, as well as reducing the effectiveness of scalable link building strategies such as mass directory submission or article spinning, giving many grey-hat SEO practitioners a major headache.
Google’s Penguin update, which was released in April 2012, focused on eliminating websites using webspam tactics such as spamdexing (squeezing a keyword into a site as many times as possible, often using nefarious tactics such as black-on-black text) and linkbombing (posting a link to the site using a keyword as anchor text in as many locations across the internet as possible) to artificially boost their search rankings, at the expense of website usability. The update penalised these sites by placing them lower in search engine results pages than they featured originally – or, in extreme cases, removing them from Google’s indexing entirely.
Exact match domains (URLs which directly match one of the site’s keywords, for example www.teethwhitening.com) have also felt the pressure, as Google introduced the imaginatively titled Low Quality Exact Match Domain Update. This update, whilst not sounding as cute or cuddly as either of the major updates Panda and Penguin, was no less important. It was an attempt to rid the SERPs of sites which are of low quality, but have used their exact match domain name to push their way to the top of the results pages.
So, if this is what Google has done in the last year to make our lives more difficult, where do we go next?
The good news for us is that this means it is now harder than ever to increase a website’s search visibility with these dubious tactics, leaving much more room for honest, user-friendly SEO strategies, and has shifted the emphasis from building as many links as possible to your site to being much more about the end user – the importance now lies with ease of navigation, increasing usability and offering informative, relevant and up-to-date content.
Google’s actions over the last 12 months could easily be misconstrued as disdain for the SEO profession – this is not the case. Rather, The Big G is trying to encourage webmasters and SEO professionals to remember that the content of their site, not where it appears in search engine results pages, are what is most important to the user – and, by extension of this, to the website owner.
This is not to say that search engine optimisation as a profession is on the way out – far from it, in fact. 6 out of 10 organizations expect to increase SEO headcount in the coming year. The industry is also becoming more widely understood – the same report details that 63% of executive teams are more familiar with SEO metrics than 12 months ago.
The shift has been moved away from SEO as an independent discipline, and it is now becoming a more integral part of constructing an internet presence. For an SEO campaign to be truly effective it must be integrated with other aspects of the business – marketing, sales, design, and social media – must all become one holistic package in order to establish a brand online, as opposed to trying to “pull a fast one” on Google.
To quote Trond Lynbø on Edgyseo.com:
“Many site owners want to do the minimum possible, yet expect awesome results. But the days of ‘quick fix SEO’ are numbered, if not already over. It’s time to see SEO from a different angle, with broader, wider focus. To step back, rather than blindly rush to implement new tactics. To decide where you want to go, and act on a strategy-driven plan.”
Having a strategy for your SEO is becoming more and more important, as simply building up link equity is no longer enough to get by. Social media is becoming increasingly important to every business – more than 1 million websites have now introduced Facebook integration in various manners, and social media now accounts for 18% of all time spent online.
If 2012 has taught us one thing about what lies in store for 2013, it’s that we as SEO professionals need to stay on our toes – major algorithm updates are pretty much inevitable, and they could pop up at any time with little or no warning – but rest assured, the team here at eSterling are ready to rise to this challenge and continue to provide you with a solid internet marketing strategy to see you through the year and beyond.
For more information on our eMarketing and SEO services, click here.