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Reinclude Your Content in Google in Less Than 4 Hours

Posted by AdinaToma

For some time, there has been an amazing buzz around the bad neighborhood SEO issue. In the majority of cases, we can point the finger to the shady SEOs who are building the spammy links on purpose. But there are also situations when you work for a SaaS and the platform’s clients don’t really play by the book, generating tons of low quality links that can sink your website when pointing back to it.

With that in mind, I will tell you a short real story about how good SEO intentions (like cleaning up spammy content and backlinks) can go wrong and how to discover on your own just how fast you can reinclude your site content in Google’s search results. The topic of this website is the accidental deindexation of the 123ContactForm web form builder.

At the end of this article you will learn:

  • That miracles exist
  • What we did to have our content reindexed in less than four hours
  • What our full to-do list was the black day when the deindexation occurred

Discovering that something is not right… big time

During a quick SEO rank checking routine, I discovered that the company I work for is not ranking on two major keywords anymore , though it was a night before. I immediately logged into Google Webmaster Tools and noticed a flag that officially confirmed the problem.

It was just a matter of a few clicks to discover that not only did two major keywords plunge from the search results, but that we were encountering a much greater problem: our entire website had been taken out of the SERP. Yes, that’s right, the WHOLE website was missing from the search results.

Let’s get it straight. Fifty percent of our traffic comes from Google’s organic search and killing half of it would have huge implications on the business.

Identify the cause of the problem - window was open

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where there are too many “if’s”? I can honestly relate to that - and I call this a window-open-situation (when nothing is logical, then maybe the open window is to blame for letting the bugs come in).

Thank God that nowadays we have smart tools (again, Webmaster Tools is to be mentioned here) that can help find the problem when we are simply frozen. It took us only a few clicks on the alert messages mentioned above until we detected that the homepage had accidentally been removed from the index as a directory. Ouch.

How did this happen? It was pretty simple (as funny as this sounds, but really not funny at all). We had been using an automated Chrome plugin to do some cleaning jobs. As mentioned above, we had detected some bad neighborhood SEO problems - we are a SaaS company, offering web form building services to clients worldwide. So this bad neighborhood had been created by some of our clients and, while trying to remove the bad content from the search, I had installed an automated plugin for removing URLs from the index in bulk.

The first five times, the plugin worked great, but at the last attempt an unexpected window-open-situation got the homepage of our website removed as a directory from the search results. The link of the homepage was not in the list processed by that plugin, but there are two possible explanations:

  • duplicates in the list
  • an empty row in the list.

Don’t get me wrong, the plugin is an amazing help, you just have to use it wisely and always recheck if things went well, even if you make a submission each minute.

Ok, we (meaning I) got our website out of the search results. How do we start correcting the problem?

First of all, when a bad thing happens, you should always blame yourself - this will make things much better. Joking. However, after I bravely completed this task, I followed the steps below.

1. Reinclude content in search - (Google is saying that it takes 3-5 business days)

2. Submit the website for inclusion in Google's index

3. Ask friends, colleagues and everybody else to post messages containing the deindexed homepage URL on the major social networks (Facebook,Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest). This aims to get the website re-crawled faster.

Believe me, if nothing creative comes out of your mind in such a stressful situation, it’s best to just concentrate on other actions and let your network help you.

4. Fetch as Google (using Webmaster Tools)

5. Create and submit a fresh XML Sitemap

Lucky me, one day before, I had prepared a new sitemap and didn’t have the time to update it on the server. Therefore, the day when the problem occurred, I put it on the server and resubmitted it from Webmaster Tools.

Immediately after submitting the sitemap, we were back in the books (search results). Maybe the freshness of the sitemap also helped.

Time spent to have our website back in Google’s index: 3-4 hours

We prepared another list of actions, but there was no need to apply them anymore. You can check them below.

  1. If you have a blog or a Knowledge Base subdirectory that gets indexed quickly, you should definitely post articles there.
  2. Write a press release and disseminate it using authority services.
  3. Prepare a social media campaign on behalf of your website (e.g. contests).

You can also check this great article (http://moz.com/blog/accidental-noindexation-recovery-strategy-amp-results) which might give you some other hints on how to correct the problem.

So we had a total of 3-4 hours of work to correct the problem, and of course some long hours before we detected the issue (Google had removed the URL about five hours before I noticed it).

It was fortunate that I detected the problem early in the morning, while most of our prospective customers were sleeping because of the time zone difference. So God bless America for that, our consultant for his advice, my colleagues for their help and the vitamin C they gave me, and all the others who contributed to this happy ending.

P.S.: At the end of this adventurous day, we cracked a bottle open to celebrate the discovery that our rankings were not affected at all. One more lesson learned. And we hope our story is encouraging to you, should you ever find yourself in a similar situation. Although we highly hope it does not ever happen to you!


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How PornHub Is Bringing Its A-Game (SFW)

Posted by malditojavi

It has come to my attention how PornHub is marketing itself. It is one of the biggest pornographic websites where you can find videos of all sorts. I have no idea who is behind their online marketing strategy, but hats off to their team because their stepping up the porn websites game to the next level.

Let me detail here some of their latest actions and you will understand why I'm so impressed.

A Bit Of Context: Porn Still Seen As A Taboo?

‘Internet has taken porn mainstream’ stated Aurora Snow, a retired porn star when EJ Dickson, editor from The Daily Dot asked her about sexting and amateur porn as causes that have contributed to not see porn as a taboo.

In her interview, in which the main topic covered is her participation as speaker in a conference at Harvard, she points out how many porn industry A-list names have jumped to commercial and mainstream channels (‘James Deen is in a movie with Lindsay Lohan, Sasha Grey is on Entourage’). It’s totally OK if you don’t know any of these names, but it can give you an idea on how p0rn is now more accepted in our society.

Mobile First: Unlimited Videos... Only For Mobile Devices

Global mobile traffic reached almost 800,000 Terabytes just during last year 2013 and it’s estimated to double that figure in the current year, according to the research provided by Statista/Cisco. If that wasn't enough, increase of smartphone ownership went from 35% in 2011 to 56% in May 2013 (source).


Global Mobile Video Traffic from 2013 to 2018 - Statista

Even if those figures are not specific to the PornHub's specific business, we could take the latest statements from Hulu’s CEO pointing out that despite of starting as a desktop app, 50% of their five million subscribers are running their service only through devices (smartphones, tablets).

PornHub No Limit - How PornHub Is Bringing It's A-GamePornHub Unlimited - PornHub No Limit - How PornHub Is Bringing It's A-Game

After many years of selling adult entertainment content through network TV channels, and from there going to home desktops, the porn business knows that nowadays mobile screens are becoming part of our daily routine. And what did PornHub do? Delete any kind of restriction for its mobile users by removing the five videos per day limit still enforceable in their desktop version. What happened then? Take a look to some of the reactions on Twitter. 

PornHub Unlimited Fans - How PornHub Is Bringing It's A-Game

Let's not forget to mention the peak of 15,000 mentions in Twitter (you can see it in Topsy screenshot of the next section). On average they don't go beyond 3,000 - 4,000 mentions per day.

PornHub Masters Twitter and Social Media Is Its Playground

If there are Twitter accounts for things as weird and eccentric such as one for the Big Ben tweeting what time is it, or accounts that only tweet once per year, why shouldn't a porn site have its own bizarre Twitter account?

Would you be more likely to stablish a conversation between an impersonal company account or would you be more likely to talk if you know who is behind the screen? I guess the second answer is your choice, right? Instead of having a team account, PornHub in Twitter is ‘PornHub Katie’, what is the name of its Community Manager. The same strategy adopted from its related website, YouPorn and Jude, YouPorn Community Manager.

By giving a quick look into their timeline you will see that they know how to play the Twitter game, and how friendly the conversation they can engage in. They are not they typical conversations that you would have in a open public space though. Not going to include here some of their latest tweets but you can nose around some of their idiosyncrasy (though not all of their tweets are appropriate for all workplaces).

To have deeper insights based on data and not only in my unbiased opinion (I’m more than a follower of their tweets, I’m a devotee!), let’s take the first three competitors for the ‘adult’ category provided by Similar Web.

Ranking for 'Adult' Category provided by SimilarWeb - How PornHub It's Bringing It's A-Game

By analysing them through Topsy, we can see that that effectively xVideos and xHamster can't compare with PornHub in terms of Twitter presence. If there is another website that is starting to do great on it, that’s YouPorn. But oh surprise, YouPorn belongs to the network of PornHub.

Topsy Analysis @PornHub @xHamsterCom @xVideoscom - How PornHub Is Bringing It's A-Game

Would you retweet a high-level erotic photo? PornHub knows that you are not likely to do that. Instead, they clearly know how virality works and images are their aces up the sleeves. These are some of their latest memes that you can find if you are following them through Twitter.

Captura de pantalla 2014-05-05 a la(s) 15.01.52.pngCaptura de pantalla 2014-05-05 a la(s) 15.00.47.pngCaptura de pantalla 2014-05-05 a la(s) 15.00.36.pngCaptura de pantalla 2014-05-05 a la(s) 14.59.49.png

Are they not great? Do you think you could it better? Well, today’s your lucky day. Late in 2013 they announced a campaign in order to look for a Creative Director to join them for a year. Their goal? Launch an all-publics national advertising campaign that can be channeled through mainstream media.

PornHub Wants To Launch a Public National Campaign - How PornHub Is Bringing It's A-Game

Nonetheless, it’s not always sunny in Pornland. With such initiative any designer, or even non-designers, could blame them for doing a spec-based design contest. Spec what? No other thing but ‘any kind of creative work (...) submitted (...) by designers to prospective clients before taking steps to secure both their work and equitable fees’, as described in NoSpec.com. In other words, they are using royalty-free content submitted that was created painstakingly by designers around the world. Pas cool.

Hijacking trends has also place in its timeline, no matter if it’s about the latest Cinco de Mayo festivity, Rihanna news or if it’s about the SuperBowl. They are pretty conscious about when a porn website might be more ‘needed’ in someone’s life, and that’s the reason they started to offer no video limit on…. Valentine’s Day.

No Video Limite in St Valentine's Day - How PornHub Is Bringing It's A-Game

A Community of People Openly Admittedly Likers of P0rn?

Apple has a huge amount of people that spread their love for the products they make. Buffer is engrossing a community of startup transparency thanks to some of their latest initiatives like the open metrics dashboard powered by Baremetrics or their open salaries posts. Ryan and the team at Product Hunt really care about the power of a 'true engaged community', and ‘not just acquire additional users’.

At the end, it seems ‘easy’ to grow a community if what you do is good enough. But what happens if your product is porn? What in the beginning seems to be a difficult challenge, growing a porn community in the 21st century is now easier than ever. People are not afraid of showing what they like, even if it's porn. Sexuality is a dish present in everyday TV shows, parents are aware of sexual education to their children, sex is not a topic to avoid any more in many cases.

Would you invite your followers to send you nude pics? Would you take a send a nude pic that you know is going to be shared to 300 K porn fans? PornHub jumps right in when it's about talking to the community and make them participants of PornHub history. 

Engaging With The Community - How PornHub Is Bringing Its A-Game

Porn Community - How PornHub Is Bringing Its A-Game

In case you feel curious, you can head off to Twitter to get some of the most imaginative and sexy responses and replies to these kind of contests. Totally NSFW, everyone. You were warned.

Mother Nature and Porn Viewing Insights: Best Allies To Get Backlinks

How does a porn site earns links from ‘normal’ sites? By ‘normal’, I mean non-erotic or non-sexually explicit at all websites.

On one side, PornHub seems to take the role that OkCupid started a while ago with their blog. OkTrends was a blog collecting all original researches and insights from the dating site by giving shape to the ‘hundreds of millions of OkCupid user interactions’. PornHub has named it ‘PornHub Insights’ and it’s delightul if you love data and some erotic references.

PornInsights - How PornHub Is Bringing Its A-Game

Extra points: spotted what are two of their favorite tools for visualization: Infogr.am and Tableau

And on the other hand, they have partner up with the Mother Nature by promising to donate one tree for every 100 videos viewed in the ‘Big Dick’ category. Result? 2294. Trees? No, no yet. 2294 referral external backlinks according to the data from MajesticSEO.

Captura de pantalla 2014-05-06 a la(s) 15.16.12.png

I tend to think that everyone does things right, but do we really believe they care that much about nature, or it’s just a ‘gimme some backlinks and promo’ kind of thing? I have my doubts, but by taking a look to the backlink profile from PornHub and the previous mentioned competitors, it seems Mother Nature is great for some link-building. In comparison with its competitors xVideos and xHamster, there is no presence in their 20 best performing backlinks of other content different than p0rn. 

Captura de pantalla 2014-05-06 a la(s) 17.56.43.png

'Translate me this into other words, Javier'. Well, it's not about the trees is about getting the attention of CosmopolitanBetaBeat, Gawker, Huffington PostViceGQ and a long list of mass media audiences.

Linkbaiting? Also Well Covered in PornHub

Type ‘pornhub + justin bieber’ into the search box of your preferred search engine, and check it out. Certainly a SERPs output quite different from similar search queries featuring other famous like ‘pornhub + paris hilton’ or ‘porn hub + kim kardashian’ (not going to link them, but you can look up by yourself).

We are not interested in hosting any Justin Bieber’s sex tapes (...) It’s nothing against Selena Gomez, we just don’t approve of all of Bieber’s gross behavior – spitting on fans, driving dangerously and endangering people, and just being a real jerk’ were some of PornHub VP's comments when he was asked about what position PornHub if it was offered to buy or license a possible video leak.

Respectful approach… or just another marketing strategy? Because they might not be interested in such a great asset for their video collection, but they don’t hesitate to target the beliebers, hordes of Justin’s fans no doubting on go to your jugular if you address no nice words against their Messiah.

PornHub Wishes HB to Justin Bieber After Calling Him 'Jerk' - How PornHub Is Bringing Its A-Game

By the way, were you impressed with PornHub’s performance against its competitors on Twitter? Wait to be speechless when you see the analysis between the 35 million-visits/day-porn-website vs the canadian singer personal account (54 million Twitter foll... Beliebers).

PornHub Knows Its Personas and Goes For Them

Great marketers have pointed out the importance of setting up the personas you are trying to target within your marketing strategy. A great piece about understanding who is behind the screens can be found also through this same site, written by Mike. Don’t bookmark it, all we know you won’t end up reading it, so do it now.

'Research and develop who are my personas will take some of my time', you say. If it's well done, for sure. But have you thought what such a great resource are you going to have? You establish who is your ideal user / visitor / reader, and you create a plan to get his attention. And by 'attention', I mean their clicks, their time to spend on your site, their comments, etc. Let’s be precise, their money.

Does Machinima mean anything to you? It didn't to me until I watched one of their Youtube videos (kind of NSFW) promoting PornHub. I typed ‘pornhub’ in Google’s famous video platform to check out what other content PornHub was hosting besides their interviews of personalities within their industry.

Machinimia’s h1 tag describes its business as 'next generation video entertainment network for the gamer lifestyle and beyond'. Their services go from ‘monetization of your channel, grow your audience and expand your reach to new platforms’. With most of its partners belonging to the video-game industry, they are able to deliver and work with these impressive figures.

Captura de pantalla 2014-05-05 a la(s) 14.48.36.png

'Ok, now I know a bit more about these video-gamers, but how does it is relate with PornHub?' Glad you are wondering that too. I must be honest, and say that I have been quite reluctant to the vloggers thing - I just prefer written content where you can read or scan what’s being said at your own pace - but after seeing that in just two days Machinima had 700,000 views in a video only featuring PornHub’s initiative, I might change my opinion about vlogging.Machinima Promoting PornHub through Their Vlog - How PornHub Is Bringing Its A-Game

After watching the video, and seeing more about what's the kind of audience Machinima is targeting, don't you find so many correlations and similarities with Pornhub's audience?

Captura de pantalla 2014-05-05 a la(s) 14.48.44.png

Kind of ‘Innovation’ Is Also Possible In The Porn Industry

A quick analyis of search queries made by their visitors and daily sharing the weirdest ones? They got it.

PornMD Daily Analysis of The Best Porn Search Engine on the Internet - How PornHub Is Bringing Its A-Game

Some 'machine learning' to create a porn search engine that guess what kind of videos you are likely to enjoy? They have it too. Not PornHub main site, but a little brother.

PornMD - How PornHub Is Bringing Its A-Game

I don’t know if it can be considered as ‘innovation’, but as I have pointed out before, posts researching, analyizing about what kind of sexual genres are the most viewed, what are the sexual preferences for certain USA regions and football matches impact their visits figure depending if you team is winning or losing, is certainly something you don’ t expect from a porn site. And yep, they are on that too through PornHub Insights

In terms of marketing, promotion, buzzing, if all the porn sites out there would take their business as seriously as the PornHub is doing, marketing friends, we would have such a big pool of opportunities to learn. Because as I read while ago in Jordi's post, ‘porn sites are the best places to learn about conversion’ and I would add about online marketing too.


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Is Buying Domain Names Profitable?

Posted by David-Kley

Is Buying Domain Names Profitable?

This is in response to a question a fellow Moz community member once asked in Q&A, and we thought that it deserved its own article. Buying up expired domains, or purchasing keyword-driven domains is becoming more popular amongst the internet "get rich quick" crowd. The big question is: Can you make a profit by buying and selling domain names? If you get the right one, sure. If you plan on repeating the process over and over, probably not.

Something wise my father once told me "Something is only worth how much someone is willing to pay for it." This small seemingly unimportant statement has guided me in many selling and purchasing decisions in my life. Sometimes, it makes the reality all too apparent. So, is buying a domain with the intention of selling it a good idea? Let's break down the details, and talk to some people that actively pursue this method. Yeah, we know a guy.

1. Labor-wise, it doesn't add up

In the grey hat SEO world, the thought is that you can take a domain that is keyword driven, do a quick optimization to get the site ranking, and sell it off at a profit. It could, and does happen daily. How much time is invested in optimizing a site to get to page one, vs how much the site will sell for? (remember that quote at the beginning of this article?). Let's put it into simple math:

According to Sedo.com, the average cost of a purchased .com domain is around $2100-2300. Depending on how much your time is worth, you may have to take a hit on labor cost to get the domain where it needs to be in order to entice potential buyers. Here is some theoretical math for you number crunchers:

  • Optimize keyword-driven site to rank in Google: approx 30 hours @ $50 hour labor cost (using low $50 rate for sake of example) = $1500
  • Time cold-calling and email blasting potential buyers in industry niche to purchase said domain: approx 8 hours = $400
  • According to the data provided by Sedo.com, likely cost for selling said site: approx $2300 max ($1000-1500 most likely)
  • Gained vs Invested = $2300-1900= $400 profit.

I'm not against making money in any way, but $400 doesn't really seem worth the effort and coffee expense invested (I like the good stuff). This is a very basic example used to put the costs in perspective. Most SEO providers charge more than $50 per hour, and you get what you pay for. The above example of a final labor estimate is probably much higher, or if the domain is already ranking high and the owner wants to sell, so is the initial purchase price. Since this is often repeated many times over for multiple domains, it could get time consuming, and expensive.

2. You might get someone's dirty laundry

It's ranking high today! What could be the problem? NO. JUST STOP. Unless you know the entire history of a domain, you may be setting yourself up for failure before you begin. SEOs (and business owners) use a variety of tactics to get a site ranking high in search results. For some of these methods, we'll just call them "questionable". These methods could include everything from buying links, overuse of directory submissions (non-industry related), duplicate listings, poor quality backlinks, and guest blog comments.

With a domain of this type, it could be very easy to get it to rank quickly, before the powers that be see the domain for what it is, and put it on the blacklist. While that study is being done, you could end up with a domain that has a lot of problems coming down the pipeline that you are completely unaware of.

3. It undermines your quality and reputation

If you know how to get websites to page one, why are you not marketing that fact to potential clients and consumers or would-be domain purchasers? Trying to get a keyword driven domain to rank high and sell it off for a profit isn't a good investment, either time wise or for the long-term success of your company. Instead, use sites that you have already ranked high as an example of how awesome you are and sign them up for a monthly fee, rather than trying to sell them a "make money now" domain.

  • Demonstrate SEO prowess to potential client using existing sites as proof of results
  • Sign up client for basic SEO services at $600-1000 (depending upon site and competition) per month
  • Invest 30-40 hours in making the client's site soar in results
  • Client is happy. Refers friends and other business owners your way
  • You get: More clients, better reputation, month recurring income, and gain a positive reputation for being a quality SEO provider.

4. It's not sustainable income

Remember that guy we said we knew? in the second paragraph? Well, we talked to him to find out if all the bling and glamor behind selling domains was true. This is what he said:

  • US: "Is buying domains with the intent of selling them a sustainable model?"
  • HIM: "Honestly, it depends. Overall, I'd have to say no, because you never know what you are going to get in return. One week I might make $900 off one domain, but the next week I'm stuck with five nobody wants. However if you are a great salesman, you can make it work."
  • US: "What type of domains do you see being the most sought after?"
  • HIM: "Mainly small-medium sized local businesses looking for a way to increase their ranking. Most already have a branded domain in place, and have heard that using a keyword domain can help. Or they have seen a competitor ranking using that method. The problem I face is that they don't have a lot of money to spend, so I get lowballed on the asking price. There have been a few that make a ton of profit vs what I purchased it for, but that boils down to luck: what is for sale, when I find it, things like that."
  • US: "When do you think it makes the most sense to buy or sell a domain?"
  • HIM: "When someone is selling the company, and have a high ranking domain already in place. Those companies stand to make the most money by selling to their competitors, who always seem to be willing to pay. (laughs)"

Selling a domain negates the fact that you can make additional money from this client, unless you start the process over again, with another domain. You could use the domains position as proof of your SEO-prowess, but once it's already ranking and optimized, what other services can you entice them with?

5. Waiting on and finding buyers can be a pain in the arse

We did a search for GoDaddy and Sedo domain experiences, and many of them came back as negative. In one such example, Online Domain stated that "GoDaddy is destroying domain sales." The author speaks about having to wait up to 80 days to get his domain sold, the whole time being questioned on his asking price.

But wait, there's more. So you are looking to sell a premium listing that is not keyword-driven? Be ready to take a hit. On all premium domain sales, GoDaddy takes a 30% commission fee. This process happens before they remit the payment. Yikes. When you are already operating on a slim margin, 30% can be what makes or breaks the bank for that sale.


Conclusion:

While buying up a ton of domains seems like a great way to make some extra money, the real world results show that it is very hard to make that process profitable. As with any industry, you will have those "golden moments" when someone you read about made it into a million dollar a year business, all while sitting in the comfort of his own home. That could be true, but he probably consumed a lot of alcohol and lost a lot of hair doing it.


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Panda Pummels Press Release Websites: The Road to Recovery

Posted by russvirante

Many of us in the search industry were caught off guard by the release of Panda 4.0. It had become common knowledge that Panda was essentially "baked into" the algorithm now several times a month, so a pronounced refresh was a surprise. While the impact seemed reduced given that it coincided with other releases including a payday loans update and a potential manual penalty on Ebay, there were notable victims of the Panda 4.0 update which included major press release sites. Both Search Engine Land and Seer Interactive independently verified a profound traffic loss on major press release sites following the Panda 4.0 update. While we can't be certain that Google did not, perhaps, roll out a handful of simultaneous manual actions or perhaps these sites were impacted by the payday loans algo update, Panda remains the inference to the best explanation for their traffic losses.

So, what happened? Can we tease out why Press Release sites were seemingly singled out? Are they really that bad? And why are they particularly susceptible to the Panda algorithm? To answer this question, we must first address the main question: what is the Panda algorithm?

Briefly: What is the Panda Algorithm

The Panda algorithm was a ground-breaking shift in Google's methodology for addressing certain search quality issues. Using patented machine learning techniques, Google used real, human reviewers to determine the quality of a sample set of websites. We call this sample the "training set". Examples of the questions they were asked are below:

  1. Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  2. Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  3. Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  4. Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  5. Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  6. Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  7. Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  8. Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  9. How much quality control is done on content?
  10. Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  11. Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  12. Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don't get as much attention or care?
  13. Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  14. For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  15. Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  16. Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  17. Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  18. Is this the sort of page you'd want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  19. Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  20. Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  21. Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  22. Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  23. Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Once Google had these answers from real users, they built a list of variables that might potentially predict these answers, and applied their machine learning techniques to build a model of predicting low performance on these questions. For example, having an HTTPS version of your site might predict a high performance on the "trust with a credit card" question. This model could then be applied across their index as a whole, filtering out sites that would likely perform poorly on the questionnaire. This filter became known as the Panda algorithm.

How do Press Release Sites Perform on these Questions?

First, Moz has a great tutorial on running your own Panda questionnaire on your own website, which is useful not just for Panda but really any kind of user survey. The graphs and data in my analysis come from PandaRisk.com, though. Full disclosure, Virante, Inc., the company for which I work, owns PandaRisk. The graphs were built by averaging the results from several pages on each press release site, so they represent a sample of pages from each PR distributor.

So, let's dig in. In the interest of brevity, I have chosen to highlight just four of the major concerns that came from the surveys, question-by-question.

Q1. Does this Site Contain Insightful Analysis?

Google wants to send users to web pages that are uniquely useful, not just unique and not just useful. Unfortunately, press release sites uniformly fail on this front. On average, only 50% of reviewers found that BusinessWire.com content contained insightful analysis. Compare this to Wikipedia, EDU and Government websites which, on average, score 84%, 79% and 94% respectively, and you can see why Google might choose not to favor their content.

But does this have to be the case? Of course not. Press release websites like BusinessWire.com have first mover status on important industry information. They should be the first to release insightful analysis. Now, press release sites do have to be careful about editorializing the content of their users, but there are clearly improvements that could be made. For example, we know that use of structured data and visual aids improves performance on this question (ie: graphs and charts). BusinessWire could extract stock exchange symbols from press releases and include graphs and data related to the business right in the post. This would separate their content from other press release sites that simply reproduce the content verbatim. There are dozens of other potential improvements that can be added either programmatically or by an editor. So, what exactly would these kinds of changes look like?

In this case, we simply inserted a graph from stock exchange data and included on the right-hand side some data from Freebase on the Securities and Exchange Commission, which could easily be extracted as an entity from the documentation using, for example, Alchemy API. These modest improvements to the page increased the "insightful analysis" review score by 15%. 

Q2. Would You Trust this Site with Your Credit Card?

This is one of the most difficult ideals to measure up to. E-Commerce sites, in general, perform better automatically, but there are clear distinctions between sites people trust and don't trust. Press release websites do have an e-commerce component, so one would expect them to fare comparatively well to non-commercial sites. Unfortunately, this is just not the case. PR.com failed this question in what can only be described as epic fashion. 91% of users said they would not trust the site with their credit card details. This isn't just a Panda issue for PR.com, this is a survival-of-the-business issue. 

Luckily, there are some really clear, straight-forward solutions to this address this problem. 

  • Extend HTTPS/SSL Sitewide
    Not every site needs to have HTTPS enabled, but if you have a 600,000+ page site with e-commerce functionality, let's just go ahead and assume you do. Users will immediately trust your site more if they see that pretty little lock icon in their browser. 
  • Site Security Solutions
    Take advantage of solutions like Comodo Hacker Proof or McAfee SiteAdvisor to verify that your site is safe and secure. Include the badges and link to them so that both users and the bots know that you have a safe site.
  • Business Reputation Badges
    Use at least one trade group or business reputation group (like the better business bureau) or, at minimum, employ some form of schema review markup that makes it clear to your users that at least some person or group of persons out there trusts your site. If you use a trade group membership or the BBB, make sure you link to them so that, once again, it is clear to the bots as well as your users.
  • Up-to-date Design
    This is a clear issue time and time again. In the technology world, old means insecure. The site PR.com looks old-fashioned by all measures of the word, especially in comparison to the other press release websites. It is no wonder that it performs so horribly.

It is worth pointing out here that Google doesn't need to find markup on your site to come to the conclusion that your site is untrustworthy. Because the Panda algorithm likely takes into account engagement metrics and behaviors (like pogo sticking), Google can use the behavior of users to predict the performance on these questions. So, even if there isn't a clear path between a change you make on your site and Googlebot's ability to identify that change doesn't mean the change cannot and will not have an impact on site performance in the search results. The days of thinking about your users and the bots as separate audiences are gone. The bots now measure both your site and your audience. Your impact on users can and will have an impact on search performance.

Q3. Do You Consider this Site an Authority?

This question is particularly difficult for sites that both don't control the content they create and have a wide variety of content. This places press release websites squarely in the bullseye of the Panda algorithm. How does a website that accepts thousands of press releases on nearly any topic dare claim to be an authority? Well, it generally doesn't, and the numbers bear that out. 75% of respondents wouldn't consider PRNewswire an authority. 

Notice, though, that Wikipedia performs poorly on this metric as well (at least compared to EDUs and GOVs). So what exactly is going on here? How can a press release site hope to escape from this authority vacuum? 

  • Topically Segment Content
    This was one of the very first reactions to Panda. Many of the sites that were hit with Panda 1.0 sub-domained their content into particular topic areas. This seemed to provide some relief but was never a complete or permanent solution. Whether you segment your content into sub-directories or sub-domains, what you are really doing here is helping make clear to your users that the specific content your users are reading is part of a bigger piece of the pie. It isn't some random page on your site, it fits in nicely with your website's stated aims. 
  • Create an Authority
    Just because you don't write the content for your site doesn't mean you can't be authoritative. In fact, most major press release websites have some degree of editorial oversight sitting between the author and the website. That editorial layer needs to be bolstered and exposed to the end user, making it obvious that the website does more than simply regurgitate the writing of anyone with a few bucks. 

So, what exactly would this look like? Let's return to the Businesswire press release we were looking at earlier. We started with a bland page comprised of almost nothing but the press release. We then added a graph and some structured data automagically. Now, we want to add in some editor creds and topic segmentation.

Notice in the new design that we have created the "Securities & Investment Division", added an editor with a fancy title "Business Desk Editor" and a credentialed by-line. You could even use authorship publisher markup. The page no longer looks like a sparse press release but an editorially managed piece of news content in a news division dedicated to this subject matter. Authority done.

Q4. Would You Consider Bookmarking/Sharing this Site?

When I look at this question, I am baffled. Seriously, how do you make a site in which you don't control the content worth bookmarking or sharing? Furthermore, how do you do this with overtly commercial, boring content like press releases? As you could imagine, press release sites fair quite poorly on this. Over 85% of respondents said they weren't interested at all in bookmarking or sharing content from PRWeb.com. And why should they? 

So, how exactly does a press release website encourage users to share? The most common recommendations are already in place on PRWeb. They are quite overt with the usage of social sharing and bookmarking buttons (placed right at the top of the content). Their content is constantly fresh because new press releases come out every day. If these techniques aren't working, then what will?

The problem with bookmarking and sharing on press release websites is two-fold. First, the content is overtly commercial so users don't want to share it unless the press release is about something truly interesting. Secondly, the content is ephemeral so users don't want to return to it. We have to solve both of these problems.

Unfortunately, I think the answer to this question is some tough medicine for press release websites. The solution is multi-faceted. It starts with putting a meta expires tag on press releases. Sorry, but there is no reason for PRWeb to maintain a 2009 press release about a business competition in the search results. In its place, though, should be company and/or categorical pages which thoughtfully index and organize archived content. While LumaDerm may lose their press release from 2009, they would instead have a page on the site dedicated to their press releases so that the content is still accessible, albeit one click away, and the search engines know to ignore it. With this solution, the pages that end up ranking in the long run for valuable words and phrases are the aggregate pages that truly do offer authoritative information on what is up-and-coming with the business. The page is sticky because it is updated as often as the business releases new information, you still get some of the shares out of new releases but you don't risk the problems of PR sprawl and crawl prioritization. Aside from the initial bump of fresh content, there is no good SEO reason to keep old press releases in the index.

So, I Don't Own a Press Release Site...

Most of us don't run sites with thousands of pages of low quality content. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be cognizant of Panda. Of all of Google's search updates, Panda is the one I respect the most. I respect it because it is an honest attempt to measure quality. It doesn't ask how you got to your current position in the search results (a classic genetic fallacy problem), it simply asks whether the page and site itself deserve that ranking based on human quality measures (as imperfect as it may be at doing so). Most importantly, even if Google didn't exist at all, you should aspire to have a website that scores well on all of these metrics. Having a site that performs well on the Panda questions means more than insulation from a particular algorithm update, it means having a site that performs well for your users. That is a site you want to have.

Take a look again at the questionnaire. Does your site honestly meet these standards? Ask someone unbiased. If your site does, then congratulations - you have an amazing site. But if not, it is time to get to work building the site that you were meant to build.


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The Guide to Creating a Great Kickstarter Video

Posted by Wooshii

If you’re planning to crowdfund a project (through Kickstarter, for example), few things will give you a leg up like creating a solid video to explain and pitch your idea. According to Kickstarter, projects with videos succeed at a much higher rate than those without (50% vs. 30%).

Videos work for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that video gives you the opportunity to be personable in a way text simply will not allow. Depending on the nature of your project, this means you can use video to showcase whatever potential backers will value—your professionalism, your creativity, your communication skills or even your sense of humor.

This guide will provide you with a quick but thorough checklist for creating crowdfunding videos that work.

THE STORYLINE

Before you shoot your video, you’re going to need a script. (An off-the-cuff video may sound like a fresh, fun idea, but it will almost certainly look like what it is: an exercise in non-preparation.)

But wait! Before you fire up your word processor of choice, you have some homework to do.

Research First

Steve Young, the Director of Product Marketing at SmartShoot, advises, “Before even thinking about writing a script, storyboarding your video, or finding a filmmaker, make sure you watch as many Kickstarter videos as you can.” You’re looking for what makes a video memorable and engaging.

Is there a video that causes you to forget you’re actually doing research and piques your interest to the point that you’re excited about someone else’s project? Study that video! Decide what drew you in and consider how you can use the same strategy in your own video production.

Here are a few examples of successful, engaging crowdfunding videos:

Try and think about your product from the other side. I recently spoke to Phil Baker, the investment Analyst from CrowdCube about the types of videos that are successful on their platform 

Have a Script

This is Video Making 101. Before you can shoot a video, you need a script. Again, Young has some wisdom to share: “You want to spend the bulk of your time perfecting the script writing process. Act out the different scenes and get as much feedback [as you can] from your friends and family.”

Make sure your script includes all the most important aspects of your crowdfunded project, including how the project came to be, why the project is important, why the project will be successful, and what rewards will be offered to those who contribute.

Shorter is Better

As you develop your script and plan the video production phase, keep in mind that shorter videos have a much higher chance of retaining the viewer’s attention. According to Kendall Almerico of Entrepreneur.com, “The video should be short, exciting and get the viewer fired up and wanting to read more about what you are offering. Ideally, the video should be three minutes long or less.”

Get to the Point

On the subject of brevity, don’t spend the first 30 seconds of your video beating around the bush. “The first 10 seconds are crucial!” cites Tatayana Fundrazr.com. If you can hook a viewer in those first 10 seconds, they are far more likely to watch the whole video, making them far more likely to contribute to your project.

PRODUCTION

While you can recruit the help of a professional video production team, there’s a good chance you’re interested in crowdfunding specifically because your project is on a tight budget. You may not have the funds to go pro, but that’s okay. Effective videos can be made, even by a complete amateur.

Got a Smart Phone? You’ve Got a Camera.

The camera app on your smart phone, while not the most sophisticated piece of video equipment on the planet, is capable of this job, provided you take the time to make sure you’re prepare. For example, you will find a basic tripod invaluable in creating smooth, steady shots.

Additionally, “...there are a number of resources online to teach you basic shooting skills, ‘ Vimeo Video School’ is a great place to start. Even if you can’t shoot a video, you can create a slideshow using images that integrates music and voice over narration, check out ‘Animoto’ to get started,” (from ‘How To Create an Effective Crowdfunding Video’).

Lighting and Sound

Two of the most important elements of good, clean video production are lighting and sound. Be sure you shoot your video in a well-lit environment, whether outside, using natural lighting, or inside, using additional lights, spotlights and even desk lamps to ensure that you aren’t robed in shadows.

You may also find it helpful to use a small, clip-on microphone to ensure all speech is easy to hear. Speak loudly, clearly, and slowly. Also, try to tap into your excitement about the project. Your passion can be contagious.

Location, Location, Location

The location you choose for your video makes an impact. For some projects, you may actually want to shoot the video in your garage. However, if your product is more refined, a cleaner, more professional environment will likely work better.

Give thought to where you shoot, mindful that the viewer will take in not only you and your voice, but your background, as well.

The Art of Editing

“As an editor, your aim should be to create a seamless experience that will immediately engage your viewers and keep them watching until the very end. There are many low-cost editing programs, like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, which you can use to craft your video,” advises Kapkan.

While video editing programs, like those listed above, allow you to add special effects and transitions, avoid the temptation to include these. Nothing screams “amateur movie maker” like a video chalked full of tired, old effects. Instead, edit with simple, straight cuts.

Also, it’s a good idea to add background music to your video—something that matches the theme, tempo and mood of your shoot. However, a word of caution here: be mindful of copyright laws. Do not, repeat, do not, use any medium (music, video, or even graphic logos) without the express, written permission of the copyright holder.

ADDITIONAL TIPS & TRICKS

Finally, two pieces of advice worth highlighting all on their own. These two things alone are crucial, so make sure your video includes these elements.

Be Yourself

“Both a blessing and a curse (and the nature of crowdfunding), Kickstarter campaigns are often successful due to the emotional connection potential backers have with the project creators,” writes Kerrin Sheldon from Fast Company.

Your goal should be a video that embodies you—your personality, passion and project. A video without these personal touches doesn’t give the viewer any emotional hook. Given that so many crowdfunded projects are successful because people invest in them emotionally, this is vital.

Ask for a Donation

It sounds obvious, but many people feel shy about asking for a hand out. However, the goal of any crowdfunded project is to raise money. If you don’t ask for a donation in your video, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

“This needs to be the very last thing in the video, and it needs to be clear, and worded to focus on what they'll be getting, not what you want,” (from ‘How Successful Kickstarter Campaign Videos Are Made’).

Additionally, there are a lot of other guides out there online for creating successful crowdfunding videos. We’ve hit the highlights here, giving you enough information to successfully create your own video. However, if you still feel shaky, we encourage you to seek out other resources and research until you feel well prepared.

Sources:

1) Kickstarter School, kickstarter.com

2) ‘ How to Make a Kickass Kickstarter Video’, fastcompany.com

3) ‘ How to Make a Kickstarter Video That Raises Over $150,000’, smartchot.com

4) ‘ 6 Tips to Create a Top-Notch Crowdfunding Video’, entrepreneur.com

5) ‘ How To Create an Effective Crowdfunding Video’, fundrazr.com

6) ‘How Successful Kickstarter Campaign Videos Are Made’, crowdfundingdojo.com

7) ‘5 Must Read Tips for Your First Kickstarter Video’, videobrewery.com

8) Opening image from the Kickstarter project Ancient Terrible Things


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Is Google Analytics Hurting your Business?

Posted by BenjaminMorel

At Brighton SEO this year one of the talks opened with a rather bold statement:

“Delete Google Analytics”

Given that everybody in the conference hall was involved in digital marketing in some way, and how much of website visitor tracking is done through Google Analytics, you might even speculate that was a foolhardy statement and that the only thing that saved the speaker was the cordon of riot police brought in specially for this talk. But then the man on the platform was Ammon Johns – a man with almost 20 years of SEO experience who is recognised by the industry as someone with a huge amount of SEO knowledge and who speaks at some of the largest digital marketing conferences around – so the riot police were little troubled, although many eyebrows were raised.

It turns out that the main aim of the talk wasn't actually to get everybody in the room to boycott Google, but to make us think. And that’s what I’d like you to do throughout this post – question the common wisdom that Google Analytics is the best thing since hypertext protocols and ask yourself whether it might actually be harming your business.

Why is Google Analytics so great?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Google Analytics is brilliant for four reasons:

  1. It’s very easy to use
  2. Everyone else uses it, so it must be the best
  3. It integrates brilliantly with AdWords
  4. It’s free. Who can argue with free?

The big question is, are these really the right reasons for choosing an analytics tool? Does “easy to use” mean “easy to get actionable insights from” or something else? With Google being a hugely successful corporation, are they really giving me a huge chunk of data for free or am I paying in some other way?

Is Google Analytics actually easy to use?

Google Analytics is definitely easy to set up. It’s also easy to get data out of and it’s easy to get rid of data you don’t want. But spitting out data isn’t the point of a web analytics. The point is to provide insights that let you build testable hypothesis and so improve the performance of your platform.

We’ve all seen the Google Analytics home screen – now the Audience Overview screen – with its visitor graphs and its language breakdowns. But have you really studied it? Head over to Analytics, take a look at that Audience Overview screen and ask yourself “how can I improve my business with these data and these data alone?” I’ll give you a few minutes of thinking time.

Did you manage to find anything? I would be very surprised if you did. Now that’s quite a shocking statement: you went to the first – and so by definition most important – screen of a tool that millions of people use every day and I don’t expect you to have found anything useful. Ouch.

That’s because while Google Analytics is very easy to set up and it’s very easy to see the data it spits out, it’s actually very difficult to get real insight. Almost every valuable analysis requires creating a custom report. You want to use cohort analysis to determine whether you have taken the right approach on a channel? Custom report. You want to see which blog posts drive the most and best engagement? Set up JavaScript events then build a custom report. You want to integrate offline sales data from your CRM? No can do; you will be able to when you get Universal Analytics, but only using (all together now) a custom report.

So there are plenty of things in Analytics that could be easier. But how can we make them easier? The problem here comes not from the data being collected but from the way it’s displayed. One option is to suck the data straight in from the API to your own set of reports that can not only be branded nicely but will only show the graphs you want to see, set up in the way you want. It’s not actually all that difficult for a good developer to do, and if it saves you time each week or month then you can make a good business case for investing in such a solution.

If you can make the business case for building a custom interface for Google Analytics, though, it might be worth asking yourself the question posed at the start of this post: “is Google Analytics really the best solution out there for me or can I justify investing in something else?” Take a couple of hours to explore the web analytics ecosystem and see if you can find a solution that would make it easier to deliver real, actionable insight.

Just because everyone else uses it, is Google Analytics really the best?

I started the last section off with a challenge, so I’ll do the same here. Don’t worry, this will be a simple one with no trips off to Analytics. Ready? Define “the best”. Go!

OK, so that’s actually what a mathematician would define as “complex”: a question that’s easy to ask but difficult to answer. The reason it’s difficult to answer is twofold:

  1. This is probably the first time we’ve ever asked ourselves this question
  2. The answer depends hugely on context: who is asking questions of our data, why they want answers, who is going to do the analysis, and a whole range of other factors

The reason I asked the question is that if we can’t define what “the best” means, how can we say Google Analytics is the best solution?

There are some things it does brilliantly. Tracking visitor flow, aggregating data over multiple pages and channels, letting us look at engagement. But there are some questions it simply cannot answer. For example, what would your reply be if your boss asked:

  • “The average time spent on this landing page is two minutes. Is that because they were reading the copy or because they were comparing our product to our competitors?”
  • “How well are the videos on our site engaging visitors?
  • “People jump from their mobile, to their work PC, back to their mobile on the train home, then onto their home computer. How can we track this happening to get a real picture of cross-device behaviour?”
  • “What happens if people have cookies turned off?”

Hands up all those who said “ermmm”.

There are tools out there that can do these things:

  • Crazy Egg gives you heatmaps showing what proportion of people have scrolled down a page and how many have clicked links on a given page (I personally love Crazy Egg. No affiliation, they just make a great product).
  • Digital Analytix from comScore lets you track individuals across devices. Universal Analytics will bring in this behaviour to some extent, but only for people who sign in to their Google accounts while browsing
  • While you could cobble together a video analysis using time on page, JavaScript events, and a pinch of salt, Digital Analytix gives you data on browser behaviour during video streaming
  • Piwik is an open source (read “free and fully customisable”) analytics tool that doesn’t use cookies, so doesn’t give you the problem of not being able to track people who have turned off cookies

A screenshot from Crazy Egg used on the Optimizely blog. When a CRO tools company starts using a web analytics tool it could be interesting to take a look (Image credit: Crazy Egg)

For a lot of people those are some pretty fundamental questions that can’t be answered. But some people know enough about JavaScript – or employ people who do – that they can set up event listeners to get a portion of this data. And some people are not asking these questions. But think about whether Google Analytics has ever not given you the answer to a question, or even if you haven’t asked a question because you know it can’t be answered; if this has happened a few times then it might be a good time to head off and do that research into other providers.

Anything free is amazing. But is Analytics really free?

Now I imagine that a lot of people reading that heading have straight away thought “of course it’s really free, we don’t give them a penny”. But think about this: in using Analytics you give Google all of the data. That gives them knowledge about you and your customers, and knowledge, as we all know, is power. So you might not be paying Google cash, but you are definitely helping them keep their position as one of the most powerful companies on the planet.

But more than that, if knowledge is power and power is money then surely gaining knowledge about data and its manipulation is a great learning opportunity and one that will make you a fair return one day. As Ammon said in his talk, “Using Google Analytics doesn’t make you good with data, just with Google Analytics”. Because if you just accept what Analytics pukes out at you, are you really asking the difficult questions that will help your business to improve?

One last thought: the data that Google Analytics gets is yours for free anyway. It’s your information about people coming to your website and interacting with your services, not Google’s. Lots of companies are moving towards data warehouses now, keeping all of their information within their own domain instead of giving it to third parties. And if you have any concerns about privacy following the recent revelations about the NSA and GCHQ then you might consider them pretty sensible people.

When is “Good Enough” good enough?

This was actually going to be the title of this post, but I don’t quite have Ammon’s nerve (and it’s a great topic for a project management post so has been filed away for later use).

As we’ve seen, Google Analytics is not the best solution out there. It’s not even the best free solution out there for some people. But what it is is “good enough”. It’s good enough to get some profound insights out of if you work with it, and like Excel, even better if you can build a custom dashboard. It’s good enough if you value those insights over privacy. It’s good enough if you can’t invest the time to learn a new tool that will give you similar insights. It’s good enough if you ask it the right sort of questions.

It might be for him, but is it for you? (Image credit The Meme Wiki)

But – and it’s a big but – for you that might not be enough for you and your company. Do you work for a “data-driven organisation”? Do you want to ask hard questions, make big changes, and get big improvements as a result of the data in your hands? Do you want to stand out from all of the other companies and agencies out there who do analytics in the same way?

If “good enough” suits your needs, dismiss this post with a wave of the hand. But if you think that you might need more than “good enough” in the future, or if you really want to be a properly data-driven decision maker, or if you think that big changes will give you big results I urge you to think about your choices. Explore the options out there; even if you go back to Google Analytics, you’ll come back with more knowledge than you had before. But if you don’t go back, you can look forward to a long, exciting, and rewarding journey.


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Product Marketing Without a Product Team

Posted by Alyce

When Wistia was small, everyone was involved in every launch. It was easy to know who was on board with any particular project, because, well, everyone was pretty much working on any given problem. When you’re working with 10-12 people total, you can gather around the lunch table and catch up on everything that’s going on at a given time.

As we’ve grown to 15, 20, and soon 30 people, this kind of flat communication has become difficult. Multiple projects happen concurrently, and different people are focusing on different aspects of various initiatives in engineering, design, support, and marketing. Because we don’t have a traditional “product team” or “project managers,” everyone gets a chance to try their hand at project management in pieces. Because of that, everyone here has the power to influence the product and try their hand at project management.

When should marketing get involved?

My role most frequently culminates at the tail end of a product update: telling its story during the launch process. It can be challenging to be looped in towards the end of a lengthy project. While the quality of our written and video content is higher if we have more time to work on launch materials, there’s a delicate balance between allowing too much time or too little.

If we get too involved too early in the process, we might craft an entire blog post or video around details that aren’t yet finalized. In these situations, we find ourselves scrambling to change everything at the last minute, and it’s a frustrating experience for everyone. This results in an otherwise exciting moment being weighed down by everyone’s stress, and the dampened enthusiasm affects the quality of the launch itself.

On the other hand, if we get involved too late, it’s very difficult to figure out where everyone working on the project stands and what they want emphasized in the launch. Again, we find ourselves scrambling, and the end result is similar: someone has an epiphany an hour before launch as they read the draft, and I rush to make the necessary changes on schedule.

The feature launch questionnaire

I can’t blame anyone for in particular for these stressful moments, but it seemed like we could improve our processes. I thought it might help to get some words on digital paper a bit earlier so that any epiphanies could happen collaboratively, long before launch day. I worked with Ezra to create this feature launch questionnaire:

Side note: "Customer Happiness" is what we call our support team, who also handle the documentation around product launches.

Filling out a questionnaire in a Google doc wasn’t quite enough for me — it seemed equally important that we all spend some time hashing things out face-to-face. And so, the 30-minute pre-launch gathering was born.

The pre-launch gathering

The pre-launch gathering generally occurs two or three weeks before the estimated date of technical completion. Everyone who might have an opinion on the project, and everyone working on launch materials, gathers in a room to fill out the form together. We talk out our thoughts, and record the consensus in the questionnaire Google

So far, we’ve managed to keep these meetings shorter than 30 minutes (thanks to the focus lent by the questionnaire), and it’s been insanely helpful for me.

Workshopping the content

After the pre-launch gathering, a few days before the launch itself, I’ve also begun to incorporate a blog post workshop.

For a while, I've been leading a workshop for each "feature" blog post we publish: we define a "feature" as a high-effort post that we're going to email to our entire audience. It was about time we did something similar for our equally important product-related content, which we send to all of our customers, and often, to everyone in our email audience.

In the workshop, the pre-launch group re-convenes to read through and collaboratively edit the launch blog post. We each bring a laptop to the workshop and live-edit the content as one person reads the post aloud. The workshops have been awesome for affirming that everyone has signed off on what’s going out the door and ensuring that there’ll be no last minute U-turns.

One of the biggest challenges of product marketing for me is feeling like I might misrepresent something that someone else is super passionate about and has spent hours toiling over. Someone put a lot of effort into the story and technical details behind any feature, and I constantly worry about selling that short. Getting everyone together for these conversations and coming to a consensus does wonders for assuaging those worries.

The result: smoother launches!

It seems really simple, and for larger companies, having a system like this is probably a no-brainer and a necessity, but this has truly been (to get a little buzzword-y on you) a game-changer for me personally. A more ad-hoc way of working didn't keep our product launches from happening, but it left us with a lot more stress. It's been cool to see that a side effect of getting everyone in a room together at this stage is getting engineering, design, and support on the same page and identifying possible technical roadblocks for launch.

The first launch that we executed using this new process felt so effortless that I was worried I’d forgotten something along the way. Actually, the process was just way easier! :) Next up: improving our post-launch processes!

Here’s the questionnaire that we filled out for this launch.

How do you ensure that everyone at your company is up-to-date and informed during product launches? What are some of the biggest challenges you've encountered with product marketing?


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How to Win Big in International SEO: Assume Nothing (and Definitely Don’t Stereotype)

Posted by 5le

First Steps on International SEO

Up until a few weeks ago, my first piece of advice to anyone looking to expand their site to an international audience would have been to just get your keywords right. In English, this is a no-brainer, and not that difficult. In other languages, keyword research and targeting can be quite difficult. Choosing correct keywords is even more important in non-English search simply because Google’s algorithm is not as robust, and you won’t benefit from synonym-matching and spelling correction.

It doesn’t do you any good just to grab a primary keyword from Google Translate or the Google Keyword Planner. If the suggested word isn’t one that a native speaker would naturally use, you will be unlikely to see the international search traffic you are expecting, and the users that would find the site wouldn’t think your content is very high quality.

Don't Assume

My tune has changed. Now I would suggest that the most important thing for anyone looking to do international SEO to know is: Don’t make assumptions. There are multiple examples of companies that have gotten themselves into some pretty big PR disasters by using faulty assumptions in their global expansion. For example, KFC famously launched in China with a marketing slogan that meant, “Eat your fingers” in Chinese. In hindsight, it seems that some very basic research would have informed KFC that they were making a big mistake with their messaging.

It’s not that I didn't think avoiding assumptions wasn't important; it’s only that I thought faulty assumptions would be invalidated by keyword research. What changed for me were the surprising results from a survey I ran during the Mozinar I conducted on international keyword research.

I really enjoyed preparing for the Mozinar as it gave me a chance to step back from my daily international SEO practices and chronicle them for outsiders. Using my typical keyword research processes, I found what I thought to be interesting examples for the makeup of the audience I thought would be in attendance. However, in my preparation, I made a huge blunder that I realized would never have been corrected by just keyword research. Had this been an actual marketing campaign, my entire message would have fallen flat even if my keywords were solid.

I assumed that I would be speaking to primarily a US-based audience who was interested in learning more about marketing to non-English and non-US users.

In fact, as the results from the survey I ran during the Mozinar showed, this was probably not the case. More than half (55%) of the respondents were not based in the US. They weren’t just close-by in Canada and Mexico, but they were from as far away as Spain, India, Bulgaria, and Kosovo. In a follow-up question that asked respondents which countries they targeted with international SEO, some even answered the US alongside the other popular countries of Canada, France, and Italy.

Survey results

My reasoning for assuming that the attendees would primarily be in the US was actually quite logical. Mozinars are held at a time that are quite convenient for anyone in the Alaskan through Eastern time zones but fall outside of working hours for almost everyone else. Additionally, Moz content is only available in English, which I thought would be fairly limiting to online marketers who live in non-English speaking countries.

Broad Assumptions Kill Campaigns

Yet, even with my solid logic, it seems that my assumption was dead wrong. Only 20% of the Mozinar attendees filled out my survey, and while this was not a large enough of a sample size to consider the results to be truly representative, the responses were convincing enough for me to toss my original assumptions and alter my advice for anyone looking to expand to a global audience since a faulty assumption can have far reaching impacts on any marketing effort. 

A classic assumption you would make in targeting a global audience is to believe that because something works domestically it will also work globally. This could not be further from the truth. A stock image that you use on your US targeted webpage could be considered vastly over (or under) dressed in other cultures. People not familiar with US politics will likely misunderstand a reference to Red or Blue states.

Conservative Assumptions Make Marketing Boring

On the flipside, marketers might be overly cautious about what other cultures might understand and avoid using references that they could have used.

I am sure any marketer is well aware that a US holiday such as Thanksgiving isn’t going to make a lot of sense to a non-US audience and would avoid using it in marketing copy. As a result, you might also assume that the reference to the day after Thanksgiving of Black Friday wouldn't make sense to someone outside the US. This would be an incorrect assumption. Black Friday has been successfully exported around the globe and last year there were even stores in the UK that had Black Friday riots.


Black Friday sale in Israel

Don’t Stereotype

Along the same lines, you also want to avoid stereotyping cultures and languages. There are no countries called LatAm, Europe, and APAC. These names might be convenient buckets for allocating marketing dollars, but by no means will the same marketing message work across an entire region. Aside from the differing languages, a user in the UK has very different characteristics from someone in Germany. There are even significant differences between a user in Mexico and a user in Colombia both in the kinds of keywords they use, and in the types of messaging that they will respond to.

Use Data When It’s Available

As anyone who has been working in online marketing for a while knows, there isn’t always data to prove or disprove every decision that has to be made, and many times it will make sense to implement and then only analyze after the fact. In this reality, assumptions certainly have their place, but you should certainly try to validate global assumptions first.

Had I had a way to survey potential Mozinar attendees before I began gathering my material, I would have had a better idea of who exactly the target audience would be and tailored my content appropriately.

The other responses to my Mozinar survey were also interesting but not nearly as shocking as the discovery that potentially half of the attendees were outside the US.

  • There was an even split between in-house and outside marketers. A majority of marketers in the US worked in-house while it was the opposite for those outside the US.
  • Company sizes ranged from one employee all the way up to 900 employees. The majority of respondents were at companies with more than 10 employees.
  • Respondents were asked to rank marketing activities in the order that they prioritize the time, and this is the list in weighted order:
  1. Content creation
  2. Analytics
  3. Keyword research
  4. Brand strategy
  5. Link building
  6. Content curation
  7. Public relations
  8. Reputation management
  • The majority of attendees had been in the field of online marketing for 3 years or less, and of those who answered that they currently focus on international SEO, 45% had been doing it less than 1 year.

The most common reason shared in the survey for not focusing on international SEO is employee resources. This is quite understandable, as it is more than a full-time job to focus on SEO just for a domestic market; adding additional markets and languages can make the SEO job infinitely harder.

International SEO is a MUST

If you didn’t already know it, the potential customers for your online business or website includes every person in the entire world. While you might think of your competitors as the handful of companies in your local market that offer similar products and services to you, your most formidable competitor might actually be thousands of miles--or even a continent--away. In today’s globalized state of search, a US-based web company is just as likely to lose market share to a startup in Sao Paolo or Moscow, as it is to lose to one in New York or Chicago.

Competing on a global scale means that it becomes a race for who can internationalize first and start grabbing market share. Even companies like Amazon that have a dominant share of the ecommerce market are in a race to open up their site to new countries and languages before they find themselves too distracted by foreign competitors on their home turf.

For example, Japan’s largest ecommerce company Rakuten has already gained a foothold in the US ecommerce market with their acquisition of Buy.com, and China’s Alibaba, arguably the world largest ecommerce company, is about to be flush with cash from a huge IPO that could be used for marketing campaigns.

So, jump into your analytics package and see how many visitors you have coming from countries and languages you have not targeted. What you will find is that you are most likely receiving visitors from the entire world, and these visitors are probably a lot less engaged than visitors from your focus markets. Since you’re receiving this traffic already, why not try a little bit harder to target international customers with just a little bit of SEO effort?

"              

Google Analytics

Basic International SEO is Not that Hard

Expanding your SEO efforts globally does not have to be prohibitively expensive or technically difficult. For example, you can make small changes as simple as explaining your primary product offering in another language can help. Say your site sells books written in English about Blue Widgets. If your entire site content is in English, your only non-English search traffic will be from users who conduct a search in English. However, if you translated your marketing content into Spanish, you can now draw in users who conduct their searches in Spanish. These users will still have to buy a book in English, but they will at least know that the book exists if they want it.

With just a few pages written in another language, your site can take a significant step towards acquiring a global audience. If you really want to take your global SEO efforts further, there is a lot more you are going to need to do, but just having new content is a great start.

There really are baby steps that can be taken towards international SEO without getting in over your head. You can have just a handful of your marketing pages translated into languages where you are already seeing visitors. There will be a bit of work that has to go into translating and optimizing for a new language, but you should see a significant return on your investment. Just remember: If you are going to try to internationalize you site and product, do your research and don’t make assumptions. 


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Web Scraping with Kimono Labs

Posted by CatalystSEM

Historically I have written and presented about big data—using data to create insights, and how to automate your data ingestion process by connecting to APIs and leveraging advanced database technologies.

Recently I spoke at SMX West about leveraging the rich data webmaster tools. After the panel, I was approached by the in-house SEO of a small company. He asked me how he could extract and leverage all the rich data out there without having a development team or large budget. I pointed him to the CSV exports and some of the more hidden tools to extract Google data such as the GA Query Builder or the YouTube Analytics Query Builder

However, what do you do if there is no API? What do you do if you want to look at unstructured data, or use a data source that does not provide an export?

For today’s analytics pros, the world of scraping—or content extraction (sounds less black hat)—has evolved a lot, and there are lots of great technologies and tools out there to help solve those problems. To do so, many companies have emerged that specialize in programmatic content extraction such as Mozenda, ScraperWiki, ImprtIO, and Outwit, but for today’s example I will use Kimono Labs. Kimono is simple and easy to use and offers very competitive pricing (including a very functional free version).

Before we get into the actual “scraping” I want to briefly discuss how these tools work.

The purpose of a tool like Kimono is to take unstructured data (not organized or exportable) and convert it into a structured format. The prime example of this is any ranking tool. A ranking tool reads Google’s results page, extracts the information and, based on certain rules, it creates a visual view of the data which is your ranking report.

Kimono Labs allows you to extract this data either on demand or as a scheduled job. Once you’ve extracted the data, it then allows you to either download it via a file or extract it via their own API. This is where Kimono really shines—it basically allows you to take any website or data source and turn it into an API or automated export.

For today’s exercise I would like to create two scrapers.

A. A ranking tool that will take Google’s results and store them in a data set, just like any other ranking tool. (Disclaimer: this is meant only as an example, as scraping Google’s results is against Google’s Terms of Service).

B. A ranking tool for Slideshare. We will simulate a Slideshare search and then extract all the results including some additional metrics. Once we have collected this data, we will look at the types of insights you are able to generate.

1. Signup
Signup is simple; just go to http://www.kimonolabs.com/signup and complete the form. You will then be brought to a welcome page where you will be asked to drag their bookmarklet into your bookmarks bar.

The Kimonify Bookmarklet is the trigger that will start the application.

2. Building a Ranking Tool
Simply navigate your browser to Google and perform a search; in this example I am going to use the term “scraping.” Once the results pages are displayed, press the kimonify button (in some cases you might need to search again). Once you complete your search you should see a screen like the one below:

It is basically the default results page, but on the top you should see the Kimono Tool Bar. Let’s have a close look at that:

The bar is broken down into a few actions:

  • URL – Is the current URL you are analyzing.
  • ITEM NAME – Once you define an item to collect, you should name it.
  • ITEM COUNT – This will show you the number of results in your current collection.
  • NEW ITEM – Once you have completed the first item, you can click this to start to collect the next set.
  • PAGINATION – You use this mode to define the pagination link.
  • UNDO – I hope I don’t have to explain this ;)
  • EXTRACTOR VIEW – The mode you see in the screenshot above.
  • MODEL VIEW – Shows you the data model (the items and the type).
  • DATA VIEW – Shows you the actual data the current page would collect.
  • DONE – Saves your newly created API.

After you press the bookmarklet you need to start tagging the individual elements you want to extract. You can do this simply by clicking on the desired elements on the page (if you hover over it, it changes color for collectable elements).

Kimono will then try to identify similar elements on the page; it will highlight some suggested ones and you can confirm a suggestion via the little checkmark:

A great way to make sure you have the correct elements is by looking at the count. For example, we know that Google shows 10 results per page, therefore we want to see “10” in the item count box, which indicates that we have 10 similar items marked. Now go ahead and name your new item group. Each collection of elements should have a unique name. In this page, it would be “Title”.

Now it’s time to confirm the data; just click on the little Data icon to see a preview of the actual data this page would collect. In the data view you can switch between different formats (JSON, CSV and RSS). If everything went well, it should look like this:

As you can see, it not only extracted the visual title but also the underlying link. Good job!

To collect some more info, click on the Extractor icon again and pick out the next element.

Now click on the Plus icon and then on the description of the first listing. Since the first listing contains site links, it is not clear to Kimono what the structure is, so we need to help it along and click on the next description as well.

As soon as you do this, Kimono will identify some other descriptions; however, our count only shows 8 instead of the 10 items that are actually on that page. As we scroll down, we see some entries with author markup; Kimono is not sure if they are part of the set, so click the little checkbox to confirm. Your count should jump to 10.

Now that you identified all 10 objects, go ahead and name that group; the process is the same as in the Title example. In order to make our Tool better than others, I would like to add one more set— the author info.

Once again, click the Plus icon to start a new collection and scroll down to click on the author name. Because this is totally unstructured, Google will make a few recommendations; in this case, we are working on the exclusion process, so press the X for everything that’s not an author name. Since the word “by” is included, highlight only the name and not “by” to exclude that (keep in mind you can always undo if things get odd).

Once you’ve highlighted both names, results should look like the one below, with the count in the circle being 2 representing the two authors listed on this page.

Out of interest I did the same for the number of people in their Google+ circles. Once you have done that, click on the Model View button, and you should see all the fields. If you click on the Data View you should see the data set with the authors and circles.

As a final step, let’s go back to the Extractor view and define the pagination; just click the Pagination button (it looks like a book) and select the next link. Once you have done that, click Done.

You will be presented with a screen similar to this one:

Here you simply name your API, define how often you want this data to be extracted and how many pages you want to crawl. All of these settings can be changed manually; I would leave it with On demand and 10 pages max to not overuse your credits.

Once you’ve saved your API, there are a ton of options, too many to review here. Kimono has a great learning section you can check out any time.

To collect the listings requires a quick setup. Click on the pagination tab, turn it on and set your schedule to On demand to pull data when you ask it to. Your screen should look like this:

Now press Crawl and Kimono will start collecting your data. If you see any issues, you can always click on Edit API and go back to the extraction screen.

Once the crawl is completed, go to the Test Endpoint tab to view or download your data (I prefer CSV because you can easily open it in Excel, CSV, Spotfire, etc.) A possible next step here would be doing this for multiple keywords and then analyzing the impact of, say, G+ Authority on rankings. Again, many of you might say that a ranking tool can already do this, and that’s true, but I wanted to cover the basics before we dive into the next one.

3. Extracting Slideshare Data.
With Slideshare’s recent growth in popularity it has become a document sharing tool of choice for many marketers. But what’s really on Slideshare, who are the influencers, what makes it tick? We can utilize a custom scraper to extract that kind data from Slideshare.

To get started, point your browser to Slideshare and pick a keyword to search for.

For our example I want to look at presentations that talk about PPC in English, sorted by popularity, so the URL would be:
http://www.slideshare.net/search/slideshow?ft=presentations&lang=en&page=1&q=ppc&qf=qf1&sort=views&ud=any

Once you are on that page, pick the Kimonify button as you did earlier and tag the elements. In this case I will tag:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Category
  • Author
  • Likes
  • Slides

Once you have tagged those, go ahead and add the pagination as described above.

That will make a nice rich dataset which should look like this:

Hit Done and you’re finished. In order to quickly highlight the benefits of this rich data, I am going to load the data into Spotfire to get some interesting statics (I hope).

4. Insights

Rather than do a step-by-step walktrough of how to build dashboards, which you can find here, I just want to show you some insights you can glean from this data:

  • Most Popular Authors by Category. This shows you the top contributors and the categories they are in for PPC (squares sized by Likes)

  • Correlations. Is there a correlation between the numbers of slides vs. the number of likes? Why not find out?

  • Category with the most PPC content. Discover where your content works best (most likes).

5. Output

One of the great things about Kimodo we have not really covered is that it actually converts websites into APIs. That means you build them once, and each time you need the data you can call it up. As an example, if I call up the Slideshare API again tomorrow, the data will be different. So you basically appified Slisdeshare. The interesting part here is the flexibility that Kimodo offers. If you go to the How to Use slide, you will see the way Kimodo treats the Source URL In this case it looks like this:

The way you can pull data from Kimodo aside from the export is their own API; in this case you call the default URL,
http://www.kimonolabs.com/api/YOURPAIID?apikey=YO...

You would get the default data from the original URL; however, as illustrated in the table above, you can dynamically adjust elements of the source URL.

For example, if you append “&q=SEO”
(http://www.kimonolabs.com/api/YOURPAIID?apikey=YOURAPIKEY&q=SEO)
you would get the top slides for SEO instead of PPC. You can change any of the URL options easily.

I know this was a lot of information, but believe me when I tell you, we just scratched the surface. Tools like Kimono offer a variety of advanced functions that really open up the possibilities. Once you start to realize the potential, you will come up with some amazing, innovative ideas. I would love to see some of them here shared in the comments. So get out there and start scraping … and please feel free to tweet at me with any questions or comments.


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This Black-hat Tactic Could Make You Lose Your Good, Hard-Earned Links

Posted by Alexander_Kesler

Search engine optimization can be a funny business; tactics that were considered best practices only a short while ago can become ineffective, and the methods that produce quick boosts are often damaging in the long term. Most marketers and brands sincerely want to achieve their SEO success through a legitimate, user-friendly strategy, and are cognizant of any potential missteps that they may make. This dedication to upholding the industry standards, unfortunately, make all of us legitimate SEO professionals more susceptible to underhanded plays by more dubious black hatters.

A new black-hat tactic is threatening to malign SEO professionals and seriously damage companies’ search engine rankings. This is the step-by-step description of the black hat SEO tactic that can reverse good links that took you years to build:

The Email:

I received this email recently on behalf of one of my agency’s clients:

This email is, I first thought, from a company that operates within the same space as my client, and is asking me to remove or change to no-follow every outbound link from my client to this other company in order to make sure that the company being linked to is not penalized for a link scheme. At first glance, this seems like a legitimate email, albeit a slightly misinformed one. Our team was about to respond and elaborate on the nuances of link quality and recommend against removing those links, until I glanced quickly at the sender address.

Instead of seeing company@companydomain.com, I saw company.seo@gmail.com. This email address is not consistent with any of the branding or other information in the body or email signature of the email. The whole thing felt suspicious, but I refused to believe the worst: that a competitor was launching an intentional, malicious attack against this company to force a removal of their backlinks, negatively affecting their rankings. But then I received a second email that changed my mind.

The Con:

Within the same day, I was forwarded a message from an employee in my agency; our blog had received an identical email that looked as though it was from a legitimate site, asking us to no-follow our backlinks to their site for fear of being penalized for a link scheme. The wording was identical to the email I received on behalf of my client, and the sender address read company2.seo@gmail.com instead of company2@company2.com. After digging into the backlinks in question, and examining the two emails, I knew for a fact: someone was trying to goad my agency and our client into removing solid, legitimate backlinks in order to hurt ratings, making it easier for someone else’s rankings to improve.

This con is simple:

  • Someone cannot get their website to the top of the search rankings because of good quality websites that are in the way. Let’s say one of these good websites is XYZcompany.com.
  • Their goal is to bring the good quality website down in order to make room for another lower quality site such as theirs.
  • All good links of XYZcompany.com are identified and the webmaster’s email addresses are gathered.
  • An email address such as XYZcompany.seo@gmail.com is registered and emails are sent to all the webmasters asking to remove their good links.
  • When the good links are removed, the quality website loses its position.

The Implications:

In an industry that so often has negative connotations and misinformation surrounding it, any malicious or flagrantly black-hat tactics makes every practitioner look bad. We educate our clients about SEO best practices, and shake the image of SEO as a means for “gaming the system”; these sort of attacks merely undo the hard work we and every other SEO professional does.

More importantly, to clients at least, this example only goes to show that when it comes to business, your competitors might be willing to stoop to nefarious means to sabotage your success. These emails were asking us to remove good, natural backlinks, which would only have negative effects.

So what does this mean for you? You have to be vigilant, and not just from algorithm changes from search engines like Google; now, you not only have to worry about keeping your own tactics legitimate, but you have to be on the lookout for targeted attacks against your efforts from competitors. What is so disturbing about this tactic you cannot really do anything because the target is your good links. Any ideas on how you can fight this tactic?


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