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21 The Search it is a Changin

coffeeCurrently, it seems like there is a lot going on in the world of search that is pretty exciting for the typical user. Today I would like to point out a few changes I’ve noticed and what they might mean for your SEM and SEO efforts.

Visual Search – images seem to be getting more and more important in the search world. I don’t know if it’s a function of the fact that no one likes to read of if images are being used digitally (say as phone wallpaper) much as they were in print fashion years ago. It’s always been a good idea to optimize your images online, say with a file name and alt attribute that describe the content, but with Google’s changes to their image search engine it’s probably more useful than ever. Also, check out how Bing is displaying images with its Visual Search feature – this is a Bing search for Pulitzer winning fiction

A Feisty Competitor – And speaking of Bing, depending upon the research you choose Bing and proposed combination of Bing results for Yahoo search could start to put a dent in the once thought impossible Google search share. Bing users are finding the comparison shopping and travel, including airfare prediction feature very attractive. It’s certainly time to plug in and make sure your sitemap and other functions are playing well with Bing

Would you like a biscotti with that? – Lastly, Google is poised to release an update to its search algorithm so substantial they are making the rounds promoting it and allowing developers to play with it to experiment with results. The update is dubbed caffeine. The big promise is better results, faster results and real time results. The search engine optimization community always get very nervous during these updates but many signs point to the fact that if you produce lots of high quality content you’ll be fine. Although, take note (and I’ve been suggesting this for some time), social media content seems to becoming even more important for ranking purposes. I do also think that page load will get more emphasis so I would run your pages through the YSlow tool to get suggestions on speeding up page loads. You can play with search results in caffeine right now and see how your site will fare in a split screen mode of Google vs Google Caffeine Rank Tool. Google’s search voice Matt Cutts also shares views on Caffeine

18 The New Marketer’s Toolbox

toolsMore than once those that follow what I do have asked me how I seem to get so much done in a day. I have to admit that I get a lot of help from the man behind the curtain and from you my readers and subscribers. That’s the part that many don’t see, but the rich set of, often free, tools out there now make it much easier to run your business and increase your productivity.

I use a power set of tools throughout the day to write, collaborate, bookmark, filter, find and conduct commerce. Here is my current list of favorites, although like so much on the Internet, some of these could change in the blink of an eye.

Google Alerts – Free service from Google allows you to conduct customer searches for your brand, competitors, industry mentions, and journalists and have any mention of these terms online sent to your email inbox on a daily or as it happens basis. Key tool for monitoring your reputation in real time but it can also serve as a great client relationship building tool as well.

Central Desktop – I use this tool to collaborate with providers and clients alike. The set of features and flexibility from this tool is incredible. I was a hard core Basecamp fan, and still am, but Central Desktop just does so much more. You can manage projects, teams and schedules, but my favorite use is the built in WYSIWYG wiki editor. I use this to build web based operations manuals and document processes for my team.

Google Reader – I subscribe to and scan and read about 100 blogs and think you should too. I get some great ideas, hear about the next new thing, and find tools like I ‘ve listed here by adhering to this practice. Google Reader puts them all in one place and is very mobile browser friendly so I can jump on the site and read a few blogs any time I’m standing in line.

TweetDeck – This desktop application makes it very easy to keep up with what I want to follow on twitter. I create searches for key terms and form groups of people I want to follow closely. The tool also allows you to RT, tweet, DM, follow and unfollow directly from the interface. A mobile app is available as well.

Firefox – Firefox is, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now, simply a browser, but it’s so much more due to the fact that you can extend its functionality through plug-ins and add-ons. I use it subscribe, blog, bookmark, filter and aggregate much of what I find online all day. I use it to help with web design, SEO and competitive analysis.

Flickr -In addition to optimizing and sharing images online I use the Creative Commons Licensing of images on Flickr to grab great photos for my daily blog posts. (I wrote about how to use Flickr for blog images here)

Snapz Pro X – This $29 software sits in the background and allows me to do screen grabs and video screencasts with the push of a few keys. There are free programs that can do some of this but the added editing and file format options of this program make it worth the money. I’m always adding screenshots in my blog posts and PowerPoint presentations.

Adium – I’m a pretty big fan of IM for internal office use as well as to use with my key collaborators. Adium is nice as it allows me to communicate with people using IM no matter if they are on Yahoo, AOL, Skype, or GTalk.

ScreenFlow Pro – Another paid program but this is simply the easiest, yet feature rich, video screen capture program I have ever used. I use it to turn many of my web and offline presentations into short movies to share on YouTube.

su.pr – This is a my tool of choice for much of my tweeting. When I use su.pr to post a tweet with a link it shortens the link but also sets up a rich set of tracking so that I can view how many view, retweets and mentions the tweet received. In addition, because the tool is part of the StumbleUpon network it gives me the opportunity to receive or send traffic from this network to the pages I link to.

Email Center Pro – This tool allows me to create mailboxes for departments of information, such as sales, service, media requests, etc. and then, if I choose, assign emails to those addresses to various internal and external resources to address. I can create responses to many common questions and allow anyone to interact from that department. In addition, I can see the entire archive of any of the discussion threads that might occur in any conversation from a dashboard. Great customer service tool.

Jott – This tool allows me to use my phone to “jott” a message that is transcribed and sent to my email. I use this all of the time when I am driving along and am hit with a thought for a blog post. Additionally, you can set-up groups and contacts on Jott so you can send anyone you set-up emails via your voice messages. You can post appointments to Google Calendar and, if you speak very slowly and use simple words, post tweets.

SimpleNote – Every morning I make a to-do list based on what I want to get done that day. I’ve been doing this for years and it keeps me productive. I started using note pads but now I use SimpleNote on my laptop because it is simple (duh) and it syncs to an online page and my phone so I can have access to my daily list no matter where and how I choose to access it.

WordPress – There are many ways to create websites and blogs but I just love WordPress. In addition to being one of the simplest ways to create and manage all your web pages and content, the developer community that creates add-ons, themes and tutorials is hard to beat. I encourage most businesses to use it for their entire site, it’s that good.

Google Analytics – Tracking traffic, trends, searches and conversions is a necessary and basic marketing tactic if you want to grow your business. Google’s free analytics package is a no brainer and can give you so much feedback you’ll wonder how you lived without it. Take the time to read and understand everything it can do and you will get even more. Combine it with Site Optimizer and you can begin to do the slightly more sophisticated A/B split testing and find out how to really fine tune your website.

InfusionSoft – I use Infusionsoft to run the CRM, ecommerce, email marketing and affiliate tracking aspects of my business. There are individual tools that do each of these functions quite well (In fact I also use ACT!, SwiftPage and Vertical Response), but Infusionsoft is the one tool that brings all of the functions under one roof. It’s not for everyone, but it is a nice tool that keeps getting better.

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12 Yahoo Pipes a Smokin Radar Tool

Yahoo Pipes is a powerful composition tool to aggregate, manipulate, and mashup content from around the web. Frankly, it has been around for a couple of years now and while it’s advanced a bit, I don’t think it has ever really caught on in a big way. The interface is a little funky and takes some getting use to, but once you do, it’s a pretty cool tool.

Pipes can do some very complex things, but what I think it does better than most other options is allow you to aggregate, sort and filter many RSS feeds into one. So, you might be asking at this moment, why would I want to do that.

I can think of number of reasons pretty quickly:

  • Monitor mentions of your brand across multiple sources
  • Monitor mentions of your competitors
  • Monitor specific topics of discussion across the web
  • Aggregate the columns of key journalists you want to influence
  • String the blogs of your strategic partners into one feed

pipes

The image above is an example of output from a Yahoo Pipe for Duct Tape Marketing

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8 Don’t Just Do Search Better, Do It Differently

bingMicrosoft’s relaunched search tool, named Bing, came live this week and I think there’s a lot to like about it. The primary focus it seems is to reposition how we use and interact with search results rather than simply try to do a better Google. But, in doing so, perhaps it will create a better experience too.

While you can do regular old search on Bing, it is billed as a “decision engine” and presents and organizes results best when you are trying to find something like health answers, travel or shopping deals, local info or comparing items. With Bing, it appears that Microsoft is attempting to allow surfers to find and compare items or services they are shopping for and then integrate the actual purchase into the engine with Bing cashback. (Some items that you buy while searching on Bing reward you with cashback)

Travel is another important focus on Bing. You can bring together airline and hotel searches with price comparison and ratings and reviews. The look and feel of the travel portal is much more like that of an online travel agency than a search engine. You can even get the latest travel deals by following @fareologist on twitter.

Local search seems to get the short end of the stick. You can perform a local search and get results for local business much like you could via MSNLive Search. But, you must click on the local results tab to drill down and sort and filter your search by things like ratings. I was hoping this functionality would be more front and center.

    Some random features you might like:

  • Really like the page snapshot – just hover near the description of a search result and get a peek at the content
  • Video and image search engines seem to locate well and have nice search and filter tools
  • Related searches show up in the left sidebar and can help you refine your search
  • When you search for an individual you get all kinds of related searches such as quotes and interviews by that person

It’s worth checking out and I plan to work the travel site pretty hard to see what it turns up.

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13 Bringing the Twitter Conversation to Any Web Page

Twitter is very hot right now so why not take advantage of this new found buzz by tapping the twitter stream and selectively publishing twitter content on your website or blog to enhance and link to the conversation.

wboxIt’s pretty simple to re-post what’s being said on twitter on your website because of the built in use of RSS technology. (Don’t worry you don’t even need to know what that is.)

First off, why would you want to republish twitter content? Here are couple pretty good reasons.
1. You want to publish everything that is being said at the conference you are hosting and run it as a live stream on your site.
2. You want to publisher your last five tweets on your home page to help people follow your twitter activity
3. You want to create a company-wide #hashtag and publish all the great finds your people are bookmarking in one place. (quick overview of the hashtag on twitter)
4. You want to publish all the great brand mentions your organization is getting on twitter.
5. You want to publish your replies to common customer service requests as a growing FAQ and demonstration of great service kind of thing.

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60 The Changing Face of SEO

Search engine optimization has changed dramatically over the past few years.

The shift is from one of web page optimization and link hounding to content and engagement optimization. In short, search engine optimization and social media are now undeniably intertwined. It has become extremely difficult to achieve any measure of success for important keyword phrases without the use of social media. (Of course the flip side to that is organizations that take advantage of social media can dominate, particularly within industries slow to adapt.)

content optimization

Click on the image to enlarge

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30 Google Me Takes On a New Meaning

With so much information online about people and companies it’s become quite common to simply “Google” someone when you want to know more about them. From a business building standpoint it’s good practice to own as much of the real estate that pops up under you name on page one as you can.

Social media profiles, like those on Facebook or LinkedIn are great candidates for just such a practice. Google, however, has started playing around with a new tool called profiles and this last week made it very public. Anyone who can create an account on Google and verify their real name through a screening routine can now have a personal profile page on Google.

The page editor allows you to upload images, link to multiple websites, and create a rich text bio. There’s even a way for people to click on a link to contact you directly. Not really sure how Google treats those links, but seems like a nice place to have linking to your site. Here’s the link to my profile as an example

But, here’s the real kicker. Once you’ve been verified your profile it may begin to show up at the bottom of page one, complete with image, when someone Google’s you. (See image below) With this prime location, I’m thinking now is the time to get that profile completed and full of great information. Click here to Google me, scroll to the bottom of the page and see for yourself.

googleme

Visit Google Profiles to set your profile page up.

So, is this all part of Google’s grand plan to build a new social networking site without even trying?

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10 Google Update Some YouTube Functions

I’m always urging marketers to start using more video in their marketing efforts. Showing customer success stories and profiling your staff, products and offices, are great ways to help prospects and customers connect and build trust.

YouTube is a great resource for this because you can use this free tool to host, stream and create the player for your website, making about half of the hurdle to using video a no brainer.

When you upload your video to YouTube, the service converts just about any format to web friendly flash and then gives you code to put on your site so the video can be viewed by your visitors.

Recently, YouTube added some more options to this tool that allow you to set the player color and size and really customize the look and feel for your site.

They also slipped in a Google Search bar across the top of the video so your visitors have the ability to search YouTube right from your the video you are showing. There may be some instances in which this makes sense, but not for most people just wanting to use Google to host their promotional video. Fortunately, it’s not very hard to get rid of this function with some code.

In addition, the default YouTube setting allows viewers on your site to see what Google thinks are related videos to your video. Again, I can’t think of many cases where you would need or want this function enabled.

Once you grab the code YouTube provides you can add two little bits of code to eliminate the related videos function and the search function. If you use the “rel” attribute it will eliminate the search as well, but if you would like to keep the related function but get rid of search, use the show search attribute.

param name="rel" value="0"
param name="showsearch" value="0"

This image shows the added customization functions you can select before you grab your embed code.

12 Two Accounts You Must Have to Play

Yahoo and Google accountsIt seems like I log in to dozens of accounts all day as I market my business, use online and social media tools and participate in social networking communities.

Although it may feel like I bounce from place to place it finally dawned on me that most of my online business needs are increasingly met with just two accounts. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but I do know you must have access to the tools housed in these two places if you want to play in today’s online world.

Google – gmail, Goodle docs, Google Calendar, Google Reader, Feedburner, AdWords, Analytics, Alerts

Yahoo – delicious, flickr, mybloglog, stumbleupon, upcoming

So, when one of these two buys, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and WordPress we may see a single sign on for life.

13 The Search Engines Want to Know You Better

Google, Yahoo and MSNLive are just itching to get to know more about your website and they are steadily adding tools to make it easier for you to tell them more, learn more and analyze just what’s going on in their world when it comes to your websites.

Time was when figuring out how to get your site listed by the search engines was a mysterious sort of witchcraft (or at least that what some folks wanted you believe.) The search engines want to return the best results they possibly can when people use their engines so it just makes sense for them to make it easier for your content to go through the indexing process as a possible candidate for search engine results.

Google’s newly updated submit center ties together many of the ways you might submit content to Google.

Go visit and consume the content on the following sites and you will gain a great education on how and why to focus more attention on organic search results.

The Webmaster tools

The official search blogs