Posts in Website Engineering

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SEO: High Competition vs. Backlinks

October 31st, 2012 Posted by Local SEO, Website Engineering 5,551 comments

This article could be titled “Analyzing how hard it may be to rank in Google’s page 1″.

When analyzing how hard we can expect it to be to rank a site in Google’s Page 1, we have to gauge the competition for our keywords of choice.

People who do not specialize in SEO are sometimes confused (more…)

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Using Facebook The Right Way – Business vs. Personal

October 19th, 2012 Posted by Social media thoughts, Website Engineering 2,063 comments

Here is a Black Friday scenario that could happen to you.

You heard about Facebook being the latest and greatest, how Facebook performs miracles for businesses, how you are missing out on the new revolution if you (more…)

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Marketing Wu Shu: Mix… or Lose to Better Fighters

August 16th, 2012 Posted by Local SEO, Website Engineering 6,603 comments

There is no opposition between online marketing and offline marketing. Your marketing-fu [I prefer to say ‘marketing wu shu’] is as good as you are able to set up the right mix for your business and your clients. Research studies show why, and a few figures will help illustrate this.

In the early days of internet marketing (more…)

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The Battle-Tested Rules of SEO

July 31st, 2012 Posted by Local SEO, Website Engineering 9,782 comments

A small token of appreciation to the web designer community, we slapped together this infographics which shows the road we follow when we help our users build their LocalRanker websites.

This graphics doesn’t illustrate all the tricks in the book… but then again, we don’t care too much for tricks. (more…)

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Elevator Speeches That Sell Better

July 23rd, 2012 Posted by Local SEO, Website Engineering 3,375 comments

When in 1961 Rosser Reeves published the inner workings of the unique selling proposition [U.S.P.], he changed the way we market our products and services by showing us how to link up ‘unique‘, ‘selling‘ and ‘call to action‘ in a clear message.

From his modest beginnings as a staff copywriter in the early ’40s, (more…)

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Free infographics for SEO agencies

July 1st, 2012 Posted by Website Engineering 1,784 comments

LocalRanker designed this infographics to help you promote your SEO services to your leads.

[All experienced SEO specialists use these steps to help their clients rank high.]

Download it, re-brand it, send it to your leads to show them at a glance how you will SEO their websites. (more…)

Google+ vs. Facebook Fan Pages: Where is Your $$$?

June 8th, 2012 Posted by Local SEO, Social media thoughts, Website Engineering 4,701 comments

The integration of Zagat reviews in Google+ is a sound strategic move for Google and Zagat, on both sides of the supply-and-demand equation.

It gives Zagat the crowdsourcing capabilities it was missing.
It provides the new ‘Google+ Places‘ with volumes of quality content which sets them ahead of all other social actors in the niche, like Yelp.

More importantly for Google, this move supersizes Google+ to the stature it was still pining for, to make it the #1 SOLOMO network in the world a year after its launch.

For Facebook, heavy weather ahead.

The Zagat conandrum

Zagat is one of the oldest and most respected restaurant guides in the world. An institution, a little brother to the Michelin. The company published paper guides well before they went online, contrary to competitor Yelp.

Because of the print heritage of their publishing house, Zagat has always been picky when selecting their restaurants: they couldn’t waste valuable print space to write a bad review. Better not to review the restaurant at all.

Zagat picks good local eateries where guests can predictably enjoy dinner, and rates them on a wide variety of criteria. Zagat’s detailed reviews take care of the surprise factor: the dinners’ experience is commensurate with their expectations. Restaurant owners (hopefully) take notice of the sore points and correct them. Everybody is happy.

Yelp, on the contrary, grew online from the get-go. They ‘crowdsourced’ their ratings, allowing any and all to drop reviews on any restaurant with a We’re Open sign. Unlike space in a paper guide, online space is low-cost. There is no concern about wasting it over scathing reviews and ugly food. The largest the footprint, the better.

Zagat went online in 1999 and established Zagat.com using their carefully crafted rating system. They simply duplicated online their offline paper-based model. Their financial model is based on subscriptions and guide sales.

With the rise of Web 2.0 sites and the growing popularity of review sites, a selective guide like Zagat couldn’t grow as fast as the likes of Yelp. An article published by the NY Times in September 2008 clearly defined the issue.

Zagat reviewers take great pride in crafting detailed reviews, rating a restaurant on many different criteria. Yelpers can slap a review in 2 minutes on their favorite soapbox. Craftsmanship vs. crowdsourcing. Polish cavalry vs. German Panzer divisions. The battle is quickly over. Easy does it; free wins the day.

Though Ms. Zagat insisted her guide was never about rating as many restaurants as possible, it was urgent for her venerable house to mutate to Web 2.0. Google+ offers her this opportunity on a silver tray.

Google+ growing stronger fast

Google launched Google+ as a belated strategic move, partly in response to the explosion of Facebook as THE social network of the first decade of Y2K.

Note: I have no inside sources in Google, so this statement is my own opinion. But Google+ was a me-too product, not a disruptive product in the meaning given by Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm. It is still not a distruptive product but is becoming an ‘integrative’ product, soon-to-become much more powerful than Facebook.

Though the number of subscribers grew fast, the sheer size of Facebook has so far dwarfed [under the skeptical pens of the pundits] the progress made by Google+ in establishing its user base. Some writers likened G+ to a ‘ghost town’, others predicted a quick death. If perception is reality, the new social network was stillborn or DOA.

Yet the numbers are impressive: G+ is about a year old and has already reached 170 million subs. Where were FB’s numbers after a year of existence?

Be it as may, Google is moving fast to flesh out the ‘social‘ in ‘G+ social network‘. The rollover of Google Places into Google+ is a brilliant strategic move which, overnight, gives it the stature it was missing. With the integration of Zagat, it dons the respectability of a true publishing house.

Google+ version 1.0

In his insightful digital opus What The Plus!, author-speaker Guy Kawasaki expands on a social media identification model dubbed Social Media Decoder which differentiates G+ from FB, Tweeter and Pinterest. (The illustration proposed by Dan Roam for Mr. Kawasaki’s ‘Social Media Decoder‘ is way cool.)

Guy Kawasaki explains that G+ is the social network that links people who didn’t know each other prior to connecting around a common passion. Accoding to his classification, this differentiates G+ from Facebook, the ‘People’ network.

Like product managers at Google, Mr. Kawasaki underlines that since these connections are made and nurtured in the confines of private Circles, a very large section of the conversation that occurs on G+ actually escapes measurement by conventional measures of social engagement. (Hence the ‘ghost town’ analogy offered by skeptics.)

That was Google+ version 1.0.
Times a-changing.

Seismic change

The merger of Google Places into G+ is an event of seismic proportions involving some 80 million Google Place pages.

For one thing, this move will drastically increase the noise level publicly shared in Google+. Google Places welcomed reviews, and judging by the number of reviews directly submitted to Google and published on Places, they have already earned their golden gloves in the heavyweight soapbox category.

People love the limelight and the 15 minutes of fame: they won’t restrict their sharing. No no no. They will go as public, as loud as they can. No Family Circle, there. Only the Public Circle will do…

But wait, there is more!

The new Google+ Places will soon enable consumers to open discussions directly with business owners in Google+ Places, the way Facebook ‘Wall’ works. Heavy volumes of conversation in the making, guaranteed.

The resulting increased noise shared publicly on G+ will foster the perception that G+ is not just a big social network among other giants, but the ‘SOLOMO network‘ (SOcial-LOcal-MObile) of the next decade, with a money-critical local component.

Just what the good doctor needed to order.

Zagat and Google+ to benefit

As far as Zagat is concerned, the future looks bright. They needed the massive amount of traffic Google+ will bring them. Yelp’s over-bearing footprint in the restaurant scene won’t be an issue anymore. Zagat’s financial future is secured, whichever way the sales of paper guides go.

Rather, the issue for the Zagat House may become how they will protect the quality of their brand now that 150+ million reviewers can write Zagat-type reviews and publish them on G+ graced with the Zagat moniker. A sweet problem, perhaps.

For Google+, the integration of Google Places is a numbers game. Hundreds of millions of users searching Google 3 billions of times per day will get used to seeing the ‘+1′ and ‘G+’ icons everywhere on their favorite search engine. The GMail users who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet will now start using their G+ account to share their local-centric opinions.

This takes care of the demand side of the data equation.

On the supply side, business owners know where money belongs. Google Search, Google Adwords and Google Places have all the credentials they need as money makers and traffic drivers. When demand exist, a market gets organized and suppliers start touting their goods. Google Places are already populated with business content. The trend will continue with Google+ Places.

As soon as Google+ Places allows consumers to address directly business owners on Place+ pages, the former will engage the conversation and the latter will respond because of the primary piece of real-estate that a Place+ page represent. The foot traffic is there already, no need to do anything special to create it! Location, location, location.

When 50% of local searches are conducted from a smart device and lead directly to a Google Map, you don’t leave your Google Place page empty when people start commenting on you and ask you questions. You are on your computer every day, responding to the demand and participating in the conversation. Or you are a fool, soon to be put out of business.

Facebook net loser  

Business owners know that time is a precious commodity, especially in tough economic circumstances where slacking at the wheel is just not affordable anymore. Try to sell anything to any business owner and they will quickly cut to the chase: Don’t waste my time. How much will this thing make me, how fast?

Business owners constantly arbitrage their time investments. This is where Facebook draws the short sticks and walks the plank.

Whereas Google is a proven money maker, Facebook has nothing to show for. Zip. Nada. Even General Motors says it, and these guys are known to leak money like sieves.

For the business owner, the choice is clear:

  • Do I spend time tonight ornamenting my Facebook Fan page with cute comments and content that may engage 16% of my 350 Fans… in the hope they not only LIKE it but BUY it (please please pretty please, buy it)?

OR

  • Do I respond to the comments I received in my G+ Place which will be viewed tonight and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and forever by the thousands of people who search on Google each day specifically for a business like mine?

Take a wild guess: who wins?

 

Phil Chavanne
LocalRanker

Chinese Prediction True 3,000 Years Later!

June 6th, 2012 Posted by Local SEO, Social media thoughts, Website Engineering 6,991 comments

It turns out the Chinese dude who wrote “A picture is worth a thousand words” some 3,000 years ago wasn’t actually smoking crack.

 

A Picture Worth 1000 Words

A Picture Worth
1000 Words

A study released in October 2011 by content publisher Skyword shows that articles accompanied with relevant photos/graphics would get 94% more views than the plain-vanilla garden variety of articles.

94% more views. Wow. That should tickle the shutterbug in you, shouldn’t it?

But wait, there’s more!

We knew from Facebook that pictures created engagement, the Holy Grail of social media marketing. But how fat the increase?

Well, Mashable‘s Matt Handy wrote last March that a picture will increase engagement by 120% and a photo album… by a whopping 180%!

Kodak Moment!

Now, does every industry benefit fromthis windfall of page views in the same way? Of couse not!

Here is the interesting graph published by Skyword:

Skyword's graph showing the impact of pictures by type of industry. Some differences in performance

Skyword’s graph showing the impact of pictures
by type of industry. Some differences in performance

For a local business the first column is particularly noteworthy: page views increase by over 80% when business articles contain pictures!

All pictures created equal under God?

In an article published on Mashable by Samantha Murphy in February this year, the 15 most popular pictures found on Pinterest were:

  1. 3 hands of a family: man, woman, baby
  2. A just-married couple kissing in a funny photobooth
  3. A huge bookshelf taking an entire wall, shot from above
  4. Green apples carved to contain cooked apple dices, like apple pies
  5. Wise words, framed
  6. Chocolate chip bacon cookies
  7. Toenails with metallic nail polish
  8. Wise words on love
  9. A landscape with a bench under a tree in autumn
  10. A complex and beautiful braid on a woman’s head
  11. A well-appointed walking closet with dozens of pairs of shoes and handbags
  12. A man drawing on a blackboard full of interesting doodles
  13. A cookie with 3D sugar icing that looks like a melting snowman
  14. A woman with a really big wool scarf around her body
  15. A cozy bed nook in a beautiful apartment

Count the numbers of photos in each colored category:

6 photos showing a human or some part of the human body
3 photos showing some interior scene
3 photos of cooked food
2 photos related to intellectual activity
1 photo of Mother Nature

 While this is not a scientific study, it nevertheless shows people are strongly inclined to share photos showing humans, human habitat and cooked food (also a human activity).

Of note, most of these photos had dominant white, pink or earthy/golden colors, and all were very well lit, with little or no dark areas.

These observations may guide your hand when you pick a shot from a personal collection or a stock photo library to illustrate a point in your blog or website.

A final note

The phrase “A picture is worth a 1,000 words” was not coined by Confucius or some other Chinese philosopher.

Though its origins are lost in history, author Gary Martin writes that the phrase was introduced in an article published by Frederick  R. Barnard in Printer’s Ink, in December 1921. According to Gary, variations of the phrase were common currency in the US in the early part of the 20th century and can even be traced back to the early 19th century.

But Printer’s Ink re-published it in 1927 as an alleged Chinese proverb. This version stuck to this day.

Now here’s the take. Guess what illustrated these words for posterity? You got it: the picture at the top of this article.

To your success!

Phil Chavanne
LocalRanker

 

Sources:
Skyword‘s website
Matt Handy and Samantha Murphy in Mashable
Gary Martin in Phases.Org.UK 

Tsunami Alert: Why Google+ is the New Deal

June 1st, 2012 Posted by Local SEO, Social media thoughts, Website Engineering 3,663 comments

The train is rolling and there is no stopping. The next social network tsunami is happening right now, and you may not even be aware of it.

Google+ and Google Places are merging. This means a whole new deal for small business owners. Facebook Fan pages may become quasi irrelevant in the near future.

LocalRanker will soon cover the changes afoot in a more in-depth article but here is a heads-up.

What is Google+?

Google+ is Google’s 100,000-kiloton response to Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn and Skype.

It is a strategic move that has been for years in the making and aligns perfectly with Google’s mission “to organize the world’s information”. It is also in direct alignment with Google’s strategy to help small businesses compete with Corporate America on a more equal footing.

Google IS the biggest online business hub in the world. It serves more businesses any day of the year than Facebook in a full year. Contrary to Facebook, Google is positioned in your mind as a business-related resource. Facebook is a friends & family resource. NOT a business resource.

G+ will not replace Facebook as the Friends & Family network (unless of course, Facebook folds). But it completely dwarfs Facebook as a business social network and renders it almost useless because it’s better, bigger and more in-tune with everybody’s search habits.

What will the merger change for your business?

The merging of your current Google Place with Google+ does not really upset the make-up of your listing. But it gives you a lot more possibilities to interact with your clients and your market.

Because G+ is a social network — not just a search engine — the ranking of your listing will depend to a large degree of how you interact with your community. The word “G+ Circles” must become part of your everyday vocabulary.

Google Places had its own ranking rules: early in its existence, the number of ‘reviews’ your business got was the topmost ranking factor. But reviews got abused with unethical SEO practices. Google progressively discounted them and became much more selective in its sources of reviews.

Google Places also relied heavily on ‘citations’. Citations are instances of your business being mentioned in local directories and local social networks. Again, abuse of the system by SEO practitioners resulted in citations being re-evaluated by Google. Was that citation a genuine mention of a business by a client in a local market, or just a trick to get a better ranking in Google?

Citations went down the drain as a ranking factor. Google lives and learns. It is a highly intelligent evolutionary system.

Reviews and citations still do count in your business ranking. But not as much as before, and most importantly for you, is your business cited in Google’s trusted sources?

Google+ is here. And the ranking recipe is about to change.

The position of your new Google+ local listing in the search results will be directly impacted by the reach of your G+ Circles. The more your listing is shared, the wider your Circles, the better your position.

Can one trump the system?

Highly unlikely.

G+ Circles are true social micro-networks because they reflect the degree of information that you are willing to share with the people you connect to. The Family Circle has privileged access to information that the Acquaintances Circle hasn’t. You won’t share the same data with both.

From an SEO standpoint, it seems therefore reasonable to assume that when you ‘+1‘ a business you have interacted with, the way you share it with your various circles will affect the weight of the recommendation on this business listing in Google+.

A good recommendation shared with multiple Circles could have more impact on the business than a good recommendation only shared with Family. A bad recommendation shared only with Family could have less impact on the business’s G+ listing than a good recommendation shared with all Circles.

There are no studies yet on this topic: but they will come. SEO practitioners will want to determine with some degree of certainty if:

  • Sharing a business with Family has more impact than sharing it with Friends;
  • Sharing a business with all your Circles has more impact than if it shared with part of your Circles only;
  • There is some sort of a pecking order for these Circles (more vs. less impact on positions in the search results)

Google+ is based on trust: the closer to you, the more trusted.

In this respect, Google+ is conceived along the lines of a model that has proved itself over 10,000 years of history: the Chinese society and its circles of ‘guanxi’.

Because of the very nature of the G+ Circles, it will be much harder and time-consuming to abuse the system.

Trust results in use. When people know they can trust a tool and the tool itself is useful, people use the tool. Take Angie’s List: it owes its success directly from the fact it’s very hard to abuse the website. The vast majority of the reviews are written by genuine people who genuinely used the services of the business.

Google Places was already trustworthy, even if in the past the review system was abused. Google+ will be even more trustworthy because — by inherent design — it is very, very hard to manipulate it.

G+ is a social network, albeit a business-oriented one. Your local community already interacts with your Google Places (notably through Google reviews). Locals will interact even more with your G+ listing because G+ is becoming part of our daily lives: Google search and local search, GMail, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Images.

And fresh off the boat, Google’s new video conferencing capabilities: ‘Hangouts’!

The bottom line

For you, business owner, it means one immediate plan of action.

You have to establish and maintain your G+ profile and make it evolve continually, sharing recommendations, expanding your circles in reach and numbers, adding photos and comments on your business, interacting with your local community.

Whatever you do on your Facebook Fan page, you have to do on your G+ listing.

As a business growth engine, Google+ has a bright future.

Facebook, I doubt it (read more on this topic here: Facebook Fan pages might not be the solution they purport to be.)

I recommend that you make an arbitrage in your time allocation: favor Google+ over Facebook. You don’t need to do this at once, but in the next few months you will. More importantly, you have to start now and make a habit of updating your G+ profile daily.

I will publish a ‘How To’ guide and send it personally to all LocalRanker users in the next few days.

LocalRanker has also commissioned a scientific study on Google’s results in the Tucson market: we will share excerpts of this study with our Tucson clients.

We want to see you succeed in your efforts to be ranked high in Google and receive traffic on your site. Knowing what to do with Google+ is a sound foundation to a sound SEO strategy.

 

To your success!

Phil Chavanne
LocalRanker

Marketing on Facebook: Watch Your Time

May 31st, 2012 Posted by Website Engineering 9,683 comments

A few days ago I posted a comment I had written on an article published regarding the possibility of a post-Facebook world. The author was positing Facebook’s ultimate demise in the hands of competing social networks and asked his readers if they could imagine themselves in a world without FB.

In my opinion the debate wasn’t correctly framed: competitive forces aren’t strong enough to put the social network pioneer out of business. FB’s shaky revenue model is.

In the wake of Facebook’s IPO upheaval, I read a couple of interesting articles showing there might indeed be some ground under the feet of those who stand looking, shaking their heads, at the Stairway to Heaven offered to us by Wall Street.

One such article related to a study paper published by a pair of math wizards hailing from Zürich, Switzerland. Using a simple but solid math model and an ‘estimated profit per user per year of $1, the Swiss study concludes that FB is grossly overvalued: the social network would not be worth anywhere close to a cool $100 billion, but somewhere between $15 billion and $30 billion. Much less cool.

Some expert even downgraded the estimate bracket, underlining a shortcoming of the model — user attrition was not taken into account. Somewhere else, a commentator emphasized on the contrary that FB’s revenue model would be boosted when its management adapts the business model by changing the way ads are served.

FB’s revenue model is based on the capacity of the social network to serve advertising relevant to the personal demographics of each of its users. This is the crux of the issue, since the potential capability of FB to customize your ad experience has been the subject of much ink spill.

Yet, I contend that tailoring ad is only one side of the coin. The FB side.
The other could be summed up in this question: “Do you even look at FB ads?

Another blog post published on Tech Buzz tackled the issue with a severe “Facebook is a fraud” headline… and words to back it up inside the copy. According to its author, the post contends that Mr. Zuckerberg and investment bank Morgan Stanley are knowingly selling fool’s gold to the suckers-born-every-minute that we are.

Among the sources quoted in this post, one poked me in the eye: an article published in Forbes about General Motors’s decision to stop advertising in Facebook. The article turned out to be about comparing the odds of SuperBowl advertisers making similar decisions. But I followed the story to Yahoo News, and indeed GM doesn’t like FB ads anymore and recently decided to reallocate a $10 million/year budget elsewhere.

Wow. This can’t but have you pause and think.

Corporate America is notorious for sorely lacking in the department of “Advertising ROI Control”. Since David Ogilvy defined ‘branding’ as the nec-plus-ultra of advertising, Madison Avenue has been all about selling ‘the value of branding’.

Direct marketers —who know the value of a dollar— characterize this mantra as “blowing smoke up your ass.” We, small business owners, tend to rate the latter as ‘probably more right’ than the former.

After all, take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.

So if GM pulls out of FB because “paid ads had little impact on consumers“, the problem must have been glaring and glowing in the face of their advertising department for quite a while. The light bulb must have lit up one bright shiny day… A bean counter must have found that 3 new car orders on the books after a cool million-buck investment in an ad campaign wasn’t so hip after all.

GM’s pullout tends to confirm that FB ads aren’t working that well, and that the eye-tracking study I alluded to in a prior comment might be just right on the money. Since FB’s business model and ad revenues are paired tighter than Siamese twins, that can’t be good news for Mark Z and his friends in the Hamptons.

As if it weren’t enough bad news, doooooong rung another knell: following revelations that FB’s institutional investors were the only ones to be appraised of estimate downgrades during FB’s IPO —such news having been kept from retail investors— a class action lawsuit has been instigated against Mr. Zuckerberg et al. in California.

How does this hubbub relate to us all, small business owners?

Well, in two ways.

Facebook performs a valuable service by allowing us to share things we like, things we do, things we see, more often and more widely than we would in our everyday lives. Facebook fulfills its mission as a true social connector in the virtual world.

But there lies the catch. I contend that Facebook was never branded as a business vehicle. It is meant to “remain always free”. The Facebook experience is the quintessential free ride. So much so that we tune out FB ads and shun salesy posts in Fan pages. Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote extensivly about the phenomenon in their books on the Positioning Theory: the mind can’t easily manage changing its perception of a brand once it has been pigeon-holed somewhere.

I see friends starting to advertise on FB. I say: pay attention to your return. Do people see your ad? Do they contact you?

The other way these events should affect us relate to the time we spend on Facebook tuning up our Fan page, socializing with other business owners, spreading the good news about ourselves, etc., in the hope of drumming up some business.

Not to say that Fan pages aren’t a genuine communication channel. They can be. But how big exactly?

My friend marketer extraordinaire Mike Maunu just shared an interesting statistic on his Wall: Facebook disclosed earlier this year that the average post on a Fan page reached only 16% of the Fans. Our own tests on the LocalRanker Fan page show a below-average engagement comprised between 4% and 7%.

‘Your content sucks”, you might say. And you may very well be right. Still, 16% is nothing to call home about, don’t you think?

Remember this percentage is just Fans looking, commenting, liking, sharing.
Not Fans buying from you.

As small business owners we have to allocate our time wisely. Statistics, studies, ripples in the pond… All coincide to tell us that we might be well-inspired to weigh our options carefully: should spend time marketing my biz on Facebook, or would I be better off working on some other form of marketing… e.g., preparing a killer offer to mail to my existing client list?

Mike’s post and the other blog posts got me thinking these last few weeks.

My 2 cents: Treat Facebook as a channel among many. Not as your main communication asset.

Or you risk waking up one day to the fact you lost much more than those fools who bought FB’s gold at $42 on IPO day and found themselves at $31 just a few days later.

 

To your success!

Phil Chavanne
LocalRanker