Monday, April 12, 2010

SEM Booty Moves to WordPress

You can now read the latest SEM Booty Blog posts (as well as all older blog entries) at my new address:

Here's why I moved over to WordPress

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Why Should Companies Have a Social Media Policy?

It seems like everyone and their mothers have a Facebook account these days. Whether you create, share or simply consume social content (and many do all three), it's not hard to notice how far social media has come in the past few years, and how it continues to rapidly expand in both personal and professional use.

This is why a corporate social media policy is a must for companies, particularly when it comes to raising awareness of company efforts and most importantly, to provide positive guidelines for those wanting to participate (and usually these people will, regardless).

Raising Awareness About Company Efforts
A Social Media Policy document that is shared throughout the company, provides an ideal opportunity to share with all employees (whether they are in marketing, or finance, or IT, or sales) a basic understanding of your social media strategy and the places where you are currently active.

This is particularly important in larger corporations, where people outside of the marketing group may be less aware of what is being done. It's not uncommon to hear employees suggest that "We should have a Twitter account", even if you did set one up several years ago. It's an ample opportunity to provide people within the company a better understanding of your social media direction, your areas of focus, and why.

Have a section in the document that provides a simple high level view of what you are trying to achieve, important areas of focus, where you are actively involved (and where you are not). Also share Forum URLs, your Twitter handles, your YouTube channels..., as well as what you use these for and outcomes you are trying to drive with it (be it listening, talking, energizing or supporting).

Providing Positive Guidelines
The word "policy" often screams out "constraint", "orders", "rules", and all the things that you're not allowed to do. But it doesn't have to be that way.

A Social Media Policy can be kept positive (and should be). It's not so much about telling people that they can't participate in this or that, rather it's about focusing on what they need to think about when they do participate, and encouraging them in the right direction.

Examples of common guidelines and rules of etiquette may include:

  • Being responsible for what you write
  • Exercising good judgement
  • Understanding the concept of community and conversations
  • Bringing value
  • Ongoing commitment

These are all positive things.

So if you haven't already, the time to think about your company's social media policy is now. Here are a few resources and examples to help you on your way:

- 10 Must-Haves for your Social Media Policy
- 16 Social Media Guidelines Used By Real Companies
- Telstra's 3Rs of Social Media Engagement
- Kodak Social Media Tips

Monday, March 29, 2010

Google-China: What Does it Mean for Search Marketers?

By now, you would have read about Google's move to redirect all traffic from Google China to Google Hong Kong.

There's been a lot of political discussion about the move and how the Chinese Government will react (EG: Will they block access to Google Hong Kong? Will it set in motion an even bigger social media site blocking spree? etc). There are many questions that remain unanswered, but in the meantime, what does this mean for search engine marketers?

Here are 3 tips to consider over the coming weeks.

1. Monitor Your Performance Closely
First and foremost, if you are doing search engine marketing in China, make sure you watch your paid performance closely over the coming weeks. Consider your strategy and budget splits between the engines you are using (Baidu and Google being the major players), and be prepared to tweak your approach the moment you start seeing anything strange happening.

2. Keep an Eye on Baidu Costs and Performance
With Google's move, competition on Baidu is likely to increase:

i. More PPC Ads
Baidu recently updated their user interface to up the number of page advertisers from two/three ads, to six; an early indication of Baidu taking advantage of the move. With double the on-page competition, you may start to see a decline in Click-Thru Rates and Clicks, and an increase in Cost Per Click (CPC); meaning less bang for your buck.

ii. More Advertisers Switching or Moving Budget
Another implication is that more advertisers may start flocking over to Baidu as part of a preemptive move, potentially driving CPCs even higher.

So if you haven't already, start paying attention to how you can organically optimize your pages for Baidu.

3. Look out for an Emerging Entrant
Baidu has always been the Number 1 search engine in China, but now that its main competitor is gone (sort of), who will emerge to replace them? Will it be one of the smaller local engines, like Sogou or Youdao? Or perhaps, a larger engine that is yet to step foot on Chinese soil? Bing would definitely be a likely contender on these shores in an attempt to take market share.

Watch this space. The coming weeks will be an interesting one.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Free Search Marketing Tools I Couldn't Live Without

Other than Google AdWords there's a ton of really good free tools out there for search engine marketers. Here's a list of five free tools that dominate my bookmarks.

1. Rank Checker
Rank Checker is a handy plug-in that allows you to quickly see where you are ranking for a keyword. It covers all Google country domains and some Yahoo country domains.

I found this particularly useful when going through optimization excercises for China, Japan, and other non-US locations. You'll need Firefox to use this one.

> Go to Rank Checker
> Click the Download button
> Right click the Rank Checker icon that appears in the bottom right of your browser
> Right click "Options"
> Select your Google domain and click OK
> Left click the Rank Checker icon in the bottom right of your browser
> Type in your website domain
> Type in your keyword
> Click ADD
> Click START

Rank Checker Example: Keyword Checks in Simplified Chinese

2. Backlink Anchor Text Analyzer
Inbound links and anchor text are very important factors when it comes to SEO. The key is getting another site to link through to your Preferred Landing Page, using the keyword you are trying to optimize for. If that site happens to be a high authority site (for example, a .gov or a .edu), then you benefit even more.

The Backlink Anchor Text Analyzer helps you to identify what sites are linking through to you, and what link labels (anchor text) are being used. Unlike some other link/anchor text tools, you don't have to sign-up or upgrade to a paid account in order to see all the data.

3. Google Ad Preview
As people within an organization start to become more aware of search engine marketing, a bad thing that can happen is if internal people repeatedly perform a bunch of searches and click on your PPC ads. Believe it or not, I had to explain just last week about the difference between paid and organic search, and the pay-per-click nature of sponsored links.

Another bad scenario would be if internal folks repeatedly search on the same keyword and don't click on your PPC ads. Why? Because Google will remember and think that the ad (your ad) isn't relevant to that searcher, and so won't serve it up to them again. This is often followed by a string of Emails asking, "Why aren't we showing up in Google anymore?". Argh.

This is why I've found the Google Ad Preview Tool a quick and useful way to test and see what is showing up without adversely affecting what appears. This is also a good tool to share with other inquisitive minds in your organization. What's also nice is that you can select the Google domain and display language, so it's not just limited to the US.

4. Keyword Niche Finder
Google Adwords is where most of us go to do our regular keyword research. But if you are interested in spending a bit more time doing long-tail keyword research, check out Wordstream's Keyword Niche Finder.

This is a more recent discovery (thanks to Larry Kim at the SearchFest conference). For me, it's been helpful in finding those three to five word long-tail queries that are becoming more and more popular. Although overall volume may be lower on these keywords, conversion rates are often much higher, so it's important to balance these into your keyword mix.

5. Google Translate
Whilst I would never use Google Translate to translate any public-facing content (always best left to the native speakers, I'm sure you'd agree), I've found it a very useful tool to "back-translate" local language content that is provided to me, particularly when it comes to keywords and PPC adcopy.

You'd be amazed at how many weird things I've uncovered doing this, including adcopy that is off-message and use of non-customers facing keywords... the list goes on. If you work in a centralized worldwide role, make sure you have this one bookmarked in your favourites; it can save you from some uncomfortable questions later down the line.
What free seach marketing tools could you not live without? Please feel free to share any gems.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Top 5 Takeaways From SearchFest

The fourth annual SearchFest conference was held in Portland this week, and what a conference it was.

SearchFest has definitely grown up a lot since the first one I attended in 2008; attendance was booming and there was a line-up of first-class speakers including, Rand Fishkin, Eric Peterson, Marty Weintraub, Matthew Inman, and Matt McGee (to name but a few); not to mention all of the Pacific Northwest talent.

My only disappointment was not unlocking the Swarm Badge on Foursquare. Only seven other people checked in out of an audience of about… 400 people? (at a guess). Maybe Foursquare uptake isn't as high as what I thought.

Anyway, here are my five key takeaways from the conference:

1. Bing Maps (cool, but creepy)
Stefan Weitz, Director at Bing, and all round funny presenter, brought big smiles to the early morning crowd. As part of his presentation he demo'd how Tweets can be overlaid onto Bing Maps. Thanks to the geo-location setting on Twitter mobile, you could see tweets coming out of different buildings, streets, parks, trains… all over the map, literally! As an example, here’s one tweet that came out of the Governor Hotel on SearchFest day. Bryan, I see yooouu…

Bing Maps Overlaying Twitter Feeds

As a lover of all things geeky, I find this very cool, but can also see how this could creep some folks out – people who are creeped out about Foursquare are likely to have a coronary over this one. But as the Social Media panel quite rightly observed, in order to get something (ie. better sharing and transparency of information and knowledge), you usually have to give something up in return (ie: your privacy… as with any social media).

Creeped or not, you should definitely go and check this out.

> Go to Bing Maps
> Download Bing Maps Beta (bottom left of page) and install Silverlight
> Click on "Map Apps" (bottom left of page)
> Click on "Bing Twitter Maps" button

2. SiteLinks are your friend
SiteLinks are those extra links (and sometimes images, plus extra links) that Google displays in search engine results. David Szetela, from Clix Marketing, provided a really useful overview of this.

SiteLinks give you almost 2x the real estate in search, and can take searchers deeper into your site to the page of relevance (great, especially when keyword intent is ambiguous). Google claims a 30% average increase in click-thru rate for SiteLinks, but David has seen double that for campaigns he has worked on.

Not everyone is eligible for SiteLinks. You need to be ranking in the top spot for the keyword you are targeting and have good domain authority, among other factors. To see if you are eligible, be sure to check in your Google Adwords Account (if you are, you will see a SiteLinks call out). Or if in doubt, speak with your Google rep.

Google SiteLinks Example

3. Don’t put blogs in the corner
Jennifer Laycock won my vote for key takeaway at the Social Media Strategy session. Her winning statement: Blogs should be at the center of your social media strategy. There are a number of reasons why:
  • Blogs provide an environment where people don't feel like they are being sold to (even if they are)
  • In social media environments, people are more likely to link through to a blog than link through to a corporate site
  • There are too many distractions in other social channels (think related video links on YouTube); and lost people lead to lost conversions
Therefore, your Blog should be the go to destination from other social media tools (EG: Forums, Twitter, Facebook) that you use.

4. Facebook: Be there, or be on the dole
I always scrunched my nose up when it came to marketing on Facebook. Thanks to Marty Weintraub, I am now a convert (and luckily, still have my job).

You’ve probably heard that if Facebook was a country, it would be the third largest country in the world. Well, when you translate that to Internet use, Facebook is half of the Internet. Yes, half. HUGE. Therefore, in Marty’s wise words: “Not being in Facebook paid search is negligent”.

Now some of the B2B-ers out there may be rolling their eyes right now, but Marty is a smart guy. When he says things like "B2B rocks at Facebook and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise” we should listen to him. In his 12 minute presentation (which just blew the entire audience away), he served up 62 different Facebook segment examples – ranging from tree huggers to bio-medical engineers. And these weren’t piddly lists of people either; these numbers were in the hundreds of thousands, some in the millions.

Experiment and see how many of your customers you are missing out on in Facebook by going to

Bottom line: Facebook PPC is like Google SEO. You need to be there.

5. Drag your manager along
Sometimes your manager needs to hear things first hand, from the experts. In the web analytics session, Eric Peterson hit it on the nail for me:

"Data doesn't analyze itself. You need people. The question is not "Do we need…?", but "How many…?"

When smart people like Eric and Avinash say that you need to be equipped with a hoard of analytics ninjas, your manager has no excuse not to listen. I also overheard a similar Twitter comment from a social media session going on at the same time:

@ECdavies: Community Manager- It can't be done in an hour a day.

So if you didn't already, bring your manager along with you to the next conference so they can hear this first hand... and of course to see people’s reactions when you tell them how many staff you have (or rather, don't have). Just saying :)

Bonus Takeaway
My final takeaway (though it doesn't take a social media "expert" to figure this one out) is that Twitter is the bomb. It has given me the opportunity to connect with some amazing people in the search and social marketing field, which is so refreshing, especially when you work client-side and have few (or no) like-minded people to geek out with, or bounce ideas off of.

I met some top Twitter friends for the first time at SearchFest, and I can say hand-on-heart that although I use Facebook for the people I know, I use Twitter for the people I wish I knew.

You can catch up with all the action from SearchFest by using the event hashtag #searchfest

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Rise of Social Search

A while ago I asked the question, Why should search care about social? One good reason is that social channels are search engines too, and a vast amount of searches are being conducted within social media.

If you've attended any major search marketing conference in the past two years, you'll hear in at least one presentation that YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. In fact, three of the top 20 search engines (YouTube, MySpace and Facebook) involve search within a social network (Odden, 2010).

This highlights the importance for search marketers to take into account social media searches when doing keyword research. Here are some tips to consider, looking specifically at YouTube, Twitter and Facebook:

YouTube serves up hundreds of millions of videos per day so, as with Google, it's important to ensure that your video content is optimized in order for it to show up in well in searches. Lucky for us, YouTube have their own Video Keyword Research Tool.

This is a great way to find the most popular video keyword searches so that you can include these keywords in your title, tags, description and links. I also like it since it uses the same interface as Google's Keyword Tool.

YouTube Keyword Research Tool

Twitter is an excellent listening tool where keyword research is concerned.

Last week, Twitter hit 10 Billion Tweets and counting. So far, search engine efforts to integrate Twitter into Real-Time Search results have been rather "meh". So many people continue to search for content in Twitter using, for example Twitter Search and Hashtags.

Twitter Lists is also a great way to see how others categorize you or your company. If you take the list names and descriptions that you appear in and paste them into Wordle, you can generate a word cloud. This can show you quite quickly, what keywords people are using to categorize you or your company.

Wordle Example: Word Cloud Based on Twitter Lists

By using the search box and then clicking "Posts by everyone" in the left nav, you can start to monitor conversations happening based upon keywords you type in. You can also limit results to certain geographies and by post type (all/links/status updates/wall posts/notes) in the drop down lists that appear above the results.

This is a good way of listening to conversations, but can be a little limited when it comes to deeper keyword research and analysis. There's rumors that Facebook are working on a better tool for page owners, but until then this is as good as it gets.

Monday, March 1, 2010

How to Measure the Success of a Blog

I finally reached the chapter in Web Analytics 2.0 about social media measurement. In this chapter, Avinash Kaushik highlights some interesting ways to measure the success of blogs. So to celebrate the 6 month anniversary of SEM Booty (I can't believe it's been 6 months already!), I wanted go through the process and apply some of Avinash's success measures to see what I could learn, and find areas for improvement over the next 6 months.

SEM Booty Scorecard

1. Do I deserve to be successful?
According to Avinash, this is the foundation of all blog metrics. To answer this question, you need to look at something called, "Raw Author Contribution" which is:
  • Posts per Month = Number of posts / Number of months blogging
  • Content Created = Number of words in a post / Number of posts
My Key Takeaways
My frequency of posting (4.6 posts per month) is not bad and my posts are consistently around 600 words which I think is a good balance - not too short, but not huge amounts of detail either. The frequency is definitely in line with my aim of posting at least once a week, on a Monday [My Grade: B].

2. Is anyone reading my content?
It's great to be able to write down thoughts and experiences, but one of my goals is to share this information with other marketers who may also find this interesting. To help answer this question, we can look at two indicators:
  • Number of Followers/RSS Subscribers
  • Most Read and Least Read Posts
The number of followers/subscribers to your blog are an indicator of those people who have taken an action to say. "Yes, I am interested and the content is relevant to me". And by looking at the posts that generated the most (and least) views, you can start to understand what content helps you grow, and what does not.

My Key Takeaways
I have 10 Followers right now. The number has been very slowly increasing over time, but I would definitely like to attract more by focusing on the most popular content areas. Looking at the most read posts to date, it looks like emerging social media subjects, as well as content about the intersection between Social Media and Search Marketing consistently drive the most traffic [My Grade: C].

3. Is my blog generating conversations?
As Avinash points out, blogs are a social medium. So it's not just about pushing out information, but about encouraging dialogue, conversations, and contribution. One way of looking at this is by using a "Conversation Rate" calculation:
  • Conversation Rate = Number of Visitor Comments / Number of Posts
My Key Takeaways
For every post I write, I get 0.62 comments; and for every 597 words I write, my visitors write 20 words. There is definitely room for improvement here. Comments seem so few and far between that every time I do get one, it literally makes my day. Maybe by taking a stronger view on topics will help to encourage more feedback (EG: Twitter is not a strategy post) [My Grade: D].

4. Are people talking about my content?
According to Avinash, this measure of success is about looking at the ripples caused by your blogging efforts, and asking "how viral is my content?". One way to look at this is through Tweet Citations (how many people tweet about your post):
  • Tweet Citations = Number of Tweets / Number of Posts
My Key Takeaways
From what I was able to track, there's been a total of 60 tweets related to my posts, which means that for every post, I generate an average of 2 tweets. Again, there is room for improvement here. Focusing down on the popular topics may help. Testing of different titles, and experimenting with the way that they are written, may also have an impact [My Grade: C-].

This was a useful exercise to go through and I would recommend anyone with a blog to go through the same process; it's quite an eye-opener. Overall, I gave myself a C, so there's plenty of room for improvement and best of all, I know where to focus that improvement. Finally, if you haven't already, pick up a copy of Avinash's book. It's been a great read for me so far.