In his recent Mashable article, Lance Ulanoff detailed a long conversation with Google Fellow and SVP, Amit Singhal, in which the two of them discussed Google’s growing knowledge graph, entity-based search, and the implications for artificial intelligence. Needless to say, it was quite the eye-opener. While you really do owe the original a read, I’ll provide a brief synopsis before getting along with the editorial portion of this post. Let’s have at it.
The Concept of Entities
What is an entity in terms of search? Well, let’s take the search query ‘Pittsburgh Penguins’, for instance. Before Pittsburgh’s professional hockey team established a significant web presence, the aforementioned string might have yielded some pretty interesting results. The term ‘Pittsburgh’ is uniformly a geo-modifier – indicative of geographic location or city affiliation across the board. But what about ‘Penguins’? The cute, tuxedo-wearing, flightless birds that populate Antarctica and our favorite zoo attractions – right? Well, while that’s probably the most popular interpretation, the scope of this term is not so limited.
Be it a tribute to the tendencies of sports team nomenclature or a natural proclivity, we humans love to name things for our animal friends. The penguin is no exception. While ‘Penguins’ is merely a plural noun, conceptualization yields plenty of ambiguity. Aside from the pudgy, cold-weather birds and a professional hockey team, ‘Penguins’ takes the form of a soulful blues band and Youngstown State’s college mascot, among other things. Animals. Professional sports teams. Bands. College mascots. These things, my friends, are what Google calls ‘entities’.
What’s different about entity-based search, though? Good question. Let’s take a look at our example. The first result for the query ‘Pittsburgh Penguins’ is displayed above. Alas, the beauty of entity-based search has already made its mark. As is outlined in Ulanoff’s article, defining a particular entity (such as a professional hockey team) allows Google to collect and display in its results information pertinent to specific items within that subset. The items, in our case, are the individual professional hockey teams. The pertinent information is comprised of records, standings, points, recent game scores, etc. All right there in the results – not a single click needed. Pretty cool, huh?
Talking to Google
As Google’s knowledge graph grows, so does the likelihood that we’ll see more and more entity-based search results in the near future. While you don’t have total control of the information that appears in these results (for, say, your website), you are responsible for providing as much valid, pertinent, and disclosable information as possible. In the above example, Google displays all of this awesomely current information about the Pittsburgh Penguins because it suspects that someone searching for the team will find this information useful. Built into the string ‘Pittsburgh Penguins’ might be the underlying questions that users ask indirectly when entering this query and others like it. Interrogatives like: “Where do the Pens rank in the Atlantic division standings?” “What was the score of yesterday’s Pens game?” “When is the next Pens game?” You get the idea. With the advent of entities, Google is able to respond to these questions better than ever – and directly in the search results.
The information must be available, though. Let’s take a look at another example – one (like most) whose results have not yet been exposed to Google’s Artificial Intelligence. Nonprofits. We’ll be looking specifically at Venture Outdoors, a Pittsburgh nonprofit that works to create programs and events to get people outside. Given the proximity of LunaMetrics SEO Training Day at the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference, I daresay that this is a timely example. Anyways, back to the information! In order for Google to display entity-based attributes in its results, the information behind these attributes must be available online from a trusted source. While the trusted source is pretty clear-cut in our former example (the Penguins’ subdomain on NHL.com/NHL.com itself), does something like this exist for nonprofits? Well, yes . . . hopefully.
If your nonprofit does not yet have a website, the time is now. Aside from all of the known benefits of establishing a web presence, your website acts as an information hub for not just users, but search engines and information aggregators, as well. The people at Venture Outdoors, through their website, are able to provide users with a boatload of pertinent information. Users can sign up to become members, read a community blog, learn about the company, etc. Search engines like Google get plenty of information, too. Be it the sitelinks in the primary result (shown above) or the contact information (address, phone number, etc.) shown in the Places results, Google can draw this information directly from the website or use text on the website to triangulate it – ensuring its validity. It is my guess that the information-gathering process for entity-based search will function similarly – through trusted information hubs and mass triangulation. If something is consistently attributed to a given item across the web – much like a single phone number or address – it makes sense that that information is deemed more reliable.
The ‘Nonprofit’ Entity
Okay, so we know what entity-based attributes look like for a professional hockey team, but what about nonprofits? What are the underlying questions users are asking when they type ‘Venture Outdoors’ into the Google search bar? While I’d wager a guess that some long-term analytics might reveal questions that are specific to this nonprofit, I’m more focused on the questions that apply to every nonprofit. While a lot of the static information can be covered in the description and Places results (like address, phone number, brief mission summary, etc.), I’m a big fan of the dynamic side of things. In our previous example, the majority of the result was current and generated dynamically! Scores. Schedule. Standings. How far we’ve come!
Until the nonprofit entity has defined attributes, we can only speculate. So speculate I will. When I search for Venture Outdoors and other nonprofits, one of the underlying questions in my mind is commonly something like, “What events is this nonprofit holding in the near future and when are they?” Seems reasonable, right? Events seem to be a pretty integral part of the nonprofit space, so why not give the ‘nonprofit’ entity a dynamically generated ‘upcoming events’ attribute? Much like the next game on the schedule is featured in the ‘Pittsburgh Penguins’ result, there might be a list of upcoming events for each nonprofit with a link (if available) to each specific event. Paired with a date and time, this list could be very useful for users at the no-click level of the search results. Again, though, these attributes rely heavily on the availability of information. In Venture Outdoors’ case, they’re all set for my hypothesized dynamic events attribute! See above.
• • •
Whether you’re an established nonprofit or a budding startup, the onus is on you to optimize your on-site and off-site information to the best of your ability. While the visible attributes assigned to each entity will likely be indicative of traits that are present uniformly across the particular entity subset, it’s not a bad idea to take some time and think about the pertinent information that you’d like displayed in your results. While you won’t have much control over which attributes are displayed, it never hurts to make sure that the information is available for all foreseeable outcomes.
Ask yourself: Which attributes are pertinent to my space and is the information that applies to these attributes readily available on my site and others? Pinpoint the pertinents, make necessary revisions or additions to on-site content, and emphasize information consistency across your various online channels. In doing so, you’ll be optimizing not just for the present, but for the future, as well.
What are your thoughts on entity-based search results?
This past Wednesday, we had WAW here in Pittsburgh. Many thanks to Mike Ross, the head of WA at Dick’s Sporting Goods, who pushed me to do it, and Brian Collery, late of American Eagle and now at Omniture Adobe who convinced me to help with it.
The crowd was just large enough to be fun and just small enough to hear a lot of great stories. For example, one of the people who attended told me that his own sense of morality is ‘creative.’ But, he pointed out, even his creative morality was offended by the practices of his former employer, a company now being sued for fraud. (Drink and learn, it appears.)
Many thanks to Monetate, who sponsored. I listened to the speaker show how he didn’t get any lift from any of his tests, but saved his employer tens of thousands of dollars by showing them that a new home page was not the answer. And how about that awesome food!
So to Pittsburgh web analysts and would-be Pittsburgh analysts — we’ll be doing another WAW in January.
Right now Google+ is in what they call the “field trial” phase. As you know, they have sent out invitations to a limited number of people to test out this new social media platform. But while this is a considered a testing period it is also technically a launch. And this launch has to be successful otherwise Google+ will go the way of other ineffective social networking sites like Friendster and Google Orkut.
Almost no information regarding how Google selected invitees has been released, but we do know that Google randomly selected a group of testers, all of which have Gmail accounts. And we can guess that Google looked for accounts that had extensive contact lists. Instead of using a random group of people, Google should have selected a controlled group, specifically a controlled group of college students.
Free Time Changes Everything
To have a social networking site perform well, people have to spend time on it. Google should have taken into account how much time their invitees have for online social interactions. An ordinary adult with a full-time job doesn’t have lots of extra time for social networking. So if their social networking time is limited, they want to focus their social energy on only one site, namely Facebook, where all of their friends already play.
On the other hand, college students have a considerable amount more time to spend online than those with full-time jobs. To say that college students are constantly on social networking sites would be an understatement. As LunaMetrics’ copywriter/social media intern, I’m a college student myself. In my experience there is no time in which college students aren’t using Facebook (this unfortunately includes class). So if they have more time to spare, they are more likely to check out new social networking tools.
Follow Facebook’s Lead
When Facebook first started out it was for college students only and like Google+, by invitation only. Now it is available for anyone to use, but if Facebook had not been originally devoted to college students (a demographic that has an extensive amount of free time and in general, cares a great deal about the social networking) it might not have become the incredibly widespread success that it is today. With lots of free time on their side, the invited college students were able to discover all of Facebook’s cool features. From there, the invitees’ other friends wanted to jump on the Facebook bandwagon as well.
In order to properly compete with Facebook and Twitter, Google should have sent its Google+ invitations solely to college students if they wanted to increase the chance of Google+ becoming a social media success. As a company that has been socially unsuccessful in the past (ex: Google Buzz and Orkut) Google should have taken a cue from Facebook and controlled the demographics that received invitations to Google+.
Since I spend my days looking at resumes and cover letters (I had four open positions, but am finally starting to figure some of them out), I wanted to write what the job search looks like from the other side, especially when it comes to our field, Internet Marketing.
Now, some of you have it great. You’ve got amazing credentials and can write your own ticket. But there is a big group of people who just want to get into the field.
IMO, the hardest part is getting to the interview. Once you are there, you have the opportunity to wow the company with how great you are. But until you get into the door, you are just another piece of paper. So here are some ideas:
Network. Not an exceptionally exciting or new idea, but it is surprising how well it works and how few people take advantage of it. The first person I ever hired at LunaMetrics came to me through an intermediary whom I trusted. Note, I had already chosen (in my mind) the “successful candidate” and I threw all that thinking out the door when my friend suggested this potential. And how about going to all those Web Analytics Wednesdays, or attending local SEMPO events? In our fair city alone, there are three competitive SEO groups where you can network.
Research. If you are really interested in a job, go read that company’s website. Follow their employees on Twitter — after all, you are an Internet person, right?. They would probably love to hear from you on their FB page. Understand who they are before you approach them for a job, because otherwise, you are just another piece of paper.
Get experience. Yes I know, it is hard to get experience without experience. On the other hand, there are a lot of websites that need your tender loving care, go get experience with them. Look into summer internships. What about accreditation – the AdWords badge requires that you manage a certain amount of money over a certain amount of time, but anyone who has fifty bucks and can study can take the GAIQ test. Without experience, your piece of paper is too easy to screen out.
Decide what you want to do. I see so many resumes where people say, I am the webmaster and I do SEM and then SEO and GA and social media and and and. It is lovely to be flexible (and very necessary in a small company like ours), but when I am looking for an SEO expert, I probably don’t look to someone who does a little bit of everything. (Go ahead and disagree.)
Stop blathering about how great you are and start showing how great you are. I must get one resume every day that says, “I am uniquely qualified for this job.” I’d love to get a cover letter that says, “I’m interested in your company and the job, I think I have the right experience and qualifications, but I do have a number of questions.” After all, in this most interactive of all worlds, why should the job search be so one way?
Be creative. Although we don’t do graphic design, I did find this great graphic design resume in the Creative Commons part of Flickr, at the top of the page. How cool is that?
Everyone seems to be scrambling to utilize social media in any way they can. High levels of engagement are what it takes to successfully market your company’s presence within the various social media platforms. However, engagement can’t happen without having fans and followers to engage with. One extremely popular method of encouraging engagement is hosting giveaways. Brands of all sizes have been participating in giveaways and contests to increase their audiences and in most cases do so quite successfully. Primarily brands have stuck with Twitter and Facebook for these promotions, while others have experimented with foursquare, YouTube and other channels ready to feature promotions.
What are the different types of social media giveaways and what conversions are the marketers behind these sweepstakes trying to achieve? Today I’ll try my darnedest to explore both questions.
Types of Giveaways
1. Everyone Gets Free Stuff
The is the most common form of social media giveaway seen on Facebook and Twitter. Many brands host a deal where fans simply like a Facebook Page or follow a specific Twitter account and are given something for free after doing so. Not every company can afford to give every person who begins following their account something in return, but when you’re a big name brand it’s certainly the way to go. Facebook promotion guidelines changed as of December 2010, so it’s against their terms of service now to have a giveaway where the user only has to like the page to be entered. The guidelines now require users to enter more information as official entrance into the contest through a third party application.
Example: Bruegger’s Facebook Promotion
Bruegger’s Bagels is currently running a promotion of this nature on Facebook, giving all fans that like their page access to a coupon worth 3 free bagels on February 8th. What a great idea to encourage word of mouth about the Bruegger’s brand and not to mention an awesome chance to snag some free bagels! Currently 123,245 people like this page but that is bound to go up with the quick spread of content on Facebook and the option right below the coupon to share this with family and friends.
The conversion for Bruegger’s with this promotion is getting more likes on Facebook. By making the offer extremely easy to complete, announcing the offer throughout their marketing channels (on their website, on Twitter and elsewhere) and giving something of value to the consumer, Bruegger’s is utilizing this form of giveaway very successfully. More likes on Facebook equals higher levels of engagement, which will hopefully bring heightened brand awareness and profit for Bruegger’s.
2. Many Enter, But Not Everyone Wins
Some giveaways are more costly than others, requiring an organization to offer prizes to only a select group of winners. This type of giveaway is also used when running longer promotions. If the Bruegger’s giveaway were running until June instead of February, they might not have had the ability to offer the coupon to everyone for that extended period of time without incurring major costs (possibly outweighing the benefits of gaining larger social networks). Giving away products to a limited amount of contestants over a longer period of time adds an element of surprise that often excites the winning user to discuss their prize and astonishment on their social network.
Troy Polamalu plays the strong safety position for the Pittsburgh Steelers and as a football player, he really has his foot in the door when it comes to social media. With active accounts on both Facebook and Twitter, Polamalu as a brand has begun a Steeler tickets giveaway to help both spread awareness of TwitChange and to gain more followers within his networks.
By requiring users to follow @twitchange, @OOIAL and @tpolamalu and tweet this specific message: I might win #TroyTickets to the AFC Title game because I follow @tpolamalu @ooial and @twitchange Details at http://bit.ly/gF66N7 users must join his network, while also sharing the information with other users within their network. This sends awareness of the giveaway much further than if it merely required users to follow Polamalu’s account on Twitter without tweeting about it. The AFC Championship tickets are not a cheap or easy to come by commodity, which makes the promotion limited to a few recipients and seem more high stakes.
This promotion also features a Facebook component which helps extends the audience it can reach, while making it consistent on all marketing channels. It’s hard to get users to copy and paste specific text for posting because let’s face it, people are lazy. This is one reason why giveaways that have simple instructions tend to have higher conversion rates overall. Because of the high profile prize and the fact that this contest benefits charity, many users have and will go the extra mile to enter the contest. Would people go the extra step for free bagels or free ice cream, maybe?
3. Free Content, Once You Connect
Many companies run a sweepstakes once a quarter or once a year due to the fact that contests lose their edge if they are continually running year-round, not to mention the constant flow of money a never-ending contest requires. Instead of running a giveaway many Facebook pages choose to run fan-exclusive content, which is obviously only available to existing fans of the Facebook Page. Whether it be exclusive industry tips, articles, access to coupons or any other content limited to fans who connect with your channel, it’s another way to encourage engagement and do so with limited or no cost to your company.
Example: LunaMetrics’ Fan-only Facebook Content
Here at LunaMetrics we utilize our Facebook page to a variety of audiences within our industry. In an effort to encourage engagement and increase our connections within the industry, we’ve developed a fan-only content tab that is exclusive to fans who like our page. Once a fan likes our page we provide weekly tips and tricks related to Search Engine Optimization and Google Analytics on our fan-only tab. These helpful insights allow us to share our expertise in our industry, while receiving more fans and expanding our network within this particular platform.
What other types of social media contests, giveaways & sweepstakes have you implemented? Have they been a helpful way of encouraging engagement in your social media niches?Share your feedback below.
Opinions are like…well we all know what they’re like. Everyone has one. Here is my opinion about the link anchor text debate that has been going on since Pubcon ’10. (At least that’s when the debate popped up on my radar. Apparently Greg Boser’s been talking about this since 2009)
In one corner of the ring, we have those who obsessively build anchor text-rich links with exact phrase anchor text that looks unnatural as all get-out but adds boatloads of relevancy to whatever page the link points to. In the other corner, we have those who seem to have forsaken the building of purposefully keyword rich anchor text links in favor of pursuing any kind of link from high authority, relevant pages.
And then there’s the rest of us who have been patiently working on a nice well-rounded backlink portfolio that includes both anchor text-rich links and domain name links from powerful pages and some directory links and some blog comments and all the lovely natural links that are generated by a nice, good quality link bait generation campaign.
See, in my opinion, anchor text is still really important. It’s hard to get (quality, organic-looking, contextual) keyword-rich links. If it’s hard, it’s not easily controllable, and in my experience, the search engines tend to place a lot of emphasis on elements that webmasters and we evil system-gaming SEOs can’t easily influence.
That being said, I was there when Matt Cutts said that they were going to start taking notice when a website’s link profile contains only keyword optimized links. The thing is, if you’re doing a good job creating link bait, this is never going to be a problem. You’ll have people linking to the site naturally — probably using the domain name, brand name or the word “here” or somesuch.
Those links will far outnumber the ones you spend your precious time on generating. But let me tell you something, if I spend the hour or two (on average) of building a relationship with someone so that they’ll link to a site from a nice, juicy page, you bet your ass I’m going to ask for a link with relevant anchor text.
And I bet, given the option of having a link with good anchor text from an authoritative but non-related page vs. having a non keyword rich link from a page with similar authority, most SEOs will still choose the keyword rich link. I would.
Measuring Online and Offline Conversions from Search.
It’s almost impossible to map everything that people do before they get to your site. Most solutions don’t work.
There are many cases where being able to track site-side behavior is incredibly important. For instance deciding what kinds of products to sell.
Do you have a good SEM strategy? Do you have a good SEO strategy? Does everyone in your company agree on what a “conversion” is? Once you know these things, you’ll be able to start.
When you actually start to look at search sequences, you find that they’re more complicated, random and interesting than you thought.
Find out which offline/online things you can attribute sales to. Look at search sequences: i.e.
saw and ad and typed search term in search bar
get to site
It’s easy to attribute the sale to search even though it was the ad that originally triggered the search.
Some tools make attribution hard to judge attributions.
On site analytics are usually last click. Some are first click.
Conversion Attribution models:
Last Click, Last view gets credit.
First click gets credit.
Do search network attribution only.
TV had an effect on search traffic. In each silo, TV silo, network silo, ad silo, every click look like it should be attributed to them.
Ezra Silverton and Scott Duncan:
Ad campaign goes out across all media: Print, Radio, TV, Onilne. They’re pointed at
Inbound calls (unique number)
Website (unique url)
Email (unique email address)
Every action online can be tracked, but what happens when someone calls you to convert?
ref:Code Analytics Product: Provides information on user’s online behavior including referral source, paths, keywords searched, pages viseted etc. in real time.
Case Study: George Brown College
They sell online technical training programs.
Multiple domains, print ads, SEO, SEM, Youtube TV Radio
Front door is lead generation which gets fed into the CRM tool MAximizer
Approximately 70% of people visit the website before contacting (calling, emailing or filling out web form.)
Campaigns push prospects to website address or phone to obtain info package or discuss with advisor.
Offline methods go to specific web pages on the site and a set of different 800# in order to track who comes in through which on or offline method.
Google Web Analytics to track website traffic.
Online ads are tracked through normal ways: Google Analytics tags email software tracking tags.
Hard to get a good idea of attribution from asking the clients how they got to the site because half the time they don’t know how they REALLY got there.
The sum of the ad tactics is more than the total. If they kill the TV line, other parts will suffer etc.
Andrea Hadley chimes in:
She overlaid GA paid search trending with her call center trending. She knew that people who bought the clients product after calling, so it was important that these trends matched.
In an unusual show of transparency, Google has announced a list of specific items that will cause your web site, or specific pages of your site, to be algorithmically removed from their search results. Read the full announcement here.
According to a Google representative, this more aggressive stance on web spam comes from over 14 months of testing and research that shows an 18.2% increase in more relevant sites in the search results when filtering out sites and pages that have the specific features listed.
Here are the items that will cause your site/pages to be removed from the search index:
If your pages contain a significant amount* of duplicate content
If a significant number* of your pages have duplicate title tags
If a significant portion* of the links to your site are from blog or forum comments
Pages that link out to more than 100 other pages
Domains hosted in China
Pages with more than 5 “no followed” links.
* Although no specific numbers are mentioned, the announcement does give details on how they determine what a significant number is.
Today, we got a phone call from a potential customer, who had been recommended by another customer. I took one look at his site and was fairly certain that he had paid no attention to SEO, had no analytics, and had no calls to action.
“So,” he challenged me, “Why should I use your company?” Well, I answered, maybe you shouldn’t use our company. I don’t recommend that everyone spend their money without having strong goals. Maybe you should start by telling me what your needs are.
The man on the other end of the phone said that all his company’s sales had been face-to-face or by referral up until now. They had a little site, but did they really need to spend money? Did I know if people really found his type of services through the internet? In fact, his needs weren’t so much SEO or PPC or GA or GWO. He needed to be persuaded that those alphabet soup of internet services and tools were worthy of his budget dollars.
It is one thing to sell someone on the value of, say, Google Analytics. It is something else entirely to take someone who doesn’t have a strategic or emotional commitment to the work we do and convince them to spend their money there. I guess that’s a game I don’t want to play. I feel like, you decide that you care on your own time, them come to us (or to another consulting company.) Consulting on the Internet is hard enough when your point of contact is committed (because s/he may have other priorities, may have to answer to his/her boss, may get moved around the organization.) Imagine how hard it would be if the person writing the checks really isn’t sure that the Internet matters.
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about Google’s announcement at eMetrics of the new features to Google Analytics (if you were away from your computer for the past 24 hours, read our post about the new features in Google Analytics).
A lot has been written about these new features. Of course, we’ll be spending the next couple weeks going over each new feature in detail, letting you know how to use it, why it’s important, and what it means for your analytics. In the meantime, here’s a look at what other people are saying:
Daniel Waisberg on Search Engine Land goes over the basics and adds his own analysis. Be sure to read the last paragraph about the importance of human analysis in conjunction with analytics tools.
Stéphane Hamel at immeria goes beyond just rehashing the new features by offering his take on them and what this announcement means for the web analytics industry.
Justin Cutroni over at EpikOne goes into detail on one of the new features – expanded and engagement goals. Your goal should be to read this (cue rimshot and tomato throwing).
And for you videophiles out there, here are three videos from Google showing off some of the new features:
Expanded and Engagment Goals
Create up to 20 goals per profile and group them into for different Goal Sets. Track your conversions and site engagement with URL, average time on site, and pages per visit based goals.
Advanced Table Filters
Advanced Filtering simplifies narrowing down data in the reports table by allowing threshold filters to be created. Instead of creating standard profile filters or weeding through rows and rows of data, Advanced Filters can be created on the fly for any report.
Analytics Intelligence and Custom Alerts
Google Analytics helps you make faster, smarter decisions with the new Intelligence reports and Custom Alerts. The algorithmic driven Intelligence engine monitors your traffic and provides automatic alerts of significant changes in the data patterns of your site metrics and dimensions over daily, weekly and monthly periods.