SEO and Google’s GBoard: What You Need to Know

Google’s new keyboard app for iOS may return results slightly differently from other use cases — something that digital marketers and SEO professionals may want to track. Google’s keyboard app is designed to make it easier than ever to query the search engine, and to that end has a couple of differences:

  • It doesn’t use long-term memory. Google will usually use past search results to inform future search results. It will notice if you’re always searching for activities in New York and will assume that a subsequent restaurant search is also for New York. But GBoard is only going to do this for a single session. Once you close the app, all the prior information is gone.
  • It wants to give direct answers. It’s likely that Google will use GBoard to promote its knowledgebase, something that Google has been slowly working towards for some time — attempting to provide direct answers to questions along with its assortment of links.
  • It doesn’t support ads. GBoard isn’t going to be a good place for mobile advertising because it isn’t going to have any. Instead, the results are provided in a concise format.
  • It gives news additional prominence. News articles are already promoted to the top of traditional Google results, but GBoard adds even more news links into the mix.
  • It uses mobile search algorithms. But other than the above changes, GBoard primarily uses the same algorithms as traditional mobile search.

GBoard doesn’t alter mobile SEO results significantly, but many of the small changes represent shifts that Google has been working towards for years. It also highlights how search results may differ not only on a device-to-device but also an app-to-app basis.

New SEO Crawler, Botify, Optimizes Sites for Google

A new SEO crawler, Botify, recently launched at Disrupt NY and has subsequently garnered interest from companies such as eBay and Expedia. Reportedly, Botify is able to fly through websites at speeds that sometimes the servers can’t even match, identifying non-compliant URLs and providing suggestions for optimization and improvement. Though Botify is certainly not the first crawler of its kind, its benefits lie in its efficiency. Botify is designed to be a high performance engine, combing through exceptionally large sites in a matter of minutes.

Botify is the answer to a problem that webmasters have been dealing with for years: identifying pages that haven’t been crawled or indexed by Google and resolving the issue. When pages aren’t crawled, they won’t show up in search engine results — and all of a marketer’s carefully laid SEO plans can go to waste. The speed and efficiency of Botify doesn’t come cheap, however: the most affordable plan for Botify is $500 a month, with a total of 5,000,000 URLs crawled.

When Your Boss Sabotages Your Social Media Campaign

Most marketers know the experience. You wake up to a flurry of emails and message notifications and you think to yourself: “Great. What did he say now?” Everyone has had that one problem client — the client that just can’t keep their mouth shut. Unfortunately, when managing your own company’s marketing campaign, you may discover that there are more “that guys” than you thought.

The Problem of the Rogue Agent

firearm-1300396_1280Thanks to the magic of social media, a single employee can cause some incredible damage to their company’s reputation. Many employees have their social media accounts visible to the world and they often discuss their work freely. A single off-the-cuff comment taken the wrong way can rapidly spiral into something that is now associated with the company forever. When it’s a boss or someone at the higher levels of the company, it’s even more difficult to manage. You can’t monitor everyone all the time, so what can you do?

Lock Down Your Core Accounts

Core members of the business — decision makers, management, and anyone in marketing and sales — need to have their social media on lock down. This means no visible personal accounts and carefully maintained business accounts. These are the individuals at your company who are going to be under the most scrutiny — and the words that are said by them are going to spread the fastest.

Adopt Brand Sentiment Strategies

If your business has hundreds (or even thousands) of employees, how can you ensure that your brand is being represented fairly? Brand sentiment analysis will analyze and track mentions of your branding online, to identify any potential problems as they develop. Brand sentiment is a valuable marketing tool for many reasons, including its ability to help put out fires.

React Quickly to Social Media Incidents

When a social media incident does occur, most customers and prospective customers will be waiting to see how you initially react. By reacting quickly and resolving the problem immediately (even if it requires a separation from the employee), you can usually regain consumer faith. Naturally, this depends highly on the nature of the social media sabotage. Unintentional sabotage can often be adequately handled through employee re-training.

Limit Exposure to Social Media Platforms

If your boss has a tendency to, say, jump on Yelp and start yelling at people, there’s only one question you should be asking yourself: “Why do they even have access to the Yelp page?” One of the best ways to mitigate potential social media disasters is to restrict access to any social media accounts and owned media to only the marketers.

You can’t save people from themselves. If the higher-ups at your company are truly determined to tank their social media standing, there’s very little that you can do. Nevertheless, with the above strategies and tactics, you may be able to mitigate some of the worst of it — at least long enough to meet your own marketing goals.

SEO Secrets: The Truth About the Ubiquitous FAQ

Have you ever come across a FAQ page and just flat out wondered why it existed? “Surely no one is asking questions about concession management at the 1923 French tennis championships frequently,” you think to yourself. To a certain extent, FAQ pages reside in an area of shared fiction. Both reader and writer contentedly pretend that these are questions that have already been asked, rather than questions that they simply want you to know the answer to. But there are reasons why FAQ pages are still ubiquitous even if they don’t seem to fulfill their intended purpose.

Why Do FAQ Pages Really Exist?

Of course, some people put up a FAQ page simply because that’s what has always been done. They see FAQ pages on other sites and decide that it looks professional. Ideally, however, FAQ pages are designed to:

  • Deliver basic information to the reader in a compelling way. The Q&A format simply makes something more readable — for the same reason an interview is often easier to digest than a biography. Of course, the company could just list its history, services, store hours, and address, but the text would be dry, dense, and (more importantly) ignored.
  • Bring the reader’s attention to something that they didn’t even know. The interesting thing about a FAQ page is that it often asks a question that the reader couldn’t possibly ask because they wouldn’t know to ask it. A seller of shoes might add in, nonchalantly, “How Long Do Custom Orders Take?” Herein is the embedded, implied knowledge that the store does take custom orders, neatly slipped into their consciousness.
  • Allow the customer to self-serve when encountering issues. FAQ pages can fulfill their stated intent by actually answering questions that are frequently asked, such as “Why is my hoverboard exploding?” But for the most part, these questions are now covered by a troubleshooting or knowledge base system, rather than  a FAQ.
  • Improve the website’s SEO. Finally, this is actually one of the major reasons FAQ pages still exist — they’re superb for SEO. They can answer questions that customers are actually searching for, such as “What are Milliways’ operating hours?” or, again, “Why is my hoverboard exploding?” This boosts search ranking and appropriately directs queries about the company to its actual website.

But all this potential usefulness can’t change the fact that most FAQ pages aren’t really helping anyone at all — not the owner, not the customer, and certainly not the search engines. FAQs have become so obligatory and so obvious that they are usually just used as filler.

Improving the SEO of Your FAQ

FAQ pages are uniquely useful for SEO because they are specifically designed to answer questions — just like a search engine. Any FAQ can be easily modified for SEO purposes — just remember that the ultimate goal is to provide usefulness to people. 

  • List full and specific questions. “How much does it cost?” may make sense in the context of your page, but it’s not going to make any sense to a search engine. “How much does a hoverboard cost?” is far better — and it makes it easier for readers who are just scanning down the page.
  • Separate larger FAQs into smaller FAQs. You might need a product FAQ, sales FAQ, and company FAQ. The goal of this is to make it easier for your potential customers to find information once they’ve been directed to your page.
  • Incorporate your focus and long-tail keywords. Just like any other page on your website, your FAQ should be designed to target a variety of keywords. In particular, focus on geographic keywords — it will make it easier for the search engine to direct users in your area to your website.

FAQ pages are interesting precisely because they are everywhere. Most people never think about their FAQ at all — let alone in an SEO capacity. But truly conscientious SEO marketers will optimize everything from their FAQ to their Terms of Service; if it’s on the website, it should be doing something for the website. A properly written FAQ has the opportunity to further the customer relationship while also adding a tremendous amount of SEO value. It only requires that you ask the right questions.

Four Critical Online Community Management Lessons from Reddit

So, Reddit has been a mess lately. One might assume that the “front page of the Internet” would have better community management skills. But, conspiracy theories aside, Reddit has shown some spectacularly bad PR decisions in the past few weeks… and their fumbling can become your learning experience. Here are a few of the things that Reddit might have wanted to do, if they hadn’t wanted to experience a complete upheaval of their user base.

phone-735062_12801. Always Communicate With Your Users

Reddit’s first mistake, out of many, was making major decisions about their platform without communicating with their users first. The administrators made a sequence of unpopular decisions and apparently believed that an announcement after the fact would suffice. If they had communicated with their users first, they might have avoided the worst of the blow back. (And we say apparently believed because, again, there are some who believe it was intentional.)

Reddit’s second mistake was underestimating the general intelligence of the uncontrollable hivemind that they had created. Though the user base may be occasionally (or even often) incorrect, there were still many users who noticed inconsistencies within the decision-making process. And though a hivemind may be slightly dumber than its individual components, it can still be more suspicious. Without clear communication, the user base took off on a variety of conspiracy theories, some insane and some frighteningly probable.

woman-789146_12802. Never Make Assumptions About the User Experience

Reddit’s administrators seem to have entirely underestimated the popularity of their AMA administrator, Victoria aka Chooter. Though they undoubtedly knew banning subreddits would create an immense storm of drama, they didn’t seem to anticipate the reaction that firing Victoria would have. And this, from one perspective, could be understandable. They saw the work that Victoria was doing, but did not see the reaction to it. For many, Victoria had become the quickly-typing-hands of the AMA process. She had her own fans. And these fans were legion.

You should never make an assumption that your users see your community the same way that you do. A feature of your site that you think of little more than nuisance or clutter could be an intrinsic component of the user experience to others. Communication and data analysis are two ways that you can get a better picture of how your community actually uses your site, rather than how you would use your site.

russia-95311_12803. Value Your Employees

Community employees — even volunteers, such as moderators — tend to be the “face” of a community. Not only do they need to be valued, but they also need to be chosen properly. They will set the tone of your community. To upper management, low-level community employees may seem entirely replaceable. To the users, they may define the entire community — and users can be spectacularly loyal. Not only were the users of Reddit upset when Victoria was let go, but they were further outraged when the founder and administrator of Reddit Gifts was similarly given the boot.

How could this have been avoided? Sometimes an employee has to separate from a company. But if it’s done properly and with goodwill, it won’t be seen as a slap in the face to the users who valued them.

But let’s close this with something that Reddit actually did right…

fire-171229_12804. Move On Quickly

People on the Internet have short attention spans. It’s just the nature of this free-flowing, fast-paced informational world we live in. If you move on fast enough from anything, no matter how bad the situation is, you’ll usually be able to distract them. For Reddit, the announcement was made that their CEO was stepping down and that a new CEO was taking their place. Some brief online fanfare occurred and then everything, very quickly, went back to normal.

This kills the momentum.

Most users can’t be angry or outraged for long. Outrage requires fuel, and when denied of fuel — like a fire — it will quickly perish. As long as you can starve a fire of accelerants, you can control the situation. Now, if Reddit had continued beating the dead horse and discussing (or defending) their decisions, then they would have had a problem.

Of course, quite a few people today believe that Reddit did all of this intentionally, as a way to boot out the Interim CEO and place the original co-founder of Reddit into a position of power. Regardless of which conspiracy theories you personally believe, there’s still a lot to learn from the debacle in terms of user behavior. Users need to feel valued and they need to feel as though the administration of a community care about their desires. When they don’t, they rebel — and sometimes quite violently.

Avoiding Social Media Clashes

Whether it’s inflammatory political posts and racy vacation photos on a personal wall, confrontations on business social media accounts or another form of online strife, social media clashes are a fact of internet life. Hardly a day goes by without reading about a business that has gotten in hot water online. But, you can keep social media scandals from becoming a problem at your organization by laying down some guidelines and preparing in advance.

1. Don’t push social media duties onto low level employees.

girl-with-a-pinwheel-1395989-mThere’s still a tendency in many companies to minimize the importance of social media. Often, social media is a job assigned to entry level employees or even to interns. But, your social media accounts are your business’s public face. Entrust them to savvy and level-headed people so that tensions can be dissolved and missteps avoided.

2. Have a clear social media policy.

Spell out expectations for behavior on social media. Have firm policies in place about using personal equipment for professional social media posts and vice versa. By making sure that everyone understands what you expect, you can avoid culture clashes and inappropriate posts.

3. Counsel employees on social media safety.

chains-993898-mDespite the wide adoption of social media, many people are still not up to speed on social media safety and etiquette. Many accounts are vulnerable to hacking. In other cases, people are not aware that what they share privately can be screen-capped and shared more publicly. Have workshops on social media privacy to help avoid embarrassing photos or posts from becoming connected with your company. Talk about how social media posts can live on far longer than people might like and how people should be careful what they post even on personal accounts.

4. Keep an ear to the ground.

Use social listening to find out what people inside and outside your company are saying about your brand. This way, if there is a controversy or an unhappy customer, you can respond quickly and make the situation a social media win instead of a social media gaffe. Social listening can also be effective when you are planning a promotion. By seeing what people are talking about and how they react to different news stories and brand promotions, you can increase your chances of a social promotion going well.

In the digital age, the lines between the public and private spheres can be blurred. And sometimes, this can lead to clashes between individual and company social presences and the company culture. But, by setting expectations, keeping up with best practices and addressing issues as they occur, you can bring your company culture and social presence together. By helping them align, you get happier employees and a stronger brand online.

Continued Education and Certification for the Digital Marketer

For newbie digital marketers, it’s not usually necessary — or, really, even advisable — to go back to a brick-and-mortar school to learn the ins and outs of marketing theory. But that doesn’t mean that you should jump in entirely self-taught. The marketing graveyard is littered with the bones of those who thought they “knew enough.” Apart from local seminars and casual webinars, there are a few online courses and certification programs that can help you further your knowledge and present yourself to clients.

glasses-272399_1280Coursera’s Digital Marketing Specialization Certification Path

Coursera offers a Digital Marketing specialization and certification through the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This course is essentially a primer that walks newbie marketers through branding, consumer behavior, marketing strategies and data analysis. Each course is $79 (as of 2015), and there are five courses total:

  • Marketing in a Digital World
  • Digital Analytics for Marketing Professionals: Marketing Analytics in Theory
  • Digital Analytics for Marketing Professionals: Marketing Analytics in Practice
  • Digital Marketing Channels: The Landscape
  • Digital Marketing Channels: Planning

The cost of the entire specialization is $474. A self-paced course, each student has 180 days to complete each unit and gain their certification.

Google’s AdWords Certification

A digital marketer interested in running the best PPC campaigns may want to become AdWords Certified Though naturally there are other PPC networks out there, Google’s AdWords remains by far the most ubiquitous. There are five available Adwords Certification exams:

  • AdWords Fundamentals
  • Search Advertising
  • Display Advertising
  • Video Advertising
  • Shopping Advertising

The exams are free, but you need to sign up to become a Google Partner first. Preparing for the above exams will give you a valuable crash course in digital marketing techniques.

board-361516_1280ALISON’s Digital Marketing Diploma Courses

ALISON offers free courses, certification courses and “diploma” courses, all of which are either free or very affordable and completely self-paced. In the area of digital marketing, ALISON offers a Diploma in Social Media Marketing. This course, suitable for beginners, is estimated at fifteen to twenty hours long and includes video, audio, assessments and a final certification.

Modules in this course include:

  • Email marketing and affiliate marketing.
  • Social media tools used for marketing.
  • Social media marketing with Facebook.
  • The end of course assessment.

University of San Francisco’s Online Internet Marketing Program

The University of San Francisco runs a series of online marketing certification programs, ranging from some basic standalone courses to advanced specializations. These courses — and the certifications that are received from them — are accredited and completely online, but they are extremely expensive. Still, they may be valuable for those who want to promote as well as improve their education. Included within this online program:

  • Advanced Professional Certificate in Internet Marketing – 3 Course Series
  • Advanced Specialized Certificates – 6 Individual Courses
  • Specialized Mini Courses – 8 Individual Instant Courses
  • Internet Marketing Courses (Individual)

teacher-702998_1280Avoiding “Scams” and Useless Certifications

Be wary of online marketing courses that aren’t produced by well-known, qualified companies. There are many fly-by-night operations that offer basic digital marketing classes at premium costs. Remember: anyone can set up a website and upload a video. A few red flags to watch out for:

  • Promising “insider secrets” or “secret techniques.”
  • A cult of personality — marketing based on a single “guru” or “expert.”
  • Overly aggressive, “sales pitch” advertising.

And, of course, there are likely some digital marketing classes available at a local community college or university close to you, some of which may allow attendees outside of the university system. Look for outreach programs and local seminars if you tend to learn better in person.

SEO Q&A: Is Cross-Linking Between Websites a Bad Practice?

Question: I have multiple domains that are all related. Should I be cross-linking between them to boost each other’s signals, or should I avoid cross-linking entirely?


When we say “cross-linking” we’re usually referring to the act sending links back and forth between two or more websites, either habitually or as a static element on each website. Cross-linking is often seen as a type of search engine manipulation, but there are times when cross-linking can be a valid technique.

We know from Google that linking 20 domains or more together will often be seen as a cross-linking scheme. But anyone would likely see that 20 domains is excessive, especially if they are low quality sites. When it comes down to two or three sites, it’s a different ballgame. When properly used, cross-linking can be used to shift an audience from one related site to another, such as the way The Onion, The A.V. Club, ClickHole and Onion Studios all link together into a single network. This is unlikely to produce any negative results, either from a user experience standpoint or a search engine optimization standpoint.

Ask yourself why you want to cross-link your sites. If you’re trying to cross-link for the purposes of increased PageRank, it’s probably not altogether helpful to cross-link (though you might want to send users from a high authority site to a lower authority site that you’re currently boosting). After all, if you’re cross-linking between two sites that don’t have any PageRank to begin with, you’re netting to the same end result. But if you’re trying to cross-link to improve user experience, directing users to information that is truly helpful to them, that’s another situation entirely.


Answer: Cross-linking between sites sparingly and when relevant is not harmful. Cross-linking between a multitude of websites (20 or more) could be harmful. Use discretion, but don’t shy away from it entirely when it’s needed. 

 

Bing It: Does Bing Even Matter, Or Is It Just a Waste of Time?

Let’s be honest. When we’re talking about search engine optimization, we’re talking about Google. We can ask ourselves questions like “Who’s Really Winning The Search War?” but they’re hypothetical at best and, yes, even a little patronizing. Google is clearly the girl that we all want to take to the dance. Realistically, anywhere between 80% and 90% of search traffic today comes from Google. So should we even care about Bing?

weight-loss-648689_1280The Internet Is Made for Porn

Every time the question of Bing comes up, someone kind of laughs and says “Well, it’s great for porn.” Then everyone kind of nods their head and chuckles, as though it’s just a joke. But it’s not. For the past few years Bing has actually been a remarkable search engine for pornography. Even when you didn’t want it to be. Even innocent searches would turn into pornographic ones, if you didn’t have your safe settings in place.

This is actually due to Bing/Yahoo’s algorithm, which has not “learned” the way that Google’s has that not all Internet searches can be judged based on popularity… because then the Internet would just be porn. What initially appears to be nothing more than a joke or a curious fluke is actually a very telling revelation of Bing’s major flaw as a search engine. It has no context; it’s not “smart.”

But that also means that it can be taken advantage of. Google has many exceedingly complicated algorithms designed to promote good content and demote spammy content. Bing/Yahoo provides a little of that — just enough that the web isn’t really, really atrocious — but not as much of it. So it’s probably understandable that some low quality sites may still focus on Bing, or that black hat techniques may frequent it.

hands-545394_1280But Some People Do Use Bing

And they’re not all perverts. For instance, this guy switched to Bing literally because he was being paid to do so (through Bing’s rewards). This weirdo thinks Bing is more aesthetically pleasing, because my search queries require a scenic backdrop. Others admit to using it because “it was default on [their] phone.” And it’s dumb, but that could actually be something we need to watch out for in the future — because most people don’t change the default search engines on their mobile devices, or even on their computers. (Who knows, maybe when Project Spartan ships, it’ll create a whole new wave of people who don’t know how to change their browser settings.)

Taking a broader view, it appears that Yahoo/Bing has a more mature age group, with more men than women. And yes, a great deal of mobile searches come from iOS, since Bing is the default search engine for both the browser and Siri queries. One might wonder if this skews the audience, and it most definitely does: as a whole, users on Bing tend to be wealthier. Why? Well, not to make too many assumptions, but it’s probably because they’re old enough that they don’t know how to change their default search engine.

UntitledOK, The Snark Aside… What About Ads?

As we move into more niche markets for our Google advertising, we realize that traffic isn’t necessarily anything. We’re using long-tail keywords and demographics to drill down to specific segments in Google… so why not use Bing? It really doesn’t make any sense to both claim that a smaller audience is better (in Google) and then claim that a wider audience is better (in Bing).

In fact, it appears as though Bing paid advertising could actually be more effective than Google ads. And less expensive. (Of course it’s less expensive; they’re desperate.) And if we’re going for a demographic that’s already within Bing’s small but stubborn realm, all the better. And if we’re paying per click, we can simply extend our advertising campaigns. Very few of us are actually paying for as much traffic as there is on offer.

But, of course, a PPC campaign is a radically different beast from search engine optimization. What about organic search? Are there ways that you can tailor your content to Bing in a way that Bing isn’t utterly irrelevant?

search-engine-optimization-687236_1280Search Engine Optimization  for Bing

Believe it or not — and you’ll probably believe it — there’s not a lot of information out there for SEO and Bing. While Google maintains a significant amount of Webmaster documentation and tools, Bing/Yahoo probably lost their own internal documentation years ago. Tailoring your site for Bing is a lot like tailoring your site for search engines circa 2008: a lot of keywords, above the fold content and fewer backlinks. Perhaps most hilariously, Bing only actually reads the first 100kb of a page. But unlike search engines in the days of yore, Bing pays attention to multimedia documents and social media signals. This probably pushes back to the whole porn angle, somehow.

Okay, so actually — tailoring your content towards Bing can actively harm your Google standing. For instance, Bing likes keyword-laden anchor text; Google hates it. But there are other areas in which the search engines aren’t at odds; Bing uses social media signals and Google simply discards them.

So, is it worth it to work Bing into your digital marketing campaign? It certainly seems as though PPC advertising may be more effective on Bing, or at least compelling enough to be tested. And if you happen to have a lot of resources at hand, it probably won’t hurt.

Bing/Yahoo can represent up to 20% of your market, depending on your industry, and that’s not an entirely insignificant amount. Moreover, Bing can more readily be manipulated and it has rather specific audience demographics — I mean, there’s like a 50% chance that the person finding your website is doing it through Siri.

 

SEO Q&A: How Can You Quickly and Safely Remove Pages From Indexing?

Question: We have tons and tons of posts and pages from years ago that we believe are harming our search engine ranking. We don’t want to just remove them because we’ve heard that can hurt SEO. What should we do?


As always, a common misconception has within it a kernel of truth. Broken links hurt SEO — but simply deleting pages does not. You can delete the pages anyway you like, you just need to make sure that you don’t break your links when you do so. You have two solutions: you can either just delete them or remove them from crawling through Google’s Webmaster Tools.

Deleting them entirely. Usually the best solution for a significant amount of content; you can just delete the pages off your server. Run a broken link checker and delete the links to those pages, then log into Google Webmaster’s Tools and request that your entire site be recrawled. Easy, but you do lose those pages forever.

Deleting them from search engine results. If you have only a minor amount of content that you want deleted, you can submit the url to the “Remove Outdated Content” tool in Google’s Webmaster tools. You can also submit entire directories (such as if you want your /img/ directory to remain uncrawled). But you shouldn’t submit dozens (or hundreds) of individual URLs to this tool, as it generally looks like suspicious behavior. A side effect, though, is that the pages remain in your site and available to readers — they just aren’t indexed.

Of course, just because something doesn’t directly hurt SEO doesn’t mean that it can’t indirectly hurt your SEO, by reducing the usefulness of your site. Test your site before and after to make sure you haven’t lost valuable content.


 

Answer: As long as you don’t leave behind broken links, removing pages from your site should not directly hurt your search engine ranking. You can remove them either manually or through the Remove Outdated Content tool provided by Google.