Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Google Sandbox Controversy

I got a new gig, to be a blogger on another blog - MixCat Interactive, a web hosting company, http://www.Mixcat.com/blog.

My associate Mike had provided the fodder for my frist blog there, about the fact that Google has now extended the timeframe that new websites will stay in their sandbox. We got a number of comments about this from blog readers who disagreed, agreed, etc. Eight in fact, with some questions about search engine optimization (SEO), meta tags, etc. For those of you who don't know what this is -- here ya go.

We all played in the sand box as kids, and now as adults there is a chance we will be at it again. If you have a new website, the latest news is that it may take you about a year to get out of what is known as the “Google Sandbox” or “Sandbox Effect,” as seen in Wikipedia. Until recently the wait was for 5-6 months. With newly-registered domains, Google puts them in this holding area before rankings can begin in the indexes of Google. A site must first be 1) proven, or deemed by Google as appropriate for ranking; 2) legitimate; and 3) have some action taking place. Frequent ownership or nameserver changes also put sites at risk. All the more important to make sure that your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics are in place, so that Google notices action happening on your site. This includes inbound links to your site, the proper meta-tagging of pages, and more.

I also made a joke that perhaps this is Google’s way of getting more folks to sign up for those Google Ad words to kick start it all. Comments came in that disagreed with the 5-6 months wait...and OK, my bad, it used to be as little as 2 to 5 months. This is very dependant and unique per website and the content on it.

Google sandbox does exist. It is now taking up to a year for new sites to appear in search results on Google. For those of us with suspicious minds, we might think this a result of Google greed--obviously if you launch a new site you want traffic and if Google shuts you out for a year your alternative is to buy Pay Per Click (PPC). It is a controversial issue isn't it?

Ron Angels added, "It is also very important to get in as many other search engines as possible. Google appears to pick up these listings in its equation as well. People do use them to find things sometimes…"

Here's what Steve Phillips said, "Don’t worry about the “Sandbox”…just do all of the necessary SEO things you need to do:* write good content rich with keywords.* write strong page titles for each of your pages.* write fresh content.* write a blog* get strong links pointing to your site."

Thanks guys. Well put.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Digital News Era Gets Personal: Malibu Fire Story

This week there was allot of tension, due to the fires in California. It amazes me, I could not reach my friend Mark, who lives in Malibu during the fires, until he finally replied to an email, and then called me today to let me know that he's OK. He also mentioned that he was interviewed by NPR radio, in a story entitled, NPR : Malibu Man Refuses California Wildfire Evacuation.

So he actually got an online interview story that had I simply searched for his name online, I would have been able to see that he was OK, much earlier. He was stuck in Malibu with no electricity, no telephones, and no gas, for several days.

Over and out.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Navigating the Online World Via Search Engine Marketing

According to search engine marketing firm iProspect’s Search Marketer Measurement and Performance Study, eighty eight percent of search marketers measure the ROI of their campaigns, 9 percent more than in 2005. The company said that they commissioned the study to get a better understanding of search marketer behavior regarding results measurement and personal-performance evaluations. The study was fielded in March of 2007 by Jupiter Research.

It seems like most of our MarCom Broadband clients require much more than just public relations or search engine marketing these days. In order to navigate the online world, smaller businesses, and emerging technology clients like Acutrack, Inc. need marketers like us to help them with an entire host of other marketing dilemmas.

Hopefully, since 2005, the industry is doing a better job educating and providing resources for search marketers, and that’s why MarCom’s business model is ever changing. Just today we proposed that an affiliate marketing campaign might be of interest for Acutrack’s On Demand Production model, which gives their customers the ability to produce and ship custom packaged CDs or DVDs one at a time. On Demand targets recording artists and filmmakers, photo-service providers, software companies, marketing and PR professionals, authors, and self help businesses.

Keyword analysis and implementation and public relations tactics are only a part of what we do today as online marketers. Some people need to know how to build or rebuild a website. We get questions all the time about affiliate marketing, email marketing, and the value, or not, of direct mail. And though many small businesses can’t afford traditional print advertising, there are lots of questions about online advertising and banner ads.

Many smaller businesses are still wrapped up in the web challenges on the Web, fighting with organizational or technical challenges keeping them from measuring return on investment (ROI). And with this said, they should have an eye towards the future when it comes to putting these practices in place.

For those companies that we represent who are a bit more sophisticated, if the number of search marketers that now measure the ROI of their campaigns has risen to 88 percent, it would seem that these same marketers are motivated to understand the financial gains from their efforts.

Of course, in order to measure online results, there’s a need for web tracking and analytics tools, and professionals like us with services that support clients so that we can all evaluate the success of their efforts. Catch our newsletter for some tips in that area.

MarCom’s website has a Cool Tools section you might want to take a look at. In addition, back issues of this blog share data about social media marketing and how that can drive traffic to websites and help sell products and services.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

New Social Media Marketing Guidelines

I find it of interest to keep up with others in our marketplace. As a public relations (PR) professional I see so many changes taking place that just as soon as something new and interesting is published, it's already old news.

But with that said, I bought a new book called The New Influencers, A Marketer’s Guide to the New Social Media, by Paul Gillin because the book has been praised by The Wall Street Journal, San Jose Mercury News and the BBC. Once I read it I can report back...

However, here's something you might want to check out. Over the last two months I have been conducting an initial social media campaign for our client Acutrack, Inc. I've been posting weekly article submissions and blog items, several times a week, and we got a hit today about their On Demand DVD Production service on another blog site, who picked up one of my PR Web releases. BTW if you are not using PRWeb (www.prweb.com) you should be, in addition to PR Newswire, for press release distribution. I use the $360 version, and it goes out to all the RSS feeds, and to select media outlets. PRWeb, a leader in online news and press release distribution, has been used by more than 40,000 organizations of all sizes to increase the visibility of their news, improve their search engine rankings and drive traffic to their Web site.

Also here are some tips on social networks:
Digg (
http://www.digg.com) -- a technical social network, that focuses its resources on technical topics.
Del.icio.us (
http://del.icio.us) -- is a social network that focuses on a consumer topics, and is often easier for average users. Here are a few of the other hot social media networks:
StumbleUpon - http://www.stumbleupon.com
Reddit - http://www.reddit.com
Furl - http://www.furl.com

Happy networking!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Google's Social Meltdown

Today’s post is courtesy of my associate Mike Keesling… who is MarCom Broadband’s search engine optimization expert, and a creative guru out of TV production and advertising. We don’t always agree on issues related to marketing, but I will admit that he’s right more than not.

Said Keesling, “It was only a matter of time before Google came to their senses and re-evaluated using social media as one of their weighted algorithms. To me the whole proposition of giving any weight to social media was what we call in the trade, an ass idea. It's the same thing as comparing reality TV to something worth watching (and if you're one of the morons who sees nothing wrong with wasting hours on irrelevant people doing ludicrous things then please stop reading, right now! This article is not for you.) Let's face it, reality TV is impossible to achieve once you let people know there's a camera on them.”

I don’t agree, for instance with Mike’s next comment basically because I am seeing the content we build and place in article submission sites and blogs, linking back to our client websites, work. “Social Media has always been a lowest common denominator content form, lots of volume, all noise...in other words a bunch of crap.”

He continues, “Why on earth (no, not Google earth which is cool) Google ever entertained the idea that a site's SEO should be influenced by social media content is beyond me...it reeked too much of the blind leading the seeing eye dog. To me, the purpose of a search engine is to help you find the information you seek, the answers to questions you ask; and how and why Google figured that MySpace Content, amateur videos and the like could be of help in my searches is perplexing to me. To their credit, this misguided experiment only lasted about three months before Google silently gave up the concept.”

And he wraps it up with this summary… “Apparently, Google fell victim to the Web 2.0 hype. Newer does not mean better, and much of Web 2.0 is the same-old, same-old with a new name or acronym to describe an existing practice or concept. I find no fault with Google; in fact I commend them for being one of those rare corporations in the top spot that is not willing to rest on their laurels, and is always trying to raise the bar. When you do that, invariably you will have some ill-advised choices, I just think Google could have spotted this one as a lemon before they ever 'went to press' with it. As it came down in the real world, it served solely to justify more idiots putting up more crap.”

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Content. Content. Content. The Future of Online Marketing

It’s growing more and more important for companies to produce content for the Internet. We have one emerging technology client who recently asked how we can product 500 pages of content for their website so they can compete with their competition. Easy. Start writing. BUT there are some tips that you need to be aware of first.

The first and foremost challenge, and there’s a reason that I am saying this, is that you MUST know your customer. Content marketing is all about producing content that addresses the concerns of your customer. Your Internet content can and should include web pages, traditional press releases, PRWeb releases, articles, white papers, blogs, forum posts, and podcasts. Content marketing is relevant information delivered by a company to a targeted audience with the goal of changing behaviors. The Internet offers plenty of opportunities for placing relevant content. But it MUST be optimized properly first, or Google can't rank it for when a customer searches for what they want to know using key words and phrases.

First you need to dedicate one person or group to the editorial content you create. Whether this is an internal communications specialist or a contracted team of social media marketing and SEO experts like MarCom Broadband, you must create great content for customers and prospects – and you need to have someone who knows how to optimize the content with your keywords perform their magic.

Next, invest in a good design team. Your customers deserve to enjoy looking at your website and reading your material, so make sure to use designers who have a good understanding of user behavior and preferences.

Use microsites – you don’t need all of this content on your main domain. Vertical portals or microsites are a great way to add content to a site. But for Google and the search engines to be able to read these pages, make sure they are meta-tagged properly and that they don’t go any deeper than three clicks. Make each micro page on one topic, and optimize each page with relevant key words.

I always say that I can take one single topic for a client, and write and use content for that topic – six ways to Sunday. Have fun.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Links: To Buy or Not to Buy

Now that Google has taken the gloves off against websites and firms that they consider in violation of link building protocols, we must pause to reconsider our link building strategies. Initially, Google indicated their policy was to disallow, or even penalize, any paid links as well as websites who purchase paid links. Google may be the purveyors of the one of the world's most advanced linguistic parsing algorithms, but my associate Mike Keesling of MarCom Broadband's SEO expert found their statement to be full of holes.

Would a website be banned or penalized because they had paid for a Yahoo! directory listing? Aren't Pay Per Click (PPC) ads essentially paid links? Would Google really penalize their own adwords users? In the following months, Google has zigged and zagged through this semantic minefield of their own making. Google clarified its Yahoo! Directory position, saying that since inclusion was not guaranteed until approved by a human this did not constitute a paid link. Google clarified its PPC position by saying these are ad buys so they also do not constitute paid links. All well and good, but we are still confused.

If one buys a link on a site that sells them, couldn't this also fall under the safe harbor of being an ad buy? Who determines this and what are the guidelines? The definitive answer is probably many months away. In the meantime, one certainty is that the value of reciprocal links has actually gone up (provided the linking partners are legitimate and within the same or related business categories or markets). How long this bump in reciprocal links lasts is anybody's guess at this point.

So what would Mike recommend? For reciprocal links, choose your linking partners carefully. Make sure their page rank is the same or better than yours. Make sure they aren't blackballed by Google. Look at potential partners websites ... Do they look and feel like a legitimate company website or do they have the barnyard smell of a link farm?

For directory listings (one of the best places to get one-way inbound links) exercise the same smell tests just described. Double up on the inbound links you can control--press releases and article submissions. Mike said he would take a pass for now on the pay per link or pay per blog post outfits. Figure it's at least 50/50 that these will be next to feel the wrath of Google.

"In a weird way, I welcome Google's position, stance and actions against paid link builders--Link building is the most pain-in-the-butt of all SEO practices and this allows people who hate building links (like me) to slack off on it for a damned good reason," said Keesling.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Environment, SEO and the Eco-Friendly Internet

It seems like lately we have been getting business opportunities in the area of eco-friendly, or environmental issues, several of which I can talk about now, and two more that are not yet announced.

Oil and the environment are on everyone's minds these days. With gas prices in LA closer to $3.00 this week, it's no wonder. My friend Patrick dropped by yesterday and he showed me a website called http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/ - a rather dismal view of what's happening with oil.

As social media marketers -- we now have an opportunity to use the Internet to help peoople understand the seriousness of the problem, to help raise awareness and begin to mitigate the problem before say the year 2050, when there may be close to nine billion people on earth.

Author and futurist James Canton, Ph.D., already predicted that the "Clean Tech" market will emerge, which happened, and now we are in an era where people are promoting social responsibility and profit. In his recent book The Extreme Future (Dutton, 2006) he is asking, "What does it mean to global growth and productivity if we do not discover new energy sources as oil supplies are dwindling?"

One of my colleagues, Riggs Eckelberry, has been working on a new project known as OriginOil - a very interesting concept. Think ocean, algae, and oil. Oil and water never seem to mix well. But in this case, Origin Oil is breakthrough technology that will transform algae, the most promising source of renewable oil, into a true competitor to petroleum.

Another client, T.S. Wiley, author of "Lights Out," and developer of The Wiley Protocol, who is using biodegradable eco-friendly plastic in her product targeted to the women who opt in to bio identical hormone replacement therapy.

I did a search for the most influencial bloggers using the key word environment, and as of today, Technorati's directory delivered 11,225 blog posts about environment; 4933 blogs about the environment; 2002 blogs using the key word environmental; 323 blogs about eco-friendly; 29 using the key word oil crisis; and 2,137 blogs about global warming.

Key words like these are beginning to land on web pages everywhere, making it essential for marketers to get on board and begin to market their products and services in this arena with the right search engine optimization and social media techniques, just to stay ahead of the fray.

In the next few days, MarCom Broadband will be featuring more about its most recent eco clients in our newsletter, which can be accessed at www.marcombroadband.com.