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23
May

The Center of the Corporate Galaxy is not Facebook

Wrong. Facebook is not the center of your online universeI don’t know how it happened. I don’t know why it happened. And, I don’t know who thought it was a good idea. I do know, however, that your corporate Facebook page should not be a substitute for your website. And, yet for some reason, major brands insist that interested consumers go to their Facebook page from expensive television ads and paper ads. Let me start out by saying, that it’s commendable that big brands are attempting to integrate social media into their repertoire. But to use Facebook, and other social media sites, as the central hub of how consumers get to know your brand, and interact with your brand, is simply wrong.

Your Website is the Center of Your Galaxy

Your website is, and will always be, the center of your corporate galaxy. It retains the most gravity (in a sense) with major search engines, it’s what brand-loyalists will know first, and it’s what prospective consumers of the brand will run across first.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc are satellites in the corporate galaxy, and are of varying size like the planets in our galaxy.  For example, your Facebook page can be the Jupiter of your corporate online universe: a hefty gravity of its own, numerous moons, but still bound to the gravitational pull of the Sun (your website).

Put it in Perspective

How Your Corporate Online Universe Really Functions

Satellite Brand Extensions

Social sites are satellite extensions of your brand, they were never meant to be the spokesperson for your brand, but rather a liaison or a networking mercenary. A lot will argue that point because they think that’s exactly what social is intended for: spokesperson-dom. But, it shouldn’t be the authority on your brand. That’s your website’s job. It’s where the information is (or at least should be). It’s where consumers find out what you offer, what you do, and how you do it. And, yet, big brands are continually positioning Facebook as the destination.

Everything Facebook Can Do, Your Website Can Do

Even those brands using Facebook successfully are still driving consumers back to their website to engage the content, tacking some identifiers into the URL string so they know the came from Facebook. Let’s look at a cross-section of several industries:

All the contests you promote, all the special content you promote, and all the slick, time-saving apps are already on your website. Why aren’t you driving engagement there? Why not advertise specially created landing pages from costly TV ads and print buys? Why are you driving already-loyal consumers, and those you hope to persuade, to the Facebook walled-garden? Moreover, why are you sending them to place where your competitor’s ads are and can roam freely, defeating the purpose? That’s why there’s Facebook Connect, allowing people to “like”, share, and interact with your Facebook wall directly from your website.

Don’t Tell Me It’s About SERPs & Engagement

Even though Bing will be using Facebook “Like” data in the SERPs, it’s still not very prevalent. Here’s one example query, signed in with Facebook credentials: “milwaukee bucks” – Bing http://binged.it/jgfs2z . It’s no different than what you would find in Google’s SERP, signed in, with +1 and social connections promoting things via Twitter. Beyond that, just how influential are these social “vouches”, the “likes”, in the search results? Are they really that jam-packed with influence as to alter a searcher’s decision? In my opinion, no, not in the least. But that won’t stop SEMs and Social gurus from pushing it down everyone’s throat to justify their existence.

Engagement? Is the engagement that much better or more meaningful on Facebook? Is a “like” really that significant on a macro or micro strategy level? All these big corporations, and mid-sized businesses, are doing is creating an extra step to get to the information. If you want to get people to enter your contest, or look at specials you’re running, or engage some nifty application that might make their lives easier, why not send them to unique landing pages on your site? It stands to reason there would be some incredibly valuable consumer engagement when they don’t have extra barriers to plow through, right?

Keep your corporate website the focus of your online universeHere Comes the Sun

Stop treating your website as superfluous. It is your online brand. It is the center of your corporate universe and all your social satellites revolve in its orbit, not the other way around. Your website shows up in search results first; I’ve seen corporate pages take up to as many as the first 5 spots. And, what’s never on the first page of results in both Bing and Google? Your Facebook page.

Your social media efforts should serve to drive consumers, and links, back to the site where the engagement and experience is richer, more informative, and more data mine-able to help you make better decisions about your website and your social campaigns.

9
May

Google Violators and The New York Times: No One Cares

Giving Away Secrets to the New York TimesIt’s happened again, the New York Times (no link as I refuse to support this sort of grade-school tattling) has blown the lid off another big, monstrous paid link scandal. This time, it was the Mother’s Day Flowers cabal. Yes, those virginal flower companies have been naughty, stacking up paid links to stack up SERP position for one of their biggest runs of the season. So, as long as they’ve been called out, here’s the line up per the NYT: Teleflora, FTD, 1800Flowers.com, and ProFlowers.

But here’s the news flash: no one cares. Not Joe, not Jane, and definitely not anyone interested in flowers for their loved ones. Sorry. Them’s the facts. When you piece together Aaron Wall’s latest rendition on SEO Book, The Google Brand Bias, in conjunction with how JCP and Overstock have “recovered” from their “slap”.

The New York Times is Not Your Mother

First, I’m going to come out an say it. Stop “tattling” to the NYT. Seriously. It’s school-yard crap that needs to stop. The only thing that accomplishes is to give the whole industry a black eye. It’s paints us as unscrupulous, unethical turds. Once is forgiven, twice is a pattern.

If you have issues with something, just take it to Google or Bing. You know they’ll read it, and if they do nothing, then move on. What you don’t do is go crying to Big Media in attempt to force somebody’s hand. Keep doing that, and the GOOG will be likely to crush you all the next time for showing their ass in public (again).

The Brand Bias is Real

In combination with the Vince Update and the Domain Update [a.k.a. implicit site search], where big brands are getting multiple results at the top of the SERPs, (effectively doing ORM for big brands) it’s impossible for big brands not to get a better than fair shake. It’s always about brands, suggesting otherwise is naive.

That’s Why Joe and Jane Person Could Care Less

Brands are brands for a reason; they have consumer clout, they offer price break deals (in relative terms), and they advertise their asses off in other mediums: television, radio, print, web, etc. They achieve a saturation level at astronomical speeds. And so stuffing a single channel isn’t that much damage to a big brand. Sure they may take a revenue hit in the short-term, but other efforts even this out. That’s the “dirty little secret” no one wants to talk about.

So while a handful of Joe’s and Jane’s likely care as Danny Sullivan pointed out, it’s hard to imagine that these revelations startle anyone but marketplace we aim to provide our skill set and services to.

Showing Google Ass in Public Not A Good IdeaShowing Google’s Ass in Public: How’s That Working Out for You?

That’s all the tattles, the New York Times, and the Wall St. Journal served to do, drop Google’s pants in a very public way. And, all it made Google do is break out a temporary pimp-hand to show justice has been served. And, if you ask JCP or Overstock how they’re feeling today, they’ll probably say, “just fine thanks”. The numbers don’t lie:

Google's Temporary Pimp-Hand

Graph via Compete.com

Here’s how the numbers breakdown for each of them:

JCPenny:

  • Year over Year Gains (March 2010 – March 2011):  +17% gain in unique visitors
  • 1 Month Post NYT Scandal Article (Feb 2011 – March 2011):  +6% gain in unique visitors

Overstock.com:

  • Year over Year Gains (March 2010 – March 2011):  -7% gain in unique visitors
  • 1 Month Post WSJ Scandal Article (Feb 2011 – March 2011):  -7% gain in unique visitors

So, clearly, Overstock got the worst of it, but a 7% decrease is small price to pay. The more interesting of the two is JCP. Not only did they get 17% lift over the year, but EVEN AFTER the “supposed” penalization, they still got a 6% lift.  It’s quite clear that the “scandal” did absolutely nothing to effect JCP site traffic, in fact, one could argue for the old adage, “there’s no such thing as bad press”. And with the help of AdWords and distributors, there was hardly a tremor felt. Furthermore, it speaks to the power of brand in the eyes of Google and consumers.

What Can We Learn From This?

A couple of things to be certain. First, exploit as many media channels as you can. My gut says that if Overstock were engaging in some other media channels, they could have lessened the meager 7% decrease and probably broke even or had even a slight increase in traffic. Second, Google provides these penalizations as nothing more than dog and pony shows of justice. Even after a public Google ass-showing from the New York Times, JcPenney was doing better. It tells us these “penalties” are nothing more than facades masquerading as “fair and balanced” play. It also tells us, the more renown your brand is, the bigger the facade.

So by all means, keep feeding Big Media these tales of sordidness. Just know that your efforts, as Aaron rightly points out, feed “sleazy pageview journalism”, and serve to puncture holes in industry.

2
May

The Disillusioned Client: A Better Brand of Client

Disillusioned Clients Are Better ClientsClients lose that naive trust and faith fast, if it was ever there to begin with. However, as SEO becomes more widely adapted as a need-to-have in any online campaign strategy, there are those who will be dealing with SEO, and possibly online/search marketing for the first time. It won’t be long before they’re jaded; there are a lot of hucksters out there, and they’ll have perceived the experience as been taken for a ride in some way, shape, or form. This is the exact person we’re NOT dealing with in this post.

There is a difference between being a disillusioned client and a jaded client. In that the disillusioned client has seen successes with SEO; whereas, a jaded client is usually in a place too far gone, in a place where they’ll have to resolve some scar tissue and mental healing before they step back into the ring with SEO.

Disillusion is Good For Clients Too

Trust. It’s what every search and online marketer needs from clients. So, you might be puzzled why I’m suggesting a loss of trust is a good thing for clients to have, and why it would benefit the marketer? It’s blind trust we’re aiming to shed. It’s the client Texas Hold Em’ equivalent to “all in”. The big push to double-up and stay solvent in the game. It’s this blind faith that pins SEO as their first and last hope to a) build more revenue from online lead gen b) recover lost market share from competition that’s been kicking the snot out of them on the web, and c) create more brand-visibility/equity to usher in new streams of consumers.

It’s the client’s blind trust and faith in SEO that leads to train-wrecks, unreal expectations, and potentially being worse off when they started. Disillusion is good for clients and marketers. The trust you earn with a client that has been burned before is real trust. It’s a level of trust that’s broken through cynicism/BS/magic barrier, and, therefore, is a trust that’s been earned through quality work and repeated, measurable results. That is no small feat.

All-in Clients Don’t Want Honest Expectations

For an SEO, honesty is about setting the expectations. It’s something that I alluded to in Nick LeRoy’s excellent post last week. Expectations can only be set when real objectives are present and known. Otherwise, every client under the sun wants: “more leads”, “more online revenue generation”, “more qualified traffic”, etc, and that’s the only objective. MORE.

It’s true, SEO can do that, but an SEO has to help the client see what it is they really want. Not three months from now, but twelve months from now. If SEO can’t pull that information out of them, and the client can’t envision it and clarify it, then there isn’t an expectation on the planet that can cover that.

That fact of the matter is “all in” clients don’t want your honesty. Clients don’t want to think about systemic issues; they want 180 degree help now.They want the online and search marketing life preserver. Not long after this, a disillusioned client.

Why Disillusioned Clients Are More Mature Clients, Better Clients

Just like a once disillusioned SEO is a better marketer, so too is a disillusioned client a better client. It’s not that a client puts less pressure for results or is more apt to give trust from the onset; the pressure remains a constant and trust still has to be earned, and frankly harder to earn, but the expectations are adjusted.

Going from an all-in position as a client looking for miracle marketing, to a more mature online/search marketing client, not only helps naturally set more realistic expectations and, with a little sleuth work from the SEM, can surface the real objectives, but allows the SEO to be more honest about the what his/her skill set can help and what it can’t help. Disillusioned clients rarely go back to all-in positions once they’ve been there. Call it gun-shy, call it risk-averse, they’ll never again bundle everything in a single strategy again. When’s the last time you got torched and then made the exact same mistake?

When you’ve got a disillusioned client that’s looking to diversify online strategy, and you’ve got a disillusioned SEO with diverse knowledge of online and search marketing and the skill set to match, it’s a 1:1. Everyone comes to the table with their palms face-up and sleeves rolled (ideally) because no one’s got time mask their intentions. Questions and answers. More questions, more answers, and real objectives are discovered. Real, meaningful, multi-pronged strategies are built.

The first part of the disillusioned series is over at Search News CentralThe Disillusioned SEO: A More Mature Marketer.

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