Thursday, June 30, 2011

Official: Google Analytics Gets Social Engagement Reporting

Google Analytics has just announced a new set of reports (and functionality) that will enable websites to track social interaction with their content. This comes as a welcomed addition to the new Google+1 button, as it now enables one to measure the impact of social interactions in and outside websites (either through a Facebook like, +1 or LinkedIn share inside the website or +1 on search results).

The new reports can be found in the Visitor section (make sure you are using the new Google Analytics) and are seeing the following:

  • The Social Engagement report shows site behavior changes for visits that include clicks on any social sharing actions. +1 is added automatically, but other sharing buttons should be added through coding, see below how to define them. This allows website owners to understand whether there is a different behavior between visitors that share and visitors that do not share or between different types of “sharers”.

  • Social Engagement Report

  • The Social Actions report shows the number of social actions (+1 clicks, Tweets, etc) taken on the site. This can be helpful to prioritize which share buttons should be in the header of an article, for example:

  • Social Action Report

The Social Pages report shows the pages on the site driving the highest the number of social actions. This is very useful to learn which content is viral and what your visitors really like to read to the point of sharing it with their friends.

Social Entity Report

This change is so meaningful that Google went the extra mile to create the Social Interaction Tracking, a new tracking function that will be used for social tracking only. Basically, the syntax is as follows:

    _trackSocial(network, socialAction, opt_target, opt_pagePath)
  1. Network: Name of the social network (google, facebook, twitter, digg, etc)
  2. SocialAction: Type of action (like, tweet, send, stumble)
  3. opt_target: Subject of the action being taken. Optional, defaults to the URL being shared (document.location.href). Can be manually set to anything: a different URL (if they’re sharing content that “points” to another URL), an entity (e.g, product name, article name), or content ID
  4. opt_pagePath: The page on which the action occurred. Optional, defaults to the URI where the sharing took place (document.location.pathname). Can be manually set (like a virtual pagename).
For a more technical overview on how to implement this tag for facebook and Twitter visit the code site article.

As concluded on the Google Analytics launch post (link above):
Social reporting is just getting started. As people continue to find new ways to interact across the Web, we look forward to new reports that help business owners understand the value that social actions are providing to their business. So +1 to data!

Top SEO Mistakes You Must Avoid (Cheatsheet)

I’ve been gathering information on some common SEO mistakes. Here is a list of what I have so far. Be sure to comment and add any that you have experienced. Let’s all learn from these:


Mistake Why It’s A Mistake Solution
Not doing proper keyword research You think you know how people think, you certainly know how you think and how you would search so you just go with the phrases that you think people will use. Big mistake. People search differently, especially because different people are in different phases of the researching and buying process and you want to use keywords that will catch them in all phases in the process. Keyword research is the foundation of your campaign and not a step you should skip. Review web stats, brainstorm with colleagues, use keyword research tools, check out competitors. Put the proper time and attention into keyword research.
Doing your own SEO…but then never making time to actually get it done You don’t have to outsource, you can handle it yourself – as long as you really do handle it yourself. Often the tasks site on a to do list for a long time and you never get around to it, but you still hopefully check your web stats – expecting to somehow find the engines picked up your site and sent a ton of traffic. Be honest with yourself about whether you have the time or not. If you do have the time, make it a priority and do the work, if you don’t then you need to outsource.
Ignoring social media because you “don’t get it” or “don’t like it Like it or not, get it or not, social media is part of SEO and its here to stay. You are missing out if you aren’t doing SEO. Just Do It!! At the minimum get a profile and get connecting on LinkedIn. Get a Fan Page and get active on Twitter.
Lacking a strategy and plan We are all busy, we all need more hours in the day. Without a strategy and action plan, most things won’t get done. If you are handling your own SEO, Blogging, Social Media, you need an action plan and you need a focused strategy that has goals attached so you know what you are working towards. Reverse engineer your goals to come up with a daily action plan. Also be sure your tweets, Facebook posts and articles/Blog posts all work together to create momentum.
Obsessing about ranking reports and not paying attention to traffic stats SEO is a means to an end. It’s a way to get traffic. It’s not about looking at pretty reports and feeling good. Look at your traffic stats, learn from it. Often you are hitting yourself over the head to get a certain phrase ranked but you don’t realize that all these other phrases are bringing in some traffic and expanding those could be a great way to go. Ranking reports can give a snapshot of where you are at on a set of words you chose to run the report on. But the beauty of SEO is that if your site is well optimized, the engines will start picking your site up for other related phrases and you won’t even know that traffic is actually increasing because you are too busy lamenting a ranking report that doesn’t show great rankings on one impossible, coveted phrase. Glance at ranking reports if you must, but look at traffic stats and see what is really going on. Use Webmaster Tools to also get an idea of what’s going on and find areas you need to focus on/improve.
Focusing too much on the engines and not enough on site visitors Getting your site ranked isn’t going to do much good if your site isn’t prepared to convert site visitors when they get there. You need to make sure your site is user-friendly and well written. It needs to be compelling. It needs to work for you and not against you. Never optimize your site at the expense of the users experience. Don’t do it!! J Make sure each step of the way you ask yourself 2 questions: 1. Is this good for the engines? If the answer is no, try to tweak it so it is good for the engines but most importantly question 2 is: Is this good for site visitors? Don’t compromise on this one.
Putting all your eggs in one basket. It’s not “content” OR “links” it’s “content AND links” (have a strategy plan for both) SEO is made up of many factors, on-page, social, site structure, linking etc. Ignoring one piece of the puzzle will limit results. Be sure you have a well thought out strategy and make sure you do the right things at the right time (get your site in top shape architecturally and get on-page in place and then get out there to build links and participate in social).
Not growing your site content. The engines like fresh content and so do site visitors. It gives them a reason to return. Not updating content makes your site dated and you lose opportunity to increase rankings and further engage site visitors. Get a Blog or create an Articles/Info section on your site and add helpful/informative content regularly.
Keyword stuffing, spamming, setting up or participating in link farms. The engines don’t like it, you risk getting penalized or banned. It is not good for site visitors. Educate yourself on what best practices are for SEO and follow them.

Source: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/top-seo-mistakes-you-must-avoid/30667/

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Look at Google+ – The Long-Awaited Google Social Network

I’ve never been quite so excited to talk about a new service. Maybe it’s just the “waiting for Christmas” phenomenon, where the anticipation over the last year has built up so fully that ecstacy is the only possible response. But enough beating around the bush!Google has just released their social network, and its name is Google+.

An Introduction to Google+



Although it’s only being tested on a very small scale, Google+ already shows immense promise. Yes, it has all the basics you want from a would-be Facebook killer: You can share updates, links, photos, and videos. You can chat, declare your interest in various topics, and rate comments from other users. But Google can’t just catch up with Facebook’s core features and expect to win. No one thinks of Google as social right now, and the road to changing that involves a hell of a lot of one-upping. Luckily, Google is on that path.

A Beautiful Interface

Google starts with a highly attractive design. Using their expertise in HTML 5 and, according to Bradley Horrowitz, “Andy Hertzfeld, the original Mac guy,” the Google+ team has created an interface that’s smooth, simple, and attractive. While Gmail, Buzz, Wave, Docs, and the numerous other projects weren’t exactly seen as hideous monstrosities, they weren’t winning beauty contests either.

Beyond allowing for a real-time feed of what your friends are doing and sharing, the interface lets you easily access social sharing features from any Google-owned property, including the Google search page, Google Groups, Picasa, and YouTube. YouTube will likely be the strongest contributor to the welfare of Google+, especially given the long history of YouTube videos being shared socially on Facebook and Twitter.

With social networks working as a way to frame social sharing, the interface will go a long way. Is it more attractive than Facebook? Well, both look pretty good, and while I favor the Google+ slightly, it’s a tough call. Why don’t you decide?:


Google+ UI
Image courtesy of Search Engine Land

Circles


While Facebook does have a group-creation option, and the ability to share content or be visible in chat with only select groups, Google+ Circles – the group fucntionality of Google+ – was built into the core interface and is both more intuitive and functional. You can literally click and drag your various friends into “Circles,” or groups who you can then share content with. The UI of the site, especially when it comes to sharing, is designed around sharing with your various groups.

That means you can easily share your recent misadventures with friends but not your parents, your political opinions only with those who won’t lynch you for your thoughts, and your enthusiasm for niche topics only with friends who are likely to be interested.

Sparks


According to the Official Google Blog entry which announced Google+, Sparks is “an online sharing engine.” You can search for your interests and find popular web content, ranging from videos to blog entries to news stories to images and well beyond. You can then save any of the items you like for easy reference, share the content, or discuss the most popular items in a Top Interests segment of Google+.

Hangouts


Google+ aims at creating a more open-ended way to spend time together online that doesn’t treat online friends as “fast food” through Google Hangouts. Hangouts lets users create an open video sharing session that’s visible to friends. Others can then join the conversation, chat, and share content (such as items found by Sparks) with all the group members.

Google+ Profile

The new version of the Google profile takes a few extras into account, and the most prominent is Google +1. The “public”demarkation of those +1s will finally have some relevance: You can view what content a user has +1′d by browsing through their profile. This makes the +1 button the equivalent of a Facebook like for pages, while adding a Sparks interest is more like becoming the fan of a page.

Mobile Features


The Android version of Google+ is already available, and several mobile-specific features were created.
  • Huddle is a feature that automatically creates a group chat that brings in a group of users who can use iOS, Android, and SMS to chat.
  • Instant Upload, if enabled, lets video and photo taken with your Android phone automatically upload to a cloud storage in Google+. The media is private to start, but you can access the album and share any of the content with a single click.
  • Location lets users geo-tag all of their posts, at their discretion.

Signing Up

Right now, Google+ is by invitation only, and the scale is incredibly small. So the last, but perhaps most important, thing you should know is that you can visit this website to request your own invitation to the early-phase version of the Google+ project.

The Two Big Hurdles for Google+


There are just two things that Google really needs to do to make this product a success, but each one requires about as much effort as a full-scale Napoleonic campaign. The first is to convince users that Google+ is a better solution than Facebook. The second is to do so in a way that doesn’t self-destruct the entire project.
vs Facebook

Facebook Logo
Image courtesy of Flickr

The features above may well be better than Facebook, but the game isn’t over. Facebook has plenty of revenue, an established ad mechanism, a growing reputation, and – most importantly – 750 million users. For Google+ to win, they can’t rest on their laurels. Especially with the various features now being in the public eye, Facebook has the opportunity to take one of many combatitivepaths.

  1. Facebook can match the features, point for point. Video sharing? You bet. Easier group functionality? No problem. It would certainly require investment from Facebook, but they’re completely capable of getting a point-for-point score for everything Google is doing. The real trick is doing it fast enough that users don’t migrate, and in a way that holds water for the long-run.
  2. Facebook can leverage their brand and established user base. Bringing the Facebook track record to bear takes little effort butfunctions as a fully-armed armada against Google.
  3. Facebook can innovate in new directions, using the user feedback on both Facebook and Google+. Seeing what Google is doing that is or isn’t working, Facebook can attempt to re–one up Google.The war starts today, but Google has by no means won just by having a few neat features. The 750 million user mark of Facebook, not to mention tens of thousands of established pages and advertisers, is quite the mountain to climb.

vs Themselves

In a discussion with Tech Crunch‘s MG Siegler, Vic Guntroda – Google’s VP of Social – stated that, “We believe online sharing is broken and even awkward. [...] Our online tools are rigid. They force us into buckets – or into being completely public.” The solution, as you can see through the many features provided above, is to become a completely new type of service with a number of high-stakes raises on the existing model.

Is that wise? Well, it may be the only way to break the mold enough that users actually start to migrate (and/or couple their Facebook/Twitter use with a post in Google+). It also means that Google has a lot to lose. Each new feature, especially since they haven’t seen broad testing, represents a potential dud. While you can argue that more products means that at least a few services should shine out, any product that fails within this framework will make the entire service less functional overall, more weighed down in unnecessary extras, and will increase skepticism.

If people become skeptical, they won’t join the service. They won’t refer friends. They won’t share frequently. They won’t hang online for Hangouts or add their interests in Sparks. Instead of using a sniper rifle, Google is using a shotgun, whose spray and pray method that – while it looks beautiful – increases the likelihood that something won’t pan out. A weighed-down, high learning-curve new service isn’t likely to win customers.

Google’s mission in social is a big deal, and the company values it immensely. Larry Page, the company’s new CEO, even tied the bonuses of all Google staff members to success in the social arena. Meanwhile, Facebook is becoming the top hub for people to spend time on the web, and as web advertising becomes more prominent, display ads – especially those on Facebook – win the majority of new exposure. It makes a lot of sense that Google would be investing so heavily. In the process, though, they might just be shooting their own service – not to mention the immense resources and any real opportunity to try this again in the future – square in the foot.

What’s Missing?


There are a few important elements missing from Google+ at this early phase, and Google will need to compensate if they want a sustainable product. Those items are:

  1. A user base. ‘Nuff said.
  2. An ad model. Currently the user interface doesn’t have any advertising slots. Will Google go for the unobtrusive text-based ads? Will they use this as the Mecca of Google display advertising? Could it be an extension of the Google Display Network? In any case, Google needs to monetize before this will be a real product.
  3. A promotion mechanism. Will Google+ follow the Gmail concept, moving from a limited, invite-based beta into an open-for-business service? Will they try to push the release on other Google sites, as they did so successfully with Chrome? Will they try to do real-world events, as they did with Google Places? Whatever Google does, it will have to take into account both the PR nightmare of launching a Facebook competitor and the need to succeed in social.

Final Thoughts


Google+ is being played as an “extension of Google,” and it certainly takes into account the various Google technologies – voice, video, local, mobile, etc. – that Google has built over the years. Each of these technologies may serve as a pillar for Google+, assuming that the weight of the project isn’t too high.

But there shouldn’t be a mistake about what Google+ is. Despite the fact that Google is denying the “Facebook killer” moniker, it’sclear that this is a full-fledged social network, and Facebook is the most comparable. People won’t be picking both. It’s going to be one or the other for most users, and while there may be a healthy split between the two – a la iOS vs Android – Google will come out as either a winner or a loser.

This is a great looking new product. It’s smooth, it’s intelligent, it’s innovative – it’s everything we’ve come to expect from Google, and far more than we’ve come to expect from them on the social front. They have great selling points. All that being said, the service is also continuing the habitual “everything you could imagine” sales pitch that often shows flagging results for the company.

What will make or break the service isn’t the features, isn’t the release style, isn’t the ad model, and certainly isn’t the Google brand. It’s whether they can get the early momentum they need to convince users that this product isn’t just a dud, and thus deserves its cut of the social network pie. To do that, Google needs to execute every level of the service, from UI to UX to promotions, with absolute precision.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

SEO Your Website For Foreign Market Acquisition

Global Currencies
Any U.S. company looking to expand into foreign markets must first ask whether this is the best decision for their business. Laws, payment processing, and taxation are all questions for legal and your accountant, so let's instead focus on the pros and cons of foreign expansion from an SEO and marketing standpoint.


Market Size
For anyone heading into foreign markets, the first consideration is the smaller market available in those areas. U.S. companies looking to market into Canada using SEO, for example, are marketing now to population roughly one-tenth the size.

On the other side of the coin, because of the smaller markets and the generally reduced interest in attaining them, the competition is almost always lower.

The big question is how much work will it be to increase your targeted traffic in the U.S. market against your current competition? If you compare that with the work required to expand into foreign markets and find that the balance is in your favor, then you know what to do. Answering this question can require in-depth keyword and competition analysis.

Keywords
We all search differently. While there are significant differences in how various regions in the U.S. search, the differences are even larger when one bridges through larger cultural gaps such as marketing into the UK or Canada. From spelling differences and even word differences (“truck” in the U.S. vs. “lorry” in the UK) to tendencies – you need to be aware of what you're heading into and what it means.

We're all already aware of spelling differences such as color vs. colour, but when we look at sectors more closely you'll find there are a lot of other differences. In Canada, for example, people are more apt to look for reviews and include words like “review” or “compare” in many of their service and product searches. This tells us what we need to do for keywords and a lot about intent and desire.

When launching an SEO campaign into foreign markets, you need to know what these keyword targets should be and what your site needs to deliver. You may also need to look outside your central keywords.

If you’re a property management company should you be targeting “accommodations” or “lodgings”? That depends on who you're marketing to (and can sometimes even depend on what time of year you're marketing, depending on the place).

Your Website
Is your website all wrong? A red, white, and blue website with a big “Made in America” logo works very well in the U.S. market and so it should. But if you're marketing to the UK, will it really have the same impact? It may not work against you per se, but if it's not helping then its real estate that can be better used.

You also need to understand the people you're marketing to. Read and review the ranking websites in that country and get an understating for the sensibilities they cater to.

What imagery appeals to that market, what spellings, and even what slang is used are all very useful. Make your foreign readers feel comfortable with what you're saying and it's likely they won't even question that you're geographically located away from them. You understand them and their needs – what more can they ask?

One vs. Multiple Sites
So if your site is all wrong what can you do about it? We end up asking whether it's better to optimize one site for multiple locations or host a different site for each geographical location.

To be clear: I'm not one to promote using multiple sites to rank multiple times for the same phrase, but there are advantages to hosting unique websites for each location. Major online giants such as Expedia, eBay, and even Google do just this.

The advantage to maintaining one site is clear – it's a lot easier to manage the content. That's also one of the biggest disadvantages simply because the same content isn't going to work for all audiences. Also, providing different content for different location on the same site (using IP detection for example) may well set you up for a cloaking penalty if not done exactly right.
Hosting multiple sites for different location gives you the opportunity to cater the content to that specific audience and make adjustments to the site based on the statistics pulled from just that segment.

If you hosted “yoursite.ca” to cater to the Canadian market and noticed visitors were bouncing away you'd know who they were and be able to analyze the site to determine why fairly easily. Furthermore, you wouldn't be limited in how you react to that data – worrying always about losing your US visitors in any changes.

A hosted site for each market also allows you to follow the semantics and spelling differences. You may want to have your copy written by someone in that country just to be sure you're truly covering the voice of that population.

Having multiple sites will further give you the opportunity to host your site in the country you wish to rank in and using the country-specific URL for that region. This will give you the double benefit of building trust with your targeted visitors and help in your SEO efforts.

There is some disagreement among SEOs on the value of country-based domains and on hosting location. I personally feel they do hold weight as factors and have seen cases to support this numerous times. If it doesn't matter then it's a zero-sum scenario; and if it does, you'll come out ahead. So why not?

Just to be very clear: I'm not supporting the use of multiple sites to rank multiple times for the same phrase on any one engine. This practice doesn't help the searcher and could cause you to suffer penalties, which won't help you in any way.

In-depth competitive analysis on ranking sites domestically vs. into foreign markets clearly illustrates the advantages of acquiring links from foreign website to point to your site. This seems to be the case whether you're trying to rank in foreign markets or not. We've seen:

  • .com U.S. site rank highly in foreign markets with solid links from that geographical location.
  • co.uk sites fare poorly in the UK market with the majority of their links being from U.S.-based websites.
  • .co.uk sites faring better against .com domains even if the .com has more links from the UK.

When you're looking at your link building strategy, you’re going to need to focus it on links from that region. This isn't to say that you should refuse a solid link from outside the area, but when you're focusing your specific energies – they need to be focused where they'll get the most effect and that's from the region you're trying to rank well in.

Bottom Line
You're going to have to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” Ranking one or multiple sites across multiple regions (or at least ranking well across them all) can be a large task, but the efforts can often prove highly fruitful as most foreign markets are less competitive than their U.S. counterparts. While it'll take time and effort, it may well take less time and effort than the amount of work required for the same overall traffic and ROI increases by focusing entirely on the U.S.

Diversity is security. The broader your marketing and client-base, the more secure you are from economic, currency, and even algorithm shifts.

Monday, June 27, 2011

8 Tips to Avoid Social Media Disaster

Amber Mac's Keynote at SES Toronto 2011 was almost renamed How to Avoid Weinergate in light of the recent social media scandal named after, um, Weiner's weiner. The key theme of her presentation was authenticity and provided best practice on how to plan a corporate social media strategy and tips on how to avoid a social PR disaster.

Below is an outline of some of the key takeaways from her presentation.


1. Have a Social Media Policy

Social media sites have a home in today’s workplace, but each company needs to develop its own rules for its employees about how and when social media should be used at work.

Does anybody like writing policy agreement? Nope. So use Policy Tool, a free web-based policy generator that will write your company’s policy based on a 12-question survey. You can customize it from there.

Can’t get employees to read the result? Try making video privacy policy like this one from the Victoria Department of Justice.

2. Be Authentic

You don’t have to hire an actor to appear in your marketing videos. Let the company speak for itself.

Would an actor have been as charming as Blendtec Founder, Tom Dickson, using his high-end blenders to blend high-end electronics? Sales at the company (whose blenders will set you back $400) increased 500% along with their viral videos.

3. Be Original

Amber cited a number of original online marketing campaigns. Among them were Charmin’s support of Sit or Squat, an app that locates and assesses the quality of public restrooms so you always know where to go to go, Footlocker’s Sneakerpedia, an online authority on sneaker history, and Ben & Jerry’s Fair Tweets app, which adds messages to the ends of users tweets in support of Fair Trade.

4. Avoid Social Media Done Wrong

Dave Carroll’s viral “United Breaks Guitars” video has attracted over 10 million views on YouTube. Amber cited a recent study that concluded United Airlines had lost 180 million dollars and 10 percent of their share price as a result of the damage to their reputation. That’s enough to have bought Dave 80,000 of the Taylor guitars that United refused to replace.

5. Assess your Associations on the Web

Use Wefollow and Klout to assess the digital influence of the businesses and individuals you are building relationships with online. Remember, influence scores only tell you so much. You’ll need to do some research to discover whether someone’s influential message is one you want your brand associated with.

6. Keep up on Trends: What’s Hot This Year on the Web?

  • Group buying: Groupon and others have become the fastest growing web sector. Watch out for Uforce, a reverse Groupon business model that allows customers to band together and propose bulk buying to businesses in return for discounts.
  • Quora is a crowdsourcing question and answer resource that’s gaining traction. Your brand’s presence could position it as an authority on topics related to your products.
  • Qwiki is a popular resource that gathers information for a search term and assembles it into a multimedia presentation accompanied by a spoken narrative. It’s a good resource for building infographics. Amber said she is addicted to exploring the different data visualizations.

7. Key Social Media Statistics

Here are some stats from the presentation that caught our eye:
  • 66 percent of women don’t check in with Foursquare due to the “creepiness factor.” Simply put, many women don’t want to constantly publicize where they are out of concern for their safety. This might be something to consider if you're trying to find appropriate social channels for a brand with a largely female customer base.
  • 35 percent of people use mobile applications before they get out of bed in the morning. No word yet as to how many of those applications are alarm clocks.
  • On Facebook, only 10 percent of people engaged with a brand will interact with the brand page. Ninety percent of engagement happens in the news feeds. Success depends on your use of “the blank box,” so keep up with your updates! 

8. Recommended Tools

Here are some of the tools mentioned that will help you manage your Social Resources.
  • For free Facebook monitoring, Amber talked about Facebook Insights as the best option.
  • For monitoring all of your social media resources, she spoke about Radian 6 as the paid tool she uses.
  • For a social media dashboard, she recommended Hootsuite.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Facebook Ranking Factors: How to Gain an Edge in the News Feed

The Facebook news feed is important to all of us – for businesses, personal profiles, and groups. In fact, one could argue the most prime piece of real estate on Facebook is the Top News feed.

At the F8 Developer Conference, Facebook engineers Ruchi Sanghvi and Ari Steinberg shared enough to intrigue our community to analyze the EdgeRank algorithm and give resources on how to fall in line, get your EdgeRank, and sit on the top of everyone's news feed.

EdgeRank Factors & How They Apply to You 

Facebook Edgerank

There are three major Facebook EdgeRank ranking factors:

  • Affinity: This is directly related to likes, interactions, and your relationships. Those you interact with regularly receive a higher affinity score. If you were to like the Search Engine Watch Facebook page updates regularly, we would receive a higher affinity score from you. Affinity score is a one-way street. You can't increase your own score by actively liking other user's updates. When asked about the click-through rate of links counting toward your EdgeRank score, Facebook staff hinted CTR isn't measured now, and that those metrics could be included in your external likes as well as your link-share within the Facebook domain. 
  • Weight: Think of actions that take more effort here. Clicking "Like" would be at one end of the spectrum, far at the other end is comments on video or photos. 
  • Relevancy or timeliness: This is the freshness factor. Recent content receiving immediate activity with deep interactions would be ideal. 

As far as we know, Facebook has not revealed their scoring system (eg. Toolbar PageRank's 0-10 scale).

What Does EdgeRank Mean for the Future? 

If you're buying fans or corralling fans who don't really care about you brand, the numbers of fans with little interaction can actually hurt you. A page with many fans and little to no interactions would receive the lowest EdgeRank score and it would be difficult to get page status updates featured anywhere.

As with Google, Facebook wants to feature reputable sources in the Top News feed, so the goal is showing Facebook you possess that authority in your vertical.

How to Get on the Top News Feed? 

What does it take to get featured on the feed regularly, and what you can you do to grow your authority and EdgeRank? Here are 10 ideas:

  • Use photos and videos often. 
  • Encourage interaction without being pushy. 
  • Ask questions your fans and friends can't help but answer. 
  • Create a poll. 
  • Open Graph web site and widgets – after all, not all interactions happen on the Facebook domain. 
  • Promote your Facebook offline. Promotions can drive interest, contests, and also resources. Offline friends can make the world of difference. 
  • View Facebook Analytics and gauge your audience. 
  • Post trivia, quizzes, and games (not requests!) 
  • Keep dialogue alive longer. 
  • Include links and images within updates. 

EdgeRank is Everywhere

Facebook's EdgeRank isn't something attached only to your status update. It's also your page, your profile, and incorporated with everything you do at Facebook.

Novelty EdgeRank checkers have already popped up on the web. Many other sources have giving tips towards optimizing your EdgeRank score. While it doesn't necessarily change your strategy, it gives us relevant factors to keep in mind as we manage and maintain our Facebook properties.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Keywords Forensics: Research Search Terms That Others Miss

The notion of keyword research is a pillar of the SEO world. SEOs everywhere rack their brains and use sophisticated tools in an attempt to discover what keywords they should optimize for.

However, to hear John Alexander, the director of training for Search Engine Workshops and the Director of Search Engine Academy discuss keyword forensics at SES Toronto, one might wonder if most of us have already missed the point researching keywords.

According to him, there is a crucial difference between the keyword research that most do and the keyword forensics that he practices and teaches. While keyword research considers keywords and phrases and then gathers data to draw conclusions about which are the best to focus on, keyword forensics surveys keyphrases as they have been input by users in an attempt to identify a user behavior. SEOs can then optimize their sites to serve consumer needs in fields that are related, but much less competitive than the most keywords that first come to mind for a given industry. Keyword forensics is about thinking beyond search rankings and, instead, positioning yourself to serve specific needs of your users.

fingerprintingIn Alexander’s words, keyword forensics reveal “the low-hanging fruit,” so that SEOs do not expend our resources fighting what may be a losing battle, and what will certainly be a substantial drain on resources. Mr. Alexander’s forensic tool of choice is WordTracker, where the hunt begins not with a flurry of the most obvious search phrases, but with a word. What kind of word? He says it should be something that implies action on the part of the user, but he prides himself on mining even the most boring and the most seemingly insignificant ones. For initiates, he says, start with words like comparison, review, learn, study, statistics, rare, find, discount, wholesale, pattern, maps, supply, supplies, old, new, pricing, recipes – all words that imply a user’s action, but in an unspecified way.

These words identify the user as a potential Internet consumer. It tells businesses that they are coming to the Internet looking for a service. Then, Word Tracker gathers a large list of related search phrases, their volumes, their KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Index), and their IAAT (sites with that keyword In Anchor And Title). Now, SEOs have a substantial amount of data at our fingertips about, say, what kind of supplies people are actually searching for on the Internet. Sort the list by descending KEI and they’ll have a list of non-competitive or minimally competitive search phrases.

Many of the results on the list will not clearly align with any user behavior, and thus are not useful from a keyword forensics standpoint. The aim, Mr. Alexander says, is to take one useful bit of knowledge about searches from each results screen.

For example when, via the word “expensive,” we discover there is substantial traffic for the search term “how expensive a house can I afford,” real estate agencies would do well to take note. Here, the behavior should be clear. People come to the Internet to discover what kind of home their salary affords them.

This is keyword forensics. By analyzing search phrases, SEOs identify a narrative about potential customers and are able to position themselves as authorities on the web within the narratives of their customers. Oftentimes, users are coming to the Internet to do research. Developing and supplying content that answers questions and satisfies the needs of a large and relevant audience has huge potential from an SEO standpoint.

I’ll leave you with a final anecdote from Alexander’s presentation that demonstrates the power of keyword forensics:

He told the story of a car insurance site whose average traffic was about 4,000 visitors per month. Instead of pursuing the keywords that jump to mind like “car insurance quote,” “low cost car insurance,” “car insurance agency,” and so on, keyword forensics led Alexander to the search phrase “Where do I find the VIN number on my car?” According to him, after developing and optimizing eighteen pages that answered the question for a variety of makes of cars and including an ad for his client’s car insurance company prominently on each page, traffic to his insurance site increased 10 times.

Friday, June 24, 2011

How Twitter Works To Impact Search Results

Twitter is incredible for so many reasons. For some, Twitter is a platform for promotion. For others, it’s a market research tool. The great thing about Twitter is you can use it however you want.

However, what many businesses don’t address is the impact Twitter can have on search results. Learning how to share and format your content on Twitter can directly impact your organic search results.

In this article I’ll review how Twitter works to impact search results.

Twitter and Search’s Unexpected Marriage

According to a study on social media growth, the goal of social media is to identify and attract new customers. Many marketers don’t plan on using social channels like Twitter to influence their search rankings, it just happens to be an added benefit.

Many simply plan to get a bit more traffic, but if we learn how things like anchor text and URL shortened links play in to search results, we may be able to optimize our ability to draw users from both social and search.

According to study done by SEOMoz, social is shockingly well correlated to search engine results. More than 80% of people surveyed believe that in the future social signals will influence rankings at both a domain level and page level.

It only makes sense for search engines to incorporate a human element in their results. Traditional SEO tactics garnered spammy and low quality search results. From a search perspective ranking domains and pages, based on what people are talking about, makes results much more relevant and timely.

Your Authority Matters

It seems who you are on Twitter plays into how much search “juice” you get. If you have 100,000 followers actively retweeting and responding to your tweets, you are looked at as an “expert,” in search algorithms. If you are familiar with how domain authority impacts search results, it seems to be the same process, in which your Twitter power impacts authority.

The chart below illustrates the same study done by SEOMoz. The study surveyed 132 SEO experts, as they ranked their most important to least important social media factors 1-10. According to the survey “Authority of Tweets” and “# of Tweets,” were the most influential social media factors that played in these SEO expert’s search results.

social media influence
Caption: SEO Expert survey: On a scale from 1-10, how important are social media factors in search rankings? 1 being most important and 10 being least.
“We do look at the social authority of a user. We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results. It carries much more weight in Bing Social Search, where tweets from more authoritative people will flow to the top when best match relevancy is used.” –Bing via Search Engine Land.

Building Links On Twitter

A topic that many SEO experts are “up in the air” on is Twitter’s power to replicate consistently replicate link building’s benefits. Although Twitter links are “nofollowed,” the importance of the link depends strictly on the number of tweets and retweets that are aggregated on websites. A good deal of websites put their Twitter feeds on to their webpage, which means that every time your content is retweeted by them it builds links. If this conclusion is valid, one could assume that link authority can be transferred to retweeted links. For example; The Retweetist is just one of many sites that aggregate Retweets and follow links.

building links on twitter
Caption: Blue highlight illustrates a DoFollowed link

Real Results

There have been numerous case studies where a tweeted link that goes “viral” gets redirected around Twitter, and the host site ends up ranking for anchor text keywords within the article.

Take for instance Marcus Taylor’s case study on SEOptimise. Marcus set up a brand new domain, “yogamatcompare.com” and began ranking for search terms within hours of sharing content on social channels. One of the most surprising things within the study is that he did no on-site SEO at all to his site. A summary of Marcus’ social experiment was after:
  • He received 40 Facebook Likes for his domain – Google indexes “Yogamatcompare.com.”
  • He received 110 Facebook Likes and 1 Tweet – He began ranking for the term “yoga mat compare.”
  • After 117 Facebook Likes and 4 retweets- He began ranking on the first page for the term “yoga mat compare.”
  • After 118 Facebook Likes, 4 retweets and 1 link shared on Yoga related sites- he began ranking for “luxury yoga mats.”
Marcus Taylor concluded after his study that, “you can see a progressive increase in not only rankings but the variety of keywords ranking…if I were to carry on acquiring more and more likes and tweets I could potentially attain competitive rankings for these keywords.”

So it seems that collective tweets that are retweeted, pass on link juice by being disseminated across the web on website Twitter feeds. Marcus Taylor questions, “How does this affect SEO? Right this moment I think it’s safe to assume that acquiring likes, tweets and other social signals is a fairly good strategy for not only improving indexation but also rankings.”

Ultimately, establishing Twitter authority improves long term organic search relevance for your site when you share content. Make sure your content’s keywords text is optimized because it seems this is taken to consideration when ranking on search, giving your website traditional SEO benefit from social behaviors.

Twitter
Caption: Perfect Market’s tweet, recapping the Search Marketing Expo

What This Means For You

Establishing thought leadership on Twitter is important. Easier said than done right? We know that Twitter users are portals for blog promotions; a tweeted link gets power from author authority and retweets. Think of your Twitter account as a pyramid. The higher you are able to drop a link from, the more of the pyramid you will be able to capture; and ultimately the more retweets from authoritative twitter-ers.

To find author authority, Topsy.com gives a list of “experts” when they index search. The goal is to find a niche within Twitter that gets your content to fall majestically through Twitter streams. As Google modifies it’s algorithm to incorporate end user relevance, through a hybrid crowd sourced social indexing model; the SEO waters will become cloudier. Social media, especially Twitter, is a powerful tool for marketers to rank for search terms without spending years on link building campaigns. SEO is no longer a systematic labor intensive process of seeking out partnerships. It seems to be a marriage of engagement in social sharing as well as SEO best practices.


Source: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/how-twitter-works-to-impact-search-results/30514/

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Facebook Marketing Tactics: 3 Ways of Pinpointing Your Audience

Facebook illustration
Facebook matches advertisers to users based on users’ interests, activities, favorites, their job titles, as well as the names of the groups they belong to and the pages they are fans of. That’s a lot of information, and Facebook is still a place where more often than not people are willing to share an unbelievable wealth of personal stuff with their Friends and the Facebook Corporation. 


From a marketer’s perspective, Facebook can offer profound insights into the personalities and circumstances of one’s target audience. As a gathering place on the Internet, Facebook’s communities and the community demographics developed therein can give marketers surgical precision as they find an arena for their ads.

To begin his talk at SES Toronto, Marty Weintraub identified three classes of Facebook targeting tactics that every Facebook marketer ought to have at their disposal. Literal, competitive and inferred targeting should all inform a Facebook ad strategy. Let’s take a look at these three and summarize Weintraub’s discussion of them in more detail:

Literal Targeting:

These are the most obvious connections a marketer can make. Selling lacrosse sticks to people who like “playing lacrosse” on Facebook would be an obvious starting point. Literal targeting aims to match ads that are semantically related to the interests of users on Facebook. Often a keyword appears both in the interests listed by users and in the ad itself. Literal targeting allows marketers a way into Facebook that is parallel to SEM efforts on search engines. The downside is that these clear relationships sometimes don’t exist and that they unlock only a fraction of community demographics’ potential. As a marketer, Facebook allows you to go deeper into the lives your audience than ever before. The question according to Mr. Weintraub is “how deep are you willing to go?”

Competitive Targeting:

Competitive targeting focuses on both the positive and negative Facebook presence of a brand’s competitors on Facebook. A competing brand’s fans on Facebook might be an effective place to market your superior goods. Explain the added value of your product in your ad, offer a deal, try to win people over to your side. Fans of brands that are vulnerable, either because of an inferior product, negative press coverage, a recall of some sort, whatever the vulnerability may be, present fertile ground for converts. Essentially, marketers should try to find ways to leverage competitor investments in organizing their followers on Facebook both for their own Facebook presence and against the competitors themselves.

There are also plenty of opportunities to market to dissatisfied customers of competing brands. People who like “windows seven sucks” would be a good group to market the newest Apple products to. Take a look - there’s plenty of negative sentiment on Facebook to mine. Start by searching for groups with a word like “hate” or “sucks” or “awful” and see if you can find people with strong negative sentiment for something related to your product and write ads that present yours as a useful alternative.

Inferred Targeting:

Marty Weintraub sees inferred targeting as the place for a marketer to “go deeper.” Facebook can help marketers identify people who are insecure, people with violent tendencies, people with idealistic passions. Facebook is filled with users who "self-identify" at social extremes. Would somebody who likes “stopping genocide” also like to buy tee shirts where ten percent of the profits go to feed the hungry in Sub-Saharan Africa? Probably.

There are tons of opportunities to market to people based on their circumstance. Medical conditions are a goldmine. Someone who likes “i am pregnant” will soon be buying a predictable range of products. Family roles and occupations that people list can help marketers as well. Single dads are different from grandparents and so are the products they buy.

What do pot smokers buy (beyond illicit substances)? An incredible number of people will identify illegal activities as a part of their interests. Find these extreme individuals and offer them related discounts on cookies, ice-cream and slurpies. Offer them self-help guides or eye drops. Once you begin to think laterally, the end seemingly has no end.

It’s the golden age of marketing according to Mr. Weintraub, because we have newer and more precise insights into our audiences. Admittedly, to hear him talk about it, one can’t help but imagine Facebook marketing as a frontier -- one that is getting richer and deeper.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Google Warns WordPress Site Owners To Update

The Google Webmaster team is now notifying webmasters who are using an older version of the popular content management and blogging software WordPress. Apparently as early as last week, State of Search reports, users whose WordPress was out of date were receiving notices from the Google Webmaster Tools team stating as such.

What's it to Google? Simply put, WordPress is the most popular off-the-shelf CMS. Its marketshare is vast.

According to their own count, WordPress claims they have over 47 million deployments worldwide. Previous versions of WordPress were known to have vulnerabilities that allow hackers to insert malicious files into an unsuspecting site. With such a wide base, it is imperative people keep their WordPress software up-to-date. Quality sites that don't keep up with the latest releases are prone to attack.

If you have received the "this site may harm your computer" warning, upgrading WordPress is a relatively simple process. Disable your plugins, do a back-up (just in case), and click the upgrade link.

WordPress Update Warning

If you don't know if you're out of date, WordPress (v 2.7 and up) will tell you at the top of the screen in a bright yellow box. There's also a button with the number of updates you have available in your top toolbar. If you don't see either of these features, your version of WordPress is very old! Don't ask, just update!

Don't forget: updating your plug-ins is important, too. Just like WordPress, plug-ins that increase your site's functionality, are upkept by the open source community too. If your site - or its plugins - are not up-to-date, your site may be susceptible to attacks.

Source: http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2080601/Google-Warns-WordPress-Site-Owners-To-Update

Simple Answers: Are Facebook Likes Part of Google’s Algorithm?

The QUESTION: Google has been open about using social data as a metric in the search ranking, but the company has only partnered effectively with a few social networks (and most notably Twitter). Facebook and Google have yet to partner up. But does Google still use Facebook likes and shares as a search ranking metric?

The ANSWER: No, although there may be some indirect influence.
A lot of initial data showed that sites being shared on Facebook were more likely to rank well on Google. As those studies have been examined, though, it seems that there’s just a correlation in content pupularity; if people like it on Facebook, they’re also likely to spread it elsewhere, thus making it rank higher.

Google’s Matt Cutts said very clearly and specifically that the company doesn’t crawl Facebook wall pages, where the massivemajority of the linking happens. To confirm this, several groups, including SEOMoz, did testing to see if content shared only on Facebook would get indexed. Cutts’s words held true, with Google remaining peacefully oblivious of the shared link.

It’s possible that certain services that do crawl the Facebook pages, aggregating links or compiling the most popular pages, areindexed in Google – meaning that Google indirectly gets insights into Facebook. But it’s a “friend of a friend” situation, with Facebook never interacting – as a metric or data provider – for Google.

While it’s possible that things will change, especially if Google secures a partnership with Facebook, there is no current indication that Facebook likes have a direct impact in Google search engine ranking.

Source: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/simple-answers-are-facebook-likes-part-of-googles-algorithm/30594/

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Google AdSense: The Greedy Billionaire 8-Year-Old


Google's second largest revenue source turned 8 yesterday and despite its $2.5 billion contribution to the company coffers last year, it still causes pushback from the online world for click fraud, its financing of the spamming of the web, and its total lack of transparency.
Google AdSense Logo
I remember well that June eight years ago, when this new method of monetizing your published content hit the web. The main sources of income for sites prior were display ads and affilliate marketing, for those not selling products or services directly. The forums were abuzz and all sorts of news and commentary were being written, many with the new code proudly included.

It was the start of the content gold rush and the beginning of the flooding of web with lots of boringly similar MFAs (Made For AdSense sites). Basically, Google created the mechanism that clogs its own data centers and overwhelms its own spam battlers. Content generators and keyword click number and price counters were created, blog software was a hot item and niched sites were springing up everywhere.

The problem of this balance between organic search, advertising revenue and large content providers has been there from the start. As one of the Search Engine Watch forum members noted in 2004:

"Google has to keep this of value or 'not worth the risk of losing' for publishers or their fraud rates will go up and AdWords clients will either opt out of the network or lower their bids to compensate. A fine line exists between maximized distribution and greed. Greed kills anything it's connected with and AdSense is no different.

If G turns this program into so much mush, it's the perfect opportunity for Yahoo to jump on the bandwagon and announce that they have something different, offer higher returns, and yank G's ol' carpet out from underneath them."

Well Yahoo lost the plot, but "so much mush" would describe most sites now carrying AdSense code.
The Panda purges over the last couple of months may have cleaned some of these sites out of the search results - or buried them deep enough that they no longer make money from AdSense, and no doubt Google hopes are not worth continuing paying for hosting.

Applied Semantics, formerly Oingo Inc., was purchased by Google in 2003 and this technology was used to create AdSense, along with work from the AdWords engineers.

There have been attempts to test CPA (cost per acquisition) and this affiliate type of marketing is now being done separately under the Google Affiliate Network. While this may be a purer methodology, the AdSense program is too well established and now represents more than 30 percent of Google's total revenue.

AdSense is an 8-year-old and even in this era of online companies being worth billions after a few years, the program is hugely successful and isn't going anywhere.

"For the last eight years, we've relied on your product feedback to help us improve, your success stories to inspire us, and your content to enhance the ecosystem of the world wide web. We look forward to growing older and wiser with all of you for many more years to come!" the AdSense blog noted.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Google’s Les Paul Doodle Costs the World $268 Million

Google giveth and Google taketh away. One area that surprisingly manages to cover both ends of those deitific duties is the recent Google Les Paul doodle – which allowed users to play a guitar and even compose their own melodies right from the Google home page. According to the gurus over at Extreme Tech, the time-wasting fun of the doodle cost the world about $268 million in lost productivity.


More On the Doodle

The doodle is one of the fancier Google has presented, although the last two years have seen increasing escalation in the complexity and interactivity of Google’s home page commemorations. Unlike many doodles, which only last a day, Google’s Les Paul homage lasted two: June 9th, to commemorate Les Paul’s birthday, and June 10th as an “encore.”

The doodle allowed users to, via mouse- or keystroke, strum on guitar strings that constructed the revamped (or amped?) Google logo. Users in the United States could even record 30-second songs and get a URL to share the doodle-created product with their friends.

The Time-Wasting Stats

Unsurprisingly, the doodle got plenty of attention. According to Extreme Tech, the average user on Google’s home page spent an extra 26 seconds strumming around – on average. With 740 million total pageviews between June 9th and 10th, that equates to 10.7 million hours of doodle music. It’s also possible that the total number of pageviews, not just the average time, was getting a boost thanks to the interactive element.

Extreme Tech then uses the estimate of $25 / hour to come up with the $268 million figure for lost productivity. It’s by no means a completely accurate statistic, with variability due to untracked figures in increased pageviews, an inability to track how much time was spent sharing recorded audio, and the definite possibility that some of the play time replaced other unproductive activities. Nevertheless, the giant figure is noteworthy, and a testament to Google’s successful understanding of the world’s desire for an interactive tribute.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

SEO for Small Businesses: Get Into Action

to-do-pile
Web marketing can seem overwhelming sometimes, even for professionals, let alone for small business owners just starting out with promoting a new site. There are so many areas and there is so much to learn – and the goal posts are always moving. Google is constantly developing their algorithm, and there seems to be something new in the world of social media every day.


However, the single most important thing when it comes to marketing your small business, whether online or offline, is simply getting into action. No amount of expert knowledge will help you if you're not using it, and even a little knowledge will get you a long way if you're out there putting it into practice.

Learning everything you can before you start is great if you can do it, but all too often it turns into a mental block. We get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. 

Anyone who has worked with a personal coach in any area of business or life will have heard this mantra over and over again: get into action with what you can manage now (however small), build your confidence and knowledge over time, and work toward larger tasks; don't get bogged down by being too ambitious or by trying to do everything at once. Long to-do lists are the enemy!

Applying Habit Forming to SEO and Web Marketing

The biggest problem you will face as a small businessperson is that most tasks associated with SEO fall into the category of important but not urgent (as are most tasks associated with working on, rather than in the business). We get caught up with all the super-urgent day-to-day stuff (deadlines to meet, bills to pay), so the long-term development of our business suffers.

Now, if you're incredibly disciplined or have a boss breathing down your neck, this doesn't pose so much of a problem. But if you're like most of us mere mortals or are working for yourself (or if you are the boss!), then we need to do some work. The answer is to develop a system or structure, combined with small, short-term targets, to get you into the habit of regular action.

I use the word "habit" very deliberately here. It too often goes along with "bad," but habits don't have to be negative things at all. 

We all have plenty of habits, both good and bad, that together make up our daily routine. What we're talking about here is making those non-urgent but very important SEO tasks a part of that daily routine.

Using a system is important, as it ensures regular action and the measurement of that action (and associated results), regardless of your level of mood, energy or inspiration (let's not kid ourselves: if you're working by yourself, these can be huge factors, even if they're not meant to be). It's easy to get into action around something if you're feeling inspired or bursting with energy, but what about when that initial enthusiasm runs out? The tasks still need to be done. 

Just as with exercise or dieting, so many people start out with the best of intentions and ambitious goals, but peter out quickly. However, the benefit only comes with the long term.

How you will put this system together is up to you. It depends on where you place your focus (link building, content generation, social media?) and what works for you personally. However, any successful habit-forming system will have the following components:

  • Frequent action: At least once per week, if not more often.
  • Regular action: Those actions need to be done at the same time of day or the same day of the week every time. Your brain doesn't fix the habit otherwise.
  • Records: Make a note whenever you complete one of your regular actions, so you can go back and review your progress.
  • Short-term targets: Manageable targets that you can see yourself progressing towards with every step.
  • A stick and a carrot: These are more personal, but most people work best when there are both rewards and punishments in the offing. One or other by itself isn't as effective. Set them yourself but get someone else to enforce them for you if you don't have the discipline!

Setting Targets

We're trained from a young age to set big, ambitious and long term targets... and always bigger and always more ambitious! These are fine in the right context, but are often misused. They can be very disconnected from everyday actions and become fictional very quickly, as soon as your original enthusiasm has died out. This is a great way to get conditioned to failure rather than success... so we set another big, ambitious goal and the cycle repeats.

This is a especially true when it comes to SEO: the payoff can come a long way in the future, and it can be disheartening to work away at building great content and links for no immediate return. This is why you need small, short-term goals to work toward. They make it clear to yourself that you are making progress.

Again, these goals will depend on you and what you're doing. However, they must always be challenging but something that you fundamentally know that you can do – not a pipe dream. They must also be something that you control fairly directly (rather than relying on external forces).

So, if you're starting a new blog, instead of setting "A-list celebrity blogger within a year" as your goal, try setting "250 visitors in my first month" (or whatever seems realistic to you, depending on your niche). The target for your next month might be more ambitious, based on how you did in your first, or you may decide to concentrate on something else ("be mentioned 25 times by other bloggers in my niche this month").

By all means, keep your big goal in mind – but focus on the small steps. You'll be much more likely to get where you want to be.

Summary

By far the most important thing is just getting into action. Don't worry about what you don't know, or what other people say you should be doing – just do what you know you can do and build from there. Create a system that will let you form habits around doing those important, but not urgent, tasks.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Social Media Study Shows Increased LinkedIn Popularity

LinkedIn logoIncreasing popularity for LinkedIn, highly visible brand loyalty to groups that are liked or followed on social networks, and increased reliance on social media to receive product announcements, PR responses, and company information are among the key findings of a new study from ROI Research. 

The ROI Research study, sponsored by Performics (a search engine marketing company), involved surveys of 2,997 individuals who actively use social networks. Titled S-Net, the study looks to see the impact of social media and understand how today's users interact with it.

Only an abbreviated version of the study has been released. More in-depth findings, including information for several specific industries, will be released later this summer.

LinkedIn: The Star of the Study

The major name that surfaced in the study is LinkedIn. This business-oriented social network was seen as the most important network according to 59 percent of those surveyed.

Of the participants who have an active LinkedIn account, half visit the site at least once per week and one-fifth visit at least once per day. The active use of LinkedIn spiked dramatically during the height of the recession, when more than two-thirds of active users visited at least once per week, and the increasing popularity of LinkedIn has been blamed on the slow job market.

As Daina Middleton, Performics's CEO, stated, "Individuals have embraced social networking as a means to actively manage their personal viability in the global economy." Middleton sites recent additions to the site as well the increase in unemployment rate seen in May as reasons for LinkedIn's current appeal.

Other Social Media Findings

While LinkedIn is seen as a vital tool, it may not be the most financially valuable asset to brands. That's thanks to the increasing trust of brands and shared content in social media. Here are some of the social network├▒brand findings from the study.

  • 50 percent of users actively seek purchase advice and 50 percent of users actively give advice on social networks
  • 60 percent of users are "somewhat likely" or more likely to take action on product, service, or brand recommended by a social contact.
  • 59 percent of users who follow a company or brand are more likely to recommend that company or brand, and 58 percent are more likely to buy the products of that company themselves.
  • 53 percent of users use social networks at least "frequently" to provide feedback to a brand or retailer.
  • 53 percent of users state that companies should communicate using social networks at least once a week.

What you should take from this is simple: If you haven't already, you need to get onto the social networks – and especially LinkedIn – and communicate with your potential employees, partners, clients, and customers. Loyalty on social networks has become a substantial part of the decision-making process for many consumers.