Sword and the Script

Native Advertising’s Google Problem

Native Advertising

Photo: instagram.com/frankstrong

by Frank Strong

Last week Google reminded marketers about the basics in a blog post:  paid links must be distinguished as paid links.

Links are still arguably the single most important factor in PageRank and therefore search results.  The post was widely reported, earned a shout out on Inbound.org, but it leaves the question of why?

Why would Google’s top spam fighter feel the need to make such a post — especially after the widely felt effects, and subsequent buzz — following the Panda and Penguin updates?

It’s common sense, no?

Some Possible Causes

Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan theorized it was a result of a UK-based publisher placing links in advertisements. “It is believed the reason Google has downgraded their PageRank scores is because they were selling links on a massive scale,” he wrote.  Read More…

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Wear Sunscreen When Social Media Sites Die

by Frank Strong


Photo: Google screenshot on an image search on the closing of Posterous.

If I could offer you one piece of advice, it would be this: don’t bet your egg-nest on any one social media site. 

Social media may never sleep, but it also won’t live forever.  At least not in its current form.

A former colleague once relayed a story about MySpace. They’d met with an advertising team and signed a big contract to spend a boatload on paid media on the site when the unexpected happened.

The next day MySpace filed for bankruptcy.

There’s an old saying about eggs and baskets which needless to say means if we have more than one of the former, we certainly need more than one of the latter. Read More…

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Google+ Authorship is a Game Changer

by Frank Strong


On the modern day battlefield there are three kinds of people:  those on our side of the fence, those on the other side of the fence and those sitting on the fence.

Stay with me, I’ll link this to Google+.

War used to be won by seizing terrain and holding it, but opposing sides also used to wear uniforms that distinguished one from the other:  you could easily tell friend from foe.  Today they blend in, because arguably, there isn’t a military force in the world that can go toe-to-toe with the United States in a conventional war.

The way to beat America is to trade space for time — and after paying a heavy price, we’ve grown wise to that.

To the American Soldier, that blend means a culture we don’t understand, using a language we don’t speak and making decisions based on values that are different from our own. We need more people on our side of the fence to win.  It’s the only way; brute force will only secure temporary gains.

To that end, the way to win isn’t to seize and hold new ground, rather it’s to win over those fencesitters.  Those on our side of the fence will deny safe haven and identify those attempting to blend with the mix.

This is how I view the digital media landscape shaping and Google+’s role in it.

Anything but a Ghost Town

Even just six or eight months ago, Google took a bashing that it’s third attempt at a social network was devoid of activity.  There are all sorts of user numbers — and the blogging community debates the veracity — but I can say from my own experience that engagement is up.

With a few exceptions, I’ve worked hard at finding new people to follow or engage with on a level that’s not possible on Twitter. Mark TraphagenSteve HallJesse Wojdylo and Anneliz Hannan are good examples of people I’ve connected with on my own Google+ account.

Google+ will be Google in the next five years

As, anyone active on Google+ can attest, that activity on in the social layer has reached new heights.  I’ve also observed tangible benefits: Google+ is often the second largest referral source to this blog, trailing only Twitter.   Not social referral sourcereferral source.  This is especially noteworthy because in the last couple months I’ve been experimenting with paid media on LinkedIn and Facebook to promote blog content.  In other words, earned traffic on Google+ has outpaced two paid sources of traffic combined.

My view is that anyone that writes it’s a ghost town is marketing anger in order to provoke a reaction:  it’s linkbait plain and simple.

Related Content:
One Last Time…Google+ is not a Ghost Town 

The Social Layer will be Google

It’s easy to attempt to compare Google+ to a network like Facebook, but the reality is, Google+ has something very powerful Facebook does not: search.  There is no comparison.

Many dismiss the term “social layer” as Google-speak or jargon, but it makes a lot of sense to me because Google+ is melding search and social, two distinct mediums that naturally fit well together.   The company has been explicit in stating it’s intent that Google+ will be Google in the next five years —  I heard a Googler use that exact phrase at a conference last summer first hand.

Think about the gravity of statement for a minute.

How many businesses are dependent on search volume?  How important is search to an organization’s marketing efforts.  Chances are, it’s dramatic, or the seriousness of being punished by Penguin and Panda would have been slighter.   For many blogs, and all traffic sources considered, Google Search is by far the top way consumers find their way to information.  For this blog, and several others I’ve had access to in the past, traffic generally flows the most from Google Search, then Twitter, then Feedburner and now, Google+ — for all traffic, not just referral sources.

Google+ isn’t some little side project holed up in spare server room — Google is betting the company on it.

PR embrace content marketing google authorshipWhy Authorship is a Game Changer

A simple link used to be the single most valuable way to earn page rank.  By all accounts, it still is, but with a twist because of the gaming for links.  So, Google wants to verify your work, and then monitor how it resonates and moves through the web.  In exchange for becoming a trusted source, it will index your content sooner, provide more visibility and perhaps, give you an extra link in search.

A while ago, a very savvy SEO, suggested we link content on a corporate blog to our Google+ profiles — what has become known as Authorship.  I balked because I struggle with the overlap and the separation between personal and professional social media personas.  After having implemented Authorship on this blog for several weeks, I’ve come to realize, that should not be a concern and linking the profiles to verify authorship is probably the smartest and easiest thing I’ve done in a while.  

You were right, Scott. 

So why is this a game changer?  If you want to increase the user base, you’ve got to give people a reason to use it.  White hat SEOs have been thrilled with Authorship and are championing the cause.  SEOs are on the Google+ side of the fence and the conversation they are fueling is winning over the fence sitters because they are able to distinguish what makes Google+ different.  Google is appealing to it’s tightly-connected community and using it as a stepping stone to broaden its penetration.

Maybe it’s happened already and I missed it, but I’m waiting for that first major media outlet to adopt Authorship — a publication like the Washington Post or New York Times.   They’d have to forgo linking to profiles on their own sites, which is a risk, but this could also be a real opportunity for a media outlet that been hurt in the shift from print to digital formats.

In an era of page view journalism, contributors may well start demanding it.

Tips for Verifying Authorship

Google offers two ways to verify authorship.  If you have an email address from the same domain name where you contribute, you can use this authorship method.   For this blog, I chose the alternate method.  It’s worked out well and was simple to implement.

Here are five tips:

1.  Confirm your verification.   Google will send you an email once you’ve been verified.  You can also use the structured data testing tool for a preview.   For the screenshot nearby, I used an incognito search because it appears to me, Google won’t display your own Authorship results in personal searches.

2.  Ensure your profile picture faces your content. Ann Smarty published a post about the impact of profile photos on search results in Small Business Trends.  We already know photos perform well in social media, but take away from her post was we want the photo to be facing to the right as you look at it.  This is so when it appears in search, your profile photo is looking at your content.  She’s cites heatmapping research that indicates a viewer’s eyes will follow your gaze right into your headline.  (Note:  More recently Google has removed author photos from search results).

**Update Feb. 20, 2013 10:51 a.m. EST**    3.  Forget Author Rank.    For now.  Does it exist?  There’s enough writing on the topic to lead me to believe it does, until I included a little link to a tool that turned out to be a hoax by a UK SEO firm.  You can see this in the comments here, or at the very bottom of this thread on Google+.

4.  The best time to publish on Google+.   The best day or time to publish on social media or even press releases is an old story, so naturally there’s a tool for Google+.  Timing+ says it will analyze your Google+ publishing history and activity and recommend the best time to publish.

5.  Makes making a Google+ Page easier.  Recently, I created a Google+ page for this blog to experiment with.  Dan Myer, a freelance designer ginned up some graphics for me and I was off.  When I created the page and linked to the blog in the profile, Google notified me that since it has already verified me as an author, it would verify the link to the blog in the Google+ page as authentic. This could be very useful for anyone thinking about creating a page in Google+ for their employer or agency since it streamlines the process.

Media, marketing and PR have all felt dramatic changes in the last decade as a result of a dynamic landscape.  With search, the battlefield for social media has changed and there’s no company better positioned to win over the fencesitters than Google.

How about you?  Do you think Google+ Authorship is a game changer?  Have you implemented author verification with Google+?  Have you seen results from it?  What do you think Google means when it says, Google+ will be Google in the next five years?

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Trials and Confessions of a Facebook Faker

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Small Business Love Affair with Content Marketing

small business content marketing

Photo credit: eMarketer

by Frank Strong

Small businesses are engaged in a growing love affair with content marketing according to a survey by BusinessBolts.com and analyzed by eMarketer.

Three-quarters of small businesses are engaged in content marketing and 74% said they plan to increase their budget on content marketing in the next year.  The results mirrors other findings, for example, in late 2012, a joint report by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs found that 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing and budgets were up 26% from the previous year.

The BusinessBolts.com study says small businesses are finding benefits in traffic, search rankings and brand building in exchange for minimal effort.   Sixty-two percent of small businesses reported spending less than $100 per month on content marketing and almost half (45%) said content has lowered their advertising costs. Read More…

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Is Yelp the New Front Page?

Yelp is the new front page

Yelp reviews, especially in local search, rank well in organic search results.

by Frank Strong

About a month ago I needed to get my carpets cleaned. As is instinctive with so many consumers these days, I turned to Google to find a professional carpet cleaner.

The first organic search result was from a review on Yelp for “Beto’s Carpet Cleaning.”  There were 30 or so reviews for the company and the commentary was overwhelmingly positive.  One reviewer wrote, “I created a Yelp account to write this review, if that tells you anything.”

The company’s carpet cleaning site is simplistic. He’s not on Twitter or Google+.  He doesn’t have a blog, he’s never issued a press release, and I’m the only fan on the company’s Facebook page.

I called up Beto — and two-days later he and a helper showed up to do the cleaning.  They were in and out in under 90 minutes — and maybe less — and I was set back just $140.  That’s very inexpensive for this neighborhood and the quality of work was top notch.  I was a happy customer. Read More…

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Brand Extension: When a Beer is No Longer a Budweiser

Photo Credit:  Flickr

Photo Credit: Flickr

by Frank Strong

Budweiser drew well deserved applause for its Clydesdale commercial.  It was good story which made for great marketing.

Like other brands, it turned to social media to extend the life of it’s big game investment. The commercial on YouTube has racked up nearly 2 million views at the time of this writing and search volume skyrocketed.

However Budweiser had another commercial on the Super Bowl and the company ran a few variations several times before the Clydesdale commercial was shown.  It was the launch of Budweiser Black Crown.  The video, which was also uploaded to YouTube, has just shy of 300,000 views at the time of this writing and search volume is tepid by comparison.

Black Crown is purported to be a premium brand, with a premium price, which also comes with a higher concentration of alcohol.  It’s a brand line extension that says it’s a Budweiser that really isn’t a Budweiser. Read More…

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Content Marketing: Five Creative Ways to Repurpose Content



by Frank Strong

If we want people to read our content — we’ve got to tell them about it.   A great way to do that is to repurpose content as part of a content marketing program.

There’s a good case for repurposing content beyond content promotion:  For me, writing, and specifically blogging, is thinking.

Often my best ideas come only after I’ve written a post. Creative PR is part art and part science.  It’s also cumulative, which means one idea leads to another — that’s the art.

Repurposing content is also practical — it extends the shelf-life of content.  To that end, maybe “repurpose” isn’t the right descriptor perhaps “multipurpose” is better suited, especially if we publish with the preconceived intent to repurpose — that’s the science.

While this post is specifically about taking a blog post and repurposing that content, there are virtually an infinite number of useful ways to repurpose content. I’ll list a few more easy ones below. Read More…

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Confluence: Kredibility, Social Scoring and Marketing

social scoring

Image credit: Kred

by Frank Strong

Social scoring is a polarizing development in social media.   It’s a label that boils the value of a person down to a number.

Numbers can be positive like the #12 of a quarterback, or negative, like a prisoner number.  I’ve spent a long time in a military uniform — we all get numbers — but in that case its a means for equalizing the playing field.   As the famous line in Full Metal Jacket (NSFW) goes, “Here you are all equally worthless.”

With numbers comes comparison and contrast — and a difference that’s akin to the argument over the have’s and the have not’s.  I believe people should be paid for performance and promoted for potential.

However, within social media circles, a few words of late have given me pause.  For example, in an interview with Geoff Livingston, Andrew Keen, the self-titled, “The Anti Christ of Silicon Valley” said:

In my book I write about Robert Scoble who epitomizes this new class of influencers. It’s a very sort of Darwinian world where has a tiny handful of people on Twitter and on Facebook and on Klout and all these other networks with huge amount of influence and then everybody else. So, we have a new kind of aristocracy in our reputation economy.

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Why PR Should Embrace Content Marketing

by Frank Strong

Why PR Should Embrace Content Marketin

PR should embrace content marketing.

If there’s one trend that has reached a tipping point in PR — it is content marketing. Content marketing is a perfect blend of SEO and social media for the online marketing mix.  But for PR, there’s one other key point:  media and blogger relations.

Joe Pulizzi, who founded the Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a marketing process to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating content in order to change or enhance a consumer behavior.”

He simplifies the definition in a subsequent paragraph by stating, “In short, instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent.”

Isn’t that also what bloggers and media strive to do?  Read More…

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Ode to the Contrarian

social media rant

Photo credit: Flickr

by Frank Strong

It’s not easy to take an unpopular stand, but it might be worthwhile.

How often have we mulled over a post and left it unpublished in the draft folder? There’s a dozen in mine and I generally take pride in calling things like I see them.

When the king is naked — he’s naked.

Some people dislike that — it can be abrasive. Some people love that — it’s transparent. Often, there’s a whole cast of characters that fall quietly in the middle.

Being a contrarian for attention’s sake is not useful. Being a contrarian because we’ve studied, we’ve practiced and we believe in something is practical.

An advocate, devil or not, is useful. Or it ought to be useful.

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