Beyonce in Montreal 2013

Source: WikiCommons

It’s that time of year yet again! Time for all the lists reflecting and analyzing the past year! This year Bing is one of the first sites to begin looking back at the past year, as it has released its most popular searches for 2013 lists. If you want to know who the most searched for sports stars, entertainment systems, or public personalities are, Bing has got you covered.

The big stand out this year is Beyoncé who topped two lists, winning the No. 1 position for most searched person of 2013 as well as the most searched musician. As usual, females dominated the list for most searched person, with the top five spots all going to women. The only men to make it onto the list were Justin Bieber (6) and President Barack Obama (10).

The more interesting information for marketers comes from the lists for the most searched for social media sites, most searched streaming sites, and the most searched entertainment electronics.

Facebook still has a strong grasp on the top spot on the most searched social media sites, but Pinterest has raised its profile considerably this year, making its debut on the Bing list in second place. The rest is as you would expect, with Twitter, Linkedin, and Instagram rounding out the top five. For social media marketers, this gives insight to where you should focus your energy, but remember that your marketing approach should always cater to the social platform you are engaging.

It is also notable that while the new iPhone has faced significant public criticism, it still came in second on the list for most searched entertainment electronics, falling behind the Xbox. Android was close behind, coming in third.

There are many more lists from Bing to look through, including the most searched for memes, foods, and travel destinations of the past year. While some of the lists are more anecdotally interesting than useful, you are sure to gain some insight into the public’s concerns and needs.

No More MemesYesterday Facebook announced some pretty major changed to their News Feed. Specifically, clicking an article may not show up to three related articles, and new comments on a story you’ve already seen can “bump” that story back into your feed as it is made relevant again. Lastly, they are going to begin policing the “meme” content to an extent, especially on mobile.

While the first two changes have received significantly more attention by marketers, the new meme policy will likely have the biggest immediate impact for companies still using the image marketing practices widely preached just a year ago.

Image marketing on Facebook refers to the practice of sharing content by posting a picture with a link in the comment, rather than using the more standard link post. This lead to many marketers using lighthearted and sometimes confusing memes while underhandedly also sharing their content. This type of practice has been slowly being dismantled for the past few months, ever since Facebook changed how prominently Link posts were shown in the News Feed. Before that update, image posts were shown with much more prominent display size, so it was a ripe target for abuse.

Now that Facebook is targeting memes it is pretty clear that the old image marketing practices are outdated and it makes more sense to simply follow the more common link marketing practices. Not only is it a more honest approach to serving content to your visitors, but Facebook is going to show you favor.

As Greg Finn from Marketing Land explains, Facebook has gone “all in” regarding turning their social media platform into a more focused news source. A recent study has shown that 1 out of 3 Americans now use Facebook as a news source, and Facebook seems determined to put a heavy emphasis on that mode of usage for their site. Looking forward, the only way to stay ahead of their changes is to focus on delivering your audience the best quality content you can create.

Marketing has become a holistic practice. You can’t just focus on one channel and expect to have the impact that those who are using every method to connect with the public are getting. For online marketing this means you can’t rely on just SEO or PPC to get the visibility you want. A new study from the digital marketing tech company Kenshoo proves this point by showing that marketers using social advertising and paid ads together see better conversion rates than those who only use a single channel.

In what Search Engine Watch reports to be the first study of its kind, Kenshoo discovered that when a person was exposed to both a brand’s Facebook ads and paid search ads, there was a 30 percent more return on advertising spending than when a person was only exposed to paid search ads exclusively.

“The fact that Facebook advertising on its own during this study was declared a successful initiative and had such a strong impact on paid search is indicative of the power of the platform,” Kenshoo said in its report.

Kenshoo PPC and Social Ads Report

“If marketers only had one Key Performance Indicator (KPI) to compare media channels, the metric of choice would be ROAS [return on ad spend], which is calculated as Revenue/Cost. For example, if an advertiser spent $20 and generated $100 in sales it had a 5x ROAS. Even media with different conversion goals can be easily evaluated based on how much it returned versus how much it spent.”

Kenshoo also noted that click-through rate improved along with returns on ad spending. Paid ads saw a 7 percent increase in CTRs when a person had seen both Facebook and PPC ads, “indicating that social advertising was able to positively impact consumer awareness and perception of the brand.”

When combined, search and social advertising also resulted in 4.5 percent lower cost per acquisition, according to Kenshoo.

“On the surface, 4.5 percent may not seem significant when compared to some of the other high numbers reported in this study,” Kenshoo said, “yet ask any advertiser if they could lower their costs to bring in orders by this amount and they would all jump at the opportunity.”

Google's John Mueller Courtesy of Google+

John Mueller

Recently I discussed a common issue sites have where a misplaced noindex tag on the front page of a site can keep search engines from crawling or indexing your site. It happens all the time, but it isn’t the only reason your site might not be crawled. The good news is there is little to no long term damage done to your site or your SEO, according to a recent statement from Google’s John Mueller.

Barry Schwartz noticed Mueller had responded to a question on the Google Webmaster Help forums from an employee for a company who had accidentally blocked GoogleBot from crawling and indexing their site. In John Mueller’s words:

From our point of view, once we’re able to recrawl and reprocess your URLs, they’ll re-appear in our search results. There’s generally no long-term damage caused by an outage like this, but it might take a bit of time for things to get back to “normal” again (with the caveat that our algorithms change over time, so the current “normal” may not be the same state as it was before).

So don’t worry to much if you discover you find your site has been having problems with crawling or indexing. What matters is how quickly you respond and fix the problem. Once the issue is solved, everything should return to relatively normal. Of course, as Mueller mentions, you might not return back to your exact same state because these things are always fluctuating.

Maybe Google really is listening. At long last, they have finally added one of the most requested features for AdWords by implementing the simple “Undo” function. It is exactly what it sounds like, basically backing up settings for all aspects of your account and keeping track of the changes you made. If you click the button, your campaign will return to the state it was at the specified time.

The most obvious benefit of the new feature is that it will make testing in your campaigns easier. If your newest test results in a lower click through rate (CTR) or cost per action (CPA), all you have to do is undo the changes with a single click.

“The ability to undo changes in AdWords will be a valuable feature to advertisers,” Lisa Raehsler of Big Click Co. told Search Engine Watch. “Sometimes changes will have a different impact on an account than what was intended. Simply using ‘undo’ will save time and ultimately money.

“But remember that account edits influence one another,” Raehsler said. “Some optimization edits are interdependent, so a change on Monday may have forced another change on Thursday. Now the ‘undo’ button is something to consider as a change in and of itself.”

There are still some kinks to be worked out, as it currently doesn’t appear that all changes are being documented, and it is unclear whether multiple changes are being grouped into a single undo.

For business owners this means you can more easily control and target your advertising campaigns. You don’t have to undo your changes by hand any longer, which saves you time to invest in other more important tasks.

The “Undo” feature isn’t live for everyone yet, so it may just be an experiment Google is running. But, hopefully they decide to work out the bugs and make it a universal feature. We have certainly been asking for it long enough.

Local SEO Infographic Banner

It constantly surprises me how many local businesses don’t believe in investing in proper online marketing and optimization. Given, I see every day how establishing a quality online presence and optimizing it for higher visibility can benefit a business. Still, many local businesses hold the conception that online marketing is only important for national level businesses, and they couldn’t be more wrong.

Current estimates say that more than 2.6 billion local searches are conducted every month. More importantly, statistics show that these local searchers are becoming more and more mobilized to quickly go from search to purchase thanks to the use of smartphones to search on the go. Nearly 86 million people are regularly using their mobile phones to look up local business information, and these searchers are highly primed to convert. Simply put, without an online presence and the optimization to make your brand visible you are missing out on a large chunk of potential customers.

Hubshout recently created an infographic to illustrate how important local search engine optimization (SEO) really is for your business. Not only does the infographic show what you are missing out on by neglecting your online presence, it also shows how many many businesses have yet to establish themselves online in a meaningful way. There is still a lot of untapped opportunity online, you just have to make the leap.

Local SEO Infographic

Source: Hubshout


googleadwordsYou may have noticed earlier this month that the AdWords Bid Simulator tool has a new feature which offers estimates for conversions in addition to impressions and clicks to show how bid changes may affect conversion volume and values.

For each bid option that appears in the tool, the bid simulator gives the number of conversions and conversion values if assigned or set. As Ginny Marvin explains, conversion estimates display how many clicks you would likely result in a conversion in one day, based on a “recent 7 day period.” Notably, Google does not say their estimates will be based on the most recent 7 days.

Google says the estimates will be more accurate if you have more conversion history and conversion volume in your account, so you will want to have conversion tracking set up and stable for a couple weeks before you start trying to use the bid simulator conversion estimates.


Stop Sign

Source: Sharon Pruitt

Sometimes the source of the problem is so glaringly simple that you would never consider it. This is the case of many webmasters frustrated with their sites not being indexed or ranked by search engines. While there are numerous more technical reasons search engines might refuse to index your page, a surprising amount of time the problem is caused by you telling the search engine not to index your site with a noindex tag.

This is frequently overlooked, but it can put a complete halt to your site’s rankings and visibility. Thankfully it is also very easy to fix. The biggest hassle is trying to actually find the redirect, as they can be hard to spot due to redirects. But, you can use a http header checker tool to verify before the site page redirects.

Don’t be embarrassed if this small mistake has been keeping you down. As Barry Schwartz mentions on SEO Roundtable, there have been large Fortune 500 companies with these same problems. John Mueller also recently ran into someone with a noindex on their homepage. He noticed a thread in the Google Webmaster Help forums where a site owner had been working to fix his problem all day with the help of the other forum members. John explained the problem wasn’t nearly as complex as everyone else had suggested. It was much more obvious:

It looks like a lot of your pages had a noindex robots meta tag on them for a while and dropped out because of that. In the meantime, that meta tag is gone, so if you can keep it out, you should be good to go :).

When you encounter a problem with your site ranking or being indexed, it is always best to start with the most obvious possible causes before going to the bigger and more difficult mistakes. While we all like to think we wouldn’t make such a simple mistake, we all also let the small things slip by.

The best websites are all designed with the unique needs of a business and their customers in mind, but don’t think there isn’t some common ground between them. Web designers have their own process and plan when it comes to making a new site, but they all share some web design elements that simply can’t be left out.

These elements make a site go from boring to exciting and they ensure users are always happy with their online experience. Today, Carrie Cousins shared 10 different parts of a website you can’t neglect if you’re hoping for success.

1. Space

Beatbox Academy

Beatbox Academy

Space is the basis for all web design. Space dictates the flow, readability, mood, and style before you’ve even begun to consider the details of your site. The best designers all have a solid grasp on how to use space and they experiment with space in ways no one else is. Whether designers are playing with the idea of wide open space or creating a more clustered environment, you have to take the time to actively decide how you want to manage space if you want a successful design.

Space also plays a strong role in determining the focus of your page. Any image or text surrounded by open space will automatically seem more important and even larger than a design element crammed next to other aspects fighting for attention.

2. Simple Navigation

Visitors can’t actually use your site if they can’t easily navigate it. Every website should have obvious, easy to use, easily identifiable navigation. Even the most complex sites should be able to be fully explored from a set of five to ten menu items.

Navigation doesn’t always have to come in the form of a menu up at the top. Navigation can also be simply telling your visitors how to use your site, such as adding arrows to a parallax scrolling website.

3. About Us

While it may not be the most exciting part of web design, including an ‘About Us’ page is indescribably important for a smaller business or site owner to tell visitors who they are and what they offer. While it may not be as essential for major companies, you will notice even they tend to include one of these pages.

The trick is to keep it simple. You want to tell visitors enough about your brand and what you bring to the table to interest users, but you don’t want to bore them. This shouldn’t be just a simple template page. It should be kind of like a long-form business card. Short and sweet, but informative, and visually interesting enough to help you stand out without distracting.

4. Contact Information

Without contact information, how are you expecting to get feedback from visitors? Contact information is important for letting your visitors reach out to you, but it also helps validate that you are who you say you are. Nothing makes a site seem sketchy like not being able to find a way to contact a business easily.

To make it easier for users to find and reach out to you, you want your contact information to be highly visible and contain all of the modern ways users might want to connect. A phone number and physical address are absolute musts, but you should consider including social media profiles of yours such as Twitter and obviously an email address is expected for any website.

5. Call to Action

Most websites are created with an objective in mind. Whether you want to make a sale, educate the public, or gather contact information to more thoroughly connect with your audience, there is some goal you are hoping to achieve. A call to action is how you get your users to fulfill your goal, and it should be obvious and strong.

You wan to start out by determining exactly what your objective is, then design it so that action is immediately obvious. Color, contrast, and space are all useful tools for drawing users to the buttons and pages you want.

Even a common signup form is an example of a call to action in web design. The best way to use one of these sigup forms is to place it in a prominent location on the page and make it simple enough to not disuade users from filling it out.

6. Search

It is absolutely shocking how many sites feel they don’t need a search function. Think about all the times you wanted to look up some older information but you weren’t able. Chances are, if you use a site regularly, you will eventually want to search for something, and being stonewalled by a negligent designer can be a real problem.

Implementing search bars is rather common practice, and you all have to do is design that box to be unobtrusive but available. If you want to use an icon, the magnifying glass is accepted shorthand for search, using something else can be confusing.

7. Informational Footer

Many sites use the footer area as a dumping ground for all the information that would otherwise clutter up their site. These unorganized blocks of links aren’t entirely wrong, but they fails to take advantage of the space. Instead, you should try to use the area to communicate a short message or important information in a condensed form, while including those important links in a clear and organized form.

The footer should be simple and streamlined, but it is a good place to include contact information, a small site map, and a selection of important other information. Make it easy to use and understand.

8. Obvious Buttons

It should seem pretty obvious, but every button should look like a button. Pick a visual cue for your site and stick with it so every button is clearly available to users. Not only do you encourage user to click around your site more, but you’ll avoid frustrated users who can’t navigate your page. Using a consistent style is important for web design and branding.

9. High Quality Images

Consider how people are accessing the internet. Smartphones, tablets, and even gaming consoles are all used to browse the web, and most of these have high resolution screens which leave little to the imagination. Users want images to create a visual interest, but you can’t skimp. Low quality images are going to look awful on a ‘Retina’ display. However, with just a few high quality custom images, you can make your site stand out from the crowd.

10. Web Fonts

Just a few years ago, the internet ran on just a few typefaces for everything. They were considered to be the most readable and they solved the issue of making sure every visitor could see text. But, those limitations no longer exist. You can use almost any font you want and you won’t have too many problems.

However there are two reasons web fonts are still important: compatibility and licensing. When you use a web font service, you ensure your search engine optimization won’t be hurt and your site will look consistent on every platform.

Matt CuttsUsually Matt Cutts, esteemed Google engineer and head of Webspam, uses his regular videos to answer questions which can have a huge impact on a site’s visibility. He recently answered questions about using the Link Disavow Tool if you haven’t received a manual action, and he often delves into linking practices which Google views as spammy. But, earlier this week he took to YouTube to answer a simple question and give a small but unique tip webmasters might keep in mind in the future.

Specifically, Cutts addressed the need to have a unique meta tag description for every individual page on your site. In an age where blogging causes pages to be created every day, creating a meta tag description can seem like a fruitless time-waster, and according to Cutts it kind of is.

If you take the time to create a unique meta tag description for every page, you might see a slight boost in SEO over your competitors, but the difference will be negligible compared to the other aspects of your site you could spend that time improving. In fact, overall it may be better to simply leave the meta description empty than to invest your time paying attention to such a small detail. In fact, on his own blog, Cutts doesn’t bother to use meta descriptions at all.

Cutts does say that you shouldn’t try to skimp on the meta tag descriptions by using copy directly from your blog. It is better to have no meta tag description than to possibly raise issues with duplicate content, and Google automatically scans your content to create a description any time you don’t make one.