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Why Facebook’s Debugger Tool Should Be In Your Content Creation Arsenal

April 4th, 2016 by

Facebook; for many content creators it’s a great place to help seed content and get it noticed.  But what a lot of people fail to realize is that how that content is shared and how it appears on Facebook can be greatly impacted by how Facebook initially scrapes the content.  If Facebook scrapes bad information or can’t access information about the content, it can impact everything from title, to description, and even the imagery associated with the post.  Left uncorrected, any shares or Like’s your content receives may not show up the way you had hoped in Facebook timelines, which can result in fewer clicks and less engagement.  Thankfully, Facebook’s Debugger Tool  can aid in correcting the issue.

So what exactly am I talking about when I say Facebook may be scraping bad information?  Take a look at the example below, which I captured a few weeks ago from Fast Company’s Co.Create (which is an amazing site by the way, if you’re not already reading it I highly recommend it.)  I was attempting to share a piece on Ithaca Audio’s History of Rock video and when I did, the only information that displayed on Facebook was the domain www.fastcocreate.com.  There was no imagery, no title, nothing.  Had I left it as is, people who saw it in my Facebook timeline never would have known what the piece was about beyond my own comments and this would happen with any subsequent shares or likes the post may have received.

An example from Co.Create showing a bad Facebook fetch.

 

Most users would ignore the fact that the proper information wasn’t showing and share it anyway, but I’m not most users…

Recognizing there was an issue with how Facebook initially fetched this content, I opened up the Facebook Debugger and plugged in the posts’s URL and clicked “Debug.”  After running the URL Facebook will provide the current scrape information it has for the content and provide an example of how the content will display on Facebook.  After running the URL I discovered that Facebook wasn’t able to access some of the information during it’s first scrape, so I clicked “Fetch new scrape information” and this time Facebook was able to access all the information it needed to properly display the content on Facebook.  After fetching the new information, I saw the following when attempting to share the content again:

Co.Create's Facebook post after debugging

As you can see, the new share includes the image, title, and description that should have been associated with the post when people shared it.  Obviously this is much more appealing to users and likely how Co.Create wanted their content to appear when it was shared on Facebook. (BTW, if anyone from C0.Create is reading this, I have to do this at least once a week for your content.)

Root Causes of Bad Scrape Information

So what causes issues like this and how can you prevent them?  The most common issue I have seen is when a URL is shared prematurely.  This usually happens if you are scheduling out posts on your Facebook Page ahead of time and the content isn’t actually published yet.  When you input the URL, even if you’re scheduling the post for later, Facebook goes to that URL and attempts to fetch the needed information for the post.  If you do this before the content goes live, Facebook will not be able to grab the needed information and will display just the domain infrmation like in the above example.

Another common issue is a site outage or server error.  If your site goes down for any reason while Facebook is doing a fetch of the content it may not capture all of the needed information to properly display on Facebook.

If you’re auto-posting to Facebook or scheduling ahead of time, it’s always a good idea to test the post once it’s live in Debugger and ensure that it’s displaying the way you want it to.  If it’s not, fetch new scrape information and hopefully your issue will be resolved.

One important thing to note is that fetching new scrape information will only help if the needed Open Graph tags are in place and simply weren’t accessible at the time of the initial fetch.  If Open Graph tags have been implemented incorrectly, the debugger may tell you what is wrong, but will still need to have the tags fixed before it will properly display your content.

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How Facebook’s Instant Article’s Could Impact Your Content’s Overall Reach & Visibility

March 28th, 2016 by

Facebook recently announced the opening of it’s Instant Articles to all publishers, which has many content producers wondering if they should hop on board.  The feature rolled out in May 2015 to a handful of major publishers and allows content creators to create fast, interactive articles within Facebook.  But as I’ve started interacting with more Instant Article content I’ve found one major flaw that publishers should be aware of.

If you’re like me, you probably consume content through a number of social platforms; Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.  And like me, you probably share content you enjoy across those various networks with your various audiences.  You might find something on Facebook and using the sites share features, share it on Facebook as well as other networks.  But with Facebook Instant Articles, the content you discover on Facebook is no longer share friendly across the web.  This means the potential reach for your content across other platforms is inhibited by Facebook’s new mobile article experience.

Below is an example of an Instant Article from Vox I was recently reading.  You can see that the share functionality is prominently pinned to the top of the article no matter where you’re at on the page.  Additionally, a larger share button appears at the bottom of the article, but in both instances, these share features take you to the share screen within Facebook and offer no means of sharing the content on other social networks.

Share features on Facebook Instant Articles

I tested a number of publishers who are already using Instant Articles, including MTV, The New York Times, .Mic, and Buzzfeed and in every instance, when Instant Articles was being used the content was limited to being shared, or sometimes Liked within the Facebook ecosystem.  From a Facebook perspective, this makes sense.  It keeps users on Facebook longer and prevents the risk of someone falling down another rabbit hole on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or the like.  But as a publisher, this is likely something you are going to want to explore and test.

Since the introduction of Instant Articles, I have personally found myself sharing content from certain publishers less on other social networks due to this limitation.  Historically I have shared content on at least one other social network if I enjoy it, and publishers like Vox and Buzzfeed are no longer benefiting from my sharing of their content across my social audiences.  While I, as a single user may not be a huge deal, imagine the impact it has when you consider that BuzzFeed has nearly 7 billion Likes on Facebook.  That’s 7 billion people who are no longer able to share content they enjoy outside of the Facebook ecosystem.

So if  you’re considering getting involved with Instant Articles, I would strongly suggest testing it and seeing what kind of impact it has on your content’s reach across social channels.  Instant Articles is great for the user experience and speed it brings for your Facebook audience, but it might be at the cost of losing additional visibility from a users followers on other social channels.

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Is Google Opinion Rewards Fueling Local Reviews? My Findings

February 1st, 2016 by

I’ve been using the Google Opinion Rewards app for a couple of years now.  The app, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, sends you surveys a few times a week via your mobile device and you can earn Google Play credits for answering questions.  The questions vary, but I’ve found that Google is most interested in my location behavior.  Every few days Google will ask me if I’ve been to any of the locations on a list.  Sometimes they don’t make any sense, but more often than not there is a store or restaurant I’ve visited in the last few days in the list.  They then ask me when I was there, and to rate my experience from one to four stars.  I often wondered if Google was leveraging this data to fuel its local reviews and star ratings, but after a trip to Knott’s Halloween Haunt last October I’m convinced Google is in fact leveraging this data.

Last October my wife and I attended Knotts’ annual Halloween Haunt and since it was for our Anniversary I surprised her with the dinner and hotel package with it.  The day after our stay I received a notification from Google Opinion Rewards that looked like every other survey I receive when Google so kindly stalks my movement, asking me if I recently had been to any of the places in a list of local hotels.  Normally, after my response it simply asks me to rate my experience at the location, but this time, things took a bit of a turn.  On the following screen, Google advised that responses to my survey may be posted on Google and associated with my Google profile.

Google Opinion rewards questions 1 and 2

Since this was a prompt I hadn’t seen before, I opted to go ahead and let Google use my responses in an effort to see what the final result would be.  The final two questions were similar to what I am used to seeing; it first asked to rate my experience and then asked me to review the location.

Google Opinion Rewards questions 2 and 3

I submitted my review and when I first checked the listing I didn’t see where the review had been posted to the local listing for the Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel.

I haven’t seen a survey like this sense, but randomly thought the other day to check back and see if by chance Google was using my response as a review on the local listing for the Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel.  Sure enough, the review I placed back in October via Google Opinion Rewards is actually live on the hotel’s listing.

Knott's Berry Farm Hotel Google Review

Needless to say, if Google tells you that your Google Opinion Rewards survey may be leveraged online, it likely will be integrated into their reviews system and ultimately impact that business.  As I mentioned previosuly, most location survey like this don’t include this disclaimer, however you almost always provide a star rating for the business.  I did some poking around to see if any of the businesses I have given star ratings to as part of Google Opinion Rewards appear as “reviews,” but that does not appear to be the case, at least not publicly.  I did discover however that the star ratings I have entered via Google Opinion Rewards show up under the “Contribute” section of my profile in Google Maps, which leads me to believe these are somehow being leveraged or at least weighted as part of the overall local review landscape in Google.  As a local business, this is something you should be aware of as it has the potential to tap into users who may have otherwise not reviewed your business online, regardless of the sentiment of that review.

Google Maps Contribute

The one thing I find amusing about this entire process is that Google’s guidelines say that businesses shouldn’t offer money for people to write reviews because it impacts the authenticity of the review, yet Google Opinion Rewards is based completly on a model that reards you Google Play Credits for doing just that.

 

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Why I’ve (Mostly) Stopped Reading SEO Blogs, and What I’m Reading Now

January 29th, 2016 by

If this is your first visit to my blog, you probably noticed its been nearly a year since my last blog post.  There are a couple of reasons for that. 1) I simply haven’t had time between agency life, family and other ventures I’m involved in and 2) I was starting to realize how big of an echo chamber the SEO industry and its blogsophere had become.  It felt like everyone was talking, but no one was saying anything new and the only way to make it new was to sensationalize even the smallest industry updates.  If you don’t believe me you should have seen my inbox after Jennifer Slegg released her Google Panda Guide and all the emails promoting posts, webinars, and the like that were going to school me on the “new” Panda algorithm.   It’s this kind of behavior that changed not only my blogging habits, but the kinds of blogs I would read.

You see, prior to the change I was spending upwards of two hours a day on industry blog reading.  I would skim some of it, ignore most of it, but ultimately wouldn’t get much out of it.  Since the release of Panda and Penguin, I believe the SEO world has hit a bit of a plateau.  People aren’t sharing their little gimmicks and tricks to game the system, but instead are sharing their believed methods on how to survive/recover from these algorithms.  When they’re not blogging about Google’s algorithm zoo, they’re rehashing best practices, peppering in some new tools and how to use them, and when they’re really lucky they see a change from Google and sensationalize the hell out of it.  Most of it isn’t useful and when it comes down to it is just the same thing rewritten with someone’s personal spin.  I was so tired of industry content I wiped out most of my SEO feed and took a step back and asked, “What else could you be reading that can make you a better SEO?”

You won’t find the answer in the SEO blogosphere.  It’s found in the places that inspire you.  The places that generate new ideas, encourage self development, and open your mind to new approaches to what you do.  To find these I looked to parallel disciplines, I looked at creative outlets, and what I found was enlightening, educational, inspiring and best of all didn’t feel like I was reading the same blog post on 50 different sites.  Here are just some of the places that I’ve started finding content that has really made me a better, more creative SEO.

Co.Create

Co.Create is a Fast Company blog that features content around creativity in advertising, entertainment, and technology.  If you follow me on Twitter, this is likely a site you see me tweet from quite a bit.  While much of their content is curated from around the web, they also feature a number of original pieces and interviews that as a digital marketer or SEO you’ll find inspiring.  What I like most about their posts is that they are quick and easy to digest, but are always on fun and engaging topics.  Some of my recent favorites include:

Crew Blog

If you’re not familiar with Crew, they are a company that connects people who have a website, app or design idea with professional freelancers that can help them get the job done.  I’ve never used the service, but from time to time I had come across their content online and started following their blog.  What I love about their blog is that they aren’t pushing their service or their industry, instead they share practical tips and information that can apply to any business professional or marketer.  To get a feel for their content, I would highly recommend checking out their recap of their most read articles of 2015.

Digiday

Digiday is a daily publication that explores all things digital marketing and media.  The publication explores trends in the industry and looks at different channels and mediums brands are using online to market to their customers.  What I like about Digiday is that it gives you a pulse of what’s happening in the digital marketing world.  It can generate inspiration, or just keep you in the know in regards to what other brands and agencies are doing.  Recently I enjoyed:

PSFK

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon PSFK, but the site is designed for creative professionals to help them better understand the future of pretty much everything.  Topics range from advertising and design to food, travel, and culture.  What I enjoy about PSFK is that they often feature or discuss things that are up and coming, oftentimes it’s a Kickstarter item or a new technology that hasn’t been fully adapted yet.  It really gets you thinking about what could be and where things are headed.  I don’t necessarily have any recent favorites from PSFK, but this is definitely a site I am checking daily.  The only downside is that they appear to have implemented a bit of a paywall, so you can only view so many articles a month without subscribing.

Momentology

Another digital marketing focused publication, Momentology is a strategy focused publication aimed at more advanced digital marketers.  Another great resource for inspiration and trends, Momentology features original content aimed at helping seasoned marketers “be visible and persuasive in the moments that really matter.”  Some of my recent favorites are:

Don’t let the listicle style titles deter you, I promise the content is more engaging than the titles may lead you to believe.

My Morning Routine

Clearly inspired by my Day in the Life of an SEO series that ended after just one post, featuring Portent’s Ian Lurie, My Mourning Routine explores the morning habits of various personalities in an effort to inspire others to have more productive enjoyable days.  The people featured each week run the gamut from CEO’s and entrepreneur’s to writers and artists, and while I can rarely relate to these self employed movers and shakers I always find their routines fascinating.  This site is more about personal inspiration and how I can better myself as a person, which I hope can carry over into my marketing career.  SEO’s will appreciate that the site recently featured Moz’s Rand Fishkin

The Content Strategist

A digital magazine published by the makers of Contently, The Content Strategist focuses on all things content and content marketing.  What I like most about The Content Strategist is that they feature a lot of diverse content ranging from content marketing trends and best practices to examples and insights from around the industry.  Again, this is a publication where I don’t necesarily have any recent favorites, but it’s a site a read and watch for new content from regularly.

Convince and Convert

Though focused primarily on social media and content marketing, the Convince and Convert blog features a wide array of content that can be leveraged both for education as well as inspiration.  The blog features a lot of ideas and concepts that can be explored by content marketers or organizations thinking of creating content while providing examples and insights into some of the latest industry trends.

Buffer Blog

I put Buffer last because I felt it was one that most people were already familiar with, though it happens to be one of my favorites on this list.  Buffer, for those who may not know, is a tool that allows you to schedule out your social media content over time.  It’s a great tool for curating and sharing content that may be of interest to your readers and one I highly recommend.  That said, the tool isn’t why I love the Buffer blog.  The Buffer blog is a great place for getting new insights and ideas related to social media.  The blog will feature information on the latest trends in social, but they also feature examples of how businesses are leveraging social media.  Buffer is also good at curating lists that will be of use to your business when it comes to social media.  A post I still return to on a regular basis is their extensive list of free image sources. Some other, more recent posts I enjoyed include:

While SEO blogs are still important to keep up on industry trends and happenings, I am reading fewer and fewer these days.  You see I believe that once you’ve mastered the basic concepts of SEO and have built a strong foundation for your SEO efforts, the thing that is going to propel you even further is your creativity and your ability to think beyond just the realm of SEO.  That’s not to say there aren’t new skills that will come along; schema continues to see new applications, and mobile and app indexation continues to evolve, but these are foundational concepts.  Once in place they are only going to take you so far.  Once these are mastered or in place your creativity is what will take you to the next level.  Creative content or ideas can drive visitors, links, social visibility, brand awareness and much more.  Hopefully some of you found something new to inspire you in this post.
What inspires you to be a better SEO?  Share your ideas in the comments!

Posted in Blogging, SEO having no comments »

Google’s At A Glance Snippets Now Show the Ugly Truth About Your Business

February 27th, 2014 by

Last week Google announced the global rollout of the new Google Maps layout.  The new layout, which many of us began using as a preview last May is much different than the traditional maps view many local businesses were used to.  Unlike the previous maps layout the emphasis is on the locations on the map and not the business listings that used to appear on the left.  For many local businesses that were less visible in the past this is a blessing, but what many businesses are learning is its also a curse.

Along with the new maps layout is the now more prominent at a glance snippets.  In the past these snippets would merely list words associated with your business, and in most cases these were pretty focused to what your business offered.  However, as Google’s methods for harvesting data get better and dive deeper many businesses are starting to see something more than their services.  They are seeing things that reflect their quality of service as well.

Last week while talking about the rollout of the new maps, a colleague of mine sent me the following result.  You’ll notice that Google not only associates MacMall with the macbook, but more prominently “horible customer service.”  Pretty painful to have on the map next to your business name if someone is doing research on where to buy their next Apple product.

Macmall Maps Listing with at a glance snippet

However MacMall isn’t the only victim of this.  Just today David Oremland posted the below image on Google+.  As you can see, not only is this particular BART station centrally located, but it’s known for its homeless people.

BART maps listing featuring homeless people as an at a glance snippet

When it comes to Google Maps and local in general, I have talked a lot over the years about just how crucial reputation management is.  The only way Google’s algorithm is going to pick up on stuff like this, is if there are enough people talking about these things in regards to your business.

Looking at this as an outsider, these can be a bit amusing.  But as a business owner this is terrifying.  No longer does a person need to click through and see your reviews to understand the sentiment people have about your business.  If it’s bad enough, it will be right there below your business name for all to see.

This is a short post, but I wanted to illustrate just how important reputation management can be, especially in the new Google Maps.  If you’re still not taking your online reputation seriously, and aren’t doing your part to make changes to improve these concerns within your business, let this be an eye opener for you.  These are just a couple of examples, but there are hundreds, if not thousands out there.  If you want to have some real fun, head over to the new maps and type in Walmart and then just browse the U.S. fun little snippets like “horrible service,” “white trash,” and other choice words pepper the map.

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