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Why a New Facebook Feature Means It’s Time To Get Serious About Blog Images and OpenGraph

June 24th, 2013 by

New Facebook feature which allows Pages to upload content preview imageOver the last couple of weeks, Facebook has been quietly rolling out a new feature to Facebook Page admins that is going to force content creators to start seriously thinking about their use of imagery and Open Graph protocol on their content.

What It Does

The feature, which I just discovered this past Friday allows Page admins to disregard the images suggested by Facebook for a shared piece of content and instead upload an image of their own.  The feature is useful, especially for folks trying to make their Page content look as presentable as possible even if they are sharing from another source.  Where this will be most handy however is when content creators refuse to use imagery in their content and Facebook shares are left with generic imagery from the website.

Why Images Are Important

Imagery not only helps to visualize your content to viewers, it can also help to break up large blocks of content and make your content easier to read.  We are a generation of skimmers, very few people read web copy these days, instead they skim to digest what they can out of content.  Images can help to break up content and make it easier to skim.

If that wasn’t enough, social media has made us an extremely visual culture.  Sites like Facebook and Google+ are automatically pulling imagery from your website to help make content shared on their sites more appealing, so why not make sure its an image that makes sense with your content as opposed to an ad or some other random image off of your website.

By adding relevant imagery you can not only make the content on your site more engaging, but you increase the probability that users who see your content on social networks will click through and view your content.

Adopting the Open Graph

The Open Graph protocol has been used by Facebook for a few years now.  Like the structured markup that can help local SEO, it is a means of helping machines and systems, in this case Facebook, understand more about your content.  With Open Graph you can tell Facebook specifically what the title of your content is, what description to use when it displays your content, and best of all what image it should use when people share your content on Facebook.

By telling Facebook what title, description, and image to use with your content when it’s shared, the odds of people seeing your content exactly as you want it represented when seen on Facebook is that much greater.  Even if you’re using images in your content, this ensures that Facebook can properly access the imagery and use it alongside your content.

This weekend I tried to share a piece of content from a site that was using images in its content, but for some reason the main image that was most relevant to the post wasn’t suggested as an option from Facebook, instead it was pulling irrelevant imagery found in the sidebar of the page.  Had the site been using Open Graph I wouldn’t have had to upload the picture myself before sharing it on my Page.

Image options for the content before and after

Implementing Open Graph

There are a number of ways to integrate and implement the Open Graph protocol into your content.  If you have to hard code the tags into each piece of content I would highly recommend Neil Patel’s piece on social media meta tags.  On the other hand, if you’re a WordPress user like me, you can simply install WordPress SEO by Yoast.  It not only gives you a ton of great SEO functionality, but has Open Graph protocol features built into it that can help ensure your content is seen properly by Facebook.

TL;DR What You Need To Know

  • Facebook is rolling out a new feature that allows Page admins to upload an image of their choice to represent content they share on their page
  • If you want your content to be properly represented visually on social networks you need to make sure you are using images in your content
  • If you want to make sure Facebook is using the right images for your content implement the Open Graph protocol on your content to help Facebook identify the right image to use for your content when its shared
  • If you don’t take this seriously, Pages can choose imagery for your content that may not align with the message or theme you were hoping to convey

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The Biggest Change Surrounding Google’s Local Carousel That No One’s Talking About

June 19th, 2013 by

Yesterday I shared some insight regarding what you need to know about Google’s local carousel.  Over the last 24 hours or so I have been observing various results I come across, looking for differences, changes, etc.  And then earlier this morning something major stood out.  A change that came with the local carousel that no one seems to be talking about, yet it has a major impact on local businesses.  Look closely at the image below. Do you see anything missing?

Google Local Carousel results for sushi in Los Angeles

If you said ads, you’re right.  Strangely, with the launch of the local carousel Google appears to have cut out a chunk of revenue for itself as well as some prime paid real estate for local restaurants.

What’s interesting about the change however, is that this only appears to be impacting restaurants and night life.  Searches for hotels still display ads from the big players both below the carousel and on the right hand side, as you can see below.

Google Local Carousel results for hotels in Los Angeles

When I first ran some test queries they were in Corona and Costa Mesa.  Since I wasn’t very familiar with the restaurant search space I initially thought that maybe there just wasn’t enough PPC competition in the area.  So I decided to take a stab at Los Angeles, after all someone in L.A. has to be dumping some cash into showing up at the top of the search results for sushi.  Again, no ads.  So I head over to AOL and ran the same query.  Thankfully it doesn’t appear that all the sushi restaurants in Los Angeles have pulled out of paid advertising, Google just isn’t giving them any love in their search results. But why the change?

I have a few theories about this.  The first, Google slipped up.  Perhaps this is just glitch and the feature is so new that nobody is going to notice until the payments from local restaurants stop rolling in to Google at the end of June.  The second, Google’s got something big and paid planned for local businesses.

The reason I suspect something big and paid is in the cards is that this is the second product in the last few months with local flavor that has been unusually ad free.  First, the new Google Maps rolled out sans the search listings and ads.  Now, certain queries in the local carousel remove ads completely.  This creates a prime opportunity for Google to release a new paid advertising product aimed at local businesses that integrates with the new systems.

Ultimately only time will tell what Google’s end game is, but if you’re in the restaurant or nightlift space and you were throwing money into paid advertising, chances are your bill is going to be a bit smaller this month.

What do you think of the change? What do you suppose Google has up its sleeve for the restaurant and nightlife market?

 

 

 

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Google Officially Launches the Local Carousel: What You Need To Know

June 18th, 2013 by

Like Bigfoot, Google’s Local Carousel had been seen in the wild but aside from random sightings no one could verify it’s true existence.  That is, until today.

Earlier this morning, Google made an official statement about the update on its Google+ Page confirming that the “carousel” was in fact real, and was rolling out to English local search results in the U.S.

The initial tests I have run, along with observations from other local SEO’s seem to indicate that at the moment these results are only appearing for restaurant, nightlife, and hotels.  My take is that it is currently limited to verticals that people tend to want to get quick “on the go” results for.  This may be why many people first started noticing these results on mobile devices as far back as December.

Local Carousel for Mexican Restaurants in Corona, CA.

Jade Wang, the Community Manager for Google+ Local, offered more insight into the update with advice for businesses wondering how they can benefit from the update in a post in the Google and Your Business Forums:

How can I get my business to show up in the carousel?

While we can’t guarantee inclusion in search results, we can say that the carousel will show results from listings in Google Maps using categories. Just as in regular ranking, Google’s algorithms take into account many factors to select the places and results that are most relevant to the user. This algorithm based approach is also used to decide which businesses are in the carousel.

Why is this feature only available for some business verticals?

We’re committed to providing users a high quality search experience for every query. The carousel filtering experience is a good fit for some categories of local businesses. We will continue to experiment with different designs and interfaces to make sure that users get the information they’re looking for, fast.

My business is on the carousel, but I’d like to change the photo. How can I do that?

The Google business listing is one of several sources we use for the photos in the carousel, and making sure high-quality images are posted to it will help improve your photo. However the image selection, like the actual ranking of businesses, is primarily decided by algorithms and so we can’t guarantee complete control over the image.

What You Need To Know, TL;DR

  • Currently the local carousel is limited to certain queries and verticals
  • Like organic and local search results before them, carousel results are generated via the algorithm, as are the photos selected for the business
  • The number of carousel results you get in your search results is determined by your screen size.  My 19 inch Dell monitor at 1280×1024 gives about 10 listings, as you can see in the screenshot above.  However, at the office I was getting upwards of 15 listings on a higher resolution widescreen monitor.
  • The rating system for carousel listings use the Zagat rating system, and not the recently announced star ratings.
  • The type of information provided by the carousel will vary based on query
    • Food related queries provide a photo, name, Zagat rating, number of reviews, type of cuisine and price range
    • Hotel and nightlife queries provide photo, name, Zagat rating, number of reviews, and address
  • When you hover over a carousel listing the pin on the map for that listing will get bigger, however hovering over a pin on the map does not provide any visual representation in the carousel
  • Clicking on a carousel listing will take you to a branded search for the business with your currently detected, or selected location tacked on.  (e.g. When I click on Miguel’s Jr in my example above it goes to a search for “Miguel’s Jr Corona”) Managing your reputation and your branded search space just got that much more important
  • The carousel will remain at the top of the page regardless of what listings in the carousel you click on. Clicking on the carousel result you are currently viewing results for will return you to your original query results

Update: Hat tip to Alicia Celeste for pointing out to me on Twitter that you can also generate a carousel with queries for ‘colleges in ____.’  She has apparently been seeing the carousel for these queries for the last six months.  What’s interesting about this carousel however is that it doesn’t necessarily focus on local, in fact the heading on the carousel reads “Universities frequently mentioned on the web,” as opposed to “Universities in…” the way the local carousel does.  If available these queries provide you with the school logo, the name of the school, and the school’s location.

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The Rankings Trap, Or Why That Number One Ranking Obsession Could Kill Your Business

June 10th, 2013 by

Rankings. They’re the sole reason SEO ever came into existence, yet it has gotten to the point that businesses are so obsessed with rankings that they have a tendency to ignore greater opportunities.  In my years in internet marketing I have dealt with a number of different clients who have varying degrees of obsession with rankings.  From the “All I want from you is to rank me for these five keywords” to the “I know traffic and conversions are up, but why am I not rankings for this keyword?”   As an internet marketer its frustrating.  Yes, rankings can be a useful metric, but they can’t be your only metric. In fact, if they’re the only metric you’re paying attention to, you may be setting your business up to fail.

Not All Rankings Are Created Equal

Personalization; its everywhere.  Regardless of whether you use Google or Bing your search results are being personalized.  Using things like search history, you social connections, and your location, your search results are being influenced.  The biggest issue with focusing on rankings is that no matter what an SEO tool says your position in the search results is, chances are what someone else is seeing is very different.  In a study I did for Plastic Surgery Studios following the release of Google’s Search Plus Your World, we found four different sets of search results for a query, all on the exact same office network, in the exact same location and using the exact same browser.  Now think of the variation you might see across cities, states, personas.  Rankings are a nice metric to have in the background, but you have no way of knowing if what you are seeing is the same thing your potential customers are seeing.

Don’t Lose the Forest for the Trees

Oftentimes the obsession with having a site show up somewhere within those first ten links in a search engine consumes all SEO efforts.  Businesses obsessed with top rankings will oftentimes put so much effort into earning and sustaining rankings for a particular core set of terms that they never look at the big picture.  It gets to the point where they tell their internet marketing experts just to focus on those core terms and not to bother with anything else.

Unfortunately efforts like this are very short sighted. First, as I mentioned before, even if you’re seeing your business in the top ten for your priority keywords, chances are the rest of the world might not be.  Second, it offers no room for growth. Once you’ve established rankings for those core terms you are only going to reap whatever rewards those terms bring in.  If you refuse to generate new opportunities your organic search traffic will most likely flatline and your website will see little growth outside of what you’re earning by sustaining those efforts.  Rank for “exterminator?”  Great, now lets explore “pest control,” “termite control,” and the like.  If you’re ignoring these other opportunities your online efforts are only going to be as good as the keywords you’re targeting.

Google Is Not Your Friend

What business owners often forget is that Google does not exist to help their businesses.  In fact, its the exact opposite.  Yes, Google gives you a number of tools such as Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Google+, and Google+ Local to help establish your business on their search engine, but at the end of the day the data you provide through those outlets is actually fueling Google’s business. Google is in the business of information and ultimately they choose whether your information is worth enough to their audience.  If it is, you just so happen to reap the benefits.  But if its not, or if you try and game the system and make it look like your information is important to their audience when it might not be, Google can choose to stop delivering your website to visitors for your keywords and nobody at Google will be losing any sleep over it.

A single algorithm update can be enough to bump a site out of the search results for a particular set of keywords.  If you are only focused on a select few keywords and those terms get hit, how will potential customers find you?

The rankings obsession has a number of motivational drivers behind it; ego, traffic, ignorance.  Regardless of what drives the behavior it’s important to realize that your priority keyword list is only going to drive so much traffic.  There are other metrics you can measure besides rankings that can help you better understand how SEO is helping your business and your website.  After all, at the end of the day your business won’t need SEO if its not making any money.

 

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Local Search for SMB and B2B Lead Generation

June 5th, 2013 by

It’s no secret that I have a special love for local SEO.  It’s a field that is ever changing, often frustrating, but in the end can be very rewarding for small businesses and that, is rewarding to me.  Over the years I’ve written about, spoke about, and ranted about this crazy niche of SEO I love so much.  So a few weeks back when Terry Van Horne of SEOPros hit me up to do a Google+ Hangout on local SEO I of course said yes.

The Hangout featured myself, Adam Steele and Darren Shaw, who I’ve been fortunate enough to be a guest with previously on a local SEO edition of Search Geeks Speak a couple of years back, discussing all things local SEO.  The Hangout had some solid advice from everyone involved and did a great job at suggesting best practices and what local businesses should be paying attention to in today’s local search space.  As such I thought I would share the Hangout with my readers that may have missed the event.

So for now, take a load off, kick your feet up and if you have any follow up questions following the Hangout feel free to comment below or give me a shout out on one of the many social media channels I frequent.

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