Thursday, May 30, 2013

Take two: What is SEO?

SEO is not dead. It’s evolved. More importantly, most of the industry now accepts it has evolved.

Modern SEO requires agencies and in-house teams to do more than just ensure their sites are technically perfect and have links pointing to them. Modern SEO requires sites to have many different quality signals, earned naturally and high up the quality scale. I talk about a multi-signal approach. I talk about how modern SEO straddles all of paid, owned and earned media but place the emphasis on earned media.

An earned approach to SEO has led to significant changes in tactics, in strategies and even how agencies position themselves. We’ve seen companies become content marketing agencies, blogger relationship experts or even a willing supporting part of Hubspot’s impressive marketing efforts and adopt the phrase “inbound marketing”.

This is all good. Evolution is good. At times SEOs can be surprisingly stubborn when it comes to accepting or embracing change. The next generation of SEOs might be more flexible.

The strategies may have evolved but the objective has, largely, remained the same; do better in the search engines.

Clients are not being behind the times when they want to improve their SEO. When a brand calls for an SEO pitch they’re looking for an agency which is best placed to solve the problems of traffic, conversions and sales from search. Brands don’t call a pitch on tactics or strategies, brands appoint agencies to solve problems and neither content nor outreach are problems; they’re solutions.

Where does that leave S.E.O. then?

Once SEO stood for [search engine optimization]. It’s the phrase Google still uses. It even also managed to stand for [search engine optimisation] too; with the very busy and thoroughly excellent UK SEO scene having content coverage and generating enough searches to override the automatic American spelling suggestion back when that rarely happened.

I tend to think of SEO as standing for something slightly different these days. SEO, to me, stands for ‘search engine objective’.

“Help with our SEO” means “Help with our search engine objectives”. “We need to improve our SEO” means “We need to improve performance against our search engine objective”.

I hope SEO continues to evolve. I want to see the industry embrace change and work on campaigns that transform brands digital marketing into earned media strategies that add value and win engagement from communities (yes, those communities with the ability to generate signals; like links). I predict that it will.

I also predict that we’ll continue to see requests for “SEO” for a good few years yet.

What is SEO? SEO is your search engine objective.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Next gen consoles fuelling the Battle for the Living Room

It has been a while since I first wrote about the Battle for the Living Room and when I called out the three main players: Google, Apple and Microsoft.

We’ve just had Microsoft announce the Xbox One and now is the time to return to this slow burning but incredibly important tussle.

I do not believe the TV is the “first screen”. I don’t worry if I can’t check the TV. I don’t take my TV to work, on business trips, on holidays, to friends and my TV won’t interrupt me with news while I write this blog post. The mobile screen is the first screen.

TV, however, is the screen central to the Battle for the Living Room. The company who controls the living room isn’t just an entertainment giant. Is it as a company who will be able to exert significant influence on family budgets; holidays, Christmas and FMGC.

If there’s a runaway winner in the Battle for the Living Room then there will be a company who controls the last mile of all TV advertising. That’s why Google TV, to date, has failed. The cable companies in the States closed ranks and said “NO”.

Microsoft are now taking that gamble. Here’s a summary of the Xbox One announcement stream.



What’s missing from the clip above are the numerous references to E3. E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo and perhaps the biggest game gig of the year. Microsoft made it crystal clear that a lot of the game related news for the Xbox One would come out at E3.

I’m not sure gamers noticed. Sony was not silent yesterday either. They’ve been carefully pushing lots of teasers of their own. They’ve announced but not revealed the PS4.

The share prices of Microsoft and Sony today paint an interesting picture.





Sony’s shares have jumped. The people who tuned into the announcement yesterday are, like me, gamers. They’re worried about Microsoft’s focus. They’re worried that the Xbox One might harm second hand game playing. They’ve yet to see voice commands really work for a game.

I need to suppress the gamer in me in order to keep my focus on the Battle for the Living Room. Microsoft, I think, knows the risk it is taking by pushing the Xbox down the integrated route but I think it has to.

After all, how long can Microsoft keep on pumping money into gaming? They need to join the dots.

Here’s a recap on the runners:

Microsoft

Strengths: Xbox and Xbox Live, relationships with ad agencies, possible Windows Phone success
Weaknesses: Trouble with Windows 8 adoption, possible Windows Phone failure,

Google

Strengths: YouTube, Google+ integration, the Cloud, Android, Motorola, Google Fiber
Weaknesses: Google TV, hostile cable networks, brand positioning

Apple

Strengths: iOS, iTunes, Mobile
Weaknesses: Rocky relationships, Apple TV, investor pressure

There are other players, perhaps still supporting players, but worth looking at;

Sony

Strengths: PlayStation, Sony Entertainment Network, Mobile
Weaknesses: fragmented republic

Nintendo

Strengths: Wii U, content
Weaknesses: Also the Wii U, lack of mobile, lack of web

Samsung

Strengths: Scale and manufacturing ability, mobile, TV set marketshare
Weaknesses: Lacks content, Cloud

Liberty Global

Strengths: Europe, paid TV subscriptions, broadband lines
Weaknesses: Lacks content, brand awareness

Sky/News Corp

Strengths: Market share, content
Weaknesses: Brand positioning, mobile

The deals to watch are those from the three frontrunners and the supporting players. In particular, a deal between Sony and Google is juicy. The PS4 can concentrate on games, wooing in gamers and helping Sony gain vital ground in the console battle while a deal to turn every PS4 into a Google TV device (as once intended for the PS3) would then flank Microsoft’s gamble with TV and the Xbox One.

Equally, deals with the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo would move the needle. It’s hard to imagine that the Xbox One won’t have tight Facebook integration. Microsoft are a shareholder.

Another flanking move to watch is Google Glasses. Glasses could be the best of both TV and mobile; easy to watch and private. However, Google is currently stressing that Glass is not for long form content.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The HTC One's Zoe is ideal for Google's new Auto Awesome

At Google I/O yesterday Google+ enjoyed a wave of updates. I've always been fond on the network, especially the communities and it feels like Google is making steady progress with the platform. I suspect most people will have the new edition already but, if not, I posted some screenshots of new plus last night.

One of the new features is Auto Awesome. This is an automatic layer to Google+ that improves photos and one of the features is Auto Awesome motion. If Google detects you've uploaded five or more similar photos in a row then it'll (may) animate them.

As it happens, the HTC One has a feature called Zoe which takes a short video/series of still images in an "uber burst". When you have auto sync on then all these images are uploaded from your phone to Google+. It's been a bit quirky until today. Now it has a practical application.

The HTC One's Zoe feature makes it easy to trigger Motion Photos in Google+. There's a sample below... and you'll see it's not quite right.



The car is clearly out of phase. Now, as it happens, the motion photo has been created in the order the pictures were uploaded. This screen grab shows what I mean. So it's not as if the Auto Awesome decided to drive the car in a crazy way. The snafu here seems to be in the order the HTC One with Zoe passed the pictures over to Google+ for automatic uploading.

It's also worth noting that the image is given the file name "IMAG0162_ZOEVIDEO-MOTION.gif".

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Screenshots from the new Google+

I'm in the UK. Returning home tonight I found myself logged out of Google. Annoying when that happens, right? Logging back in I quickly discovered a whole new Google+.

It feels very responsive but the panels fly around somewhat; especially when you start writing a new post.

A key new element seems to be YouTube. That's right, the integration between Google+ and YouTube is even closer now as the smart money had been placed on some time ago.

Reviews, for local, are equally integrated. It feels that Google will sort out EU and US' FTC agreements and work closely to push Local.







Friday, May 10, 2013

Google serves my very own birthday cake doodle

Ever since Google announced the death of Google Reader my default search engine is Bing. I still use Google, though, I have to; it's work. This means I do see the doodles; just at 10am, rather than 9am.

Today I noticed a new doodle. A lovely birthday cake. I clicked on the doodle (always best practise for work) and wound up on this page. Odd?

Ah-ha! This is my own personal doodle. Google's given me a birthday cake. It's a silly reason to use Google+ but it's a nice way to say thank you for doing so.



I call this: doodle cake.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Why I signed the Modern Marketing Manifesto

Econsultancy have been working hard to collect, compile, understand and distil all the digital marketing wisdom that passes through their roundtables, events, blog posts and training sessions. The result is the Modern Marketing Manifesto. You should read it. You might even want to sign it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of digital marketing, especially the areas I’m deeply involved in; paid search, natural search, affiliates, display and various “social” media activities. It feels like I’m over due in getting some of these thoughts out of my head and on to paper, PPT or even blog posts. It’s not easy and that’s why I recognise Econsultancy’s success.

In particular I wanted to pull out a few YES, that’s it snippets from the Modern Marketing Manifesto and attach a word or two of my own brain juice.

It is a mindset rather than just an executional approach. If you do not ‘get digital’ then you cannot be a modern marketer.

Very much so. I call this the battle of Product vs Service. I strongly believe that digital marketing is not a product. It’s not defined by the processes and then delivered exclusively through excellent execution. Although excellence is always important.

Digital marketing is a culture.

We believe the internet has forced transparency upon brands and businesses. Brands no longer control the message, consumers do.

The word “story” is powerful but often used incorrectly. Brands can no longer dictate how people should perceive them. Brands determine how people view them, assign attributes to them and react to them by the way brands behave.

We believe technology is an enabler rather than a solution in itself.

And

We believe we need creativity just as much as we need technology.

Digital marketing operates in the digital medium. Technology and creative wonders are important assets. The production and deployment of media assets is no substitute for a media/marketing strategy.

We believe social media is about changing our business culture, the ways we work and the ways we engage with our colleagues and customers. It is about creating businesses that have social in their DNA.

You will not succeed if your business cannot evolve to modern standards.

Agile - we must be responsive and adaptive. We embrace change. We believe in flexibility and iteration.

We must find a balance between speed and risk while recognising that a lack of speed is sometimes a catalyst for greater risk. This means brands need to think about sign-off and approval processes. Agencies need to think twice about ECDs being used to approve tweets.

To see the whole Modern Marketing Manifesto pop over to Econsultancy and you agree with what’s been compiled then consider signing. Stick your neck out.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

YouTube hinting at paid channels versus branded, sponsored, content

We're getting hints that YouTube might introduce paid channels. I'm in two minds about that news; I certainly want access to more legal streaming but YouTube always been so open.

I suspect we'll see a rise of nicely sponsored videos. This week we've already seen IGN Direct sponsor Walk off the Earth's cover of Material Girl. There's also branded content which is exactly the same except the other way around.

For example, this video from Sony is out today and promotes the Xperia Z range. It features the band the Pyyramids, Damian Kulash of OK Go and photography from the Xperia Z smartphone experly handled by Martien Mulder. The piece is called From Under Other Stars.



Disclaimer: client and a LBi production.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

WolframAlpha shows Reddit some love; graphing the reddit curve

The knowledge engine WolframAlpha is pretty clever and full of tricks. Here's one I didn't know about until recently. WolframAlpha will graph the Reddit curve for you.

In other words, the company were Sergey Brin was an intern before launching Google, launched a search engine which draws Reddit logos. That's what what I call a geeky ecosystem.



If you're thinking that shape might have been hard to plot... yes. Yes, it was! Want to see the full formula? You'll need to click to enlarge.

Hating Google is bad for your SEO

The SEO industry, such as it is, is a creature of fashion. Right now my perception is that it’s a fashionable time to be down on Google.

This is understandable. There are questions around the company’s tax policies. They killed Google Reader. They killed the Google Affiliate Network. They didn’t even try to sell any of those assets.

At the same time SEO is evolving. The number of people who refuse to accept the change to an earned media approach, with links and other signals secured through engagement (be that creative, outreach or a combination of the two) are dropping in number. That doesn’t mean the situation is resentment free. After all, who likes being dragged out of their comfort zone?

I believe a healthy scepticism is best.

Digital marketing professionals – those in and outside of SEO – need to critically analyse anything Google does. It’s right to ask questions like “What’s the motivation behind Enhanced Campaigns?”. SEOs need to avoid being fed lines by any search engine.

That said; hating Google is bad. In fact, hating Google is harmful to your SEO.

Take Google+. The platform was disliked by many SEOs from early on. Sure, some of those SEOs perhaps didn’t want or couldn’t handle yet another social layer. Other SEOs couldn’t see how Google was likely to use Google+ and so overlooked it. Some SEOs decided, as a matter of principle, not to engage with it. Some didn’t want Google to succeed in “social”.

I believe that was a mistake. The concept of authorship is now established and even if Google are coy, suggesting no advantage in SERPs, for now it’s hard to imagine there’s no signal to be found in the quality of the author. Those SEOs without Google+ experience are at a disadvantage to those SEOs with it. Brands without Google+ success are at a disadvantage to those who have found it.

In this scenario it’s clear to say that disliking Google so much as to avoid Google+ was a tactical mistake.

Equally, if you can’t imagine what Google might do to improve the quality of the search results (perhaps you can only imagine what Google will do to improve income) puts you at a disadvantage at future proofing your SEO strategies.

SEOs must be interested and excited by Google. They must maintain the passion to try out Google’s new initiatives and inventions. SEO must also keep their eyes open. Failure to do so; either by design or by chance, reduces their effectiveness as a digital marketing professional.

Image credit: Mean Old Goat by Eirewolf Creations at Etsy.