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I Know You 'Like'? Me, But Can I Get a '+1'??

Getting a '+1'? doesn't only apply to guest lists anymore. Google recently launched its new social sharing button, which will compete against Bing's recent partnership with Facebook and the 'Like'? button. While Facebook is one of the most popular sites on the Internet, Bing still doesn't compare to Google in terms of search engine user percentage. Even after last year's Bing/Yahoo! merger, the two engines combine to make up only about 14% of the total market share in the United States (Google has an impressive 85%). So even though Facebook activity may be influencing Bing's organic search results, the Bing user base is still relatively small for the partnership to have shown great impact thus far. With unsuccessful past social media experiments of their own, Google is using their new +1 button as a means of influencing their own search algorithm. The social aspect of +1 comes from the fact that users need to be logged into a Google account (Gmail, YouTube, Webmaster Tools, or other Google powered channels). From there, Google users can see which of their friends liked certain content, whether it's displayed on a link from a search engine results page, or an actual piece of content from a website. A recent study showed that 90% of online consumers trust recommendations from people they already know, and 71% of online consumers admit that reviews from family members and/or friends influence purchase decisions (Econsultancy July 2009, Harris Interactive June 2010). This data, coupled with the growing popularity of Gmail, and the worldwide popularity of YouTube should help get the +1 button to penetrate the psyche of a large amount of Internet users. I mentioned above that the +1 button can be applied to pieces of content and search listings, but the +1 button isn't only limited to organic listings. Paid listings can also benefit from the button. Google separately monitors which people clicked the +1 button sildenafil using a color coded display, which shows whether a user clicked the button on an organic listing, a paid listing, or on a website. The implementation versatility of the +1 button, combined with the social experience could have a great impact on click through rates for both organic and paid listings. Google has also rolled out detailed tracking solutions to support the +1 button. In Google Webmaster Tools, a user will soon be able to track detailed +1 activity, search impact, and demographic data. In Google Analytics, users will soon be able to track visits that were affected by social media engagement, which will pull data from all social media sites (Facebook, Twitter'?¦etc). It remains to be seen if the Google +1 button will catch on with Internet users, but if it does, the tools are in place to revolutionize the Google algorithm and bring social based search to the mainstream.

Customer Service is as Important as Ever for Businesses....and Search Engine Marketing

From 1987-1997, the FOX television network aired "Married With Children," its most successful live-action sitcom to date. The show chronicled the miserable Al Bundy, a former high school football star turned women's shoe salesman. Ever since Al scored 4 touchdowns in a game for Polk High School, his life went steadily downhill. For Al, work was no relief from his miserable home life, as he would routinely make fun of his customers for his own personal enjoyment. Something tells me that if social networking and local search were around back then, there is no way Al would have been employed at the same shoe store for 11 years. Local search has proven to have a major effect on search engine marketing. For example, the other night I was looking to purchase a new pair of sneakers and I was trying to find shoe stores that I wasn't previously aware of. I did what the majority of people would do; I typed in www.google.com and searched for "boston shoe stores." Out of the 10 search results on the 1st page, 5 of them were local search websites, and the #1 ranking was held by Yelp. Now that the communication of social networking has been combined with local search, word of mouth marketing might as well be renamed "word of viral universe marketing." This should be exciting for many business owners, as they have a new source for free advertising that outreaches the scope of their previous efforts. However, notice I said this should be exciting for "many" business owners. One of the main reasons why it has been difficult to convince many businesses to embrace social media marketing is that the business loses control of its desired message. For business owners not completely comfortable with the ways of the Internet, this can be a scary thought. If a business is a respectable establishment that treats customers with respect, social media should only benefit them. However, if a business makes a habit of shady dealings and rude customer service, you better believe that they will get some horrible reviews from angry customers, which will only lead to horrible "word of viral universe" marketing. Before I started this blog entry I did some research and found that about 1900 people searched the term "boston shoe stores" last month. That means that 1900 people also saw similar results as I did on the 1st page of Google. That also means that up to 1900 people saw the 74 mostly atrocious reviews that a certain Boston shoe store received from the online social universe on Google Places alone. The reviews weren't much better on Yelp either. According to dissatisfied customers, this company's employees have done everything from not honoring returns, to belittling customers, to even flirting with a customer's girlfriend! What would be even sadder is if this company was unaware of the power of this thing called the Internet. In addition to being a respectable establishment, a certain degree of public relations needs to be present for the most effective social media marketing. Instead of trying to hide negative comments and reviews, companies should be trying to embrace them to improve their business. By conversing with customers, businesses are getting on their level and showing they care. That action alone will more than likely make up for any wrong doing the business did in the first place, and ultimately the customer will probably give the business a second chance. Luckily for Al Bundy, his company wasn't forced to embrace social media back in the 80's and 90's. If the real life version of Al Bundy is still selling shoes today, he better keep his wisecrack comments to himself.

Let Me Tell You What I Think

Sharing personal opinions is the basis for many conversations in my life. From who should be voted off [insert reality TV show of choice] to where we should go to dinner, my friends and I are rarely reluctant to voice an opinion. Sometimes, like when debating a political candidate, that opinion matters, but most of the time we're ranting about an awful movie or debating the top 5 all-time Celtics players not because that opinion "matters", but because we believe that opinion is right... and that everyone else should agree with it. Should I go to that new restaurant in the South End? Let me ask around. Does Avatar really have a shot at best picture? Let's debate. Best pizza in Boston? I'll fight you if you don't think it's Santarpio's. Recently though, a funny thing has happened in terms of where these conversations have started taking place. Now as I look to make decisions, my go to source of information isn't anyone who I've ever met before, but the vast community of the internet. Online opinions, or user reviews, started innocently with a few folks documenting their experiences and sharing them online. Now, it's a multi-million dollar business. I don't know about you, but with pretty much any decision I make these days, I consult the web. Whether I turn to Yelp or Rotten Tomatoes or simply do a Google search, I know that someone else had bought/done/seen/gone/tried whatever it is I'm about to do. So why go in blind? And now, it's easier than ever with a recent explosion of innovative new spins on the user review. Here are a few of the biggest new kids on the block: Four Square and Gowalla Two location-based 'games'? that reward real-life check-ins with virtual rewards. Wherever you go, check-in using one of these mobile apps and accrue points/badges/stamps to either become mayor of that location (Four Square) or work your way up the top ten list (Gowalla). Find out where your friends are, and what they think of the place they're at. Four Square ('Check-in. Find your friends. Unlock your city'?) has recently partnered with Harvard University, Zagat, Conde Nast and Bravo among others for content integration. Gowalla ("Go out. Go discover. Go share. Gowalla.'?) recently received $8.4MM in a second round of venture fundraising Yelp recently responded to the growing popularity of these apps (and other newcomers like myTown) by adding location based check-ins to their application. Looks like the battle for GPS fueled reviews/gaming is on. Aardvark 'The first Social Search engine: a way to find people, not web pages, that have specific information.'? How it works? Send in a question, Aardvark finds the 'perfect person'? to answer it and in minutes you'll get a personal response sent directly to you. A user's question, 'where's a good happy hour in Austin, TX'? is served up to a network of individuals who may be able to respond ' i.e., someone who lives in Austin, someone who likes $2 well drinks, or someone who went to UT back in the day. Just purchased by Google for $50MM. Dorthy.com 'Your search is over'?¦ it's time to get **it done.'? How it works? Users create Dreampages by entering a question, statement or phrase such as 'complete my first triathlon'?. This creates a 'Living Search'? query that searches the web 24/7 to seek out the most relevant content, and based on the user's activity, it continues to customize results with each interaction.

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