Category Archives: Search Marketing

Protect Your Online Reputation

The internet marketing agency that I work for has been looking to hire an SEO/PPC specialist for a few weeks now, but we’re having a hard time finding the right person.  We’ve been posting ads and getting a decent amount of responses, but not too many people are qualified enough for what we’re looking for.

Today I received the resume of a person who seemed to have just the right amount of work experience and knowledge.  Before I attempted to schedule an interview I decided to Google his name and see what comes up.  There was the usual- links to his LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest accounts (which always rank high), his blog, a popular SEO site that he’s probably mentioned on and his mug shot.  Wait, mug shot?

Guess who just missed out on a job opportunity.  Especially being a search marketing professional and all, the least I expected from the guy was to have a clean online reputation.

At least once in your life, someone important will look you up on Google.  There’s a good chance it’s already happened, as search insiders estimate that that non-celebrity people searches account for more than 10% of Google’s search volume.

Admit it; you’ve Googled yourself at least once just to see what came up. But who else has?  Recruiters and hiring managers will likely look you up on search engines before offering you an interview or job. Colleges have been known to look up students before accepting them.  In my single days I wouldn’t go on a date without Googling the guy first.

Having a person Google your name is something that’s going to happen (again) in your life. If there’s something negative that might come up and hurt you, it’s up to you to fix it.  Here are four easy things you can do to manage your online reputation.

Google Yourself

If you haven’t done this already, start by going to Google and typing in your name.  Make sure you’re logged out of Google so you see standard results rather than personalized ones. Consider the first page of search results for your name your own personal home page. Studies show that about 75% of search engine users never click past the first page, so it’s extremely important to use that real estate to your full advantage.  If you have a common name and share it with some scandalous characters, I would start using a middle name or initial on job applications, your resume and social media sites.

Own Your Name

The term “own your name” refers to “owning” all of the domains that come up in the search results.  I’m lucky- there are no other Casey Kurlanders in the world that I know of, so I don’t have any competition.  But if you look, every search result on the first page for my name is something that I created and pretty much have control over.

SERP

Here are some tips on how to own the first page of results for your name:

  • Get your Linkedin profile to show up first by making sure you have a custom URL with your name.  For example, my LinkedIn URL is www.linkedin.com/in/caseykurlander/ and it always ranks high because the URL matches the keyword searched and LinkedIn has high SEO authority.  To create your own custom LinkedIn URL, go to the “edit profile” section and it’s right there.
  • Google-owned properties like Picasa, YouTube and Google+ often rank high, so make sure to utilize them using your name.  Google+ is great because it’s free and it offers lots of options for providing links, photos, and information you may want to highlight
  • Start a blog and make your name the title.  Also make sure that your name is in the URL.  I recommend using WordPress, as it’s the blogging platform that seems to rank the highest.  It’s also free and extremely easy to use.
  • Be mindful of what you use as your default photos on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn- those also rank high and are often one of the first to show up in Google Images. This also applies to photos that you post on your blog, as many of them will come up.

Fight back!

Depending on the website, the instructions for removing or hiding results vary.  However, information that’s been indexed in Google’s database cannot be extracted from Google search results.  Google has ownership of its database and will not act on negative publicity.  Even if the offending article is removed by the publisher, the content still exists in Google’s database and could be found in a search.

One of the places that you can fight back is Facebook.  There you can mark specific content as public or with varying levels of privacy. To protect yourself, it is best to keep Facebook content limited to friends only. If your online reputation is really bad, you can always give us a call at BMI Elite to remove negative or undesired content associated with your name.

Prevention

The best defense is a great offense- don’t wait until there’s something negative in the search results to improve your online reputation.  A great defense strategy is to have an abundance of positive content on the first page of results.  Go ahead and tweet, post, comment and blog!

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Why Search Engine Rankings Vary From Computer to Computer

Yesterday morning I was going through the Google search engine results pages, creating a bi-monthly online reputation management report to send to one of my clients.  This client is a large company that’s been around for over two decades and has about seven years’ worth of negative posts from disgruntled customers floating around the internet.   It’s a big project, to say the least.

When I was searching and creating my report yesterday, I was glad to see that two of our sites that we created, optimized and have been posting positive content to are ranking on the first page.  I happily reported to my client that one site was in the #3 position, and another was ranked #6, pushing two pages with bad stuff down to the second page… or at least from what I could see on my computer.

About 30 minutes after I sent the report over, I got an instant message from my client saying that she was on Google, but she wasn’t seeing our sites rank for the positions that I reported.

It’s never a good time when your client thinks you may be lying to them.  I immediately sent over some screenshots that I couldn’t have possibly photoshopped that quickly to show her what I was seeing.  I also tried to explain some of the possible reasons why SEO rankings vary from computer to computer.  Here are some of the most common ones:

Browsing History

This was the most likely culprit, as search results are personalized.  Google doesn’t forget about the sites you’ve visited in the past and often shows them higher in search results.  The search engine is simply trying to customize results to give you what it thinks you may be looking for.

Location

Google shows different search engine results based on your location.  In this case, I am in Florida and my client is about 9 states away.  Search engines try to provide the best results based on where you are, and the results will be slightly different and the order may change.  I have even noticed differences in results from my office to my house (which are about the miles apart).

IP Address

Google tries to custom tailor results, so if you have a different IP address from another computer or phone it’s possible that you may get different results.

Google Plus

Twitter has been known to influence search results for some time, and now it appears that Google Plus is as well.  The little +1 buttons that you see all over the web are similar to “liking” something on Facebook.  These +1 buttons could affect what you see in search results because Google remembers what you “plused” and will likely show these sites ranking higher.  There are rumors that these “pluses” not only affect your search results, but having a lot of them could also help your website rank higher.

 

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BMI Elite Buys Employee A New Car, Then Takes Staff to Bahamas

There’s never a dull moment around here at BMI Elite.  We’re back in the news once again, this time for surprising one of our longest and most deserving employees with a brand new 2013 Ford Escape for his 52nd birthday last week.  We’ve been on the front page of the Sun Sentinel’s money section, on the homepage of MSNnow, and many other news channels including CBS12, CNN and WPBF.

Chris Ninos has been BMI’s chief financial officer for the last two years and is one of the most loyal, honest, trustworthy and hardworking employees that our CEO Brandon Rosen has ever met.

“Chris will call me up at midnight, at 5:00 a.m., and on holidays just to talk about business,” said Brandon.  “He’s one of the hardest workers I know.”

Chris has been driving an old 1998 green Ford Escort for the last 11 or 12 years, and recently it’s been giving him lots of trouble.  Even though everyone around the office has been telling him to trade it in and get something new, Chris was determined to ride it until it died.  So last week, a few days before Chris’ birthday, Brandon and BMI’s president, Dan Lansman, decided to surprise him with the new Escape as a way to thank him for all that he does for the company.

Chris was told by some co-workers that they were taking him out to lunch to celebrate his birthday.  They said they needed to make a stop at the Maroone Ford dealership, and when they arrived at the showroom, Ninos was surprised with a new 2013 Ford Escape filled with balloons.

Before this all happened, BMI contacted the media to capture the moment as well.  Not only did Chris get a new car, but he also got the celebrity treatment for a few days.

If that wasn’t enough, BMI Elite is taking its entire staff on a cruise to the Bahamas this weekend for our holiday party.  I am excited and I feel lucky to be working at a company that is doing so well.  In less than two years, BMI has grown from two employees to 55 and next month, we are moving from a 4,500 sq. foot office to one that is over 21,000 sq. feet.  There are lots of big things to come!

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Video SEO

Internet videos have become a very useful method of sharing information.  Video content should be part of your content strategy if it isn’t already.  It has become extremely popular with Internet users and it can be easier to rank video content for competitive keywords than ‘normal’ content when video results are incorporated into the SERP.

Video SEO is:

  • Optimization of the video content on your website.
  • Optimization of your video content on other sites (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.)
  • An extension of SEO

The following social engagement numbers demonstrate the huge reach that videos have.  By applying video SEO techniques, you can make your videos search engine friendly and make your videos more likely to show up in a search.

  • YouTube is the second-largest search engine after Google and it has a massive reach across social networking sites.
  • Video views on YouTube have increased by 25% in the past year, to an astounding 4 billion views per day.
  • People watch more than 500 years’ worth of YouTube videos on Facebook every day, and they share about 700 videos on Twitter each minute.
  • According to Forrester Research, videos are 53 times more likely to generate a first-page ranking than traditional content.
  • 52% of B2B marketers are planning to use video as part of their content marketing strategy in 2012.
  • Video results appear in about 70% of the top 100 listings, the type of content most often displayed in universal or blended search results.
  • According to Cisco, video will increase from 30% of Internet traffic to 90% of Internet traffic by 2013.
  • Q4 2011 saw video views on retail and brand sites increase by more than 3x over Q3 (Invodo research, January 2012)
  • Videos in  universal search results have a 41% higher click through rate than plain text (AimClear 2011)

 

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Yahoo Closes $7.6 Billion Deal with Alibaba Group and Marissa Mayer has Money to Spend

After more than two years of on-again, off-again negotiations, the complex $7.6 billion deal is done between Yahoo and China’s Alibaba Group.  Yahoo’s shareholders, who have painfully watched the company weaken over the last few years, are likely breathing sighs of relief right about now.

In recent months there has been a lot of buzz about what would happen when this deal finally closed.  Where would the billions of dollars in cash and stock go?

Before hiring its latest CEO, Marissa Mayer, in July, Yahoo had pledged to distribute nearly all of the proceeds from the sale to its shareholders.  But then there was talk of Mayer warning shareholders that she might not return money to them after all.  Yahoo wavered from its pledge and filed regulatory documents disclosing that Mayer was in fact considering denying shareholders of the proceeds.  Instead, the money would eventually be spent in her efforts to revive the company’s growth.  The documents stated that Mayer was examining possible acquisitions, but they did not provide specifics.

Obviously this did not make shareholders happy, but overall I think that using the money to grow the company would have been a wise idea.  Giving billions to shareholders through a stock buyback or a one-time dividend is like giving a five-year old $10,000 instead of putting it toward his college tuition.  He’ll love you at first for it, but eventually it will be forgotten and the long-term outlook will grow dimmer.

Upon the completion of the sale we have learned that Mayer will not be holding on to all of the Alibaba money.  After taxes, most of the profits from the sale ($3.65 billion) will be paid out to shareholders in the form of dividend or stock buybacks, leaving Mayer and her team with about $1.3 billion to play with.

“This yields a substantial return for investors while retaining a meaningful amount of capital within the company to invest in future growth,” Mayer said in a statement.

Now that Mayer got the cash infusion that she was looking for, the technology world is eagerly waiting to see what she is going to do next.  She’s already provided free food and offered to buy an iPhone 5 or Android for her entire staff, so now what?  Her options are numerous, but there is speculation that she may try to make a huge move like putting together a takeover offer for one of the Internet’s hot websites, such as Pinterest, Vimeo, Yelp or even Foursquare.  Mayer already tried to purchase Yelp once when she was at Google, but Yelp rejected the offer and went for an IPO.  Yahoo is not nearly mobile enough, and acquiring Yelp would give its mobile platform a tremendous boost.  Yahoo currently has a monthly audience of 700 million users that it plans to build on as it develops more effective ways to connect with people on smartphones and mobile devices.

Vimeo would also be an excellent site for Yahoo to purchase.  I consider Vimeo to be YouTube’s potentially very talented little brother.  If Yahoo aims to be a serious contender to Google (who owns YouTube), it could use its own version of a leading video sharing site.  Internet videos have become a useful method of sharing information, and they are extremely popular with people.  Internet users watch more than 500 years’ worth of YouTube videos on Facebook every day, and they share about 700 videos on Twitter each minute.  Video content is now part of the content marketing strategy of many webmasters and marketers.  Acquiring Vimeo would probably come with a price tag of around $3 billion, but it could greatly increase the amount of traffic to Yahoo, boost the company’s search and social, and bring in lots of brand advertising money.

If Mayer does not wish to spend most of Yahoo’s money in one place, a smaller, less costly acquisition would be Foursquare.  Reports surfaced back in 2010 that Yahoo was considering purchasing the mobile check-in service for around $100 million.  That deal didn’t work out, and Foursquare’s last funding round valued the company at $600 million, meaning that Yahoo would have to pay at least $500 million to $1 billion for the company.  Foursquare is currently one of the hottest names in location-based services, and it could give a big boost to Yahoo in social, mobile and local.  Mayer was in charge of local at Google, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Foursquare was her top acquisition candidate. 

In order to succeed, Mayer must use the money from the Alibaba sale to take one of the Internet’s most recognizable brands and make it more profitable.  She must apply her extensive knowledge of working on the user experience, doing for Yahoo what she did for Google.  By recapturing the audience’s attention and driving more traffic to Yahoo’s website, this will in turn help Yahoo sell more online advertising space and revive revenue growth. I am personally rooting for Mayer’s success because I am eager to see epic new products that will give Yahoo the reinvention that it needs and make the Internet a better place for all of us.

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Why You Should Be On Google+

In the year or so since it was launched, Google+ has not exactly become the popular social network that Google imagined creating. Considered an epic failed by some, Google claims that there are currently about 75 million daily active users, but their calculation methods are sketchy at best.

Considering the social network’s lack of popularity, should your even bother with having a Google+ account for your business? Ab-so-effing-lutely!

The free SEO boost that your site will get is the first reason that your business should be on Google+. When someone Google’s you or your businesses’ name, your Google+ profile will come up as a good result, and there’s a better chance that your site will show up quicker on organic search.  Consider it an extra opportunity to get some fresh content out there about you.  Because your Google+ information will rank high, this also can also come in handy if you want to push a different search result down to the second page (a result that you don’t own, or something that might be negative).

Another benefit of the social network is that it integrates with all of Google’s other (extremely successful and popular) public-facing services including search, Google Places, Google Shopping, Google Maps and more. If you run a small business, such as a pet service or clothing store, having a Google+ page will help add valuable data to your Google Places pages.  Google’s recent Zagat acquisition also gives restaurants a boost by posting their rating in the results.

Google+’s integration with the search engine’s other products can also be used as a powerful tool for a small business to communicate internally. It allows you to do a variety of tasks within the same platform. For example, while writing on Gmail, you can hop on to Google+ to communicate ideas with co-workers in real-time. You don’t have to jump from Facebook to Hotmail to Skype just to communicate because Google has it all. It makes swapping information, documents and ideas easier among the employees within your business.

The last reason that your business should absolutely be using Google+ is because it’s there and it’s free. It’s relatively quick and easy to set up and use, so why not? You have nothing to lose, and who doesn’t like an increased presence in the search engines?

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Your Baby Can’t Read- It’s Just false & Deceptive Advertising

At 9 months old, most babies are just starting to babble, crawl and pull themselves up. Have you ever met one who can read?

If you ever saw an ad for “Your Baby Can Read” and still had doubts afterward about children as young as 9 months old actually being able to read, you are not crazy.  These ads promoting the program were nothing but fiction, says the Federal Trade Commission, who just filed false and deceptive charges against them.

The charges come as another huge blow to Your Baby Can, LLC, which was forced to close its doors last month.  The settlement with the company and its president and CEO prohibits the defendants from further use of the term “Your Baby Can Read” and imposes a $185 million judgment, which equals the company’s gross sales since January 2008.  How the company will pay back this money is questionable, considering they are already broke or pretty close to it.  When Your Baby Can went out of business last month, the company cited the high cost of fighting complaints alleging that its ads were false.

The lesson learned by Your Baby Can and all the other companies that are facing similar lawsuits is that false and deceptive advertising may seem like a great way to make fast and easy cash, but it will get you nowhere in the long run.  If a company is running ads that are not factually correct and deceive or mislead consumers, it is only a matter of time before the consumers will figure this out.  It probably didn’t take very long for parents to realize that their baby was not actually learning to read, and I’m sure it didn’t make them feel very good.

In this age of the internet and social media, these consumers who feel angry, disappointed or misled by a company have a place to publicly complain.  In many cases social proof causes these negative posts to spark comments and feedback from even more unhappy customers.  These negative posts are available for potential new clients to see and can be extremely destructive to a company.  In the case of Your Baby Can, it ruined their reputation.  When you search “Your Baby Can Read” on Google, almost all of the results on the first page are negative.  A majority of the related search suggestions refer to the words “reviews, scam, and does it work,” which will also lead to negative posts.

Companies should use this as a great lesson and example of where false and deceptive advertising will get you.  With all the information that consumers have access to today due to the internet and social media, it’s no longer as easy to get away with deceiving and misleading them.  Consumers should also learn a lesson from this case- if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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What Has Marissa Mayer Been Up To At Yahoo?

Marissa Mayer was well-known during her time at Google for being obsessively dedicated to products like search and Gmail.  Now in her fourth week as the CEO of Yahoo, it’s not surprising that she has been quick to push the company to focus more on its products and users.

While Mayer has not unveiled a detailed strategic plan for Yahoo’s future, her actions at the company so far show that her approach differs from the more business-focused CEO’s like Scott Thompson and Ross Levinsohn.  Mayer is more interested in building great products than focusing on revenue.  She made this clear to her employees when she removed Yahoo’s stock ticker from its internal company website in an attempt to keep them from getting distracted by share fluctuations.

“I want you thinking about users,” Mayer has repeatedly been saying to Yahoo workers, according to people who have interacted with her.

This is not the first time we’ve heard that Mayer is looking to improve Yahoo’s core products. Last month, one source told All Things Digital’s Kara Swisher that under Mayer, Yahoo is “becoming a technology company again,” adding that her focus is on “platforms and products.”

The top Yahoo products that Mayer seems to be targeting are search and e-mail, according to the Wall Street Journal.  She has reportedly been meeting with Yahoo’s product leaders to determine why the company is losing market share in search and to figure out how to revamp it.  The company’s search sites hold a market share of 13.4%, as compared to Microsoft search sites that have 15.4% and Google Search sites, which hold 66.7%.

These products are so important because without them, users have no real reason to visit Yahoo.  Mayer has also told employees that she wants to develop or acquire Web services to take advantage of new technology platforms like social media, mobile devices and location services.

Last week Yahoo announced plans to sell its stake in Chinese Internet company Alibaba for $7 billion.  Mayer warned shareholders that she might not return to them the $7 billion, and my guess is that the money will be used strategically to grow the business.  If Mayer does keep the money, I bet she will spend a good amount of it on purchasing some startups with smart people and monetizable products built for social media and mobile.  I am personally rooting for Mayer’s success because I am eager to see epic new products that will give Yahoo the reinvention that it needs and make the Internet a better place for all of us.

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Google Launches “Emanuel” Update

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to search the Internet for information and finding the same content on various different sites.  Hollywood talent agent Ari Emanuel feels the same way and has loudly pointed out his dislike for Google being able to filter out bad things like child pornography but not stolen content.  He pointed out that Google could be doing more to thwart digital piracy by helping to ensure that pirated content doesn’t find its way into the world’s largest search engine.

Mr. Emanuel should be pleased with the announcement that Google SVP Amit Singhal made on the company’s Inside Search blog on Friday, announcing that the company has launched a new update, dubbed the “Emanuel Update,” that will crack down on sites repeatedly accused of copyright infringement.

The blog post said:

“Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site. Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results.

This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily—whether it’s a song previewed on NPR’s music website, a TV show on Hulu or new music streamed from Spotify.”

Google decided to change its algorithm when they began to notice a large increase in the number of copywriter infringement complaints.  They are currently receiving and processing over 4.3 million complaints a month and they plan on using this data as a signal in their search rankings.

It’s not always easy for Google to look at content and determine who owns the copyright.  But by making use of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) “takedown” requests, they can guess whether there’s copyright infringement taking place.  If there are a large number of DMCA requests filed against your site, you might want to watch out.  If not, sites with a lot of requests against individual pages may find all of its pages ranking lower in search results.

The ultimate goal of Google’s newest update is to continue to help users find good legitimate quality content efficiently.  The search engine has really come down hard on black hat SEO in the past year or so.  First the Panda update was released in February 2011 to crack down on sites with low quality content, specifically thin, stolen or duplicate content as well as sites with a high ad-to-content ratio.  Then on April 24, 2012 Google launched the Penguin update with the intention of reducing web spam and promoting high quality content in search results, penalizing sites that created or supported spam to increase their rankings.  Now Google is cracking down on copyright infringements for movies and music in their fight against unethical SEO practices.

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Marissa Mayer Leaves Google to Become Yahoo’s New CEO

By now I’m guessing that we have all heard the biggest news story out of Silicon Valley- Marissa Mayer has been hired as the new CEO at Yahoo.  The second-biggest news story seems to be the fact that she is six months pregnant.  Good for her, but what I’m really interested in is who she is, what she accomplished at Google and what we can expect from her at Yahoo.  Surely she has her work cut out for her, so what changes can we expect from the company in the upcoming future?

Mayer received her B.S. in Symbolic Systems and her M.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University, specializing in artificial intelligence for both degrees.  She joined the Google team in 1999 as its 20th employee and its first female engineer.  During her time there she held five different roles, beginning as a software engineer and finishing as the Vice President of local, maps and location services.  She is credited with maintaining the company’s home page for a decade and overseeing some of their most popular products including Gmail, Google News and image, book and product search.

She made her Yahoo debut Tuesday, replacing Ross Levinsohn, who ran the company on an interim basis since Scott Thompson’s resignation in May.  She is the company’s fourth chief executive in less than a year.

David Filo, co-founder of Yahoo, said in a prepared statement: “Marissa is a well-known, visionary leader in user experience and product design and one of Silicon Valley’s most exciting strategists in technology development. I look forward to working with her to enhance Yahoo’s product offerings for our over 700 million unique monthly visitors.”

By accepting the position at Yahoo, she accepted the huge challenges that come with it.  Mayer is joining the company as its fortunes have pretty much come to a halt.  Its financial performance and stock price have been steadily declining since Yahoo rejected a $47.5-billion takeover offer from Microsoft in 2008. The company’s lower profit makes it clear that Yahoo is losing the battle for people’s time and attention and marketers’ advertising dollars to rivals Facebook and Google.  Both companies have been thriving as advertisers spent more money on Internet advertising.  It currently takes Google a little more than a month to make as much money as Yahoo does in a year.

To succeed, Mayer will have to take one of the Internet’s most recognizable brands and make it more profitable.  She must apply her extensive knowledge of working on the user experience, doing for Yahoo what she did for Google.  By recapturing the audience’s attention and driving more traffic to Yahoo’s website, this will in turn help Yahoo sell more online advertising space and revive revenue growth.

She could work with Levinsohn to build on what he had envisioned- revamping the site and making it the hottest spot on the Internet by using a combination of exclusive content and material produced by a wide range of other media outlets.  He was particularly focused on improving the quality of Yahoo’s video offerings, estimating that if the company’s website was serving up professionally produced news and entertainment clips, it will attract people and they will stick around.

Mayer has yet to announce the fate of Levinsohn, declining to discuss her plans for him in a Monday interview.

Whether Levinsohn stays or leaves, Mayer will have to develop a road map for Yahoo and decide where the company fits in the Internet and mobile market that is mainly being controlled by Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.  Yahoo currently has a monthly audience of 700 million users that it plans to build on as it develops more effective ways to connect with people on smartphones and mobile devices.

As one of Google’s former top executives, it is safe to say that she knows the company’s strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities very well.  Her experience at Google has probably also given her some insight on the areas where Facebook, Apple and Amazon.com are vulnerable as well.  Mayer has already stated that she is confident that she can make Yahoo’s services “even more innovative and inspiring in the future.”

Yahoo needs a sharp leader who can build excitement and ultimately traffic and revenue.  It looks like after a string of short-lived CEOs they may have finally found a good match. The next few months will be an interesting test to see how Mayer handles the huge challenge that she is facing.  I believe in Mayer and wish her the best of luck.

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