Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Will Yahoo! Be Around in 2012? That is the question in 2011

Yahoo’s recent layoff of more than 4% of its workforce leads one to ask what everybody’s been thinking for a while:

Is this it? Will 2011 be the last year for Yahoo?

Like any good company in trouble, the Yahoo PR department has been trying to put the best light possible on the layoffs (roughly 560 people worldwide):

“Today’s personnel changes are part of our ongoing strategy to best position Yahoo! for revenue growth and margin expansion and to support our strategy to deliver differentiated products to the marketplace. We’ll continue to hire on a global basis to support our key priorities.

Yahoo! is grateful for the important contributions made by the employees affected by this reduction. We are offering severance packages and outplacement services to these employees.”

One has to ask why these layoffs are happening at all. Search has proven to basically be recession-proof. If Yahoo isn’t cutting the mustard, then the problem must lie within. Unfortunately, with Google, it lies at the top.

The appointment of Carol Bartz to the head position at Yahoo! appears now to have been a mistake that looked good on paper. She’s a no-nonsense money-saver. That’s good. However, innovation and creativity is not her forte. Consequently, the company seems to change its mind almost daily about what it’s trying to be. Apparently, not even Bartz could explain what Yahoo was as a company until very recently.

By turning over its search engine capabilities to Bing in 2010, the assumption was that it would free up the time for many Yahoo! employees to work on new, exciting projects. Apparently, that’s not the case at all. More and more, this appears to be an attempt by Bartz to save some money while keeping Yahoo’s relevance as a search engine alive.

Disgruntled employees are not known for their ability to keep quiet, and Yahoo is no exception.

Tweets and emails to industry bloggers report an atmosphere of a company in “shambles,” and digging a hole from which it may not be able to escape.

Here’s hoping that Yahoo! is able to get its act together in 2011, before it becomes the latest name at the top of a list that includes such past also-rans as Alta Vista, Infoseek, Cuil, etc.

Because quite frankly, if that happens, a lot of us are really going to miss it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Content Marketing Institute Presents Three Ways to Keep Bloggers from Getting Bored and Tired

When it comes to blogging, the biggest challenge any company faces is ultimately keeping up the momentum. Writing is, after all, hard work. You can’t be brilliant all the time, but you don’t want to lose any power on your blog just because your contributors have a dose of writers block. So what do you do?

Heidi Cohen at Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has three suggestions on how you can keep your blogging team on track:

1. Set goals and related metrics for your blog. Give the blog goals that must be set to be of worth to your organization. Make sure your bloggers understand blog analytics so they can see how popular their posts are. As a result, bloggers will feel more compelled to write more exciting copy, since they know they are competing with other bloggers for rank. The elements to track include the amount of content provided, content effectiveness, page views, Social media shares, Email shares, Comments and Business-related actions to the post.

2. Incorporate blog responsibilities. Create corporate guidelines for your bloggers to follow. Involve senior management; get them to put their feedback on blog posts. A little encouragement from the guys upstairs does a lot to boost a blogger’s ego. And while this sounds odd, if you hire a blogger, make sure human relations requires blog participation in his or her job description.

3. Celebrate Your Bloggers. Everybody likes recognition. Cohen provides a variety of ways to show your bloggers that you appreciate what they do, including:

  • Create “About the Author” blurbs with pictures that appear at the bottom of each post.
  • Credit bloggers in company tweets. Let everybody know when a blog post is worth reading, and who wrote it.
  • Mention posts with the author’s by-line in marketing emailings.
  • Reward your bloggers. Gift certificates, recommendations, cash bonuses; all go towards creating a happy blogger.
  • In short, Cohen says if you keep your bloggers in the spotlight, they’ll write highlight copy almost every time out of the gate.

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    Blogger Tim Peter Contemplates Business in a World Without Google

    Imagine doing business without Google. For some companies, it would be like the sun going out. They wouldn’t exist. Yet, says Tim Peter on Moran’s Biznology Blog, marketing online without Google is a very real prospect that every business faces. It can happen every time Google makes a change to their algorithm. Those changes can suddenly turn you from a page-one contender to a bottom of the list has-been.

    Peter asks: “If (Google’s) next algorithm update—or a future regulatory-mandated change—knocked you out of their index, would your business survive?” He then offers seven tips to help keep yourself in the game should the worst ever happen to you:

    1. Go where the customers are. Sure, Peter says. Everyone uses search. But everyone also uses email, social media and mobile phones. B2B companies also have the advantage of LinkedIn. Facebook could be a great way to contact your customers, but don’t forget to look at marketing channels that play to your target audience.

    2. Set your objectives. Once you’ve located your customers, determine what you expect out of each of these sources. Leave yourself plenty of options for rethinking your marketing channels as things change.

    3. Improve your web presence. That includes everything about you that your customers react with online. This is more than your website Peter is discussing here – it’s Facebook pages, Twitter, Yelp, LinkedIn, etc.

    4. Continue to grow your opt-in contact list. Find out how your customers wish to be contacted. Then use those tools to communicate. Eliminate the methods that your customers ignore.

    5. Blog. If you can do it well, Peter advises blogging. Allow for plenty of keyword-rich content that flows and provides valuable information for your customers.

    6. Explore additional media. There’s still life in display advertising ; simply remarket your online message. Email and affiliate marketing can also work for you.

    7. Investigate other additional media models. There are CPM and CPC, but Peter advises looking into Cost per acquisition as well.

    In conclusion, Peter says that even with Google, you should be doing these things. But if you ever find yourself trying to battle your way back to the top, these tips will help keep you in the game.

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    Companies Griping About Google Local Search Have Nothing To Complain About

    Even when Google tries to better itself, it can’t catch a break in the press. An article by Clint Boulton at eWeek.com covers Google’s reaction to a story published on December 12 that many startup companies are accusing Google of favoring iGoogle Places, Places Search and Place Pages over those of businesses that rely on Google results to generate business and provide decent search rankings.

    Representatives from TripAdvisor.com, WebMD.com, Yelp.com and Citysearch.com complained that Google tends to promote links to its own services that are similar to the services they provide.

    They point to Google boosting the profile of its Google Places local search directory. The lettered “pins” on any local search are typically sites listed with Google Places, and found within its Place Search Service.

    If your company is on the map, and you’re one of the lettered locations on the map, you will rank higher than other businesses in your area that don’t. By favoring their own sites, companies say Google is makes it harder for people to find results from the startups, pushing them lower on the page.

    One business, TripAdvisor.com, even reported a 10% drop in visits via Google-based searches.

    In its defense, Googlesays this is not an attempt to take money from its advertisers, but rather to simply get information to people as quickly as possible.

    For once, Google may have a point. By improving its product and trying to use new technologies to expand its brand, Google is doing what any business would do.

    Plus, Google says Pages and Places get a lot of the information that they use from the websites that are complaining. Google’s only goal appears to be to get the information required to the person who wants it.

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    Seven Blog Housekeeping Tips You Learned from Your Mom

    If you blog regularly, you know how hard it is to keep up a steady stream of ideas over time. However, there are some basic things you can do to help maintain your blog that you’ve known ever since you were a little kid. That’s because, believe it or not, they were taught to you by your mom.

    That’s the message behind a recent article at DailySEOTip.com, “7 of Your Mother’s Housekeeping Principles to Apply to Your Blog.” It’s true – several simple rules your mom once told you about keeping your home clean can also be sued to keeping a clean, presentable blog. Here are a few:

    1. Keep ahead of tasks. Out with the old blogs, full of irrelevance; in with the new blogs for fresh, interesting content. That helps keep your ratings up. .
    2. Keep your software up to date. Updates are your friends. If you have worries about viruses, etc., make sure you have a good virus protection software and do your homework to make sure the update you’re about to apply is legitimate.
    3. Take out the trash. Get rid of garbage from your computer, such as plug-ins or default templates. Anything you don’t need, toss.
    4. Tidy up. Occasionally clean your blog database. It’s getting easier for most software to do so. Updating Wordpress, for example, is an extremely easy, one-click process.
    5. Clean up your messes. Have people been putting spam links on your blog messages? Get rid of them! Check all comments and backtracks to make sure they’re not spam
    6. Lighten the load on your site with smaller-sized attachments and photos.
    7. Adopt new technologies. For example, slow sites can often by remedied by changing hosts or getting more memory from your current host.

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Hey, Bloggers: Now When You Break a Story, Google Could Credit You For It

    If you’ve been wondering whether you blogging and online reporting ever gets noticed, Google is coming to the rescue. Recently, it announced a new meta tag for journalists and bloggers, which credits the publisher who first breaks a story on the Internet.

    Sounds good in theory, but in the article “The New Google Journalism Tag Could Work in Reverse,” at the blog SEO and Tech Daily, Charlie Anzman says there are still problems.

    First of all the meta tag is actually tags – one for the first person to have the story attributed to them, and one for the first person to syndicate the story online.

    The problem with this, Anzman says, is twofold:
    1. Most current reputable blog and news organizations credit their source with a link. Now, they could decide to quit doing that and then just use the tag, which isn’t visible to the reader. So the author of the story gets no visibility for his/her work.

    2. Anzman says the current trend to switch to popular blogging software means that a plug-in for that software needs to be created to accommodate the meta tag. That means a re-writing of code, so any major adaptation of this meta tag is not in the near future.

    Anzman says this doesn’t really solve the problem of “story stealing,” a problem so prevalent that Reuters now prohibits its reporters from breaking stories on Twitter. Other writers pick up the scoops and claim them as their own.

    In short, Anzman feels that for Google, it’s back to the drawing board.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    2011 Could be the Year of the Search Engine, if 2010 is Any Indication

    As we pull up on the end of 2010, it’s kind of hard to tag this year to one monumental moment in SEO. This is simply because so many things occurred.The ongoing Google/Facebook spat saw both sides releasing updates and improvements and redesigns, etc. throughout the latter half of the year. Is Google Instant Previews really more important than Facebook Places? Only time will tell.

    But one area of SEO that was very busy – and really didn’t get that much press – was in the development of new search engines. Here's a review of the four new contenders who head into 2011 hoping to grab at least a piece of the action.

    Quora: Billed in the press as a type of search engine, Quora calls itself as an online knowledge market. It doesn’t so much help you find information as much as it lets you ask questions, which other Quora users can answer or not. It's up to you to check on their authority.

    Advantages: If someone has answered a question in the ballpark of the answer you chose, you might find the information you need.

    Disadvantages: While probably millions of questions have been posed, very few answers seem to exist so far on Quora. It does not appear to be catching on.

    Swingly: You could call Swingly a spiffed-up version of Ask.com. But you'd be selling it short. Its developers have gathered together more than 100 billion question and answer pairs of information. All of the info provided in a Swingly question is accessed from other web sources, like a traditional search engine.

    Advantages: Swingly can offer answers to virtually any fact-based question in a flash. By paring down the search parameters, the answers provided can be extremely succinct.

    Disadvantages: Swingly is NOT very good at all with speculative or opinion-based questions. Questions starting with the word “Did” or "Will" can cause confusion. Also, it's a bit confusing to figure where to click to go to your chosen result site.

    Blekko: Blekko invites the user to “slash” search, literally, by breaking down search queries using a slashtag. For example, if you want to look at political websites that appeal mostly to conservatives, for example, you can enter “political/conservative” and the first results to come up are for Fox News. Type “political/liberal” on the other hand, and results for more liberal sites appear (Washington Monthly, Huffington Post, etc.).

    Advantages: Blekko is capable of searching by categorical breakdown, as opposed to simply raw terms that have a page in common. This is why you can pull up conservative or liberal pages, for example, as opposed to just pages with those words on them.

    Disadvantages: It's “geeky.” "Normal" people don’t want to have to add an action (separate terms by anything other than a comma) in order to get results. They want answers now. By adding a task before getting a result, Blekko leaves impatient searchers behind.

    Qwiki: The latest addition to the search engine field, Qwiki is currently in Alpha testing (go to Qwiki.com to get on their troubleshooter list). You're in for a surprise. Enter a term into the search window (Qwiki says there are 2,000 entries at the moment, but experimenting with it implies if it’s in Wikipedia, you’ll get results), and you’re treated to a 30-second, audio visual summary of your product.

    Advantages: It sure is fun! Qwiki should prove to be very popular in schools.

    Disadvantages: What’s the point? That’s what most people will ask about various aspects of Qwiki. You get the idea that Qwiki was developed in the hopes that one of the big guys – Google or Bing, for example -- will buy it and incorporate it into their search engines.