Organic SEO Blog

231-922-9460 • Contact UsFree SEO Site Audit

Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Shoppers May be Influenced by Social Media

story first appeared in USA Today

Retailers may have hit record sales over the shopping weekend from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, but the impact of social media campaigns many of them invested in is less certain.

Offerpop, which helps retailers including Amazon, Sears and Walmart run social-marketing campaigns, says it saw a 40% increase in social-media campaigns by its clients for the Black Friday shopping weekend compared with last year.

Yet social media made up less than 1% of online traffic and sales on Black Friday, according to IBM Smarter Commerce, which tracks sales for 500 of the top retail sites. And that's down from last year.

That's based on customers who were referred to a retailer's site through social media and made a purchase right then.

It may not necessarily be a bad thing though, given retailers were using social media more to raise brand awareness than to push sales this year, says Jay Henderson, strategy director for IBM Smarter Commerce.

Target rewarded a number of customers that were tweeting about the company with electronic gift cards over the weekend, spokesman Joe Curry says. It also used an interactive Facebook app to reveal its Black Friday deals by pitting a series of items against each other and asking users to pick which product they thought would go on sale for Black Friday. The game had almost 1 million users in a four-day span, Curry says.

Twitter mentions for retailers also jumped. Mentions of the @DisneyStore handle increased 42% over the weekend, the company reports. And tweets with the hashtag #FairyGodmother, which customers included when they had a question or needed help with a product, were up 40% from last year.

While it may be hard to track how much this kind of social-media activity benefits retailers in terms of sales, Erin Robbins O'Brien, head of business intelligence at Viralheat, a data analytics company whose software helps companies track social-media sentiment, says that most of the retailers they've worked with have all agreed that people talking about their particular store or brand is always going to be better than not.

And social media's influence on purchases is stronger than the IBM numbers let on, she says.

Social media in some way, shape or form is oftentimes one of the first ways someone will hear about something, according to O'Brien.

That was the case for Alan Cavanna, who bought a Dell laptop after seeing a tweet sent out by Best Buy on Cyber Monday.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Marketing On The Web

Story first appeared on

Publishers and broadcasters have long tried to offer advertisers the right audience for their products. Want to sell pick-ups to people who like sports? Buy ads at halftime during a football game. Selling luggage or airline tickets? Buy ads in the travel section of a newspaper or Web site. 
In digital advertising, that formula is being increasingly tested by fast-paced, algorithmic bidding systems that target individual consumers rather than the aggregate audience publishers serve up. In the world of “programmatic buying” technologies, context matters less than tracking those consumers wherever they go. And that kind of buying is the reason that shoe ad follow you whether you’re on or on a local news blog.
That shift is punishing traditional online publishers, like newspaper, broadcast and magazine sites, who are receiving a much lower percentage of ad dollars as marketers use programmatic buying across a much broader canvas. Some sites, like, refuse to even accept advertising through programmatic buying because they do not want to cede control over what ads will appear.
About 10 percent of the display ads that consumers see online have been sold through programmatic bidding channels.
Advertisers like Nike, Comcast, Progressive and Procter & Gamble are now using the programmatic buying, and luxury advertisers are starting to follow. According to data from Forrester Research, all ads traded on exchanges, as programmatic ads are, increased more than 17.5 percent to about 629 billion impressions (the number of times an ad appears) in 2012, from 535 billion in 2011.
That growth is affecting publishers of all stripes, but few are willing to discuss their internal numbers.
When The New York Times Company announced its earnings last month, the company posted a profit, but said that digital advertising fell 2.2 percent. They attributed the dip, in part, on a shift toward ad exchanges, real-time bidding and other programmatic buying channels that allow advertisers to buy audience at scale.
Programmatic buying began as a way for advertisers to place lower-cost ads for products like teeth-whitening products and belly fat pills that filled up the back pages of Web sites. But the practice has gained in sophistication and breadth, with major advertisers and many of the world’s largest ad agencies creating private exchanges to automate the buying and selling of ads.
Programmatic buying includes a number of different technologies and strategies, but it essentially allows advertisers to bid, often in real time, on ad space largely based on the value they have assigned to the consumer on the other side of the screen. Say, for example, that Nike wants to sell running gear to a particular consumer who has a high likelihood of buying shoes based on the data it has collected, including the type of Web sites that consumer typically visits. Because the ad-buying is done through computer trading, the price for that space can change rapidly.
In the short run, the growth in programmatic buying has forced overall ad prices to fall. A media buyer who would have once spent $50,000 worth of advertising on a publisher’s site, at, say, an $8 cost-per-thousand, can now buy ad impressions on any Web site on which they happen to find their intended audience and pay less per ad, Mr. Ebbert said.
While the “halo effect” of buying an ad against premium content has not disappeared entirely — many advertisers still want front-page placement on popular Web sites — the shift is prompting publishers to rethink how they sell their ads.
And some publishers are jumping into the game themselves. During the most recent AOL earnings call, Tim Armstrong, the company’s chairman and chief executive, said it was pushing programmatic buying, despite being a publisher itself with properties that include TechCrunch and The Huffington Post. The company trades its ads through its own ad network,, and others like it.
Neal Mohan, the vice president for product management at Google, which sells advertising though its DoubleClick network, says that in the long run, publishers could see higher returns from programmatic advertising. In the last year, the number of advertisers and publishers using the DoubleClick platform has doubled, Mr. Mohan said, while the rates for those using the platform have increased 11 percent. But that means publishers will have to play by different rules.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Government Surveillance Revealed in Google Transparency Report

story first appeared on

Requests from governments around the globe to remove content from Google search results and its other services spiked more than 70% in the first half of the year, the Internet search giant said.

Google said there were 1,791 requests to remove 17,746 pieces of content through June. That's according to the company's Transparency Report, which breaks down requests by country to illustrate the rising pressures Google faces over what type of content it can show to its more than 1 billion users.

The government of Turkey made 501 requests to remove content, up dramatically from 45 in the previous six months. U.S. authorities followed with 273 requests, up from 187.

Google releases the data twice a year. It's the sixth time that Google has issued a Transparency Report since its tense 2010 standoff with Chinese government officials over online censorship.

Google is a frequent target of such requests because it has become an indispensable part of many people's digital lives. In addition to its ubiquitous search engine, Google also runs the world's largest video-sharing site, YouTube. Its report casts a light on take-down requests that largely take place beyond the public purview.

In Turkey, for instance, the company received requests to remove content considered critical of the government and the republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Google said.

Google also said government surveillance of digital citizens is surging, with demands for user data increasing in the first half of 2012. There were 20,938 requests for user data, up 15% from the second half of 2011, it said. The U.S. had the most requests for user data requests -- nearly 8,000, up 26% from the prior period.

Google gets more requests from the U.S. because it has such a large number of users and U.S. authorities are more familiar with the protocol of making the requests than officials from some other countries.

The rise in take-down requests has alarmed people in the technology community. Entrepreneur John Battelle questioned why other companies don't produce similar reports so that the public can get a much broader glimpse of online suppression.

Google noted its report only details "an isolated sliver" of government take-down requests, because it is unaware of what requests are being made of other technology companies.

How to Hijack Search Results in Google

story first appeared on Search Engine Land

Dan Petrovic has explained how he hijacked a few pages in Google to show his copied version over the original version of the page.

For example, he was able to confuse Google into thinking a page on MarketBizz should really show on instead of on

How did he do it? He simply copied the full page, source code and everything and put it on a new URL on his site. He linked to the page and gave it a +1 and the result worked days later. He is a picture of Google’s search results for the page using an info command and also searching for the title of the page:

He did the same thing on three other domains with varied levels of success.

We emailed Google last week for a comment but have yet to hear back.

In some cases, using a rel=canonical seemed to prevent it from hijacking the result fully but not in all cases. There also seems to be a case where using the authorship might be prevent this as well.

Dan Petrovic was even able to hijack the first result for Rand Fishkin’s name (with Rand’s permission):

The way this seems to work is that Google’s duplicate content system feels that the new URL is the more important page and thus replaces the original page with the more important page. It is how the competitive link trick seemed to have worked as well.

Postscript: Google has taken action against these attempts with a notification sent to the webmaster for “copied content.” Those pages were removed from the index.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Microsoft Switches IM to Skype

story first appeared on

NEW YORK -- Microsoft is scrapping its instant-messaging program and forcing most users to switch to Skype.

Maintaining Windows Live Messenger made less sense after Microsoft bought Skype for $8.5 billion last year. A new version of Skype released a few weeks ago allows users to sign in with a Microsoft account. By merging the two services, people won't have to maintain two separate contact lists.

Microsoft says much has changed in how people communicate. There's more use of text messaging and social networking, for instance.

Microsoft said in Tuesday's announcement that Messenger users who switch to Skype will get benefits such as the ability to call land-line and mobile phones and better support on mobile devices.

Except for mainland China, Messenger will be discontinued worldwide after the first quarter of 2013.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Social Media News Blunders

story first appeared on

The story of Hurricane Sandy unfolded quickly on social media: a poignant photo of soldiers standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, a picture of a giant wave slamming into the Statue of Liberty and a TV report that 3 feet of water flooded the New York Stock Exchange.

None of it was true.

Social media served as a useful tool for family and friends to keep tabs on each other during the storm, but Hurricane Sandy exposed a dangerous underbelly of social media: False information can go viral.

"There were a lot of rumors going around," said Emily Rahimi, the social media strategist for the New York Fire Department, who writes and monitors its Twitter feed.

She said even though rumors spread on the fire department's social media, it was just as easy to use the site to debunk rumors. At one point, she posted a message that read, "There is much misinformation being spread about #Sandy's impact on #NYC," and pointed people to official city Twitter feeds for accurate information.

Several photos went viral. The photo of the soldiers at Arlington Cemetery was taken in September, not Monday. Others that showed ominous clouds over the New York City skyline were photoshopped, or were screen grabs from a movie, or were stock photos.

A post that the 109-year-old building that is home to the stock exchange was flooded with water became the subject of debate Tuesday after CNN reported it.

In an e-mail, CNN spokeswoman Bridget Leininger said the station's weather correspondent Chad Myers referenced a National Weather Service report that turned out to be incorrect.

The National Weather Service spokesman Chris Vaccaro said the news came from several local New York City media outlets who had posted it on Twitter, though he didn't know which specifically.

The digital news website BuzzFeed identified the original source of the tweet as Twitter user @comfortablysmug, who identifies himself as a Mitt Romney supporter interested in finance and politics. His Twitter feed included other erroneous tweets, including one that all subways would be closed for the rest of the week and that major lines were flooded and another that Con Edison was shutting off all power to New York City. Con Edison corrected the tweet, saying it may shut down service in low-lying areas.

Twitter user @comfortablysmug did not reply to a request for comment. A message posted to the Twitter account late Tuesday apologized, saying, "I made a series of irresponsible and inaccurate tweets."

Without identifying himself by name, the message said he had resigned from the congressional campaign of Christopher Wight, a Republican candidate for the U.S. House in New York.. Wight's campaign website said the candidate had "accepted the resignation of campaign manager Shashank Tripathi."
Debra Jasper, a co-founder of the social media consulting company Mindset Digital, says fact-checking is as quick on Twitter as the spreading of misinformation.

Indeed, posters immediately began asking the source of the information on the flooding at the stock exchange.

Jasper's Mindset Digital partner, Betsy Hubbard, said the other phenomenon occurring more often after a big event is "newsjacking," when someone or a company try to use an event for their gain.

It happened with Hurricane Sandy, too, when American Apparel sent out an e-mail blast for a 20% off sale for people living in the affected states, with a tagline that read, "In case you're bored during the storm."

An immediate backlash followed on Twitter. "I don't care if it's 'relevant,' social media 'newsjacking' is gross and opportunistic," wrote one poster. Another wrote, "American Apparel showing how not to do it with a Hurricane Sandy sale."

"It's not a good idea to try to use these tragic events to your advantage," Hubbard says.

Rahimi, who monitored the department's Twitter account all day Monday and through the night and early morning Tuesday, said more good came out of using social media despite the bad information that circulated. At one point, she said, a rumor spread that the Fire Department headquarters was evacuated. So she set the record straight, sending messages directly to people who had posted the erroneous information.

For the record, the headquarters building wasn't evacuated.

iPhone Software Head Fired for Refusing to Apologize for Maps App

story first appeared on

The head of Apple's iPhone software development was asked to resign after he refused to sign a letter apologizing for the flaws in Apple's mapping application, according to a published report.

The Wall Street Journal says Scott Forstall's refusal was the latest clash between him and other executives, and it led to the company's announcement Monday that he is stepping down and leaving the company next year.

Forstall's unit was responsible for the Maps application, which was unfavorably compared to the Google Maps app it replaced.

Apple also announced the immediate departure of John Browett, a British retail executive who took over Apple's stores in April.

Forstall, the longtime head of Apple's iOS mobile software, will remain an adviser to Cook until next year.

Apple's lead designer Jony Ive and a few others will divide Forstall's responsibilities until a replacement is named, Apple said.

The departures, which come shortly before the critical holiday shopping season, might have long-term implications at Apple but are unlikely to impact its sales as Apple competitors such as Google and ramp up mobile offerings, says Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at tech research firm Gartner.

Apple offered no explanation for the departures, but both executives oversaw major missteps in the past year.

Browett took over the retail job about six months ago. His predecessor, Ron Johnson, a major architect of the successful Apple stores, left to become CEO at JCPenney. One of Browett's first moves was to cut staff at the stores, a cost-cutting move the company has since reversed.

Forstall, who also was part of the team that created Mac OS X, oversaw the creation of the widely criticized Apple Maps that recently replaced Google Maps as the default map app for the iPhone. The company has apologized for the inadequacies of Apple Maps.

Since stock markets were closed Monday and will be again Tuesday because of Hurricane Sandy, it will be later in the week before any potential effect on Apple's stock is known.