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Native Advertising

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Native advertising presents opportunities for SEOs to boost their link building strategies, particularly those who favor paid link strategies.

What Is Native Advertising?

Native advertising is the marketing industries new buzzword for….well, it depends who you ask.

Native advertising can’t just be about the creative that fills an advertising space. Native advertising must be intrinsically connected to the format that fits the user’s unique experience. There’s something philosophically beautiful about that in terms of what great advertising should (and could) be. But first, we need to all speak the same language around “native advertising.

Native advertising is often defined as content that seamless integrates with a site, as opposed to interruption media, such as pre-rolls on YouTube videos, or advertising that sits in a box off to the side of the main content.

It’s advertising that looks just like content, which is a big part of Google’s success.

Here’s an example.

Some high-profile examples of native advertising include Facebook Sponsored Stories; Twitter’s Promoted Tweets; promoted videos on YouTube, Tumblr and Forbes; promoted articles like Gawker’s Sponsored Posts and BuzzFeed’s Featured Partner content; Sponsored Listings on Yelp; promoted images on Cheezburger; and promoted playlists on Spotify and Radio.

One interesting observation is that Adwords and Adsense are frequently cited as being examples of native advertising. Hold that thought.

Why Native Advertising?

The publishing industry is desperate to latch onto any potential lifeline as ad rates plummet.

Analysts say the slowdown is being caused by the huge expansion in the amount of online advertising space as companies who manage this emerge to dominate the space. In short there’s just too many ad slots chasing ads that are growing, but at a rate slower than the creation of potential ad slots.

This means the chances are dimming that online ad spending would gradually grow to make up for some of the falls in analogue spending in print. ….staff numbers and the attendant costs of doing business have to be slashed heavily to account for the lower yield and revenue from online ads

And why might there be more slots than there are advertisers?

As people get used to seeing web advertising, and mentally blocking it out, or technically filtering it out, advertising becomes less effective. Federated Media, who were predominantly a display advertising business, got out of display ads late last year:

“The model of ‘boxes and rectangles’ – the display banner – is failing to fully support traditional ‘content’ sites beyond a handful of exceptions,” wrote Federated Media founder John Battelle in a recent blog post. He explained that the next generation of native ads on social networks and strength of Google Adwords make direct sales more competitive, and that ad agencies must evolve with the growing trend of advertisers who want more social/conversational ad campaigns.

Advertisers aren’t seeing enough return from the advertising in order for them to want to grab the many slots that are available. And they are lowering their bids to make up for issues with publishing fraud. The promise of native advertising is that this type of advertising reaches real users, and will grab and hold viewers attention for longer.

This remains to be seen, of course.

Teething Pains

Not all native advertising works. It depends on the context and the audience. Facebook hasn’t really get it right yet:

Facebook is still largely centered around interactions with people one knows offline, making the appearance of marketing messages especially jarring. This is particularly true in mobile, where Sponsored Stories take up a much larger portion of the screen relative to desktop. Facebook did not handle the mobile rollout very gracefully, either. Rather than easing users into the change, they appeared seemingly overnight, and took up the first few posts in the newsfeed. The content itself is also hit or miss – actions taken by distant friends with dissimilar interests are often used as the basis for targeting Sponsored Stories.

If you’re planning on offering native advertising yourself, you may need to walk a fine line. Bloggers and other publishers who are getting paid but don’t declare so risk alienating their audience and destroying their reputation.

Some good ways of addressing this issue are policy pages that state the author has affiliate relationships with various providers, and this is a means of paying for the site, and does not affect editorial. Whether it’s true or not is up to the audience to decide, but such transparency up-front certainly helps. If a lot of free content is mixed in with native content, and audiences dislike it enough, then it might pave the way for more paid content and paywalls.

Just like any advertising content, native advertising may become less effective over time if the audience learns to screen it out. One advantage for the SEO is that doesn’t matter so much, so long as they get the link.

Still, some big players are using it:

Forbes Insights and Sharethrough today announced the results of a brand study to assess adoption trends related to native video advertising that included senior executives from leading brands such as Intel, JetBlue, Heineken and Honda. The study shows that more than half of large brands are now using custom brand videos in their marketing, and when it comes to distribution, most favor “native advertising” approaches where content is visually integrated into the organic site experience, as opposed to running in standard display ad formats. The study also shows that the majority of marketers now prefer choice-based formats over interruptive formats.

Google’s Clamp-Down On Link Advertising

So, what’s the difference between advertorial and native content? Not much, on the face of it, except in one rather interesting respect. When it comes to native advertising, it’s often not obvious the post is sponsored.

Google has, of course, been punishing links from advertorial content. One wonders if they’ve punished themselves, of course.

The Atlantic, BuzzFeed and Gawker — are experimenting with new ad formats such as sponsored content or “native advertising,” as well as affiliate links. On Friday, Google engineer Matt Cutts reiterated a warning from the search giant that this kind of content has to be treated properly or Google will penalize the site that hosts it, in some cases severely.

If native advertising proves popular with publishers and advertisers, then it’s going to compete with Google’s business model. Businesses may spend less on Adwords and may replace Adsense with native advertising. It’s no surprise, then, that Google may take a hostile line on it. However, publishers are poor, ad networks are rich, so perhaps it’s time that publishers became ad networks.

When it comes to SEO, given Google’s warning shots, SEOs will either capitulate – and pretty much give up on paid links – or make more effort to blend seamlessly into the background.

Blurring The Lines

As Andrew Sullivan notes, the editorial thin blue line is looking rather “fuzzy”. It may even raise legal questions about misrepresentation. There has traditionally been a church and state divide between advertising and editorial, but as publishers get more desperate to survive, they’re going to go with whatever works. If native advertising works better than the alternatives, then publishers will use it. What choice have they got? Their industry is dying.

It raises some pretty fundamental questions.

I have nothing but admiration for innovation in advertizing and creative revenue-generation online. Without it, journalism will die. But if advertorials become effectively indistinguishable from editorial, aren’t we in danger of destroying the village in order to save it?

Likewise, in order to compete in search results, a site must have links. It would great if people linked freely and often based on objective merit, but we all know that is a hit and miss affair. If native advertising provides a means to acquire paid links that don’t look like paid links, then that is what people will do.

And if their competitors are doing it, they’ll have little choice.

Seamless Integration

If you’re looking for a way to build paid links, then here is where the opportunity lies for SEOs.

Recent examples Google caught out looked heavily advertorial. They were in bulk. They would have likely been barely credible to a human reviewer as they didn’t read particularly well. Those I saw had an “auto-generated quality” to them.

The integration with editorial needs to be seamless and, if possible, the in-house editors should write the copy, or it should look like they did. Avoid generic and boilerplate approaches. The content should not be both generic and widely distributed. Such strategy is unlikely to pass Google’s inspections.

Markets will spring up, if they haven’t already, whereby publications will offer editorial native advertising, link included. It would be difficult to tell if such a link was “paid for”, and certainly not algorithmically, unless the publisher specifically labelled it “advertising feature” or something similar.

Sure, this has been going on for years, but if a lot of high level publishers embrace something called “Native Advertising” then that sounds a lot more legitimate than “someone wants to pay for a link on our site”. In marketing, it’s all about the spin 😉

It could be a paid restaurant review on a restaurant review site, link included. For SEO purposes, the review doesn’t even need to be overtly positive and glowing, therefore a high degree of editorial integrity could be maintained. This approach would suit a lot of review sites. For example, “we’ll pay you to review our product, so long as you link to it, but you can still say whatever you like about it”. The publishers production cost is met, in total, and they can maintain a high degree of editorial integrity. If Jennifer Lopez is in a new movie with some “hot” scene then that movie can pay AskMen to create a top 10 sexiest moments gallery that includes their movie at #9 & then advertise that feature across the web.

A DIY site could show their readers how to build a garden wall. The products could be from a sponsor, link included. Editorial integrity could be maintained, as the DIY site need not push or recommend those products like an advertorial would, but the sponsor still gets the link. The equivalent of product placement in movies.

News items can feature product placement without necessarily endorsing them, link included – they already do this with syndicated press releases. Journalists often interview the local expert on a given topic, and this can include a link. If that news article is paid for by the link buyer, yet the link buyer doesn’t have a say in editorial, then that deal will look attractive to publishers. Just a slightly different spin on “brought to you by our sponsor”. Currently services like HARO & PR Leads help connect experts with journalists looking for story background. In the years to come perhaps there will be similar services where people pay the publications directly to be quoted.

I’m sure you can think of many other ideas. A lot of this isn’t new, it’s just a new, shiny badge on something that has been going on well before the web began. When it comes to SEO, the bar has been lifted on link building. Links from substandard content are less likely to pass Google’s filters, so SEOs need to think more about ways to get quality content integrated in a more seamless way. It takes more time, and it’s likely to be more costly, but this can be a good thing. It raises the bar on everyone else.

Those who don’t know the bar has been raised, or don’t put more effort in, will lose.

Low Level Of Compromise

Native Advertising is a new spin on an old practice, however it should be especially interesting to the SEO, as the SEO doesn’t demand the publisher compromise editorial to a significant degree, as the publisher would have to do for pure advertorial. The SEO only requires they incorporate a link within a seamless, editorial-style piece.

If the SEO is paying for the piece to be written, that’s going to look like a good deal to many publishers.

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SEO Book

Bruce Clay, Inc. Will Be At SMX Sydney & SMX Advanced

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Bruce Clay, Inc. Will Be At SMX Sydney & SMX Advanced was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

G’day, mates! Did you know Bruce Clay Australia is returning to SMX Sydney (April 3-4) as an exhibitor and a sponsor for the fourth year in a row? Crikey!

Directors of Bruce Clay Australia Jeremy Bolt and Kate Gamble will be featured speakers at next week’s two-day conference.  Bolt will speak on maximizing enterprise SEO, conversions and landing pages, and personas and CRO. Gamble will discuss the ins and outs of local search. Attendees will have the chance to win free SEO training, a full CRO Audit of up to 100 pages of content or an All-In-One SEO for Dummies book. To enter the drawing and to meet the Bruce Clay Australia team, head to booth 10.

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Are you bound for next week’s SMX Sydney?

SMX Sydney  provides a great opportunity for anyone who uses online marketing and pays attention to the ROI to learn about attracting more people to a website and converting that traffic.

And then, in June, it’s time for SMX Advanced in Seattle (June 11-12)! Plan on attending? If so, today is the last day to nab the super early bird rate. If you miss today’s deadline, you can use a Bruce Clay discount code WS-ISS10 for 10 percent off beginning  April 1 (no joke!). With fast-paced, informative and often controversial sessions,  this conference is for the experienced SEO. Make sure to stop by the Bruce Clay booth if you’re there!

Unable to attend SMX Advanced? Fear not. We’ll be on hand liveblogging.

Are you attending SMX Sydney or SMX Advanced? What are you hoping to take away? Let us know in the comments.

 

Bruce Clay Blog

Why is Great SEO so Expensive?

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Why SEO is Expensive.

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SEO Book

Mobile Websites and Marketing – Where to Start

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Mobile Websites and Marketing – Where to Start was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Mobile marketing is a hot topic and it’s not going away any time soon. In fact, businesses need to embrace mobile websites — and soon — in order to stay ahead of the curve and their competition. As our world becomes more and more mobile each year, marketing to those “on the go” takes a mobile-ready site and the ability to understand the behavior of the mobile audience. In today’s post, I chatted with SES New York speaker and marketer Thom Craver, who offers insight into mobile websites and marketing, what you need to do first, how you can measure your efforts and more.

Jessica Lee: If I don’t have a mobile-ready website yet, what are my first steps?

Thom Craver

Thom Craver

Thom Craver: The first place you start is a “needs assessment.” Consider the following:

  • What is the ultimate goal you expect to achieve from mobile?
  • Do you want to cater your site to the ever-increasing number of visitors using mobile devices?
  • Are you trying to directly sell or provide a cloud-based service?
  • Do you simply want to brand an app that helps your customers and potential customers do something useful so you stay top-of-mind?

Once you have the answers to these questions, then you can pick a platform on how to measure. Web-based “apps” are measured differently than true, native (through code) apps.

What’s a good approach to setting up tracking for mobile?

There are a few ways to track mobile. Again, it depends on what you’re measuring. My part of the panel at SES New York will focus primarily on Google Analytics. They have a familiar interface and a completely separate set of reports for measuring apps. Yet, it all works together with your mobile website, even though the data are separated.

Their reports help you stay atop of usage, like which users have older versions of your app, crashes, time of use and even time between uses — all of which are able to be segmented by intelligent groupings with their easy-to-use web-based interface.

For the money (free!), Google Analytics is quick and easy. They even provide software development kits (SDKs) for building native Android and iOS apps.

Give an example of how you might interpret mobile data and make adjustments to your marketing.

Generally speaking, device and OS usage is an important indication of your user base. Especially if you have ongoing development in your app, you’ll want to know how many are using phones versus tablets. The screen dimensions and overall user experiences are completely different. Creating a bad user experience creates users who never come back.

So do crashes. Look at crash logs to see if you can find patterns of behavior. With the diversity of Android hardware and OS versions, there are a lot of device/OS combinations. Make sure you’re catering to everyone.

Earlier this year, the Google Play store allowed app developers to directly reply to users leaving feedback. If your app crashes and someone comments, address it. Start a dialog around data, reassuring the users to letting them know you’re on top of the problem.

If you’re at SES New York this week, check out Thom’s session, “Driving Consumer Insights with Mobile Analytics” on March 27 at 10:15 a.m.  You can stay connected with Thom on Twitter @ThomCraver. 

Bruce Clay Blog

Personalization and SEO – Whiteboard Friday

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Posted by randfish

Personalization usage data and user data give marketers deep insights into their users' interests and actions. But how can you make the most out of these complex data sets to better serve your SEO campaigns?

In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand takes us through the intricate world of personalization and how it affects SEO. We'd love to hear your thoughts and tips in the comments below! 

Video Transcription

"Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I'm wearing a hoodie and a T-shirt, so it must be informal. I want to take you in a casual fashion into the topic of personalization user data and usage data, and these are complex topics. This Whiteboard Friday will not be able to cover all of the different areas that user and usage data and personalization touch on. But what I do hope to do is expose you to some of these ideas, give you some actionable insights, and then allow you guys to take some of those things away, and we can point to some other references. There are lots of folks who have done a good job in the search world of digging in deep on some of these other topics.

Let's start by talking about some of the direct impacts that personalization usage data have. Of course, by personalization usage data I mean the areas where Google is showing you or other users specific things based on your usage activities, where they are leveraging usage data, broad usage data, for many users to come up with different changes to these types of search results, and where they're leveraging user personalization on a macro level, taking the aggregate of those things and creating new types of results, re-ranking things and adding snippets. I'll talk about each of those.

In these direct impacts, one of the most important ones to think about is location awareness. This is particularly important obviously if you're serving a local area, but you should be aware that location biases a lot of searches that may not have intended to be local simply by virtue of their geography. If you're at a point, if I'm here in downtown Seattle, there is location awareness that affects the results ordering. I can perform searches, for example for Coffee Works, and I will get these Seattle Coffee Works results.

Perhaps if I was in Portland, Oregon and they had a Coffee Works in Portland, I would be getting those Coffee Works results. Usage history also gives Google hints about your location, meaning that even if you're searching on your smartphone or searching on your laptop, and you said, "Don't share my location," Google and Bing will still try to figure this out, and they'll try to figure it out by looking at your search history. They'll say to themselves, "Hey, it looks like this user has previously done searches for Madison Markets, Seattle Trader Joe's, used our maps to get directions from Capitol Hill to Queen Anne. I can guess, based on that usage data, that you are in Seattle, and I will try and give you personalized results that essentially are tied to the location where I think you're at."

A fascinating example of this is I was searching on my desktop computer last night, which I have not made it location aware specifically, but I did a search for a particular arena in Dublin, which is where the DMX Conference, that I'm going to in a couple days and speaking at, is going to be held. Then I started typing in the name of the hotel I was at, and it's a brand name hotel. What do you know? That location came up, the Dublin location of the brand hotel, even though that hotel has locations all over the world. How do they know? They know because I just performed a search that was related to Dublin, Ireland, and therefore they're thinking, oh yeah, that's probably where he's looking for this hotel information as well. Very, very smart usage history based personalization.

Do be aware search suggest is also affected directly by personalization types of results. If you are doing a search that is going to be biased by some element of personalization, either your search history or your location, those kinds of things, auto-suggest will come up with those same biases as the rankings might.

Next, I want to talk about the semantics of how you perform queries and what you're seeking can affect your search as well. Search history is an important bias here, right? Basically, if I've been doing searches for jewelry, gemstones, wedding rings, those kinds of things, and I do a search for ruby, Google and Bing are pretty smart. They can realize, based on that history, that I probably mean ruby the stone, not Ruby the programming language. Likewise, if I've just done searches for Python, Pearl and Java, they might interpret that to mean, "Aha, this person is most likely, when they're searching for Ruby, looking for the programming language." This makes it very hard if you're a software engineer who's trying to look for gemstones, by the way. As you know, the ruby gem is not just a gem. It's also part of the programming protocol.

This gets very interesting. Even seemingly unrelated searches and behavior can modify the results, and I think this is Google showing their strength in pattern matching and machine learning. They essentially have interpreted, for example, as disparate things as me performing searches around the SEO world and them interpreting that to mean that I'm a technical person, and therefore as I do searches related to Ruby or Python, they don't think the snake or the gemstone. They think the programming language Python or the programming language Ruby, which is pretty interesting, connecting up what is essentially a marketing discipline, SEO a technical marketing discipline, and connecting up those programming languages. Very, very interesting. That can modify your results as well.

Your social connections. So social connections was a page that existed on Google until last year. In my opinion, it was a very important page and a frustrating page that they've now removed. The social connections page would show, based on the account you were inside of, all your contacts and how Google connected you to them and how they might influence your search results.

For example, it would say randfish@gmail.com,which is my Gmail account that I don't actually use, is connected to Danny Sullivan because Rand has emailed Danny Sullivan on that account, and therefore we have these accounts that Danny Sullivan has connected to Google in one way or another. In fact, his Facebook account and several other accounts were connected through his Quora account because Quora OAuths into those, and Google has an agreement or whatever, an auth system with Quora. You could see, wow, Google is exposing things that Danny Sullivan has shared on Facebook to me, not directly through Facebook, but through this protocol that they've got with Quora. That's fascinating. Those social connections can influence the content you're seeing, can influence the rankings where you see those things. So you may have never seen them before, they may have changed the rankings themselves, and they can also influence the snippets that you're seeing.

For example, when I see something that Danny Sullivan has Plus One'd or shared on Google+, or I see something that Darmesh Shah, for example, has shared on twitter, it will actually say, "Your friend, Darmesh, shared this," or "Your friend, Danny Sullivan, shared this," or "Danny Sullivan shared this." Then you can hover on that person and see some contact information about them. So fascinating ways that social connections are being used.

Big take-aways here, if you are a business and you're thinking about doing marketing and SEO, you have to be aware that these changes are taking place. It's not productive or valuable to get frustrated that not everyone is seeing the same auto-suggest results, the same results in the same order. You just have to be aware that, hey, if we're going to be in a location, that location could be biasing for us or against us, especially if you're not there or if something else is taking your place.

If people are performing searches that are related to topics that might have more than one meaning, you have to make sure that you feel like your audience is well tapped into and that they're performing searches that they are aware of your products getting more content out there that they might be searching for and building a bigger brand. Those things will certainly help. A lot of the offline branding kinds of things actually help considerably with this type of stuff.

Of course, social connections and making sure that your audience is sharing so that the audience connected to them, even if they're not your direct customers, this is why social media strategy is so much about not just reaching people who might buy from you, but all the people who might influence them. Remember that social connections will be influenced in this way. Right now, Google+ is the most powerful way and most direct way to do this, but certainly there are others as well as the now removed social connections page, helped show us.

What about some indirect impacts? There are actually a few of these that are worth mentioning as well. One of those indirect impacts that I think is very important is that you can see re-ranking of results, not just based on your usage, but this can happen or may happen, not for certain, but may happen based on patterns that the engines detect. If they're seeing that a large number of people are suddenly switching away from searching ruby the gemstone to Ruby the language, they might bias this by saying, "You know what, by default, we're going to show more results or more results higher up about Ruby the programming language."

If they're seeing, boy a lot of people in a lot of geographies, not just Seattle, when they perform a Coffee Works search, are actually looking for Seattle Coffee Works, because that brand has built itself up so strongly, you know what, we're going to start showing the Seattle Coffee Works location over the other ones because of the pattern matching that we're seeing. That pattern matching can be a very powerful thing, which is another great reason to build a great brand, have a lot of users, and get a lot of people around your product, your services, and your company.

Social shares, particularly what we've heard from the search engines, Bing's been a little more transparent about this than Google has, but what Bing has basically said is that with social shares, the trustworthiness, the quality, and the quantity of those shares may impact the rankings, too. This is not just on an individual basis. So they're not just saying, "Oh well, Danny Sullivan shared this thing with Rand, and so now we're going to show it to Rand." They're saying, "Boy, lots of people shared this particular result around this topic. Maybe we should be ranking that higher even though it doesn't have the classic signals." Those might be things like keywords, links, and all the other things, anchor text and other things that they're using the ranking algorithm. They might say, "Hey the social shares are such a powerful element here, and we're seeing so much of a pattern around this, that we're going to start re-ranking results based on that." Another great reason to get involved in social, even if you're just doing SEO.

Auto-suggest can be your friend. It can also be your enemy. But when you do a search today, Elijah and I just tried this, and do a search for Whiteboard space, they will fill in some links for you – paint, online, information. Then I did the same search on my phone, and what do you think? Whiteboard Friday was the second or third result there, meaning, they've seen that I've done searches around SEOmoz before and around SEO in general. So they're thinking, "Aha. You, Rand, you're a person who probably is interested in Whiteboard Friday, even though you haven't done that search before on this particular phone." I got a new phone recently.

That usage data and personalization is affecting how auto-suggest is suggesting or search suggest is working. Auto-suggest, by the way, is also location aware and location biased. For example, if you were to perform this search, whiteboard space, in Seattle, you probably would have a higher likelihood of getting Friday than in, let's say, Hong Kong, where Whiteboard Friday is not as popular generally. I know we have Hong Kong fans, and I appreciate you guys, of course. But those types of search suggests are based on the searches that are performed in a local region, and to the degree that Google or Bing can do it, they will bias those based on that, so you should be aware.

For example, if lots and lots of people in a particular location, and I have done this at conferences, it's actually really fun to ask the audience, "Hey, would everyone please perform this particular search," and then you look the next day, and that's the suggested search even though it hadn't been performed previously. They're looking at, "Oh, this is trending in this particular region." This was a conference in Portland, Oregon, where I tried this, a blogging conference, and it was really fun to see the next day that those results were popping up in that fashion.

Search queries. The search queries that you perform, but not just the ones the you perform, but the search queries as a whole, kind of in an indirect, amalgamated, pattern matching way, may also be used to form those topic models and co-occurrences or brand associations that we've discussed before, which can have an impact on how search results work and how SEO works. Meaning that, if lots of people start connecting up the phrase SEOmoz with SEO or SEOmoz with inbound marketing, or those kinds of things, it's very likely or you might well see that Google is actually ranking pages on that domain, on SEOmoz's domain, higher for those keywords because they've built an association.

Search queries, along with content, are one of the big ways that they put those topics together and try to figure out, "Oh yeah, look, it seems like people have a strong association with GE and washer/dryers, or with Leica and cameras or with the Gap and clothing." Therefore, when people perform those types of searches, we might want to surface those brands more frequently. You can see this in particular when you perform a lot of ecommerce-related searches and particular brands come up. If you do a search for outdoor clothing and things like Columbia Sportswear and REI and those types of brands are popping up as a suggestion, you get a strong sense of the types of connections that Google might build based on these things.

All right, everyone. I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I hope you have lots of great comments, and I would love to jump in there with you and suggestions on how you people can dig deeper. We will see you again next week."

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Announcing the Just-Discovered Links Report

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Posted by The_Tela

Hey everyone, I'm Tela. I head up data planning at SEOmoz, working on our indexes, our Mozscape API, and other really fun technical and data-focused products. This is actually my first post on the blog, and I get to announce a brand new feature – fun!

One of the challenges inbound marketers face is knowing when a new link has surfaced. Today, we're thrilled to announce a new feature in Open Site Explorer that helps you discover new links within an hour of them going up on the web: the Just-Discovered Links report.

This report helps you capitalize on links while they're still fresh, see how your content is resonating through social channels, gauge overall sentiment of the links being shared, give you a head start on instant outreach campaigns, and scope out which links your competitors are getting. Just-Discovered Links is in beta, and you can find it in Open Site Explorer as a new tab on the right. Ready to learn more? Let's go!

What is the Just-Discovered Links report?

This report is driven by a new SEOmoz index that is independent from the Mozscape index, and is populated with URLs that are shared on Twitter. This means that if you would like to have a URL included in the index, just tweet it through any Twitter account.

One note: The cralwers respect robots.txt and politeness rules, which would prevent such URLs from being indexed. Also, we won't index URLs that return a 500 status code.

search results

Who is it for?

Our toolsets and data sources are expanding to support a wider set of inbound marketing activities, but we designed Just-Discovered Links with link builders in mind.

Getting started

You can search Just-Discovered Links through the main search box on Open Site Explorer. Enter a domain, subdomain, or specific URL just as you would when using the Inbound Links report. Then select the Just-Discovered Links beta tab. The report gives PRO members up to 10,000 links with anchor text and the destination URL, as well as Domain Authority and Page Authority metrics.

One important note on Page Authority: we will generally not have a Page Authority score available for new URLs, and will show [No data] in this case. So, when you see [No data], it generally indicates a link on a new page.

You can also filter the results using many of the same filter drop-downs you are used to using in other reports in Open Site Explorer. These include followed and no-followed links, and 301s; as well as internal or external links, and links to specific pages or subdomains. Note: We recommend you start searches using the default "pages on this root domain" query, and refine your search from there.

How does it work?

When a link is tweeted, we crawl that URL within minutes. We also crawl all of the links on the page that have been tweeted. These URLs, their anchor text, and their meta data (such as nofollow, redirect, and more) are stored and indexed. It may take up to an hour for links to be retrieved, crawled, and indexed.

We were able to build this feature rapidly by reusing much of the technology stack from Fresh Web Explorer. The indexes and implementation are a little different, but the underlying technology is the same. Dan Lecocq, the lead engineer on both projects, recently wrote an excellent post explaining the crawling and indexing infrastructure we use for Fresh Web explorer.

There are a few notable differences: we don’t use a crawl scheduler because we just index tweeted URLs as they come in. That’s how we are able to include URLs quickly. Also, unlike Fresh Web Explorer, the Just-Discovered Links report is focused exclusively on anchor text and URLs, so we don’t do any de-chroming as that would mean excluding some links that could be valuable.

How is it different?

Freshness

Freshness of data continues to be a top priority when we design new products. We have traditionally released indexes on the timeframe of weeks. With this report, we have a new link index that is updated in about an hour. From weeks to an hour – wow! We'll be providing additional details in the future on what this means.

URL coverage

This index includes valuable links that may be high-quality and topically relevant to your site or specific URL but are new, and thus have a low Page Authority score. This means they may not be included in the Mozscape index until they have been established and earned their own links. With this new index, we expect to uncover high-quality links significantly faster than they would appear in Mozscape.

I want to clarify that we are not injecting URLs from the Just-Discovered Links report into our Mozscape index. We will be able to do this in the future, but we want to gather customer feedback and understand usage before connecting these two indexes. So for now, the indexes are completely separate.

How big is the index?

We have seeded the index and are adding new URLs as they are shared, but don’t yet have a full 30 days worth of data in the index. We are projecting that the index will include between 250 million and 300 million URLs when full. We keep adding data, and will be at full capacity in the next week. 

How long will URLs stay in the index?

We are keeping URLs in the index for 30 days. After that, URLs will fall out of the index and not appear in the Just-Discovered Links report. However, you can tweet the URL and it will be included again.

How long does it take to index a URL?

We are able to crawl and include URLs in the live index within an hour of being shared on Twitter. You may see URLs appear in the report more quickly, but generally you can expect it to take about an hour.

Why did you choose Twitter as a data source?

About 10% of tweets include URLs, and many Twitter users share links as a primary activity. However, we would like to include other data sources that are of value. I’d love to hear from folks in the comments below on data sources they would like to see us consider for inclusion in this report.

How much data can I get?

The Just-Discovered Links report has the same usage limits as the Inbound Links report in Open Site Explorer. PRO customers can retrieve 10,000 results per day, community members can get 20 results, and guests can see the first five results.

What is “UTC” in the Date Crawled column?

We report time in UTC, or Coordinated Universal Time format. This time format will be familiar for our European customers, but might not be as familiar for customers in the states. The time zones for UTC are ahead of Eastern Standard Time, so US customers will see links where the time-stamp appears to be in the future, but this is really just a time zone issue. We can discover links quickly, but can’t predict links before they happen. Yet, anyways 🙂

CSV export

You can export a CSV with the results from your Just-Discovered Links report search. The CSV export will be limited to 5,000 links for now. We plan to increase this to 10,000 rows of data in the near future. We need to re-tool some of Open Site Explorer’s data storage infrastructure before we can offer a larger exports, and don’t have an exact ETA for this addition quite yet.

export search results

This is a beta release

We wanted to roll this out quickly so we can gather feedback from our customers on how they use this data, and on overall features. We have a survey where you can make suggestions for improving the feature and leave feedback. However, please keep in mind the fact that this is a beta when deciding how to use this data as part of your workflow. We may make changes based on feedback we get that result in changes to the reports.

Top four ways to use Just-Discovered Links

Quick outreach is critical for link building. The Just-Discovered Links report helps you find link opportunities within a short time of being shared, increasing the likelihood that you’ll be able to earn short-term link-building wins and build a relationship with long-term value. Here are four ways to use the recency of these links to help your SEO efforts:

  1. Link building: Download the CSV and sort based on anchor text to focus on keywords you are interested in. Are there any no-followed links you could get switched to followed? Sort by Domain Authority for new links to prioritize your efforts.
  2. Competitor research: See links to your competitor as they stream-in. Filter out internal links to understand their link building strategy. See where they are getting followed links and no-followed links. You can also identify low-quality link sources that you may want to avoid. Filter by internal links for your competitors to identify issues with their information architecture. Are lots of their shared links 301s? Are they no-following internal links on a regular basis?
  3. Your broken links: The CSV export shows the http status code for links. Use this to find 404 links to your site and reach-out to get the links changed to a working URL.
  4. Competitor broken links: Find broken links going to your competitors’ sites. Reach out and have them link to your site instead.

what you can do with Just-Discovered Links

Ready to find some links?

We’ve been releasing new versions of our Mozscape index about every two weeks. An index that is continuously updated within an hour is new for us, too, and we’re still learning how this can make a positive impact on your workflow. Just as with the release of Fresh Web Explorer, we would love to get feedback from you on how you use this report, as well as any issues that you uncover so we can address them quickly.

The report is live and ready to use now. Head on over to Open Site Explorer’s new Just-Discovered Links tab and get started!

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Announcing the March Mozscape Index!

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Posted by carinoverturf

It's that time again – the latest Mozscape index is now live! Data is now refreshed across all the SEOmoz applications – Open Site Explorer, the MozbarPRO campaigns, and the Mozscape API.

This index finished up in just 13 days, thanks again to all the improvements our Big Data Processing team has been implementing to make our Mozscape processing pipeline more efficient. The team continues to dial out our virtual private cloud in Virginia as well as tweak, tune, and improve the time it takes to process 82 billion URLs.

We've been saying we're close to releasing our first index created on our own hardware – and now we really are! Stay tuned for a deep dive blog post into why and how we built our own private cloud.

This index was kicked off the first week of March, so data in this index will span from late January through February, with a large percentage of crawl data from the last half of February.

Here are the metrics for this latest index:

  • 83,122,215,182 (83 billion) URLs
  • 12,140,091,376 (12.1 billion) Subdomains
  • 141,967,157 (142 million) Root Domains
  • 801,586,268,337 (802 billion) Links
  • Followed vs. Nofollowed
    • 2.21% of all links found were nofollowed
    • 55.23% of nofollowed links are internal
    • 44.77% are external
  • Rel Canonical – 15.70% of all pages now employ a rel=canonical tag
  • The average page has 74 links on it
    • 63.56 internal links on average
    • 10.65 external links on average

And the following correlations with Google's US search results:

  • Page Authority – 0.35
  • Domain Authority – 0.19
  • MozRank – 0.24
  • Linking Root Domains – 0.30
  • Total Links – 0.25
  • External Links – 0.29

Crawl histogram for the March Mozscape index

We always love to hear your thoughts! And remember, if you're ever curious about when Mozscape next updates, you can check the calendar here. We also maintain a list of previous index updates with metrics here.

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

How Rich Will Listings Get?

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As Google has went from ad platform for illicit content (both ways) to host of illicit content & reseller of legit content, they have cracked down on competitors & are now trying to police the ability of other sites to accept payment:

The web search giant, which is embroiled in a long-running row over the way it deals with pirated material, is considering the radical measure so that it can get rid of the root cause instead of having to change its own search results.

Executives want to stop websites more or less dedicated to offering links to pirated films, music and books from making money out of the illegal material. The plans, still in discussion, would also block funding to websites that do not respond to legal challenges, for example because they are offshore.

While Google is partnering with big media (that has long had a multi-polar approach to copyright) Google continues to gain in a game of inches.

Last month Google announced a new format for their image search results, where they pull the image inline without sending the visitor onto the publisher website. At the same time they referenced some “phantom visitor” complaint from publishers to justify keeping the visitor on Google & highlighted how there were now more links to the image source. If publishers were concerned about the “phantom visitor problem” we wouldn’t see so many crappy slideshow pageviews.

Google’s leaked remote rater guidelines do mention something about rating an image lower under certain situations like where the author might want attributed for their work that they are routinely disintermediated from.

On Twitter a former Google named Miguel Silvar wrote: “If you do SEO and decide to block Image Search just because it’s bringing less traffic, you can stop calling yourself an SEO expert.”

Many “experts” would claim that any exposure is good, even if you don’t get credit for it. Many clients of said “experts” will end up bankrupt! Experts who suggest it is reasonable for content creators to be stripped of payment, traffic & attribution are at best conflicted.

One of the fears of microformats was that as you add incremental cost to structure your data, the search engines may leverage your extra effort to further displace you. That fear turned out to be valid, as in the background Google was offering vertical review sites the “let us scrape you, or block Googlebot” ultimatum.

Google Shopping has shifted to paid inclusion & Google has made further acquisitions in the space, yet people still recommend that ecommerce sites get ahead by marking up their pages with microformats.

As Google continues to win the game of inches of displacing the original sources, they don’t even need you to mark up your content for them to extract their knowledge graph. Bill Slawski shared a video of Google’s Andrew Hogue describing their mass data extraction effort: “It’s never going to be 100% accurate. We’re not even going to claim that it is 100% accurate. We are going to be lucky if we get 70% accuracy … we are going to provide users with tools to correct the data.”

If you as a publisher chose to auto-generate content at a 70% accuracy, pumped it up to first page rankings & then said “if people care they will fix it” Google would rightfully call you a spammer. If they do the same, it is knowledge baby.

Eric Schmidt recently indicated that Google was willing to sacrifice relevancy to collect identity information. Their over-promotion of Google+ has become more refined over time, but it hasn’t went way.

Google pays for default placement in Safari & Firefox. Former Google executives head AOL & Yahoo!. Google can thus push for new cultural norms that make Microsoft look like an oddball or outsider if they don’t play the same game.

Google isn’t the only company playing the scrape-n-displace game.

“The innovation in search is really going to be on the user interface level” – Marissa Mayer



It’s worth keeping an eye on Yahoo! (the above types of scraped rich listings, lead generation forms in the organic search results, contextual ad partnership with Google) to see where Google will head next.

Categories: 

SEO Book

Tribes: It Depends

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Following my article about paywalls, a reader raised a point about “Tribes”. I’m paraphrasing the ensuing conversation we had, but I think it could be summarised as:

You’re wrong! The way to succeed on the internet is to build a tribe! Give your content away to the tribe! Grow the tribe!

An internet tribe is “an unofficial community of people who share a common interest, and usually who are loosely affiliated with each other through social media or other internet mechanisms”.

The use of the term dates back to 2003. More recently, Seth Godin wrote a book on the topic. As did Patrick Hanlon. A tribe could be characterized as a special interest group, a demographic, or a group of people interested in the same thing – plus internet.

So, is cultivating a tribe by giving everything away for free a better approach than locking information behind a paywall? If we lock some information away behind a paywall, does that mean we can’t build a tribe? BTW: I’m not suggesting Seth or Patrick assert such things, these issues came out of the conversation I had with the reader.

Well, It Depends

People don’t have to build a paywall in order to be successful. Or build a tribe in order to be successful. Either approach could be totally the wrong thing to do.

If anyone found the article on paywalls confusing, then hopefully I can clarify. The article about paywalls was an exploration. We looked at the merits, and pitfalls, involved.

Paywalls, like tribes, will not work for everyone. I suspect most people would agree that there is no “One True System” when it comes to internet marketing, which is why we write about a wide range of marketing ideas. Each idea is a tool people could use, depending on their goals and circumstances, but certainly not proposed as being one-size-fits all. In any case, having a paywall does not mean one cannot build a tribe. The two approaches aren’t mutually exclusive.

People may also recall The Well, the mother of all internet tribes. This tribe didn’t lead to profit for owners Salon. It was eventually sold it to it’s own users for a song. Salon, the parent company, has never been profitable. They have also tried various paywall models and free content models, although I think some of the free content looks very eHow: Driven by Demand Media.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at tribes and how to decide if a certain marketing approach is right for you.

Cart Before The Horse

“Cultivating a tribe” is a strategy.

Will everyone win using this strategy?

No.

Like any strategy, it should be justified by the business case. The idea behind tribes is that you form a group of people with similar interests, and then lead that group, and then, given appropriate and effective leadership, people help spread your message far and wide, grow the tribe, and eventually you will make money from them.

There is nothing wrong with this approach, and it works well for some businesses. However, like any marketing strategy, there is overhead involved. There is also an opportunity cost involved. And just like any marketing strategy, the success of the strategy should be measured in terms of return on investment. Is the cost of building, growing and maintaining a tribe lower than the return derived from it?

If not, then it fails.

How To Not Make Money From A Tribe

During the conversation I had with the reader, it was intimated that if someone can’t make money from a tribe, then it’s their own fault. After all, if someone can get a lot of people together by giving away their content, then money naturally follows, right?

The idea that profit is the natural result of building an audience resulted in the dot.com crash of 2000.

Many web companies at that time focused on building an audience first and worried about how it was all going to pay off later. Webvan, Pets.com, boo.com, and many of the rest didn’t suffer from lack of awareness, but from a lack of a sound business case and from a failure to execute.

We’ve had digital tribes, in various forms, since the beginning of the internet. Actually, they predate the internet . One early example of a digital tribe was the BBSs, a dial-in community. These tribes were replaced by internet forums and places, such as The Well.

Many internet forums don’t make a great deal of money. Many are run for fun at break-even, or a loss. Some make a lot of money. Whether they make a loss, a little money or a lot of money depends not on the existence of the tribe that surrounds them, as they all have tribes, but on the underlying business model.

Does the tribe translate into enough business activity in order to be profitable? How much is a large tribe of social-media aficionados interested in “free stuff” worth? More than a small demographic of Facebook-challenged people interested in high margin services? Creating a tribe to help target the latter group might possibly work, but there are probably better approaches to take.

Does SEOBook.com have a “tribe”? Should we always be looking to “grow the tribe”?

We don’t tend to characterize our approach in terms of tribes. At SEOBook.com, we do a lot of things to maintain a particular focus. We tend to write long, in-depth pieces on topics we hope people find interesting as opposed to chasing keyword terms. We don’t run an endless series of posts on optimizing meta tags. We don’t cover every tiny bit of search news. We focus almost exclusively on the needs of the intermediate-to-expert search professional. We could do many things to “grow the tribe”, but that would run counter to our objectives. It would dilute the offering. We could have a “free trial” but the noise it would create in our member forums would lower the value of the forums to existing community members.

We do offer some free tools available to everyone, but when it comes to the paid parts of the site we leave it up to individuals to decide if they think they’re a good fit for our community. If a person has issues with the site before becoming a paid member, we doubt they would ever becoming a long-lasting community member, so our customer service to people who have not yet become customers is effectively nil. In short, we don’t want to run the hamster treadmill of managing a huge tribe when it doesn’t support the business case.

The Good Things About Tribes

Tribes can help spread the word. People tell people something, and they tell people, and the audience grows and grows.

They’re great for political groups, movements, consultants, charities, and any endeavour with a strong social focus. They tend to suit sectors where the people in that sector spend a lot of time “living digitally”.

As a marketing approach, building tribes is well-suited to the charismatic, relentless self-promoter. A lot of tribes tend to orient around such individuals.

The Problems With Tribes

Not everyone can be a leader. Not everyone has got the time to be a relentless self-promoter and the time spent undertaking such activity can present a high opportunity cost if that’s not how your target market rolls. Perhaps a relentless focus on PPC, or SEO, or another channel will pay higher dividends.

There is also an ever-growing noise level in the social media channels, but the attention level remains relatively constant. The medium is forever being squeezed. Is blogging/facebooking/tweeting all day with the aim of building a tribe really a useful thing to be doing? Only metrics can tell us that, so make sure you monitor ‘em!

To build a big tribe in any competitive space takes serious work and it takes a long time. Many people will fail using that approach. Not only are some people not cut out to lead, the numbers don’t work if everyone used this method. If everyone who led a tribe also followed hundreds of other people leading their own tribes, then there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get anything else done.

It will not be an efficient marketing approach for many.

Getting People To Follow Is Not The Goal Of Business

I know of a company that just got bought out for a few million.

Sounds great, right. However, I know they carry a lot of debt and their business model puts them on a downward trajectory. This site has a massive “tribe”. This site is number one in their niche. People tweet, Facebook, follow them, sing their praises, they engage up, down, left, right and center. They’ve got the internet tribe thing down pat, and their tribe buys their stuff.

One problem.

The business is based on low prices. The tribe is fixated on “getting a great price”. This business is vulnerable to competitors as that tribes loyalty, that took so long to build, is based on price – which is no loyalty at all. Perhaps they achieved their exit strategy, and did what they needed to do, but growing a massive and active internet tribe didn’t prevent them being swallowed by a larger competitor. The larger competitor doesn’t really have a tribe, but focuses on traditional channels.

Without getting the fundamentals right, a tribe, or any other marketing strategy, is unlikely to pay off. The danger in listening to gurus is they can be fadish. There is money in evangelizing the bright, shiny new marketing idea that sounds really good.

But beware of placing the cart before the horse. Marketing is a numbers game that comes down to ROI. Does building the tribe make enough money to justify serving the tribe?

Having followers is no bad thing. Just makes sure they’re the right followers, for the right reasons, and acquiring them supports a sound business case 🙂

Categories: 

SEO Book

Why Google Analytics Tagging Matters – Whiteboard Friday

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Posted by RachaelGerson

When Google Analytics doesn't know where a traffic source comes from, it assumes the traffic is direct and lumps it in with your direct visits. This happens frequenly with social shares, as many of us make the mistake of not tagging our links accordingly.

In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rachael Gerson sheds some light on "dark social" and explains why tagging in Google Analytics improves the accuracy of your referrals. Take credit for the work that you're doing, and tag your links!

 

 

Video Transcription

"Hi, everyone. I'm Rachael Gerson. I'm the head of analytics at SEER Interactive. We're a digital marketing agency in Philadelphia, although we are growing and spreading across the world. Although we're primarily known for our SEO, we actually have an amazing paid search team and a really talented analytics team. I want to share our story with you. The timing on this story is actually really convenient because it ties with what I wanted to talk to you about.

My sister wrote a blog post last night. She has a new blog. No one ever goes to it. I think I may be the only person who knows it exists. She wrote the post. I read it this morning and went, "This is really good content. I'm going to share this." And I put it out on Twitter.

She saw me share it, and she put it on Facebook and thought, "Okay. Let's see what happens." In the last 8 hours, she's gotten 74,000 page views to this one blog post. I'm looking at the real-time traffic right now, down here. There are 1,500 people on the site. This thing is blowing up. It's going viral.

We can see it spreading through Twitter. We can see it spreading through Facebook. We can see it being referred by random sites, but we're also seeing a lot of traffic come in as direct. Since no one knows this blog exists, I highly doubt they're typing in the 40 plus characters of the URL to go directly to this page. They're not. It's being shared socially. This is the idea of dark social.

It's not a new idea, but it's a fascinating idea, and that's what I wanted to talk to you about today, was this idea of dark social, that content spreads, if it's good content, socially, organically.

Dark social sounds like a bad thing. It's not. It's actually really awesome and really fun to dig into. Let's say that someone read this post earlier, and they shared it on Twitter, Facebook, whatever. We kind of know where that came from for the most part. They may have texted it to a friend or copied a link and sent it in chat. In both cases, when the person clicks on the link and goes to the site, they come in as direct.

Direct is Google Analytics' version of, "We have no idea what this is, so let's call it direct and throw it in that bucket." We know it's not direct. That's our dark, organic social. It's spreading organically in all different ways, and we're getting traffic because of it. It's pretty amazing.

I wanted to talk to you about the analysis I'm doing on the dark social side because it's really fun stuff. Unfortunately, in talking to a lot of people, I found they're not there yet.

Here's the problem. When we say direct it's our catchall bucket and we need to look at direct to get an idea of our dark social, organic social, whatever we want to call it, if things are not tagged properly, we can't dig into to what's [out] to this dark social side. Actually, we can't do anything. If things aren't tagged properly, you're not taking credit for the work that you're doing.

For your paid search, for your social media, for email marketing, whatever it is, you have to tag your links. Otherwise, you're not getting credit for the work that you're doing.

You know what really sucks, by the way? When you work really hard on a project and, at the last second, your boss takes credit for it. That was your project. You did all the work for it. Why is he taking your credit? It sucks!

What we're talking about right now is the digital marketing version of that. It's the online version, where you're giving your credit away for the work that you're doing. Honestly, you need that credit to keep your budget, to keep your job, to get a promotion, to get any of these things. You need to prove your value.

When we talk about tagging, it's using UTM parameters. Dark social, organic social, that's really sexy. It's fun. We can dig into that. UTM parameters are not sexy. They're not fun, but they're necessary. If you're not doing this, you're wasting your time and you're wasting your money. Now that sucks.

How are you wasting your time? If you're not doing this, you're putting all kinds of time, hopefully, into analysis, if you're looking at what you're doing, but your analysis is based on data that's not accurate. You're putting your time into marketing efforts that may not actually be working as well as you think they are. You're putting your money into marketing efforts. You need to know that your stuff's actually working. Keep doing that. Make your well-informed decisions to help the business and drive it forward.

Again, time is money. You need to make sure you get all this stuff right, so you can do all the other stuff.

Let's talk about a few examples of where tagging actually matters. If we're looking at Twitter, if you don't tag your links, things will still come in. You'll see t.co showing up. In your real-time traffic, you'll see Twitter as social coming in, and you'll see some of that in your multi-channel funnels as well.

If you tag your links, you're going to always know it's Twitter. You're going to know which campaign it was. You're going to know all the information you put into it. You're also going to be protected from the other side of it. That's when people use Twitter apps. For example, HootSuite doesn't come in as Twitter unless you've tagged it. People clicking on a link that you post on Twitter that's untagged in HootSuite are going to come in as HootSuite referral usually.

If you posted on TweetDeck, they're coming in as direct. By the way, I'm still playing with all of this, and it all changes. I've played with stuff that's changed before. So if this is different by the time it comes out, I apologize. Just keep up with it all the time.

That's our Twitter side. On Facebook, if we don't tag our links, they'll come in as Facebook referral. It's nice and easy. It's clean. We know what it is. The exception to that is if someone's trying to open a link in Facebook, they click on the link, it doesn't load fast enough, they're probably going to click Open in Safari if they really care about it. Once they open in Safari, that's a direct visit. We just lost the Facebook tracking in it.

There're also a missing piece here, and that's if you do tag this stuff, you get an extra level to your analysis. You can say, "This is all the same campaign. It's the same effort, same content." You can tie it together across all these different platforms, and that helps.

We get to email. If you're putting time and money into your email marketing, you want to take your credit for it. If you're not tagging your email, it's usually going to come in one of two ways:  One as a referral from all the different mail things that can come in or as direct.

At least with the mail, where is says mail.yahoo.whatever, we know it's mail. We can't track it down to what you did versus what someone sent. We have some analysis on it. If it's direct, you lose everything. So tag your email.

Paid search. It's nice. AdWords actually makes it really easy for us to tag our paid search. We can connect Google Analytics and AdWords very easily, and they play really well together. It's awesome. The problem is when you don't tag your stuff. If you don't tag your paid search, either through AdWords or through your manual tracking parameters on other platforms as well, it comes in as organic.

This actually happened to us at SEER. One of our SEO clients, we were watching their traffic, and organic traffic spiked. The account manager went, "Hey, guys, this is awesome." To which the client responded, "Oh, we forgot to tell you we launched paid search," and the account manager discovered they weren't tagging their paid search. This paid search manager accidentally just gave away their credit. We don't want to have that happen.

Let's say you've actually tagged everything properly in your URLs. All this is done. These are just a few examples, but all of the other stuff is taken care of. Let's look at the tracking on the site itself. We see this happen pretty often with paid search landing pages, where we have to put this on our checklist that this is done immediately.

We'll create brand new landing pages that are optimized for paid search for conversion. They're different from the rest of the site. They're a totally new template, which means that if the Google Analytics code is in a template already for the site, it may not be in here. If we don't have someone add it back in, what's going to happen is paid search will drive all this traffic to the site, they'll get to that page, go to page two. Page two has the Google Analytics code, but they don't know where it came from. This is going to show up as direct. Paid search just gave away their credit. We can't have that happen. You worked too hard for that credit.

I've also seen it where people make little mistakes with the tracking on the site. Spotify did this a few months ago, and I sent them a message to help them out with it. They were tagging all of the links on their site with UTM parameters. When visitors would hit those different links, they'd reset the visit ,and it would be a new visit with each one. Spotify, all their marketers were giving away their credit through that.

Let's say you've got all this other stuff right. Good job. That's awesome. There's still stuff that you can't control unfortunately. There are a lot of things that can cause traffic to come in as direct when it really isn't. I have a short list that people have been adding to at [bitly/direct-rome]. If you have others, keep adding them because I want to have a giant list of all the things we can tackle and fix, but the list just keeps growing.

If you look at mobile traffic, for example, iOS 6, we can't tell if it's search or if it's direct. That's a problem. For me, if I'm doing an analysis and I really need that part, or I really need to know that part for sure, I may cut that out so it's not throwing off my data. There are different ways to deal with that, and that's a whole other topic.

The point is control whatever you can. Where you control the spread of information, make sure you're doing your part. If you're sharing a link socially, tag your links. That way, if people want to share it or retweet it, the tracking is already in place there. If your posts on the site have social plugins, put the tracking in your social plugins too. It makes it easy if someone wants to hit the share on Facebook or to share on Twitter. It already has the tracking. It goes through, people get to the site, your tracking's in place, and you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Now once you've done everything else up here, your tagging is right on your URLs, your tracking is right on the site, there's nothing you messed up by accident, you've controlled everything you can with these other issues, you kind of have to accept what's left. You know that there's stuff that you can't account for. There's direct in there that may have been shared through a text, through a chat, through any other thing. You don't know where it actually came from.

First off, that gets a dark social. We can now start doing our awesome analysis, like dark social or other things, because we have confidence in our data. We can trust that we're making the right decisions for our business, and we can save our time and our money this way.

If you have questions or thoughts, hit me up on Twitter or in the comments below, because I love talking about this stuff. Maybe another time, we'll talk about this organic social idea."

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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