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What You Need to Know About Google’s Latest Changes

Erica Moss is the author of this post and is the community manager for Georgetown University’s online masters in nursing program, offering one of the nation’s leading nurse educator programs. She enjoys blogging, TV, pop culture and tweeting @ericajmoss

Businesses that count on their website to attract customers rise and fall on the strength of their Google ranking. Google’s recent updates to its search algorithms, the so-called Panda and Penguin changes, have had a measurable impact on the ranking of thousands of websites. Whether you have a business website or are thinking of starting one, you need to factor in the “Google Zoo” when developing your online strategy.

According to SEOmoz, Google developers tweak their search algorithms about 500 times per year in order to thwart spammers and ensure the quality of their search results. Most of the Google search engine changes are small, but a couple of recent updates sent traffic levels for some legitimate websites into a nosedive. No one who wants to grow their business with an online presence can afford to ignore the so-called Panda and Penguin changes. Here’s what you should know:


Released in February 2011, the Panda change penalized websites with poorly written or duplicate content. It lowered the ranking of spammy websites with high ad-to-content ratios and gave higher ranking to sites with unique, relevant and high-quality content.


Rolled out in April 2012, this change tightened the Google search algorithm’s ability to filter out web spam techniques, like content spinning, keyword stuffing and unnatural linking. Many sites that went overboard in their use of keywords were hit by the Penguin change.

In the months following the Panda and Penguin changes, SEO experts have determined the new best practices for search engine ranking. Google also provides advice and support in the form of its Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide (available on the Google Webmaster Tools page). A few pointers include:

  • Add compelling and useful content to your website in the form of articles, blog posts, forums, social media services and other means. Remove content that’s too generic or duplicated too often elsewhere.
  • Attract repeat visitors with fresh, easy-to-read content that’s free from spelling and grammatical errors. Make sure your site is well organized so visitors can quickly navigate to the information they need.
  • Incorporate keywords naturally into your content. They should not interrupt the flow of your website’s content or appear to be inserted after the content was written.
  • Avoid unnatural anchor text. The text should tell the user something about the external page that’s being linked to from your website.
  • Watch your ad-to-content ratio. First and foremost, provide your visitors with relevant content instead of hitting them over the head with advertising.

Other Considerations

In addition to considering Panda and Penguin when constructing and updating a website, it’s important to pay attention to how a website is promoted. Organic links that occur naturally when people discover your content and link to it are the best. This takes time, and Google understands that businesses need website promotion to speed up discovery of their content. Blog posts, press releases, newsletters and RSS feeds are Google-approved promotion techniques. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can also be used for promotion, provided the social updates aren’t too frequent. Marketing through article directories like Ezinearticles, Squidoo and HubPages, once a successful strategy for improving search engine ranking, now can hurt more than help a website.

LinkedIn’s Powerful Share Button

Still unsure about the power of “sharing” on LinkedIn? Maybe this article from the Business Insider will change your mind.

Young Gen Y Doesn’t Want to Be Friends

Free Mall Girls Riding on The Escalator Creative Commons
Creative Commons License photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

Brands flocking to Facebook in order to connect with young consumers got some bad news last week from Forrester Research. According to a new report authored by Jacqueline Anderson, Forrester’s Consumer Insights Analyst, a mere 6 percent of 12 to 17 year olds wants to be friends with a brand on Facebook. The percentage increases to 12 percent of 18 to 24 year olds wanting to be friends with a brand.

According to Anderson, “Many brands are looking to social media as a strong digital channel to communicate with these consumers. But research shows that it is important to consider more than just consumers’ propensity to use a specific channel. Almost half of 12 to 17 year olds don’t think brands should have a presence using social tools at all.”

There is a silver lining for brands. Although young Gen Y’ers may not want to be friends, 74 percent of them are using “social networks to talk about products with friends and make recommendations.” Are you listening to them?

The Social Breakup: Why Consumers Unsubscribe

The Kiss
Creative Commons License photo credit: WTL photos

How often should you be emailing your customers or potential customers? How many tweets can you send out each day? How many is too many? How much contact is too much on Facebook? In order to find out why consumers terminate their relationships with Brands through Email, Facebook, and Twitter, Exact Target, a global Software as a Service (SaaS) provider, surveyed more than 1500 consumers and came up with a number of key findings that they reported today in “The Social Break-Up”.

Email Key Findings:

  • 95% of US Online Consumers use email
  • 91% have unsubscribed to a company email
  • 18% never open email from companies
  • 17% of subscribers will delete or ignore email instead of unsubscribing or hitting the spam button
  • 49% unsubscribe because the content is boring or repetitive

Facebook Key Findings:

  • 73% of US online consumers have a Facebook profile
  • 65% of US online consumers are active on Facebook
  • 64% of Facebook users are “Fans” of a company
  • 51% of Facebook Fans of a company rarely or never visit a company’s page after liking them
  • 44% of Facebook Fans unlike a company because they post to frequently

Twitter Key Findings

  • 17% of US consumers have a Twitter account
  • 9% of US consumers who have created a Twitter account are active
  • 41% of consumers who have followed a company have stopped following them later
  • Twitter users are less likely to unfollow a brand compared to Facebook or email users (41% for Twitter, 55% for Facebook, and 91% for email)

The question is, why have you unsubscribed to a Brand?

Twitter Followers or Facebook Fans: Which is better?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Franco Bouly

The answer is Twitter according to research from ExactTarget. According to the study and reported on by Social Media Today, “Twitter followers are more likely to induce advocacy and future purchases” than those on Facebook. Social Media Today reported that “according to their data, 37% of respondents were more likely to purchase from a brand after following them on Twitter as opposed to only 17% of those that “like” a brand on Facebook.”

When the respondents were asked if they were more likely to recommend a Brand after following them on Twitter, 33% of Twitter followers were more likely to recommend a Brand compared to 21% of Facebook fans.

What has been your experience?

Social Media: The Eight Stages of Listening by Jeremiah Owyang

Social Commerce is Now via the Altimeter Group

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh WOWs By Delivering Happiness

Last night I was lucky enough to spend nearly 90 minutes listening to Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, discuss how he got his start, his company, and why his number one priority is getting the company culture right. According to Tony, if Zappos gets the company culture right then everything else will turn out right.

Tony is currently on a multi-city bus tour aptly titled the “Delivering Happiness Bus Tour” which meshes with the recent launch of his best-selling book “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose”. According to the tour web site, the mission of the tour is to “inspire and be inspired.” He certainly did that last night at the Milken Institute.

Tony started his talk recounting when and why he sold his first company LinkExchange to Microsoft for $265 million back in 1999 at the age of 24. He had co-founded the company with a friend and they in turn hired more friends. After about 20 hires, according to Hsieh, they ran out of friends and then started hiring people who were going to make the company really grow and be successful. But that’s when it stopped being fun for Tony. The company culture had changed and it was no longer fun to get out of bed.

His next move was joining Zappos originally as an investor and adviser and eventually as CEO. Tony was determined that the most important thing to make the company successful in the long term was to get the company culture right. And equally important to Tony is to make sure the company is making an emotional connection to their customers.

Tony’s mantra at Zappos is “Wow. How do we wow our customers and our vendors?” And to Tony that means taking the money that they would spend on advertising and folding it into customer service, because, “we just want to be about customer service and maximizing the customer experience.”

In order to make sure they are “wowing” their customers,  Zappos throws out a lot of the accepted industry practices around call centers. Many call centers’ mission is to get customers on and off the phones as quickly as possible to decrease the average handle time and thereby maintain their profits. Zappos is the opposite. Tony boosted that Zappos Call Center had recently broken a company record by having a 7 ½ hour customer conversation.

Although 95% of all the sales go through the Internet Tony believe that the telephone is one of the company’s best branding devices.  Tony reported that since every customer calls at least once it was extremely important that they get this one call right. And this is one of the reasons that the call center is really at the heart of their business.

Everyone that is hired at Zappos—no matter their position—goes through a four week call center training period with two of those weeks being on the phone as call center agents. But getting hired is even trickier. To Tony there is nothing more important than hiring the right people who are going to fit into the culture and not disrupt it. And to get hired you must be a fit with everyone including the driver that brings you to and from the airport for your interview. Every voice matters.

Tony spoke a great deal about the science of happiness and how he has rolled that into his own company’s mission. Back in 1999 Zappos defined their brand and vision as providing “selection”.  In 2003 the company defined their brand and vision as “customer service.” Today the company sees their brand and vision as “delivering happiness.”

Tony stressed the importance of “chasing the vision and not the money.” He believes that you can use happiness as a business model and that businesses with a higher purpose make money in the long term.

You can learn more about the “Delivering Happiness Movement” at   http://www.deliveringhappinessbook.com/jointhemovement/.

Can his ideas work in your company?

Why TOMS Shoes and Gen Y Bode Well for our Future

Emily's new shoes

Emily's new shoes

Yesterday I took my 14 year old daughter Emily to the mall and bought her a new pair of navy blue flats from TOMS Shoes that she has been wanting for a while. Emily wanted these shoes because as she told me “they are really cute and comfortable” and she likes that for every pair of TOMS that you buy the company pledges to give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. According to the TOMS website :

  • A leading cause of disease in developing countries is soil-transmitted diseases, which can penetrate the skin through bare feet. Wearing shoes can help prevent these diseases, and the long-term physical and cognitive harm they cause.
  • Wearing shoes also prevents feet from getting cuts and sores. Not only are these injuries painful, they also are dangerous when wounds become infected.
  • Many times children can’t attend school barefoot because shoes are a required part of their uniform. If they don’t have shoes, they don’t go to school. If they don’t receive an education, they don’t have the opportunity to realize their potential.

The company said that as of April 2010 over 600,000 pairs of shoes had been given away to children in need.

The popularity of  TOMS  shoes and their “One to One ” program among Generation Y –roughly those born in the 1980s and 1990s and 77 million strong–  bodes well for our future. According to marketing and demographic research, Generation Y cares deeply about causes especially involving world issues and the environment. And, as reported by Joel Kotkin in his article for Newsweek titled “400 Million People Can’t Be Wrong” :

Between 2000 and 2050 the U.S. population aged 15 to 64—the key working and school-age group—will grow 42 percent, while the same group will decline by 10 percent in China, nearly 25 percent in Europe, and 44 percent in Japan.

Looks like Generation Y has the heart and the mass to lead us into the future. I for one hope they keep their passion as they age.

Altimeter Report: Social Marketing Analytics Demystified