For better or worse, the phenomenon of “viral video” has created its very own particular crop of pseudo-celebrities. Some burn out quickly, others are able to parlay their allotted 15 minutes of fame into something more lasting. This infographic aims to present you with the cream of the viral video crop and answer that burning question that we each have inside of us: Where are they now?
Written by Sean Valant
Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
Written by Taylor Hawes
Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
A curious paradigm shift has occurred in the visibility of local businesses. There was a time when people would drive through their city, know of particular shops, visit them regularly, and consult phone books for any services they were not already privy to. Visibility was as much determined by literal, physical visibility as it was by listing in the yellow pages. With ubiquitous GPS, the desire for information and pricing prior to leaving the house, and the availability of customer reviews to help determine the destination, visibility now has infinitely more to do with search index ranking than with well-lit signage.
Fortunately for local businesses, gone are the days when appearing in online search results meant battling the big boys for traffic. Google has made extensive inroads in the construction of solutions for local businesses. We specifically mention Google for a reason. Bing and Yahoo may have local search results built into their platforms, but Google’s high traffic volumes and tie-in with Google+ afford unique tools for local businesses that will ultimately determine quality and impact of listings as the connections develops.
It bears emphasis that, while these eight factors are of great importance, any measures that can be taken to improve the relevance and quality of online listing is worth implementation. There are plenty of fish in the pond, so having the biggest hook is a goal worth pursuing. For more information on additional factors, consult Moz’s extensive 2013 Local Search Ranking Factors survey. For now, let’s take a look at the top contributors to search relevance.
1. Proper Business Category
When listing your business on Google’s platform, you’ll be asked for everything from your street address to the name of your first-born child (kidding). It is easy to assume that this information is just a formality, but this data constitutes the totality of your business record in the search index. Highest among the entries factored in is the business category. Initially, you will be asked to provide a primary business category according to Google’s current taxonomy. This is the single most important piece of information you can specify to make your business searchable. For example, in order to be included in a search for architects in Toledo, you must list your business as an architecture firm. Failing to do so will result in a great deal of missed traffic.
2. Physical Address in City of Search
The second component of that search for Toledo architects is the city. This entry affects your listing in two ways. The first involves including it in the collection of business listings within a certain city. By this system, if someone in City of Industry, CA is searching for Toledo architects, the street address of your business will assure that your firm is in the results. The second way that your physical location makes a difference is by returning results to devices within the city specified. This means that someone with a cell phone in Toledo who searches for “architects” will see your listing. This does pose potential challenges for businesses just outside of city limits and service businesses that travel to perform work, but remedies for these, including Google Plus association, will be discussed later.
3. Consistency of Structured Citations
In listing the physical address, phone number, or name of your business, consistency across multiple citations is essential. When we say “citations”, we are referring to listings on services like the Yellow Pages. Smaller discrepancies like St. versus Street are less important than typos or outdated information. Since search ranks depend on collections of reputable links and references, any inconsistencies in listing devalue the authority of the primary listing and lead to unnecessary confusion. Make a habit of checking structured listings and updating/correcting information on a regular basis.
4. Quality of Citations
Of course it is not enough to simply be listed on Bill’sBusinessBlog.com. The quality of structured citations plays an equal part in the authority of search results. Focus first on getting listed on local business indexes before scrounging for less reputable associations. Tools like GetListed.org provide checks and tools for making sure that listings are numerous and of sufficient quality.
5. HTML and Plus Place Page Information
Here we see one of the more explicit Google+ tie-ins to benefit local businesses. Plus offers businesses a chance to make a free local page that shows their information, allowing for customer engagement and distribution of marketing materials, much like pages on Facebook. The bonus of a Plus connection is the consequent bump in search relevance offered to incentivize the social media platform. The key is to keep an eye on the name, address, and phone number (NAP) of your Google Places listing and Plus Local listing and make sure they are consistent. The association will certainly pay off for Toledans looking to build a new house.
6. Quantity of Structure Citations
After you have established a solid foundation of structured citations at reputable businesses indexes and online associations, focus on the quantity of your citations to improve your authority. A good rule of thumb is to keep in mind that the more competitive your market, the more structured citations you will need. An easy way to find places to get cited is by typing business category terms into Google and seeing what pop up. A query of “architects” lists at least half a dozen opportunities for citation on the first page alone.
7. Domain Authority
The strength of a website also plays a big part in determining its rank in local search results. The collection of metrics that determine that strength, including the profile of inbound links, is referred to as “Domain Authority”. All technical definitions aside, the score is an approximation of the competitiveness of a website in Google search rankings. By improving domain authority through effective search engine optimization, businesses can put themselves closer to the top of the pile.
8. Verified Google Plus Local Page
The fact that two separate Google Plus tie-ins reside in the top 8 local search factors should be a great big green light to businesses considering hopping on the platform. In this case, a local Plus page (with matching NAP), verified by the user, will strengthen the authority of your place page, your website, and your local listing. The triad of connections makes a potent combination in the fight for local attention, but it is important to take this network on your own shoulders. Outsourcing the traffic optimization job is acceptable on a temporary basis, but the tie-in of each of these outlets with your own Google Plus profile will help make your business even more relevant.
As stated before, these are only some of the considerations local businesses need make to stand out from the crowd. However, with each of these in place, Davis and Davis Architects of Ohio will be off to a great start. Focus on quality-structured citations with consistent name, address, and phone listings and utilize Google Plus assets to improve search rankings. Be sure to list your business in the right category and don’t be afraid to get a little technical and optimize your search engine keywords. Through a little digital sweat and elbow grease, you may be the next random dinner destination for out-of-towners and locals alike.
Written by Taylor Hawes
Monday, November 25th, 2013
Mobile Internet has desktop usage in its crosshairs. According to Smart Insights, mobile Internet will surpass desktop usage in 2014. This is good news for Apple and Android, but bad news for all those hard-working web developers who painstakingly created a desktop website worth its salt. But let’s be honest, in an age when innovation moves at light-speed, no one expects a silver bullet solution to last very long.
The unique characteristics of mobile devices require special considerations all their own. Smaller screen resolutions and unique interfaces present challenges to the typical 1280 by 720 click-and-type model. Because of smaller resolutions and tactile, gesture-based controls, navigations, layouts, and content need to be simplified for proper viewing. To further complicate matters, the diversity of mobile devices means that a single resolution or interface solution may not display correctly on other devices or platforms. Fortunately, there are options, each one with its own challenges and assets, to help solve this truly complicated puzzle.
Mobile Specific Websites
The first potential solution is a bit of an antique at this point, but has its benefits. The mobile specific website builds a dedicated set of code and assets around the unique context of mobile web. This option can allow for coding of mobile specific capabilities and features, but ultimately the cons largely outweigh the pros.
The first issue is load times. The mobile Internet is fast and responsive. The mobile only website is not. Because the mobile specific code is necessarily housed under a separate URL, a series of redirects based on the detected platform are needed to point phone browsers in the right direction. This dramatically increases load times and, should any of the redirects fail, unnecessary and unappreciated pain in access.
The next problem is consistency. Updating code on one version of the site requires updating of code on the other site, and failure to do so can lead to embarrassing and glaring issues in format and content. In addition, successful execution of two separate code bases complicates the already arduous design process in the case of implementation of additional features. This is without mentioning the manpower needed to police both versions and maintain a coherent web experience.
The final problem is search engine optimization. Because of the separate URLs of the two sites, the indexing and search rank of one does not benefit the other. For this reason, mobile users may not even be able to find your mobile site should they look for it.
The short story is: don’t use a separate mobile site. At one time, Google actually recommended them before responsive web design practices became prevalent. Save yourself the headache and consider more flexible, intuitive, and convenient options.
Device Specific HTML
Device specific HTML represents one of these intuitive solutions. The backbone of this approach is the Vary HTTP header. In its implementation, the Vary command signals to Internet Service Providers to consider the encoding preferences of the user when determining which format to serve. In doing so, two sets of HTML code can be utilized with some common assets and displayed based on the needs of the user.
In addition, the shared URL of the two versions has positive search implications. Common indexation and search rank of both versions means that the appropriate format will be readily accessible through regular search channels, thus alleviating the confusion presented by a stand-alone solution. Furthermore, the Vary header helps Google more easily crawl both formats by indicating which Googlebot to use. The end result is faster crawl and site discovery.
Responsive Web Design
With myriad platforms and devices, even device specific HTML is no guarantee that site presentation will be consistent. For that reason, web designers have adopted a solution entitled “responsive web design“. The method adopts a doctrine referred to as “device agnosticism”, which aspires to create a homogeneous experience regardless of the specific viewing context.
On a practical level, this means a more coherent experience for viewers and less frustration for web developers. By utilizing common assets, fonts, and layouts, platform agnosticism permits cross-platform branding and design that plays a strong part in developing brand association. By applying catchall code, updating one asset updates the asset across all contexts, thus saving manpower and embarrassing inconsistencies.
Between these options, you should have be able to make an informed decision regarding what is best for your businesses specific needs. Consider your available manpower and aspirin when accepting the headaches of each method and employ the best advantages of each when constructing your web experience. In time, your users will appreciate your mobile accommodations and your mobile site will become as much a part of your identity as your sterling reputation and charming demeanor.
Written by Taylor Hawes
Thursday, November 21st, 2013
2014 is set to be the year that two truths bear themselves. The first is that Internet users are tired, bombarded with content and desperate to separate the chaff from the wheat. The second is that old methods of marketing simply are not effective anymore. This combination has lead to the rise of engaging content and emphasis on a relationship with customers, regardless of the specific market you find yourself in.
The verdict is in, and people are saying that they want quality, value, and creativity. They want information, media, and brands that enrich their lives in tangible ways, in conjunction with their values and belief structures. If you’re keeping score, you can imagine that reaching such lofty heights through iPad giveaways and banal taglines is a near impossible task.
Making a Connection
The reason old marketing tactics are no longer working begins with the fact that they do not connect with customers. Discerning consumers are no longer swayed by catchy phrases or theme songs. Inundated with media and cheap ploys for sales, they have begun to demand more sincere, legitimate content and engagement that recognizes them as more than simply another sales lead.
This is where voice plays a part. Voice gives a face to your organization, which is exactly what consumers want to see. Too many people have waded through phone menus and automated replies. Now those same people want to know that there is a person on the other end of the line. Voice forges that precious connection that new, smarter, more discerning customers are looking for.
At its core, the importance of voice demonstrates prevailing attitudes toward large organizations. We’ve entered an era in which people talk to other people every day through social media, and, for that reason, expect the same personal level of attention and interaction from businesses. But while a human touch encourages positive association with brands, it is not enough to create the sort of image and perception that brands hope to accomplish. Thankfully, voice solves this problem too.
Telling a Story
Voice connects with customers on a deeper level; a connection ingrained in us for thousands of years. Namely, voice tells a story. Since the dawn of man, humans have been hard-wired to interact, convey messages, emotions, and concepts, and build community around stories. Developing a unique voice for your organization takes more than putting a nametag on a customer service response. It takes an emphasis on this millennia old practice.
Good content marketing achieves exactly this; leaning on your expertise and providing engaging information that your audience wants. By constructing a narrative of your knowledge and sharing it with individuals, you build a shared perception that establishes a valuable brand image. Furthermore, you do so in an efficient, understandable, and effective manner. Searching for a better method of communication than storytelling would be a fruitless endeavor indeed.
The reason for this more profound impact stems from the involvement of something universal in all of us: emotion. Bullet points, tips, tricks, and instructional videos can help brands seem knowledgeable, but in order to gain the sort of emotional and psychological association you are looking for, you need to dig past hard numbers and slideshows. A good narrative that connects on a human level creates a sort of dynamic partnership that not only helps brand image, but establishes channels for communication that aid both the customer and the organization.
And these are not empty platitudes. Uri Hasson from Princeton has observed that the brains of individuals reading or listening to the same story actually synchronize. Narratives that call upon particular emotions or experiences actually engage the same parts of our brain that would see utilization in those situations in real life. The conclusion is unavoidable: stories are effective, we are hard-wired to consume them, and the emotional impact of stories is greater than facts can achieve.
Time for a Change
In this context, it is time for brands to recognize the power of voice. An infographic by HubSpot documents the fall of social media and marketing tactics from the days of increased engagement to a time of senseless spouting. As stated, customers have noticed this, and it’s time for a change. Gone are the days when yelling “hashtag our company name!” at Twitter followers got any semblance of response, but savvy marketers can harness this change and use their powers for good.
Begin with your social media strategy. Are you throwing promotional materials at the wall or are you using these tools for their intended purpose: engagement? According to the aforementioned infographic, customers expect prompt responses to comments on social media. Use this opportunity to reconnect with your customer base and provide personalized, prompt service.
Leverage your knowledge and re-shape your content. Know your strengths and ask your readers what they want to hear. Use that expertise to give the people what they want. Take advantage of the ubiquity of communication in our modern day and construct a narrative that builds positive brand association through real, tangible value. Know that your customers are not stupid; they expect smart content tailored to their needs. The good news is, you can give it to them.
Brands are no longer monolithic emblems blazing in the city sky. Savvy customers expect brands to be respectful, personal, and intelligent. Your voice, your story, and your human assets can deliver this in spades, to the benefit of your bottom line. These days, brands without voice are little but logos. Do not miss the opportunity to be people: let your voice be heard and become a part of the conversation.