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Myspace isn’t dead yet

January 14, 2011 by  

Myspace social media companyThe decline of Myspace is sad but not unexpected and now its parent company, News Corp, is rumored to be wanting to pawn it off on some unsuspecting, deep pocketed company out in cyberspace.

I’ve never been that big of a fan of it and don’t really know anyone using it. It seems like it’s mainly dedicated to kids.

So, News Corp is trying to sell it, but who might be interested?

I can see two companies that could have a legitimate reason for looking at it: Google and Apple.

Google has been eager to get into the social networking business and, thus far, their efforts have been rather pathetic. While buying something like Myspace, a failing social network, might be viewed as idiocy, Google could pick it up cheap and have the opportunity to turn it around.

Apple would make more sense to me. Steve Jobs certainly has the track record of being able to turn around failing companies. Myspace used to be cool, has a younger demographic and was/is known for being a place to discover new music.

It would make a lot of sense for Apple to pick up Myspace as its social media property. I believe Apple could definitely turn it around and bring back the cool factor it once had. It also makes a lot of sense from Apple’s perspective and its most successful products: iTunes, iPods and iPhones, not to mention the iPad.

It’s a great fit for Apple and a perfect opportunity to market its products even further; like they need the help.

The real question is will News Corp be asking too much for the failing social network? Probably. They could unload the problem company or let it fail completely. It’s a shame to let 22 million users go find some other place to be social.

Google seems to have lost its cool factor with the failure of Google Wave and the tepid public response to Google Buzz. I am not so sure that Google could bring back the cool factor Myspace desperately needs. Apple could.

Google Instant not worth your 2 to 5 seconds

September 30, 2010 by  

Google Instant.  You’ve probably heard all about how you’re going to save a load of time with it so you’ll have more time to, oh, I don’t know, use Facebook or Twitter.

Google Instant is now available for Canadians, but only if you have a Google account. So, if you want to check it out, you need to sign up. I’m not sure if that will change or not.

There’s been a barrage of hype surrounding its launch. Is the hype deserved?

Is Google Instant worth a look?

In one word: no. In fact, having a look at Google Instant reminded me that I should always have my Google accounts off when doing searches. I had made sure Google didn’t collect my search history even when I wasn’t logged in, but it seems you don’t have that option now.

I had a look and there was a partial list of my searches for the past month. Hey, nothing sinister, but that doesn’t matter. I don’t want my searches tied to my account in any way.

If you are worried about your privacy, you’re really not going to like Google Instant because right now you’re forced to have a Google account to even use it in Canada.

It seems that  you can pause your search history in your account, but I just don’t trust Google not to collect that information in the background. With the USA PATRIOT Act, all your electronic information is considered fair game to the US government and you won’t ever know.

Google Instant is annoying

Having worked in SEO and in social media for a while now, I’m used to the hype. Oh, I remember when Google Wave came out. Yes, it was going to revolutionize the world. Invites were coveted and if you had one, your other geek friends marvelled at how connected you were. Yawn. If you were in PR and not on Twitter, you were nowhere. Yawn.

Aren’t marketing people annoying sometimes? Unfortunately this kind of hype tends to cause a lot of anxiety for people whose level of Internet knowledge is lagging or non-existent. No worries. If you aren’t on Twitter, didn’t use Wave and don’t like Instant, you’re not going to be relegated to eating with your fingers, using stone clubs and picking nits out of your partner’s hair.

Google Instant will not revolutionize search. It will annoy the hell out of searchers, should they choose to use it, to the point they are going to seek other alternative search engines like Blekko or Bing. My prediction is that Google Instant will be lucky to last as long as Wave, which Google killed.

The only relatively useful part of Instant is the predictive search, which has been around with Google in another form for a while. Where’s the time I’m going to save if I have to scan the results as I type? Every letter could totally change the results. No, I’m going to continue typing my query until it’s done and then look.

Effect on SEO and PPC

To anyone running a website or optimizing them, the key question is “will Google Instant affect my SEO or PPC campaign?”

It seems that the thought that Google Instant would destroy long tail keywords (search queries of three or more words) hasn’t happened; in fact, there have, according to some research, been slight increases in long tail keyword phrases searched with Google Instant. In other words: no effect. Whether or not things continue that way remains to be seen.

Conductor did some good research and, I thought this was interesting, commented that many users find Google Instant distracting and are turning off Google Instant.

In looking at Google’s Instant video one has to wonder if images and videos are going to begin to get more clicks as they’re more easily visible as one types through a query. If you’ve got a bit of expertise, doing more video might not be a bad addition to your SEO campaign.

Google Instant and Adwords PPC

While the effects on organic SEO may be minimal, it may be more important to look at pay per click Adwords campaigns.

There seems to be a bit of a trend in thinking that Google Instant will increase impressions with a resultant decrease in clickthrough rate (CTR). This naturally would lead to a lowering of quality score and an increase in average cost per click.

This is a concern I have had since I heard about Google Instant. There’s another interesting thing I hadn’t considered and that is how people may change how they type a search query. At Practical Ecommerce they suggested that people may begin to add keyword modifiers to the end of the search query such as “shoes brown” instead of “brown shoes” because typing the modifiers first brings up mostly irrelevant searches.

It’s an interesting idea, and while Google says search results will be the same, if searchers begin to enter their queries differently, naturally the search results will be different. The differences in organic search results are often subtle, but they are there when you reorder the same keywords in a search query.

Kind of gets away from Google’s preference for natural language in content.

Conclusion

It’s probably a little too early to tell what is really going to happen with Google Instant. It’s certainly not going to be the death of SEO. If your content isn’t optimized, searchers still are going to have difficulty finding you unless you’re one of the big brands.

My main concern is for pay per click advertising in Google. It very well could increase ad costs for advertisers with no apparent benefit. I will be watching the Adwords campaigns I manage much more closely now.

Ultimately the important question is: are searchers going to like Google Instant and keep using it? If their reaction is anything like mine, I hated it. I have turned it off. I will ensure I either don’t have my Google accounts open or have another browser open to do my searches. As far as I’m concerned, from a personal search perspective, Google Instant is dead to me. My hope is that it will go the way of Google Wave but I’ll keep an eye on it to see where it goes and how it could affect my clients

What do you think? Have you used Google Instant? Like it? Hate it? Concerns? Raves?

Protecting your Facebook privacy

December 10, 2009 by  

Read Facebook's new privacy settings carefully

Read Facebook's new privacy settings carefully

Social media can be a great way to promote yourself online as well as your business but when it comes to privacy, you really need to be careful, especially with Facebook. EAVB_DNWPPTXHUC

Case in point: the new Facebook privacy settings. (Facebook forced to improve its privacy by the Canadian privacy commissioner.)

I’m going out on a limb, but I would say that most people are using Facebook for keeping in touch with friends and family. This post applies mainly to those people.

If you’re using your personal Facebook profile for business or your profile is totally open, this may not apply.

While Facebook is improving its privacy, I was a little surprised to login and see the changes yesterday. It’s good that they’re changing but they are, in my opinion, being rather sneaky. When I logged in, every one of my settings you see in the screen shot was on “old settings” except for one: “posts I create.”

The “posts I create” checkbox was set to “everyone” but for each of those items, I had it set to “friends” except for photos which is on “friends of friends.” If I had just clicked “save settings” without even looking, I would have opened key aspects of my Facebook profile to the world. I consider status updates, photos and videos as key things I don’t want going on Google. It’s none of their business.

Phone numbers, emails and addresses are also key pieces of data that should stay within Facebook, but they didn’t even have the option of opening that up on this screen. That’s good.

facebook-privacy-settingsIf you haven’t logged in to Facebook recently, be very careful when you do. Make sure to read and understand exactly what will be visible to the world.

Where Facebook was being sneaky, underhanded, devious or whatever word you might choose, was the fact that they had tried to slip the “posts I create” by me and try to change it to “everyone.” Why didn’t they keep it on my “old settings”?

It’s the “posts I create” that are of real value to them. This is the steady flow of information they’re trying to monetize by sending it out to the rest of the Internet, notably search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing. I’m not opposed to making a buck, but not off my personal information.

Do you have a personal social media strategy?

On that note, you really should think about your own personal social media strategy. Evaluate all of your social media profiles to ensure that you’re protecting your personal privacy to a level you’re comfortable with.

I think you should have a personal social media strategy whether you’re in business or not. It pays to think about the image you portray online, whether or not you intend to try to leverage your presence online for some benefit now or later.

More and more employers are checking online profiles to see what you say and post. Would you say that what you post online really gives an accurate picture of you? Are there photos and posts you would rather not have a potential employer see? How about parents and other relatives?

Or, maybe right now you don’t care what you post online and in social media. You might want to think about the future and decide if what you’re posting now might come back to bite you in the future. If that is the case, it may be wise to clean things up and consider posting in places that aren’t so subject to public scrutiny.

Keywords meta tag – Use it or lose it?

October 8, 2009 by  

Matt Cutts talks about Google not using the keywords meta tag

Matt Cutts talks about Google not using the keywords meta tag

One of the ongoing controversies in the search engine optimization field is whether or not you should use the keywords meta tag.

Recently word came from Google, apparently confirming that they do not in any way, shape or form, use the keywords meta tag.

Bing recommends the keywords meta tag. While people may write Bing off, it is only going to continue to increase in popularity. It’s certainly got the financial clout of Microsoft behind it. The Bing Webmaster Center team also talks about using the meta keywords tag here.

Yahoo also indicates that using the keywords meta tag is good practice to obtain good rankings. I think it’s safe to infer from this that they use the data in the keywords meta tag, otherwise, why would they say anything about it?

Gone are the days where you only optimize for Google. If you can make a small change in how you do SEO (add the keywords meta tag) and start ranking better in 10 per cent of the search market, why not? You’re building a foundation for the future.

With Yahoo at nearly 20 per cent of the search market, if you don’t use the keyword meta tag, you’re turning your back on almost 30 per cent of the searches out there. Can you really afford to do that? How about your clients?

SEO is a bit of a competitive field and you’re bound to find lots of strong opinions out there about using keywords meta tags. You’re likely to find incendiary blog posts saying that SEOs that the keywords meta tag are idiots and likely the reverse as well.

Let’s get one thing straight: there isn’t an SEO person out there who actually knows what is in the algorithms of the major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. While those same search engines may say they do or do not use a particular metric in their algorithm, there’s no independent method to verify it.

The algorithms of all the search engines have changed over time and hopefully improved. There are also examples of search engines making substantial changes in how they handle things such as nofollows, like Google’s admission recently.

Running a search engine company is extremely competitive and they don’t like to give out any information they don’t have to. Do you really think you absolutely know one way or the other exactly how the search engine algorithms operate? Good luck with that.

SEO isn’t a field like chemistry where there are bedrock scientific principles we can rely on to make decisions. So, we make educated guesses about what is or is not the case. Sometimes you can count on explicit statements by the search engine companies, and sometimes you can’t.

My experience with the keywords meta tag

I’m not going to sit here and take pot shots at one SEO practitioner or the other and say they don’t know what they’re talking about. I think it’s probably better to base our decisions on whether or not to use the keywords meta tag based on evidence.

I actually do use the keywords meta tag and how I use it has changed from the time I started doing SEO until now.

I look at it this way: I don’t know the algorithms the search engines use and, as far as I know, it’s not hurting the search results of my clients.

One argument that could be raised is that by stuffing a keywords meta tag with all your keywords, you’re just giving your competition a leg up and allowing them to take advantage of your hard work. There’s some truth to this.

The best practice, according to my research and talking with other people in the search engine optimization field, is to use 5-7 keyword combinations in the tag. Varying from that isn’t going to hurt you, but that’s more or less ideal.

Listing dozens of keywords in the keywords meta tag will certainly make life easier for your competition. I’m not giving away the company store by telling you that one of the first steps in SEO is to see what your competition is doing. If you’re not doing that, then what are you doing? It’s just good practice in any business.

On the other hand, just because you research your competitors and drop all their keywords into your list doesn’t mean you’re instantly going to rocket to the top of the search results.

I’ve had good success getting my clients ranked well for the keyword phrases that I feel will work best for them. I’ve done it while using the keywords meta tag.

Evidence Google uses the keywords meta tag to determine rank

Just this past summer I had read something that indicated that Google does use the keywords meta tag in its algorithm, but only a small part. It’s one of over 200 factors Google uses apparently. Think I can find that now?

It stuck with me because that runs counter to all I’ve heard. I’m quite sure it was an official source too. I PDF almost every article I read, but I can’t find it now. And I would have bookmarked that. Typical!

I’ve also read anecdotal evidence from others where they’ve just changed the keywords meta tag and have had their rankings in Google shoot up. Of course I can’t independently verify that, but it is interesting.

Use the keywords meta tag or lose it?

I am going to err on the side of using the keywords meta tag. It doesn’t take that much extra work to construct it and unless I hear that Google and the other search engines are actually dropping pages because of it, I’ll continue to use it.

I’ve found explicit statements by Yahoo and Bing that they factor the keywords meta tag into their ranking decisions, so it makes sense to continue using them.

I’m not worried that my clients’ competitors are going to be able to siphon huge amounts of competitive information from the keywords meta tags. There’s not that much there for them. There are other ways of figuring out what the best keywords are and they’re not necessarily going to be the same for everyone, even in the same industry.

I’m also not going to criticize other SEOs for using the keywords meta tag or not. I would like to hear about why you use it or why you don’t. Like I said earlier, this isn’t physics or chemistry. We don’t really know the ‘laws’ that govern SEO in any firm way.

As long as we’ve got competitive search engines, we’re not likely to either. Even if we only had one search engine, they’re not going to tell you how they rank sites because they know there are thousands of people out there who will try to game the system.