The true benefits and value of Google authorship

Typewriter B/W....now write the story by geishaboy500

As search continues to advance, the concept of authorship and identity will grow in importance. Many opinion leaders believe that over time websites will begin to be ranked based not just on the keywords they contain and the inbound links they attract but also the people and authors behind the content being produced.

Earlier this year, Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt stated:

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification”.

At the time, some commentators suggested that this statement was proof of ‘AuthorRank’, a situation where Google will give certain pieces of content a rankings boost based on the author of that content.

However, whilst there’s no definitive evidence to suggest that AuthorRank is in effect now, authorship mark-up is in place and may well play a part in any potential AuthorRank developments in the years ahead.

Developing a richer search experience

It’s already becoming clear that Google is using authorship to develop a richer search experience. By associating real people with content, we’re starting to see the end of the ‘faceless web’ and the beginning of more personalised search results based on the social connections and preferences of the user.

Authorship results

Whilst Google+ is Google’s ‘identity platform’, it’s important to stress that other sites including Twitter and Facebook, for example, may also be used to identify content producers within search results. However, for the purpose of this post I’ll be focusing primarily on Google and their efforts to develop an effective authorship programme.

So what are the advantages of authorship?

Authorship provides a number of advantages for both content consumers and producers alike. For content producers, authorship provides a number of unique advantages, including:

Increase Google’s understanding of your online profiles

As search engines have progressed, so have the various ways in which SEOs have attempted to ‘game’ their algorithms. At first it was about keyword stuffing before the manipulation of links became common practice. For years links have been used as a signal of authority – more links = more authority.

However, this isn’t always the case and so Google are attempting to use authorship to help them serve up results based on more trustworthy signals in addition to links, such as +1s, likes, mentions, comments, citations and associations.

Building a genuine profile, with a history and body of work, is very difficult to pretend – it takes time, effort and commitment. So if you take the time to focus on producing quality work, content can be accurately linked to a trustworthy profile resulting in an increase in the accuracy and reliability of search results for users and higher rankings and better click-through rates for the content producers.

Increase click-through rate from search results

By using Google authorship, content producers will allow Google to display their author information in search results and give them an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

The Power of Mental Fortitude authorship search result

Research shows that rich snippets within search results helps improve click-through rate (CTR) and further studies indicate that associating a (good) picture with your Google+ profile can help boost CTR from search results as part of authorship mark-up.

 

For content consumers, effective use of authorship also provides a number of advantages that savvy content producers can benefit from:

Adds credibility, context and meaning to content

I’m a big fan of Mitch Joel’s work. Over a long period of time I’ve read Mitch’s blog posts, articles and book as well as listen to his excellent weekly podcast. I’ve developed a deep admiration for his style, craft and experience and therefore rely on his opinion and insight.

So when I come across a piece of content from Mitch I immediately feel a sense of quality in what I’m consuming based on my knowledge about him. I’m not reading just any old post about thought-leadership. It’s a post about thought-leadership from someone I know has the knowledge, intelligence and professional background to talk confidently about this subject.

Provides a visible reputation behind content creators

Whether you’re logged in to Google or not, search results for certain topics will show an author’s profile picture next to a search listing if the author has chosen to link the published content to their Google+ profile.

For example, if someone were to search for ‘SEO best practices’ they might see the following results:

Search result for 'seo best practices'

Whilst any of these results might be suitable, if the searcher is familiar with my work, for example, through my blog, Smart Insights or from a professional event, they may feel more confident that the content I’ve produced will answer their question rather than the other results (and of course the opposite is true if they don’t trust my opinion – reputation works both ways!).

Logging in to Google personalises search results

Searches are becoming increasingly personalised, especially for those that are logged in to Google. Search results are taking account of sites have been visited most frequently and content that’s been +1ed and favourited.

Authorship is playing an important role for those developing a following on Google+. For example, when I search for a subjects when signed in to Google, results are sometimes personalised and content prioritised based on my social connections on Google+.

Claim your identity!

There a number of great advantages to using Google’s authorship mark-up so make sure you claim your identity and get started.

Focus on becoming a known, credible topic expert of the subjects you’re passionate about and build your online profile and manage your reputation across multiple platforms.

A version of this post was originally published on Smart Insights on 16th October 2013. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure!


How to develop a modern marketing portfolio

The Art of Social Media by mkhmarketing

For many new graduates encountering the job market for the first time, they’re discovering a very harsh and competitive environment. Whilst UK unemployment has been falling recently, the number of long-term jobless has hit a 17-year high illustrating that competition for jobs has never be tougher for both young and experienced professionals.

However, with the explosion of social media and other digital communication channels, it’s sometimes difficult to understand why prospective employees still rely primarily on the trusty 2-page CV to promote themselves. Whilst still a very important tool, the CV often paints a very one-dimensional picture of one’s professional history, skills and achievements.

In contrast, digital channels such as websites, blogs, podcasts and social networks can be used to build up a much deeper, more fluid representation of one’s interests, passions and professional experience. When we look at what these channels can do, it’s hard to imagine how this could be effectively captured within a standard CV.

The Modern Marketing Manifesto

In May this year Econsultancy introduced their Modern Marketing Manifesto. The manifesto aims to outline why Econsultancy believe marketing is increasingly valuable and to define what it is to be a modern marketer. The manifesto doesn’t look at digital and traditional marketing in isolation. Instead, it considers how the two can be fused to reconstitute what modern marketing is today.

The two manifestos successfully sum up where the modern marketing landscape should be heading and offers clues as to where marketers should be focusing their efforts. Using this as a backdrop, it’s possible to begin looking at the tools, tactics and channels modern marketers should be using to demonstrate who they are, what they believe in and the top skills many recruiters are looking for.

What do you want to do?

From the outset, it’s important to be clear about what type of marketer you are and the role you’re looking for. Knowing what you believe in and where your passions lie will allow you to shape and refine the messages you want to communicate and identify the channels that will work best for you.

Website/ blog

Although it’s often easier and less costly to own a free profile on a social network or blogging site, I believe it’s important to create a self-hosted website that allows you to own your very own piece of digital real-estate. You’ll have more control over visibility and user experience as well as design and the way content is presented.

Based on the previous section (‘what do you want to do’), decide how you want to position yourself, your site and what it will be about. It could be a blog or simply a professional landing page/ nameplate site.

Blogging is one of the most effective ways of building authority and thought-leadership and gives anyone the opportunity to publish their work, ideas and designs in a multitude of formats.

Blogging also offers you the opportunity of getting noticed within both search and social. Great blog content can help you rank in search engines for what you specialise in (e.g. ‘digital marketing specialist Manchester’) and original, helpful, unique content is more likely to get shared across social channels, especially Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Guest blogging

If you decide to blog, you may also want to consider blogging for others people’s sites, too. Guest blogging can give enthusiastic bloggers an extra way of getting their message out to often a wider and more diverse audience.

Writing for sites other than your own can add credibility and shows employers or potential clients that you have the skill and flexibility to adapt your writing and thinking to different situations.

Social media

Social media has been a real game-changer for job-seekers and potential employers alike. Never before have people had the opportunity to craft and shape their message with so much freedom and reach such a wide audience at the push of a button.

There are hundreds of social networking platforms to choose from but only so many can be effectively managed at one time. Some social networks are likely to be more useful than others to showcase your professional skills although each will also be dependent on where your interests lie.

LinkedIn

One of the first things many recruiters will do is to check out prospective employees’ profiles on LinkedIn, so at the very least it’s worth making sure you have a detailed, up-to-date record of your work history, skills and achievements.

However, LinkedIn is so much more than a place to store one’s online CV. As a professional social network, LinkedIn gives users the opportunity to update their newsfeed with original and curated stories as well as join and participate in groups around the subjects they’re interested in.

Twitter

Twitter is a brilliant way of connecting with like-minded individuals and thought leaders in any field anywhere in the world.

The real value of Twitter lies in its brevity and the ability it gives users to easily share other people’s content (e.g. through retweets) and start conversations around tweets and hashtags. It’s also another way of demonstrating what you’re interested in by curating content from others you’re following. For example, if your interests lie in social media, regularly sharing and commenting on tweets from experts like Brian Solis, Jeremiah Owyang or Mitch Joel is a great way of demonstrating how you’re keeping up-to-date.

Google+

Although it may not have the appeal of Twitter, the professional reputation of LinkedIn or the sheer popularity of Facebook, Google+ is brilliant ‘information network’, allowing you to keep on top of the top trends in marketing.

Many of the influencers on Google+ are passionate advocates of their areas of marketing and building a profile and engaging with followers on Google+ is brilliant for not only developing your own knowledge by discovering new and interesting content but also for syndicating your own ideas and interests.

SlideShare

While often considered the less glamorous cousin of the ‘big 4’ social networks, SlideShare is super platform for demonstrating your skills and experience in a much more visual format through slides and presentations.

Pinterest/ Instagram/ Flickr

The increase in popularity of photo-sharing sites and apps like Pinterest and Instagram prove that great imagery and photography is an effective way of connecting with others.

Whilst it’s not quite as obvious how photo-sharing can build an online curriculum vitae, I’d argue that the huge popularity of Instagram and Pinterest, as well as the dependable Flickr, are great platforms for showing off your personality, sharing pictures from professional events and if you’re a creative, a brilliant way of demonstrating your ideas and concepts.

Networking

Despite the many benefits of developing and showcasing your skills online, there is still a huge amount of value in networking and meeting people in real life.

Attending conferences and summits is an excellent way of fine-tuning your knowledge whilst meeting fellow professionals in between seminars and keynotes. Getting to know others in your field of interest at conferences and networking events will allow you to make a more personal connection and guide them towards your website and digital profiles where they can discover more about you online.

The CV

Although digital channels offer job-seekers a big opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and reach a wide audience, the humble CV should still not be forgotten. Most recruiters and employers will use CVs as the first stage in the vetting process for new employees so it’s important that your CV is professionally written alongside a compelling cover letter tailored for every role you apply for.

A version of this post was originally published on Smart Insights on 10th September 2013. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure!


What is Google really looking for?

Study in pink by Pascal

Over the last 15 years, webmasters have been attempting to work out how search engines categorise, index and rank sites so that they can create the right strategies to get their websites appearing as high as possible within the organic search results. And with their increasing dominance within the SEO landscape, no other search engine algorithm has been as carefully examined and followed as that of Google’s.

From keywords to links…

At first, success in search was all about keywords. So if you wanted to rank highly for ‘pencils’, you needed to make damned sure that the term ‘pencils’ was everywhere on your website, in both the content and code. Then it was all about links. Links are a sure sign of trust and authority, so if you wanted to rank highly for ‘pencils’ you needed to make damned sure that you received as many inbound links as possible from any old site (and preferably using the term ‘pencils’ within the anchor text).

Enter the Panda – and Penguin!

The goalposts have been constantly moving and within the last couple of years Google have released two major algorithm updates, Panda and Penguin, designed to downgrade sites with poor quality content and webspam (which inlcudes keyword stuffing, link schemes and other unsavoury practices). Suddenly, many sites who had enjoyed prominent positions within Google’s search results found themselves demoted overnight, leading to a sudden drop in visibility and search traffic.

But for all the talk of Penguins and Pandas, one of the overarching questions many webmasters have fail to ask and effectively answer is: what is Google really looking for?

It’s all about quality and relevancy

Whilst it’s important to be aware of the elements that make up Google’s algorithm, it’s equally important to rise above the detail and to understand what their ultimate goal is in relation to search: to present the most relevant results for a given term or phrase to help people find what they need. Google need to get people to their site in order to generate revenue from sponsored search and in order to do that people need to trust Google’s organic results above and beyond all others. 

Content is now the next big thing that websites are scrambling to create to gain favour with Google. But instead of creating content for content’s sake, consider why content is now more important than ever. As with keywords and links, Google is using content to identify the relevancy of a website in relation to a particular topic or theme. So creating a load of poor quality content with a tenuous link to ‘pencils’ won’t necessarily help anyone rank highly for that term.

Google is looking for what humans are looking for – the best, most relevant content for a given term or phrase. The key is therefore not to obsess about the details of Google’s algorithm but to concentrate on understanding your customers and creating the best quality website possible, which is correctly structured, includes a great user experience and has brilliant content that people will want to link to and share.


Building social media into marketing campaigns

Dumb Ways To Die

Whilst social media can add a new dimension to a business’s marketing efforts, large investments in social may not always be possible.

There may therefore be an opportunity to integrate smaller elements of social media marketing into the framework of an existing marketing campaign that has already been approved and underway. ‘Socialising’ a marketing campaign can be an effective way of reaching new audiences and generating conversation around your brand on the back of larger-scale paid media activity.

Why use social media?

One of the first questions to ask at the outset is why social media marketing would be relevant or necessary for the campaign and how it could add value. What could social media achieve that other aspects of the campaign (advertising, PR, experiential) couldn’t?

Some of the advantages of using social media include:

  • Reach out to new audiences who may be more open to engagement on social channels
  • Stand out from the competition by doing something different from everyone else in the industry
  • Grow influence and authority across a range of social channels
  • Benefit from the growing impact of social search by sharing campaign content socially
  • Tap into your own – and external – communities across multiple social networks
  • Generate targeted website traffic from new sources

However, regardless of the benefits social media can offer, remember that social media cannot be used effectively solely as an outbound, push marketing tactic. Be honest up front about whether your business or brand is compatible and/ or ready to embrace social media and its potential. Are you willing to engage in a two-way conversation with customers? Would you be comfortable receiving negative comments and feedback? Do you have the capability to measure social media?

What are you looking to achieve?

Once a decision has been made to integrate social media into an existing marketing campaign, start considering what you’re looking to achieve as a result of this.

As part of the overarching campaign, the main goals and objectives are likely to have already been set so use these as a guide to the type of social media marketing that is likely to be most effective in achieving the campaign’s goals.

In addition to these, also think about any new goals or objectives that social media specifically could achieve. Whilst leads and sales may be a primary objective, social media could also be used to generate engagement and conversation around the brand and build interest and a following/ community that could be nurtured beyond a fixed marketing campaign period.

Who is your target audience?

As with the goals for the campaign, a set of target audiences should have already been established and this will give you a good insight into the type of social activity that might be most suitable to reach your target audience.

It’s important to remember that different social media channels and tactics will work better for different audience groups. For example, whilst Facebook might be an effective tool for hosting a competition mechanic targeting young adults for one type of campaign, LinkedIn or Google+ might be better suited for targeting a broader audience within the professional sector.

Establish a theme for the campaign activity

Sometimes a theme for the overall campaign may have already been established. If it has, then this will give you the basis on which to focus your social media activities. If not, or if it has still to be fully agreed, then a social media angle could influence the overall direction the campaign may take.

Much will depend on the campaign’s goals, objectives and target audiences, however it’s certainly worth considering the degree to which social media could play as part of the campaign and the overall influence it may have.

Social media channels and tactics

Once the target audience, goals, objectives and theme for the campaign have been decided, the next step is to start thinking about the different channels and tactics that could be used for social media.

When brainstorming ideas at this stage, consider the following:

  • What social media channels is the business already using?
  • Are you looking to set up a presence on new social networks/ channels. Or will you look to leverage your existing presence on social networks?
  • Are the social media channels and tactics you’re considering the most suitable for conveying the campaign’s key messages?
  • What is the level of risk and/or innovation you’re prepared to take?
  • How will social media integrate and work with your paid (e.g. advertising) and owned (e.g. website) media?

During the brainstorming process, always consider how social media activity will drive prospects back to your website. While it’s all very well building the number of Likes on your Facebook page or conversations within the Twittersphere, a common question from the business’s leadership team may be ‘so what’?

It’s therefore key to drive visitors from social media through to your website (your ‘homebase’), where you can further control the user experience, track and measure the visits and drive people through to the point of conversion, whether that be an enquiry, sale or some other action.

Create a content plan

Not all content is created equal and when planning content creation for the social media element of the campaign consider what is likely to work best on each of the social channels you’re planning to use.

Each social channel with have their own set of standards and idiosyncrasies and it’s important to acknowledge these. Something that might work really well on Facebook may not be as effective Google+, Twitter or Pinterest.

Whilst formulating the content plan, also consider how social media will work alongside the paid and owned media elements of the campaign.

Case study: Dumb Ways To Die

Dumb Ways To Die’ is a campaign from the public transport authority in Melbourne, Australia, which aims to raise awareness of preventable train-related deaths.

Although the campaign featured prominently in offline media, including newspapers, outdoor advertising and local radio, what really stood out was the use of online media, especially social media via YouTube and the excellent video and song.

The ‘Dumb Ways To Die’ campaign is a great example of how paid (newspaper, outdoor advertising), owned (website, mobile app) and earned (Tumblr, YouTube video, song) media can be used together in an integrated way to engage consumers and spread a key message across a number of different channels.

The campaign also played to the strengths of the media it used. For example, in order to maximise the value of YouTube and the social media element, the campaign producers understood that the video needed to have a ‘hook’ that captured viewers’ attention and got them to click ‘like’ and share the content with their social networks. This viral effect not only increased the earned media attention across social media but also within search.

What to measure

Before the campaign gets underway, it’s important to consider how the success of the social media activity will be tracked and measured. Remember that each social channel and tactic can be measured in different ways.

‘Success’ will mean something different to everybody so think about what is most important for you and your campaign. For example, whilst measuring Facebook likes is good for tracking the engagement people may have with the campaign’s social content, in isolation this metric will not provide a rounded view of the effectiveness of the campaign.

Some of the social media metrics to consider include:

  • Likes, +1s, shares, retweets and comments of content
  • Conversations and mentions around content
  • Reach and virality
  • Click-through rate from social content
  • Traffic through to target (landing) campaign pages within your website
  • Conversion rate – enquiries, leads, sales/revenue as a result of social content

Based on the metrics above, set a target against what you want to achieve and use this as your ‘baseline’ on which to measure performance.

A version of this post was originally published on Smart Insights on 11th July 2013. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure!


The power of mental fortitude

Andy Murray by Nick Webb

It’s been a pretty good time for British sport over the last few days. Following hot on the heels of the British and Irish Lions’ first win in 16 years, Andy Murray finally became the first British male to win Wimbledon in 77 years, something many British sports fans thought might never happen in their lifetime. And with England set to begin their defence of the Ashes against Australia this week, perhaps the glory will continue!

For both the Lions and Andy Murray’s triumphs, it goes without saying that skill, perseverance and countless hours of practice and preparation led to their successes. However, it’s also worth considering not just the physical but the mental and psychological strength top teams and individuals need to have in order to reach the summits of their sports.

Bouncing back from the brink

Andy Murray in particular has shown a strength and determination that has been really quite impressive. Following his four set loss to Roger Federer in last year’s Wimbledon final, the defeat seemed to really hit him hard. Speaking to the crowd during the trophy presentations, he broke down and many watching wondered how he would be able to bounce back after losing yet another grand slam final (up to that point he had already lost three other finals, at the US and Australian Opens).

But Murray recovered from the Wimbledon loss to win both the gold medal at the Olympics and the US Open later that summer and was runner-up in the 2013 Australian Open in January. Although the Wimbledon defeat must have haunted him like no other, he didn’t allow it to knock his confidence and self-belief. Instead, he used the pain to channel his energy in a positive way. It’s remarkable how Andy Murray has recovered and learnt from his failures in order to focus his mind on what really matters: winning grand slams.

Learn from the champions

I don’t believe it’s just sports professionals who use the power of mental fortitude to get where they want to be. Anyone in any field of work can progress by remaining positive and being proactive in everything they do. All of the people I respect the most have taken responsibility for the ups and downs in their lives to become successful at what they do.

Just as Andy Murray has learnt from his failures to reach the top of his game, so too can engineers, scientists, journalists and marketers. We are all bound to fail at some point in our lives but it’s the way in which we respond to the challenges that shape the journey we take afterwards. Whilst we may not all become no. 1 in everything we do, I believe remaining positive, proactive and focused on what we want to achieve (both personally and professionally) will improve our effectiveness and help us to our enjoy our lives.


Focus on ‘big M’ marketing

Letter M (Silver Spring, MD) by takomabibelot

Mitch Joel claims that whenever someone attempts to define what a brand truly is or what branding means, Tom Asacker comes to mind. And after listening to this podcast I can appreciate why.

In addition to branding, I’d suggest that Tom Asacker has a pretty sound view on marketing as a whole, too. One of the points Tom made during the podcast that really resonated with me was his assertion that marketing isn’t about telling people what you have (i.e. through marketing communications) but creating something of real value by tapping into people’s desires.

Why are you in business?

The discussion between Mitch and Tom unearthed a number interesting points on everything from psychology to leadership. Here are some of the highlights:

  • We need ‘thinkers’ in business, people who can help marketers understand how to use the different tools, communication devices and platforms in ways that will add value to what they do with their audience and customers
  • Not enough people question ‘why’ they’re in business. We need to get to the essence of why we do what we do
  • Behaviour is the ‘holy grail’. Whether it’s to get people in the store, visit a website or interact with them on social media, we have to get people to do things in the marketplace
  • Customers were never really ‘loyal’ – they just didn’t have all the options in the past that they do today. If you’re good at bringing your option to life they will investigate, try it and even adopt it
  • People need to intuit value if they’re going to ‘switch’ products – they need a much better experience in order to change

Drive people’s actions through desire

“Businesses create value through marketing and innovation” – Peter Drucker

  • Our beliefs are shaped by our perceptions and how they relate to our personal circumstances
  • A good leader will consider:
  1. 1. Always be working on your own level of belief
  2. 2. Work out how you can transfer belief to others
  • Everything you do and say as a leader sends signal to others
  • It’s desire, not understanding, that drives people’s actions
  • The word ‘persuasion’ has given marketing a bad name. Marketing is about discovering what people already desire and getting them there. It’s not about trying to get people to do things they don’t really want

Focus on big ‘M’ marketing

There are two kinds of marketing:

  1. 1. Big ‘M’ marketing – where you work with insights and customers to understand value
  2. 2. Little ‘m’ marketing - advertising and marketing communications
  • Advertising is a way to bring to light the distinctive value you are bringing to the marketplace. Customers need to intuit value within an ad, otherwise it’s pointless
  • Companies like Facebook, Amazon and Apple have done big ‘M’ marketing – they looked at the marketplace and asked ‘how do we create something that provides more value than anyone else has in this particular category?’ and execute it
  • Marketing isn’t about ‘telling people something, it’s about creating something, the value of the product. The communication comes after the creation