Thursday, 23 October 2014

Pandas and Penguins - What's all the fuss about?

    

  

A couple of our clients have asked whether the industry chat about Google's Panda and Penguin is something that is worth worrying about, so we invited our SEO partner to write a guest blog on the topic.  Here's what Tim Barlow, Managing Director at Attacat has to say about Google's Panda and Penguin. 

Here's the short answer: provided your technical SEO is in order, your content is resonating well with your audience and you've never invested in "link building" you have little to fear.

Algorithm changes
Google constantly tweaks the signals and equations it uses to rank web pages. Panda and Penguin are the nicknames of two of the best known and significant "tweaks".

Both of these algorithm changes were designed to make Google's results more relevant. The aim in part was to reduce the influence of signals that website owners have learned to manipulate (and thereby gain an "unfair advantage").

Panda's focus is poor quality content while Penguin is concerned with poor quality and manipulative links.

Why might you need to worry?
As with any change in the way Google ranks pages there will be winners and losers. Typically with Panda and Penguin , if you lose you lose large proportions of your traffic.

You can think of Penguin or Panda as a line. As long as you remain the right side of it you'll be fine. As soon as you cross it though, your ranks are in danger of falling dramatically. You also need to be aware that the line is constantly moving as Google continually updates its algorithms.

Unlike Google's manual penalties you won't be notified by Google if your site trips the Penguin or Panda filters. If you've got a well established site you'll most likely notice the drop in traffic, however many sites may never know they've been hit – especially if sites are just getting established.

Prevention is of course the best solution and the best tactic is to resist the temptation of low quality, be that with your SEO tactics or your online proposition as a whole.

What defines "poor quality"?
Quality is something defined by the eye of the beholder of course. The eye in this case belongs to Google , who provide a set of guidelines (https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en). As part of the guidelines they provide this yardstick:

A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask "Does this help my users?  Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?".

Many sites hit by Penguin, Panda or any other algorithmic filter have knowingly invested in SEO tactics that fall well short of the above test. The sin may have been committed by the website owner or by a third party supplier but either way it is you, as the website owner, that needs to take responsibility for ensuring that you stay the right side of the line.

Panda and "thin" content
A fad that a number of SEOs followed was the idea that "more pages = more ranks = more traffic". In the extreme this resulted in some website owners making "content" by mashing up, 'spinning' and remixing existing content automatically.
Others sought to target thousands of infrequently searched queries by taking their product databases and then slicing and dicing their offering in many ways to create thousands of pages. For example a travel agent might have created a page for each combination of departure airport and cruise boat . A nationwide online florist might have created a simple page for every UK postcode to target someone searching for "flower delivery EH43" or any other postcode.

Many websites have also created so called 'thin' content relatively innocently by rewording or using other people's content (even with their permission).

Sites that may get ' Panda'd ' in innocence include:
  • eCommerce sites that use manufacturers' product descriptions and add no or little additional content 
  • sites that create many pages for their products/services but neglect to differentiate the pages sufficiently 
  • blogs that use news feeds from third party organisations or simply write about what lots of other more popular sites are writing about 
  • sites that inadvertently create lots of pages as a result of not investing in technical house keeping 
Its very possible that your site has many more "pages" (in Google's eyes) than you realise. This is usually caused by coding errors (including those made when adding content through content management systems) and will often go unnoticed as the impact on normal users is fairly low. Google is pretty good at realising that these are innocent mistakes, but it is highly likely that such mistakes could contribute to tripping up the angry panda. Pre and post site launch SEO checks, and good ongoing SEO house keeping will identify and eliminate such issues before they become problematic.

Penguin and unnatural links
The good news with Penguin (a link-focused filter) is you are unlikely to get hit by it if you adhere to Google's guidelines; I'm yet to see an example of an innocent* site getting hit by Penguin. In each case I have seen, I can see deliberate attempts to manipulate search ranking factors to gain search engine rankings.

*the exception to this is so -called "negative SEO", the practice of deliberately trying to lower a competitor's ranks. Although on the rise, this is still not widespread practice and Google is often able to spot and discount an attack. 99 times out of a 100, a site coming to us suspecting they are a victim of negative SEO only has themselves (or their SEO provider) to blame. Good SEO housekeeping will allow you to identify someone attacking your site before it becomes an issue.

Google's big original innovation was using links from third party sites as a signal for ranking sites. They claimed they were unspammable, a comment they now fully appreciate was very niave!

Google has now made it clear: it wants you to acquire links "naturally" and if you don't, the penguin will likely get you sooner or later.

I interpret "natural links" as links you earn on merit. If the majority of your links come from sites that actually drive you real visitors and real customers, you have nothing to worry about from Penguin.

The general trend of Google
Penguin and Panda are just steps in Google getting better and better at understanding sites. It's clear they want to rank site that user really like and keep coming back to time and again.

This in my opinion at least, is why your SEO strategy should look something like this:
have a defined audience
  • know what problems they go onto search engines to solve 
  • solve one or more of those problems better than your competitors (even if that doesn't directly generate revenue for you) 
  • ensure your paid product or service is at least as good as your competitors 
  • ensure your website is easy to use and persuasive 
  • invest in SEO house keeping 
  • make sure your customers (and prospects) have an amazing experience 
  • provide them with reasons to keep then coming back 
  • work with others targeting the same audience as you (to do things that add yet more value to your (and their) audience  
  • amplify with carefully targeted paid advertising 
Tim Barlow is Managing Director of Attacat, an Edinburgh-based marketing agency for ambitious companies who take search engine traffic seriously. Many fatBuzz customers will know Tim from his presentations at our monthly New Media Breakfasts

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Friday, 3 October 2014

Proving the ROI in social media marketing, and encouraging management buy-in - October New Media Breakfast

    

  


Proving the ROI in social media marketing, and encouraging management buy-in

Date: Friday 31st October 2014
Venue: 29 Member’s Club, Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow
Time: 7:45am for 8:00am

There is little doubt that social media marketing is here to stay; fads simply don’t last 10+ years. Yet, organisations still struggle to justify the cost of social media and marketing personnel are constantly being asked to justify social media marketing spends.

Like many other marketing activities, it is often difficult to measure success, however the October New Media Breakfast will explore how you should approach the subject of return on investment and how to set measurable goals. Many people also struggle to get ‘buy in’ from their superiors and even their colleagues.

We will also look at how you can convince those around you to commit to, and support, your social media marketing plans. We will present actual examples of success stories in various sectors that will help you to convince doubters, and we will look at the potential cost of non-investment in social media marketing.

We will also take a look at how much of your overall marketing budget should be committed to social media marketing and why social media marketing now needs to be part of the overall marketing mix.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND
Anyone who is as yet unconvinced about the ROI of social media marketing, or anyone who has to convince management about the value of social media marketing.

SPEAKER
Gordon White, Managing Director of fatBuzz Ltd will present this breakfast.

HOW TO BOOK
Venue: 29 Member’s Club, Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow
Date: Friday 31st October 2014
Time: 7.45am
Cost: £10 +VAT

BOOK FOR NEW MEDIA BREAKFAST GLASGOW HERE:


No.29 MEMBERS GO FREE 
If you are a 29 Member you can attend the breakfast free of charge. Please email fiona@fatbuzz.com with you membership number and she will add you to the attendance list.


We hope you can make it along to this event. If so, I look forward to seeing you on the day.


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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

iPhone 6 - Turned a corner? Or, are they about to face problems with the bends?

    

  


Some people are saying Apple have turned a corner with the new iPhone 6 and that it's much more in line with current models like the extremely popular Samsung Galaxy.  

They may have turned a corner, but are they about to have some problems with the bends?




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Thursday, 11 September 2014

12 tips to help avoid social media choas

    

  

Following this morning's New Media Breakfast in Edinburgh it was suggested to me a relevant addition to the presentation would be some advice around the ownership of your social media channels.  This is is a great observation and sound advice from Scott Brymer, Brymer Legal.  

We have mentioned this in previous breakfasts, and to be honest, it's a topic that wouldn't really be out of place at any social media presentation.  Unfortunately, time doesn't always allow us to mention all we would like to.  But, we thought this is worth a blog post, especially since Blogging was the topic of this morning's presentation.

Scott rightly points out the potential problems that can arise if you don't give full consideration to who has access to your social media channels.  Here is an example that Scott kindly sent to me.

An individual had the details for online accounts (e.g. google account for analytics and blog) and then left the business as a “bad leaver”. The business owner then submitted a new password request for the Google account, not appreciating that the employee in question had been using the Google account for personal Gmail as well. As we know, everything Google does is linked, but the employer didn’t appreciate this. Cue the employee making hacking claims etc which got quite messy/heated.

It's not an uncommon scenario, we've seen similar things happen in other businesses.

Something else we've seen is the chaos caused when the only employee with access to the social media channel leaves the business.  This becomes especially challenging if the employee has left under a cloud.

There is also the question of ownership of contact lists such as those on an employee's personal LinkedIn Page.  We did discuss this precise point on Social Media Podcast No.55, and the main point made then was the need to plan these things in advance.

This is certainly our advice to all businesses when allowing employees access to social media channels: think ahead and put procedures in place that minimise the risk to your online presence.  Here are 12 tips that will help you avoid disruption and disputes if you find yourself in a similar situation. 
  • Ensure someone senior in the business has access to all platforms.  This would preferably be the business owner, director, or a long serving and trusted employee. 
  • Access needs to be 'Manager' level rather than 'Admin', or 'Editor' level.  The terminology will vary on the platforms, however it should be top level access otherwise you may not be able to take full control in the future.
  • If someone with access is leaving the business under a cloud, revoke their access to all channels before they are informed about their future.  Remember, it only takes seconds to change a password - they could even do it from a mobile device while they are being dismissed!
  • If someone with access resigns, revoke their access immediately.
  • Set out your policy for business contacts acquired in the course of their work whilst employed by you.  The business does have the right to these, even if it's on the employee's personal profile.  However, unless you plan this in advance you have no way of knowing the contacts acquired during the period of their employment.
  • Publish guidelines for the use of social media.  It is extremely difficult to censure someone if you haven't set out what is expected in the first place.
  • Don't assume the traditional Contract of Employment will cover all of the things a disgruntled employee could inflict on you.  There is a tendency to assume the employment contract will prevent disclosure of information, or enable the smooth handover of access details, but this may not always be the case.  Even if it does, actually getting them may prove problematic.
  • If you are using an agency for social media management, keep them fully appraised if an employee with access is being dismissed.  We have had an experience when an employee was dismissed late on a Friday and by the time we were notified on the Monday morning the Twitter account had been deleted.  Social media is 24/7, your agency should respond to something like this no matter when it happens.
  • Make sure there is more than one person with 'Manager' level access on each platform.
  • Even when an employee with access does leave with your blessing, change the passwords, it's as much for their protection as yours.
  • Appreciate the full extent of the access you are allowing.  Eg. James's example where a Gmail account could be for personal use but also attached to business accounts.
  • If in doubt, seek professional legal advice.
I hope these points have been helpful and that you don't find yourself in any of the situations we've mentioned here.  If you follow these tips, you will minimise the risk of disruption in the future.

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Monday, 8 September 2014

The Italian Awards

At fatBuzz we help our clients get the most out of their business by creating great websites that are perfectly suited for their requirements and their target audience, one of our most recent projects, The Italian Awards, is no exception.

The Scottish Italian Awards is an annual event that showcases the fantastic range and quality of Scotland’s Italian owned businesses. The awards recognise a variety of categories including best restaurant, best independent multiple operator and many more.

Last year was a huge success as it was completely sold out with 630 people joining the celebrations at the Hilton, and this year they aim to have 750 guests at the final on the 26th of October.

Voting is open to the general public ensuring that these awards truly reflect the country’s favourite Scottish/Italian owned businesses.

fatBuzz are proud to be the Digital Marketing sponsor for the awards for the second consecutive year because, in the words of Kyle Murdoch (Director of fatBuzz), “Scotland has a rich cultural heritage and a significant ingredient in that history was created by Scottish Italian businesses, it’s important to recognise their achievements and fatBuzz are delighted to be part of that”.

As well as being the digital sponsor of the awards, fatBuzz also developed their website and are assisting with the social media campaign, to ensure that everyone following the awards is kept up to date with all the latest news.

The awards are a great way to recognise Italian businesses for their contributions to Scottish industries and the voting is open to the public, so if you want to help your favourite Italian business then you can vote for them here.

If you want to stay informed with what’s happening with the Italian Awards then ‘Like’ them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Also, if you want to keep up with fatBuzz’s activity, then ‘Like’ us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.

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Social Media Podcast 68 - Facebook reach drops but conversion rate increases dramatically for scenic railroad



Play the podcast here:




In Social Media Podcast 68, Gordon White talks to Meilee Anderson, Marketing Director at Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad in Washington USA. Meilee was kind enough to share the recent success the organisation has enjoyed with Facebook.  Meilee explains that whilst the reach has dropped considerably, the conversion rate has increased massively. With a spend of around $4000 they have seen revenue increase by tens of 1000's of dollars in the past year.

We start the conversation with a chat about the recent Ice Bucket Challenge which swept the internet and raised millions for charity, then we explore some of the activities on Facebook which have resulted in such a noticeable return on the comparatively small investment. Meilee shares details of which posts work best, and how she monitors the activity in order to fully engage with the community on the page. Here are some of the things we discuss:
  • The Ice Bucket Challenge - The hidden positives in the campaign
  • Facebook reach drops but the conversion rate increases
  • Key people of influence - Why it is important to engage with influential people
  • Facebook Insights - That value in studying your insights
  • Facebook engagement - Which type of posts work best
  • Click Baiting - Facebook's recent announcement about tracking the value of links
  • Facebook links - The recent advice issued by Facebook about the best way to share links in status updates
  • Split testing - Change things one at a time
  • Instagram and making full use of the hashtags
  • Twitter - Experiments with Twitter advertising
  • Facebook Ads vs Promoted posts
  • LinkedIn - Why it's more than just a B2B platform
  • Getting board level buy-in for social media expenditure
Visit Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad Website
Visit Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad Facebook page

Play the podcast here:




Some music to finish...
Rosalie by Jarrod Dickenson
We finish the podcast with some music from Jarrod Dickenson, the American singer/songwriter based in New York. Jarrod kindly allowed us to share one of the tracks from his most recent album, The Lonesome Traveler. The track we chose is Rosalie, we hope you enjoy it.

The Lonesome Traveler and Jarrod's other albums are available from his own web site (Visit Jarrod's website), or on iTunes (Click here for The Lonesome Traveler on iTunes)


Like Jarrod Dickenson on Facebook
Visit Jarrod Dickenson's web site
Visit Jarrod Dickenson's YouTube Channel



Would you like a presentation on social media and customer service?
We're offering a range of bespoke or generic presentations on the topic of social media and customer service, if you would like to find out more please go to the following link: Are you prepared to lose control?

Have you listened to the digital copyright podcast?
We continue to see people using images, video content and other files taken from the internet without consideration to potential copyright issues. We would encourage all of our listeners to download Social Media Podcast 50 which clearly outlines what you should and shouldn't do with images sourced online. Find it on iTunes now.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE US TO TALK ABOUT?

If there is a specific topic you would like us to cover in a future podcast please let us know. You can email gordon@fatbuzz.com or send us a message on Twitter @MediaPodcast or, you can post it as a comment on the Social Media Podcast Facebook page.

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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

20 quick fire tips for using images in your social media marketing

    

  

Recently we held our monthly New Media Breakfasts, in 29 Glasgow and Tigerlily Edinburgh to discuss the power of images and how the can be used in your social media marketing strategy. 

Images have always played a huge role in social media, and with the rising user numbers on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, their popularity has increased greatly. 

Because images are so prominent in the way we communicate today, whether it be with family, friends or clients, it's important that you know how to use them properly.  At the end of the recent presentations we offered 20 quickfire tips for using images in your social media marketing, we thought it might be useful to share these on the blog. 

1. Think Square
The branding you're working with may not always suit the square format that most platforms use for profile pictures. It's best to come up with a square version so that it's much easier and clearer to see, especially when used in the small square icon image on many social media platforms. See John Dick & Son's Facebook page

2. Work with animals and children
Posting photos of animals and children always get fantastic engagement, and have a positive effect on people. Here is the first day that Buzz came to the fatBuzz office, just look at the engagement we achieved on this picture!


3. Get up close
When using images on eCommerce sites or platforms promoting your products such as clothing, make sure you have high quality close up shots, so whoever's viewing your product can get a good feel for the quality of the product. See how John Smedley have done this here. You'd be unlikely to pay £120 for a shirt if you weren't sure about the material, but there close up images let you see it up close.

4. Go behind the scenes
People love to see what's going on behind the scenes, because let's face it, everyone's a little nosey! Often, behind the scenes images at an event get more engagement that the official pictures of the event.

5. Be charitable
If you're doing work with charity be sure to document it. Not only are you showing that you're giving back, but you're also raising awareness of the charity. Too see an example of this, have a look at John Dick & Son at Here Come The Girls - Princess Royal Trust for Carers 2011.

6. Office life
Similar to the point we made about going behind the scenes, people love to see what's happening behind the brand. Sharing pictures of what's happening in the office is a way of humanising the organisation.  See what's happening at the fatBuzz office here

7. Road trips
Turn a boring road trip into an engaging adventure. We recently posted a short AudioBoo podcast to iTunes, Facebook and Twitter from the car.  We asked people to guess our destination with the help of a few pictures posted on Instagram and Facebook using the hashtag #RoadTrip.  We managed to engage in online conversation with almost 30 different people - turning a 3 hour journey into something productive by letting people know what we were up to. 

8. Don't underestimate the 'selfie'
Every customer or client can take or share a selfie. In fact, 51% of the UK population have already done it according to a recent survey!  Try to incentivise them to take a selfie that includes your product, premises or event.

9. Utilise the technology
Hashtags are important for driving social media engagement, and are the main method of search on platforms like Intsagram, Twitter and Pinterest. So make sure you are using the correct hashtags so that you can widen your audience.

10. Before and after
Before and after pictures are a fantastic way to promote a service that you offer. Whether it be interior design, personal training or a cosmetic product, people love to the see the before shot and the finished article. Lustre Pure Light have utilised before and after images very well. You can view them here

11. Use the tools of your trade
Spectrum Service Solutions has a fairly large cleaning division and they generate engagement through a fantasy love affair using a Henry Hoover who has been swept off his feet by a Hetty Hoover - explore their Facebook page to see what they've done. 

12. Product comparisons 
If you have multiple products to offer, post a photo of them and ask people to choose which they prefer. Excel Vending use these images very well, and have event used these images for market research. To view them click here.  

13. Cover all bases
Make sure you are uploading your images to as many platforms as possible to get the most coverage. It's not all about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Have you considered YouTube, Vimeo or Animoto? Below is a video of how the The Beardmore Hotel and Conference Centre used their photo album to create a video on Animoto then embed it via Vimeo to their web site. 



14. Make your branding interactive
Utilise your branding to major events happening around the world. We have our logo, known as 'Vince', prepared for all the major events happening like the World Cup, Wimbledon, Valentine's Day, Christmas and so on. You can see what he's been up to on our Facebook page

15. Certificates and awards
Are you successful? Let people know! Share the success of your awards and accreditations, and make sure your audience knows how good you are. 

16. Think Big 
Many people are under the impression that images need to be reduced in size to up load to social media sites. Images of 1600px wide will upload, and view full size, on Facebook. 

17. Your events or those you attend
Share pictures of the events you are holding or are attending. Show people you are active in the industry and are always looking to build your knowledge. 



18. It's about engaging content. 
You're not trying to win the National Geographic's Gold Medal Award for Photography. Don't think that you need the best quality images to post on social media. Many of the images you see on your news feed will have most likely come from a phone - it's about content! 

19. Talk about your clients
Let your audience know what your clients are up to. Share their success stories, birthdays, anniversaries, new mascots. Many companies are afraid to reveal who they work with, but in reality it's pretty much impossible to stop them finding out anyway. So, seize the initiative and show your clients that you're prod to work for them.

Below are some screen shots of images we have used to talk about our clients, usually when we are in their offices, or when we come across their products.



20. Become transparent
Don't be afraid to inject some fun, expose your personality, and deliver transparency. 



We hope this post triggers some inspiration for you and helps you to create some more engagement for your business.  If it does, please tell us about it, we like to know when we've helped to put someone in the picture!

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