The SEO Merry Go Round – You Just Can’t Afford To Get Off

As 2011 steams ahead, so too is Google with their algorithm changes and innovation. In a recent interview Amit Singhal, a Google software engineer, advised Google’s innovation cycle is accelerating and the search giant is just getting started on the next generation of search. And if new releases and plans for 2011 are anything to go by, search marketers are in for a bumpy ride.

This year to date we have already seen the farmer update, as well as Google hinting that soon to follow will be an algorithm change which will lessen the weight assigned to keyword domains.
So what is the implication of some of these changes, and what else is coming?

Google FarmerFarmer Update

The farmer update, which was released in February 2011, targets the many content farms that have sprung up in the past few years. Whilst content is king, Google’s aim is to deliver quality search results and content. On that basis content sites which contain a vast amount of low quality content have seen a dramatic decline in rankings and traffic.

Implication: Despite the effect the farmer update will have on article submission as a key form of link building – it also has several other ramifications. Websites which have created content for the sole basis of ranking could also be in trouble as this algorithm change isn’t just targeting content farms. Sites which contain a sizeable amount of low quality content created for search are also in the firing line and the impact can spread far beyond penalisation of these pages. Google has indicated overall site rankings could be impacted as a result of poor content so it’s time for SEOs to get with the times and produce content which is fit for users not just spiders.

For more details on the Farmer update click here.

Keyword Rich Domains Under Review

In a recent video on YouTube Matt Cutts stated; We have looked at the rankings and weights that we give to keyword domains and some people have complained that we are giving a little too much weight for keywords in domains. So we have been thinking about adjusting that mix a bit and sort of turning the knob down within the algorithm, so that given 2 different domains it wouldn’t necessarily help you as much to have a domain name with a bunch of keywords in it.
Whilst Google is yet to adjust the algorithm there is no doubt that if Matt Cutts is talking about it, there is an algorithm change on its way.

Implication: This will be an interesting space to watch as Google will need to juggle how this impacts sites with keyword rich domains that are legitimate brands (not just created for the basis of ranking). Some experts believe Google may start by targeting hyphenated domains as this is a clear a signal of a spammy domain name.

Google Social Search Updates

Social Search StrategyInnovation and algorithm changes in the field of social search are high on the agenda for 2011. It has been widely publicised that social factors affect rankings and their influence is likely to increase overtime however Google is also pushing the envelope in the area of personalising results through social data. In February Google announced changes to search that will bring that will bring users more relevant, recommended results from their connections.

Implication: It is still very early days in the area of social search and there is no doubt Google has stumbled a few times and will continue to do so as they experiment. Like the impact of the farmer update, social factors will force SEO tactics to be more closely aligned with other online marketing strategies. In particular alignment across content and social media will have a significant impact on SEO outcomes in the months and years ahead.

What else do you think Google has in store in 2011?

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Online & Offline Marketing – The Perfect Couple… For A Break Up

Online and Offline Integration

As organizations are beefing up their digital strategies, one of the most challenging issues they will face it integration. As many marketing teams are divided by specialization delivering 1 consistent message can be difficult – particularly in larger organizations.

The importance of channel integration

Integration of your online and offline marketing is critical to maximize results. People no longer consider where a brand message is sourced. To them, they live their lives both online and offline without separation – it’s all just part of their everyday lives now, interwoven into one cohesive experience.

So if they online and offline activities are aligned and well coordinated effectiveness of each channel can deliver maximum impact.

Online and Offline IntegrationA case study on integration

The recent NAB break up campaign, is one great example of integration across online and offline channels.
Whether you like the campaign or not it does seem to be having the desired effect for the bank by getting consumers to switch. According to NAB, in the three-and-a-half weeks since launch the bank experienced a 20 per cent increase in new transaction account openings; a 50 per cent increase in credit card applications; a 45 per cent increase in home loan refinancing, and a 35 per cent increase in home loan inquiries. And whilst the promotional spend has been significant, campaign effectiveness is being maximized through a well planned and executed combination of online and offline activities.
Let’s take a closer look at how online and offline tactics are being utilized in combination to achieve campaign goals and to deliver a consistent message to the market.

A blended launch approach got tongues wagging

The campaign started on Twitter, carried over to print then involved a number of guerrilla marketing stunts, and subsequent release of online videos all in a matter of the first few days of the campaign. By combining engagement channels with those of reach and frequency for the initial launch, NAB captured the attention of audiences which fuelled conversation and buzz within the first few days. If social was used in isolation I doubt that NAB would have been able to gain momentum as quickly as they had by utilizing the integrated approach.

Maximising offline investment online

NAB has invested a significant amount of spend in offline advertising to reach the masses. The campaign has leveraged an array of media from billboards and outdoor, to TVC, radio and in-store promotion to gets its break up message into the market. Investment like this of course delivers strong brand awareness and hopefully some change in brand perception. However aside from this it also drives many consumers to act and this could occur offline in a branch or online.

As graph 1 suggests, Google trends depicts a significant increase in brand related search since NAB launched its campaign. And the bank is ensuring that the effort and value derived from its offline activity is not experiencing online leakage to other brands. Searches for NAB break up reveal paid search ads, which drive users directly to the branded content on a dedicated landing page. NAB has also added “break up” site links within its more general paid search campaigns to ensure consumers looking for campaign content can find it easily. Whilst this may sound obvious many brands fail to do this and a lot of the hard work and spend can be lost.

TVC & Online Video Combo

Online TVTraditional TVCs, which deliver good entertainment value, thrive in the online environment. As consumers discuss campaigns offline or even in social space users will migrate to platforms like YouTube to see what all of the fuss is about. Last year ANZ showed how additional reach and frequency can be had through leveraging TVC assets in the video space but with this campaign NAB went one better. NAB not only released TVCs on YouTube, they also created 50 break up videos for the campaign.

Combining these 2 mediums would deliver far more reach and frequency than adoption of 1 channel. TVCs with good entertainment value can create a pull effect for users to re-engage with the content online and as NAB has created additional branded content – this provides consumers with other digital assets to view and share with their network. In addition by providing access to TVCs and other video content online, NAB is also able to reach audiences who predominantly spend their time consuming media online.

Aside from the benefits detailed above, NAB has also adopted the same rationale to video based search as it has to text based search. Its unique campaign idea and media strategy has driven many to seek out the branded content on YouTube and to ensure brand leakage does not occur NAB has sponsored video’s on YouTube to appear when “break up” searches are conducted.

Watch: Online and Offline Marketing Integration

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