Article Archive by Emily MacNair


August 14 2009

Google’s Caffeine Update

by Emily MacNair

Google recently announced that they have been working on a behind-the-scenes update called “Caffeine”. It’s not a complete overhaul like MSN implemented at the beginning of June with their new search engine, Bing. In fact, Google has stated that the user interface will not be changing with this update and that the ranking of sponsored listings will also not be affected. Anyone familiar with search engine optimization (SEO) knows that the algorithms are updated regularly; however, an update of this size hasn’t been made since 2006.

So what’s the difference?

The goal of Caffeine, which until recently was under wraps, is to construct a new architecture for Google’s search. This includes increasing the index size, speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness, along with other factors.  As with any update to search engines’ algorithms, this does not seem like a big deal from a searcher’s perspective, but these changes are made to improve their overall searching experience.  It may also have an impact on someone focusing on SEO more than the average searcher.  For instance, your site may not rank quite as well for some keywords, and for others your site may not be affected at all.  Also, if more pages are indexed, this could lead to increased competition.
Caffeine is still in the works, so it’s hard to say how the final update will roll out. Google has set up a web developer preview for searchers and webmasters to test and provide feedback based on the results:  http://www2.sandbox.google.com/.    When you search for something on the preview site, at the bottom of the page, you’ll see a link that says “Dissatisfied? Help us improve” where you can provide a comment.  Be sure to include the word “Caffeine” somewhere within your comment.

June 30 2009

Understanding Twitter

by Emily MacNair

Twitter is without a doubt one of the fastest growing social networking channels on the Internet today.  Nielsen reported that Twitter had a massive 1,382 percent growth rate from February 2008 to February 2009.

As people are jumping on Twitter to join the conversations, many are not only faced with the challenge of answering the question, “What are you doing?” in 140 characters or less, but they are often overwhelmed by the terminology that is unique to Twitter.  To help ease some confusion, here’s a list of some of the most commonly used terms and communication shortcuts on Twitter:

Tweet
Starting with the basics, a tweet is a 140-character message or update sent via Twitter. Tweets can be sent by various means including your mobile phone, the Internet, or third party applications. Tweets are public and can be viewed by any Twitter user, with the exception of Direct Messages and Protected Tweets, both of which are mentioned below.

RT @username
Also known as “retweets”, RT @username is a way to re-send a tweet. Through retweets, you are able to send someone else’s message to other Twitterers who are following you.  Retweets are very similar to forwarding emails and out of courtesy, it’s best to credit the original creator with the @username.

@username
These can be used to reply to a tweet, mention another user, or direct a tweet to someone. When replying to a tweet, the @username typically appears at the beginning of the tweet and when using the @username in the middle or near the end of the tweet, it’s often used to mention or direct the tweet to another user. It’s important to note that these replies can be viewed by anyone on Twitter and the @username is a way for others to know who you are “talking” to. 

Direct Messages
Direct Messages are tweets that are sent to a specific user and are not viewable on the public timeline. They are similar to Messages on Facebook, for those who are more familiar with that social networking channel.

Favorites
Favorites are essentially bookmarked tweets.  They are a way for you to share your favorite tweets with Twitterers. In addition to the short bio that you can provide about yourself, favorites enable you to showcase the type of information that is most interesting to you.

#hashtags
#hashtags (where the topic or keyword is used in place of the word “hashtag”) are used to group tweets by topic or keyword. To have your tweets grouped with others about the same topic, include the #hashtag in your tweets.   For a look at the most popular hastags, visit http://hashtags.org/.

Now that you know the basics, you’re ready to jump in and start tweeting!

Posted in: Social Media

June 8 2009

Blogging for Social Media

by Emily MacNair

A few months ago I touched on why blogging can be good for SEO.  Today I want to offer a few tips on the social media aspect of blogging.  One of the biggest pitfalls that we see related to blogging is that many blogs are not maintained regularly.  Typically the first few months that a blog is up and running are great, but then the posts start to reduce in frequency, sometimes only to once a month or less. This not only prevents you from making use of the blog to supplement your SEO efforts, but it can also cause your website to look out of date.  Additionally, if your blog is pulled into your social media channels or pages, those too can end up looking poorly maintained. So with that said, I want to offer a few blog post ideas that can help you to formulate future blog posts ideas. 
Identify a need of your audience. Are there common questions that are asked by your customers?  If so, try compiling the most frequently asked questions into one blog post.

What is going on in your industry right now?  Finding something topical to write about will afford you the opportunity to have your blog post position in the search results for those popular search terms. Google Trends or a Google Blog search may help you identify what is being talked about. You can then comment on those topics from your own perspective.

Provide “How-To” posts. These are a great way to offer easy instructions that help your readers.  If you have complicated/technical products, this may be especially beneficial.

Make recommendations.  The best way to engage your audience is to offer value, and the only way to offer value is to provide something that is useful to your readers. Making recommendations about other companies, products or services that compliment what you have to offer is just one way to do this.

Has a popular book recently been written by someone within your industry? Showcase an interview with the author on your blog or do a review of the book within a blog post.

Lastly, create an editorial calendar. Formulate the topics that you want to write about and spread them out over time accordingly.  This will make posting less stressful and will enable you focus on offering valuable content to your readers.

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