On Friday, October 17th, Google rolled out it’s 3.0 update of the Penguin search algorithm. According to Google, the update will affect approximately 1% of all English language websites. The main component of the update deals with your website’s backlinks.  Yup, as I’ve said time and again, if you are paying some Third World company good money to build back links for you, you have a problem. Time was that some company could charge you and just post links to your site on every blog they find and you’d see a bump in your search engine results page (SERP) ranking. Well, now you will see a change…but for the worse..or your site might even get blackballed. Now, posting a link to your site in a blog posting that’s relevant to your business and can add value to the blog you’re posting in is still rewarded. But some generic comment that includes a link, nope..you’re gonna get nailed.

Do yourself a favor, worry about creating a solid site, properly coded, quick to load and simple to navigate. Stop worrying about back links and by all means, stop paying some company to spam your URL, you’ll pay so much more in the end.

On a personal note, I’m going to start allowing all those lovely links on my blog and lets see how the sites are affected, shall we. http://www.MarcusInteractive.com/wordpress

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For years, website owners have been encouraged in a rather vague way to create social media profiles in order to aid their SEO efforts. Finally, there is a concrete way to use one specific social media platform to impact your web traffic.
As we all know, or should, SEO is the practice of preparing your web presence to bring you the most traffic. Whether it’s to your website, twitter feed, Facebook page, 67% of all search is done through Google. So…what social media platform can most directly impact search results…..yup..Google+.

I know..no one you know uses Google+, no one spends hours reading articles there or playing games, etc. You’re right. Doesn’t matter. Google says it matters. time for the 600lb gorilla to flex it’s muscles.

Bottom line, you need to have a profile for your business on Google+.

Improve your search ranking by creating a Google + page for your business

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Social Media Predictions for 2014   December 9th, 2013

social-media-predictions1So what’s in store for us in 2014?

Here are a few of my predictions.

Facebook will continue to be the dominant social platform

After all the complaining, businesses will continue to leverage Facebook’s huge traffic flow. Soft sell and creativity as well as website and Instagram integration will be more and more critical. Businesses are learning that consumers are not on Facebook to buy anything but a creative, engaging Facebook presence can bring huge results.
Hashtags will become the dominant call to action

Since almost all of the major players in social media are using hashtags to aggregate content, with Facebook adding the functionality in June of 2013, I’m predicting more campaigns based around them rather than individual platforms. As recent as a year ago it was typical for marketers to add their web address and social buttons for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc to most of their advertising collateral. Increasingly it makes more sense to develop a unique hashtag for a campaign or brand conversations and use the tag instead of social connections, scooping up conversations wherever they take place.
Twitter will provide better analytics

If you don’t have an enterprise social media analytics tool it’s difficult to measure the impact of your efforts. That doesn’t mean there is no way to measure social media ROI, it just means it’s been a convoluted process. With Twitter going public in 2013, it makes sense for them to offer a tool for marketers to prove ROI, even for those not using their advertising platform. I also believe that 2014 will be a fallout year for all those businesses who have created a Twitter presence, only to let it languish.

Pinterest Place Pins bring even more attention to location data

With Pinterest’s addition of place pins with Foursquare mapping, I’m predicting more brands will claim their Foursquare page and keep the data updated. Even though Foursquare had been predicted to fail in 2013, instead its location data has been popping in applications like Instagram and Pinterest. Rather than fail, I’m predicting platforms will begin integrating Foursquare’s location data and the ability to push notifications to users based on their location. “How was your visit to Fairport?” Foursquare asked me immediately after I returned to Ohio from a trip to New York recently. That’s powerful stuff.

Social Media and Content Marketing budgets increase

Just as it used to be a luxury to have a website (think early to mid nineties) social media and content marketing budgets will continue to increase in 2014. Putting paid resources behind content will be a necessity as companies realize the value of managing their online reputations and providing useful content to users that have been trained to expect it. Consumers now do most of their purchasing research on their own BEFORE contacting sales. Saavy companies will provide that information at the top of the funnel if they want to stay competitive. Google’s continual changes to its algorithm to focus on useful content from a trusted author and its elimination of keyword data in Google analytics will steer marketers toward creating content that is helpful and useful.

What do you predict is in store for us in 2014? Leave me your thoughts in the comments.

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Facebook for businessesFacebook just changed it’s newsfeed and sharing formats and savvy companies are looking for ways they can maximize their exposure. Here’s a few hints in how to thrive with the new newsfeed:

1. Post More Visual Content.

Facebook’s new look is flooded with enhanced images of every variety — an entire feed can be viewed solely comprised of these vivid images! Just one month after the introduction of Facebook timeline for brands, visual content saw a 65% increase in engagement. This metric is bound to increase even further with the upcoming Rich Photos emphasis.

Prepare for the rollout of these updates by creating visually compelling content. If you’ve been previously posting text-based statuses and links, think about how you can convert those ideas into visuals. For instance, here’s an example of how we took simple text and converted the words into an appealing Facebook visual.

2. Keep your copy short.

With the spotlight on photos, Facebook has also changed the way captions will display. While previously captions were scripted underneath the uploaded photo, captions will now overlay images in the News Feed.

This means that photos will be the primary way by which people engage with your visual posts, so any copy you craft should be brief and succinct. It has to provide all the key information the user needs to understand the image and its value, and take action.

3. Focus more on your evangelists.

With the new Facebook News Feed, users will be able to look at content posted only from their friends. That means that even if someone likes and follows your business page, they may never see your posts because they filtered them out by looking at the content posted only from their friends.

Your solution to this is to focus more on your evangelists and customers. Your evangelists are the lovers of your brand — the people who find you remarkable, and share your updates with their own Facebook friends. Whether they’re customers, or just pure fans of what you do, these people will be instrumental in your success on Facebook.

Facebook can be the spearhead to your company’s digital marketing campaign. Spend the time and focus necessary to take advantage of changes and you’ll see the change in your bottom line.

For help with social media marketing or on-site search engine optimization, contact Brad Marcus at Marcus Interactive at 347.687.0518

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Social media is being used by companies large and small to connect to existing and new customers and increase business. The problem is that many companies don’t understand social media and how the game plan has changed from marketing of 10 or 15 years ago. First of all, building a presence isn’t enough.  You need to work it. Posting once a month won’t do a thing. I came across a pizza place in Connecticut that put the Facebook logo on their boxes and encouraged customer to connect with them on it. The problem was that they hadn’t posted anything new in 8 months. The kid who volunteered to post left for college and the owner of the store “doesn’t know about this stuff”.

LESSON #1: Don’t offload the social media to a part-time high school kid. Educate yourself and if you are going to get into social media, GET INTO SOCIAL MEDIA!

Another company I know of uses Facebook extensively and when they offered “Promoted Posts”, they tried it and did not get the results they desired. They got a tremendous amount more views at the post, but interactions were flat. When I looked at what they promoted, it was clear why. It was a lunch special they were offering. Social media users do not want to be sold. Engage them. Inform them. Make them laugh. That is how you work social media. Never ask for the sale more than once a week.

LESSON #2: Old style hard sell is dead in social media. Engage your customer. Inform your customer. Make them come to you because they want to and then show them the offers.

You read all the time about companies using social media and figure you want to make more money, you shold be where you hear. So you open accounts on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, StumbleUpon and Tumblr. You don’t do any research. But you HAVE to be on all those networks. Right? Of course not! Do you really have enough to say to have a Twitter presence? Do you know where your one tweet a day is going? Nowhere. It’s lost in the cacophony. Use Twitter if you are a celeb trying to stay relevent or a company that has enough to say to tweet 10-15 times a day. You can tweet specials, Amazon and JetBlue are amazing for doing this. Keep it short, keep it to a point and dont be afraid toask for re-tweets.

Lesson #3: Know what the social networks are and what is relevant to your business

Lastly, and yes, this is a bit self-serving, get some professional help. If you have someone in your organization that can do the posting, wonderful. Just don’t make it the intern or high school part timer who doesn’t have the worldly smarts yet. This is your face to the world, act like it. Get professional help. Get it for yourself and anyone else you trust to handle this critical part of your marketing. YOU need to know where you should be, how often you need to be there and who is going to be the customer you find there.

Social media has changed the way consumers interact with businesses. It has changed the way we buy, suggest and recommend. Businesses need to understand the change and move with it or get left behind.

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SEO Tips   December 10th, 2012

I’m asked quite often questions about what increases a website’s ranking in Google‘s (and to a lesser degree, Bing‘s) search engine results pages. Below are some of the more frequently asked questions and my answers/suggestions.

  • Is there a limit to the meta keywords character count for SEO?
    This is one SEO experts continue to argue about. Does the KEYWORD Meta tag matter at all? My answer is YES! It matters, as long as every word contained in the meta tag can be found on the page, is visible and is relevant to the page. You can’t automate this one and you can’t short-cut it. Independat testing has proved it out.
  • Do domain extensions like .com vs. .org vs. biz matter for SEO?
    Google clearly prefers .com, .net and .org to any of the other domain extensions.
  • Does the header tag family (h1, h2) matter for SEO, or not?
    Yes, most definitely. Google uses the h1/h2/h3 to define your page’s hierarchy. H1’s carry more weight than h2, but only 1 H1 is allowed per page, where multiple h2 or h3 is allowed.
  • Do capital letters (capitalization) matter on a Google Search for SEO?
    No, they don’t. What matters are the order of words, the keywords chosen, ie. synonyms and pluralization, but capitalization does not matter to the search engines. Remember though, if the words are visible and not just in a meta tag, then you want them to be readable to the human eye and then, proper capitalization and punctuation matter. Coding your site for a human is the most important thing.

Well, that’s all the tips for now. I hope it helped. Please read through the rest of my blog postings for more real-world ideas for your website as well as some other interesting pieces.

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Penguins and Pandas…oh my!   July 5th, 2012

If you have a business, you have to have a website. No matter the business, people will be looking online for your product or service and you have to be found.  A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group found that 97% of Americans search the web for local goods and services on either their computer or mobile device. Think about your own behavior. How often to you look something up online? A movie…what’s playing where and when? What’s there to eat nearby. Do you go into a store, look at something and then search online to see if it’s cheaper elsewhere? So, you need to have a web presence to make it in business in the beginning of the 21st century.

Now, those with a website, you see articles that grab your attention about Google changing this and that. You HAVE to pay attention. Google controls 65% of the search market. 15 billion searches are executed every month, so you don’t have to be a mathematician to know that you need to be near the top of Google’s rankings. And you’ve read about the Panda update which caused a huge fuss some months back and now a Penquin update and you’re starting to wonder why the menagerie and what’s it all mean to you. For the most part, it means nothing. Google tweaks it’s algorithms and each time they do a portion of the world gets hysterical and some websites drop off searches and others rocket up and the point of the whole thing is rather unique in the business world. It’s not about money or power or who’s biggest. It’s about quality. Providing quality to the person doing a search. I know…hard concept to wrap your head around. See, in search, the little guy can actually compete with the big boys. Open another tab and do a search for some produc tor service. Go ahead, we’ll all wait for you……ok, smartie, stop with the porn, just something usual, like a hammer. Did you stop and change your search to a HAMMER? Good, becuase that is a great example of Google’s search power.

Searching for a hammer is a great example of Google's updates at work

As you can see, a generic search for the term “HAMMER” shows you some great results. Near the top, as it is with almost every search you can do, especially single term searches, is Wikipedia. They adhere to the best of Google’s requirements for a quality website offering free information without trying to sell you anything. Hard sell is dead. Soft sell lives and breathes and is the basis for Google’s search philosophy.  I doubt Hammer Nutrition cares if they are found in this search, it’s irrelevent to their products. But should the search criteria be “sports drinks” or “Energy Gels”, they want to be right on top.

The bottom line is, stop worrying about the Penguins, Pandas, Lions, Tigers and Bears. Worry about creating a quality website with solid material that’s updated frequently. Have lots of relevant images and video clips embedded in the site and do your keyword research monthly to ensure you incorporate what the masses are searching for, not just what you think they should be.

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The Only Constant is Change   March 27th, 2012

Every month or so, the media is filled with apocalyptical articles documenting Google’s latest change in their algorythms. If your website doesn’t immediately alter everything the Earth will implode for your business. Of course, if you are working with a good SEO specialist, they have already prepared your website for what is to come. So many businesses chase page 1 on Google’s search results that they lose sight of who they should really be designing their site for, the visitor. The most important person out there is that one that finds your site, by whatever means. To give them a clear, concise, easily navigatable website is the holy grail. One which Google’s search spiders are looking for. So stop worrying about every little change Google makes and look at the big picture. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts in targeted traffic.

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Normally I use this space to talk about Website Marketing and how to grow your business using the latest tools and know-how. But I am also a movie lover at heart and what I’m seeing on what should be the biggest night celebrating American film drives me to write.

What can be done to make the Oscar relevant again? A question wrestled every year by the motion picture academy is how to make a 3 hour event be the most talked about thing on Monday morning, drive millions upon millions of people to the TV for the night and make that translate into an increase of hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. The problem with the yearly solutions is that each one is an attempt at a band-aid fix. Yes, having Billy Crystal return for another hosting gig is very nice, but it’s a solution for 2012, not 2013, 2014, or 2015. The problem is that the Academy is and always has been completely out of tune with the American public. How else do you explain 1983’s Gandhi winning over ET or Slumdog Millionaire over the not even nominated Dark Knight.

Now, a lot is made over the fact that the average Oscar voter is a white male, 57 years old. In most polling figures I’ve seen, American aged 50 and over go to the movies more often than any other age group. I know, you always thought teenagers went the most times to the movies and in the summer, that’s true. Teens will go to the same movie over and over, so they spend more per capita than any other film goer. Hollywood sinks a ton of money into summer blockbuster films, films that most 50-somethings don’t care about, nor do most Academy voters, which brings us back to the main question of how to make the show, and the industry in general, more relevant.

Americans today are watching more movies in more ways than ever before. We, as a nation, are also more integrated with each other, more intimate since the emergence of social media platforms, especially Facebook, Netflix and Twitter. Wait, you say, Netflix is not a social media platform; it’s a movie streaming service. Well, you’re partly right. Very soon, constraints will be removed so that Netflix will be integrating with Facebook and all those movies you stream and comment on and rate will be shared with your Facebook friends. A word of mouth explosion is about to happen and Hollywood is not prepared in the least for it.

For the Oscars to become relevant in the 21st century, the motion picture academy must shrug off its antiquated, 20th century thinking. More people watch movies in their homes than in theaters. Box office as a percentage of the overall movie business continues to drop. It’s been less than 50% of total movie revenue since 1988. The summer movie season used to begin on Memorial Day and last through Labor Day. The first “summer blockbuster”, Jaws, opened in late June. Today, the summer season starts the first Friday in May. This year we get “The Avengers”, probably the biggest, most expensive movie of the year. The marketing, the merchandising are already in full gear with Avengers-themed Easter baskets on shelves at Target already. Why, I ask rhetorically, was there no new Avengers trailer shown on the Oscar broadcast? Oh, a new one is ready and I’ve seen ads that it will appear on ITunes on February 29th. But why, when most people who really care about movies are watching, does Paramount decide not to premiere its tentpole movie trailer? I’ll tell you why. It’s because the target audience for The Avengers, teens 12-19 are not watching the show. With an 8:30pm East Coast start on a school night, with the Best Picture award handed out at midnight, with a show geared towards an average viewer of 57 years old, kids don’t care.

OK, enough bitching. Here are my bullet points for Hollywood.

1. Open the nomination to balloting by moviegoers in the theater and on smartphones. Movie-goer votes count as 25% of an academy vote, so it’s not a mere popularity contest. One vote per device.
2. Voting for the actual awards also influenced by popular vote. In theater ballots as well as smartphone apps. One vote per person. Votes accrue importance over a 5 year period. 10% the first year, up to 25% of an academy member vote.
3. Block out time for each studio to premier new trailers. One trailer for each commercial break plus a compilation for 10 minutes at the very end of the show of the top 10 anticipated films according to IMDB’s ratings.
4. Hold special screenings at the major theater chains of all nominated films at least a few weeks before the show. The trouble with this year’s show was that the clear favorite and eventual winner wasn’t playing in many towns across the country.
5. Stop trying to be hip. Billy Crystal throwing out iPad references was sad. Go with the rule “If you have to try to be hip, you’re not” Hosts are less important than the overall celebration of the movies.
6. Give one lifetime achievement awards during the show and if no one is really worthy, then do a tribute to someone who is dead. You can always find a film or actor or director who is 100 years old or 50 or 75. This year is the 100th anniversary of MGM, great way to spend 8 minutes.
7. Relegate the short subject awards to the same show as the technical awards. Truly, no one cares. Same thing with Sound editing. No one understands it.

The Oscars should be both a celebration of the prior year in film as well as the medium in general. It should show what we all want to see, a healthy and exciting preview of coming attractions while reminding us of those carefree days spend in a darkened palace sharing a communal laugh, scream or cry with 500 strangers. Movies are magic which entwines our lives. The Academy Awards and the show should reflect that. THAT is how you fix the Oscars. Hollywood, call me.

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Mobile Website Browsing   August 9th, 2011

Browing the web with the IPad is quickly gaining share
According to recent statistics, 8% of website browsers in the US are doing so on their mobile device, be it a phone or IPad. IPad alone is accounting for just over 1% of all browing and that is growing quickly, as you can see from the graphic above. What does that mean for you and your business?

A website is not going to look the same on a Blackberry or IPhone as it does on your home monitor. You need to have your site designed to accommodate the different places where your users may look for you. One key element you need to avoid is the sideways scroll. Scrolling down is one thing, but have you ever come across a site where you have to scroll both ways on your mobile device in order to see everything or even to navigate the site? It’s a pain in the *** and will lose you visitors and business.

There are several ways to address this, from a dedicated mobile site to some simple code to reformat your existing website. Which way you go is based on your budget, your company’s technical capabilities and your target audience. The best way to go is having 3 dedicated sites. The most robust one for your PC and laptop visitors, a more stripped down tablet (IPad) version and finally a phone version. Your phone versions should be heavy on text and very light on big graphics. Load time is critical, most people will leave if it takes your site more than 2 seconds to load. Yup, 2 seconds. That’s where our society has gotten in terms of patience and you need to react to that. People browsing mobilly are on the move and time is one of the most important things. Don’t be fancy. Get to the point and get to it quickly. Have a very clear navigation structure.

A tablet site should be stripped of any extraneous images and animations, remember, IPad does not support Flash, so those pretty animations you paid a fortune for are not going to run and will make your site look horrid. Again, no scrolling back and forth and try to keep all your important information “above the fold”, up front without need of a scroll down.

While I’m at it, if your site has a fancy animation on it’s home page that you have to either watch or click through to get to your first information page, you are going to seriously allienate users who can’t run it. An example of this is from the website of one of my favorite restaurants, Serendipity 3 in New York. I was running around the city the other day and wanted to call ahead so my daughter wouldn’t have as long a wait. I pulled the website up on my BlackBerry and ……nothing. The home page animation would not run, so all I got was a blank page. Some businesses can withstand this, most can’t (We still went and waited an hour for a table, but had an terrific dinner and humungous sundae for dessert).

The bottom line is that surfing the web on devices other than PC’s or laptops is gaining traction and you need to be sure your website can adjust to these changes without losing business.

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