The Importance of Building a Community For Your Brand, Website, Customer Base and General Well Being – #BWCBend Keynote 2

October 14th, 2013

Bend WebCAM logoGoogle is going to be central to this next keynote by Marshall Simmonds, @mdsimmonds — both how they screw with us and help us. Google doesn’t share a lot of data, but last year they did. When we get data from Google, pick it apart and see how we can use it.

“Google says it has found more than 30 trillion unique URLs on the web, crawls 20 billion sites a day and processes 100 billion searches every month.”

Marshall Simmonds

Marshall Simmonds

Their goal is to be like the computer on the Starship Enterprise. Seriously.

A lot of best practices developed in 1997 are alive and well in 2003. It comes down to a project being one piece of a bigger whole – and it’s about building community. Look at blended results. Google continues to change the landscape of search engine results. That has changed since 1997, and it comes down to adapting and finding opportunity. There’s authorship in results, and emerging AuthorRank. There are new potential entry points.

Big Changes By Google

The Knowledge Graph was a game changer. Google showed us that their goal is keep you on the search page, to encourage residual clicks, to build a profile about you, to show additional inventory. You can talk about and read about how to optimize for this, but right now just wait and see what it means and take note of Google’s motivations. He recommends @dr_pete as the predominant expert on the Knowledge Graph.

graph of blended search results

A graph showing the prevalence of blended search results, including video, images,  shopping, and news.

More video is being implemented, more images, shopping results, maps and news — we see other ways in to the results page.

If you run the same query across multiple browsers you’ll see things happening that are hard to deconstruct. They ran a query on the west coast and east coast at the exact same time signed out, on Chrome and Safari. The results were different in the Knowledge Graph. The lesson: what you’re seeing is not what your client is seeing.

He’s rattling off a lot of search features, like Google+, Search Plus Your World, results that are clearly influenced by a user profile that Google has built of each individual user and which influences the results displayed.

Brands are getting more exposure as well. There’s real estate for branded searches. You can strengthen the association by linking to your Google+ page with rel=”publisher”.

Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird — there are lots of changes, but just relax. Sometimes changes may suck and it takes a while to get on top of it. But he has experienced that every change has led to a bigger opportunity down the line once we figure out how to leverage it.

The image carousel is an example of a change that screwed brands. He watched the image search results change instantly, and now there’s an image pop-up that keeps the user on the Google result page. There was an instant drop-off in traffic and this cliff graph below was the first full week after the image carousel was launched.

traffic after Google implements image carousel

Traffic to websites from image searches saw a drastic drop after Google launched the image carousel.

What We’ve Learned at the World’s Most Successful Publishers

1. Religious focus on goals and metrics
1. Tools and process
1. Data-driven content
1. Multiple content types
1. Speed
1. Early adoption

It’d be nice if they could number off these factors, but they’re all equally critical. The lesson is that content is not king. Instead, how willing are you to give something to the community for no return for a long time? Content is largely commoditized. Promotion is what separates the wheat from the chaff.

  • Identify your audience.
  • SEO.
  • Find influencers.
  • Form relationships.
  • Always be helping THEM.

As a content producer, you have some hooks: news, contrarian, attack, resource, humor, and ego. It may sound 101-level, but this conversation — what’s the hook? — happens in every editorial room for every story. The other question is what’s the asset we use to deliver it? Twitter conversations, interviews, an infographic?

Another finding: long-form content still wins in search results. See the new “In-depth articles” results in Google as proof of concept.

Create your own data and infographics. You can use tools/services for a reasonable price to turn your data into a graphic and even get promotion out of it. The goal is building community and audience.

youtube slide

Marshall Simmonds recommends brands not publish their video assets on YouTube. “Only use YouTube for non-revenue generating activity, as <2% of that traffic will ever visit your site.”

For video assets, he encourages businesses not to use YouTube, since it keeps users in that Google wall gardened. Do all the video optimization best practices to leverage your asset on your site.

Keyword research is a key foundational component so you know what to create for your audience. Don’t find yourself moving too far along a path only to swing and miss. While Google has taken away keyword referral data in Google Analytics — (not provided) — you still have resources for keyword research. For instance, Google Trends will tell you hot searches. You can see when to start writing about things. In January people start looking for Oscars (not “Academy Awards,” by the way) and weight loss.

Suggested searches is another place to get ideas for content. These are based on trending searches and popularity. He also names as a resource.

Identify the goal. Sounds cheesy, but it’s a true key part of the editorial process. Build traffic? Increase sales? Build community? SEO? Get his recommended Community Building Guide there (available Oct. 15, 2013).

You should set up your social goals in GA. Do a search for a Google+ plug in for Google Analytics and install it.

Know that it will take a long time before you see success. There’s no master community building tip. You will be going to events. You will be contributing to blog posts. You will be writing for a long time with no audience or response. Nope. None. Nothing.

Use tools to give you data to direct your community building and outreach efforts. Followerwonk shows you influencers on Twitter. Open Site Explorer will show you competitors backlinks and that may unveil opportunity for building relationship.

His favorite way to promote for free may be the hardest. He often tells reporters that if they aren’t getting into Google News, write about the news. If you don’t have news, change the conversation. Change the URL of a blog or PR page to Cover relevant updates to your industry. Apply for Google News. Turned down? Change the convo and apply again. Keep trying until you’re seen as talking about the news relevant to your community.

Google+ is a major influencer in search results. Even if your audience isn’t there, you should probably be there because there are ways to optimize it, and Google+ results show up in search results. To succeed on Google+, find your formula for success, like any other social site. CircleCount will help you see your metrics for your influence on the network.

Google Authorship is shaping results. How many people are following you, sharing your content, the authority of the site you’re publishing on. Together these factors come together for a trust score that Google accounts for in ranking. A author picture next to a result may increase click-through by 30% in his experience. 17% of all search results have author images. For more on this, search for this topic’s expert, AJ Kohn.

If you’re on WordPress, go download the Yoast SEO plugin. It adds Open Graph code on your blog so that images show up when people share on Facebook.

Sitemaps: do them. There’s a substantial increase in search referrals after Sitemap implementation.

Importantly, look at data and research Google is making available to you. At you will see the research library that Google thinks is important.

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