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Social Media vs Search Engines for Blog Traffic: Who Wins in Content Marketing?


I have posted previously about an ongoing MBA class on content marketing called Marketing with Social Media that I am teaching at a university in Silicon Valley. We just wrapped up our 7th of 11 weeks. And I have some numbers regarding the social media versus search engine debate.

All 73 students started their websites out from zero. No domain. No hosting. No idea of the difference between tagline and ‘tag, you’re it’. No nothing.

Some of them have been posting very faithfully, using specifically the SEO guidelines I gave them for each post. Well, sorta kinda. As much as people, especially students, follow rules in general that is. We also have a great back linking strategy. And and and …

Question: What performs better? Sending people to sites via your social networks or just writing good stuff and letting the search engines do their thing?

Answer: The course is 45 days old. I took three screen shots from Google Analytics. The reader can compare Facebook referrals to Google organic traffic. (I know. I know. There are other social networks. There are also other search engines.)

Compare the following three 15-day time periods.

Feb 17 – Mar 3


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The students worked their Facebook networks and in the end social network traffic outperformed organic search. It makes sense. The sites were still finding their feet and search was still finding them.

Mar 4 – Mar 18

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Facebook referrals remained constant, but search results more than doubled as well as outperformed social networking.

Mar 19 – Apr 2

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Facebook referrals dropped a little but organic search continued to increase – another 13%.

At the risk of overwhelming you screenshots and numbers take a look:

Facebook traffic dropped 33% from 617 visits the last week of Mar/Apr compared to 415 the last week of Feb/Mar.

Organic traffic increased 58% from 697 visits the last week of Mar/Apr to 1100 the last week of Feb/Mar.

One more thing – organic traffic grew by itself. That is my students wrote something and turned off their computers, while with social networking, traffic requires the student to write something and do something else, login elsewhere and promote, interact, build, smooze.

I may be wrong, but after a time, the promotion of content elsewhere = on social networks, gets cumbersome, tiresome, and loses its effectiveness. However, with search traffic, as long as the content is meaningful, follows the rules of good SEO, will continue to grow.

Who wins in the social media vs search engine debate when it comes to content marketing?

Blogs win.

Unless, that is, you have a different experience that you would like to share in a comment below.

Google and The Borg Have More in Common than You’d Think, At Least on YouTube


You will join Google+. Resistance is futile. At least, if Google has anything to say about it.

Google is currently testing out a new “like” button for YouTube so users will be forced to join Google+ if they want to give videos a thumbs up rating. If you aren’t logged in, you can still watch videos, but you can’t rate them. Not everyone is seeing this button change yet (for example, I still have the old like button), but more and more people are starting to notice this change.

If you haven’t seen it already, celebrity blogger and Star Trek alum Wil Wheaton recently posted a pretty strongly-worded message to Google on Tumblr after becoming aware of the new button:

Oh, go f*** yourself, Google. This is just as bad as companies forcing me to “like” something on Facebook before I can view whatever it is they want me to “like.”

Just let me thumbs up something, without forcing me to “upgrade” to G+, you d***heads.

He elaborated upon that rant in a longer post on his blog, saying,

By crippling functionality on sites Google owns (like YouTube) and forcing users to “upgrade” to a service that they may not want or need to get that functionality back, Google is making a huge and annoying mistake.

Amen to that. Google+ is not dead, but I’m guessing the company has been disappointed with this network so far. Based on the hype when it initially launched, I think they expected it to take over Facebook and perhaps even Twitter. While Google+ isn’t a failure (yet), it also hasn’t really done those things. Super intelligent, long conversations possible on Google+, but the general public is still sticking with Facebook for now, at least for the most part. Does that mean Google+ can never succeed? No. But at the moment, they’re fighting a losing battle and making poor decisions.

Google is  like a cornered animal. Instead of being smart and coming up with a good get away plan, they’re just peeing all over in fear and charging at your face snarling, both of which are not good options.

The Google+ button on YouTube is an attempt to force people to use their network if they want to continue using a service they love (YouTube). But forcing people on the internet to do anything typically doesn’t work out very well.

Beyond that, Google isn’t seeing the big picture. Will some people break down and join Google+ if it’s necessary for YouTube liks? Maybe. But they aren’t going to use the platform in most cases. They’re just doing it because they have a gun to their back. They’re joining so YouTube is still functional. And those who don’t join Google+? They’re simply going to stop liking videos. That’s bad news for content creators, and what’s bad for the people putting videos online is bad for YouTube in general. Fewer likes = less funding for content creators = fewer videos = less traffic.

Assimilation by force never goes very well. On the other hand, if you create ingenious products and tools with the consumer in mind, people will be begging to join your ranks. Look at Pinterest. Millions upon millions of users have joined over the past few months and not one of them has been forced.

I think Neil Gaiman said it best in his reply to Wil’s post:

I wish Google would leave the Social Network thing to others. When Google does what it does, and does it well, it changes the world. When it rides bandwagons, it’s irritating.

Google has amazing abilities. Why do they have to take over every part of the Internet? Why be a jack of all trades when you already are the master of one?

I sincerely hope that Google rethinks this Google+ YouTube button. They can still put such a button there – just give us a way to like without connecting as well. I think that’s a fair compromise. But even better would be to simply leave the like button as it is currently. I’m on board with changes when they’re good, but this one just plain stinks.

What do you think of the new Google+ button on YouTube? If Google makes this change permanent, will you sign up for/log into Google+ so you can use it? Or will you just avoid rating videos from now on?

Original image (sans text) via thms.nl at Flickr’s Creative Commons.

Make Search Engines Work for a ‘Real’ You


Ever since the dawn of the Internet, online pioneers have been trying to move as many aspects of human physical life as possible to the digital world. It started with online directories, but it got really serious with the rapid expansion of search-engine technology, rise of the giants such as Yahoo and Google, and recent social media developments.

Ultimately, it evolved to a sort of “digital renaissance” where web technologies are human-centered, allowing us to manage the online identity by ourselves.

Despite the ongoing “online humanism” and the fact that the Big Brothers of the Internet have given us free reins, the things often go wrong. Google results for a person’s name often returns an embarrassing image or video instead of a meticulously produced resume. Furthermore, it may list all your social media connections, and connections of your connections, rather than instantaneously provide a reliable result which truly stands for your online personality.

In the end, the question we are left with is “how to avoid this?”

The only way to do this correctly is to provide search engines with the personal information in the suitable (and searchable) format:

Create Your Personal Blog

The blog is your online home where you should be comfortable to express your own ideas or feelings. Write about your interests, hobbies, and passions and let this be part of your digital self. Remember to choose your domain name wisely – it would be perfect if you could get your first name, but the first name-last name combination might do the job. Also, do not shy away from alternative extensions. If a mainstream extension is not available try alternative one. For instance, .ME is as personal as it gets plus it can be geo-targeted in Webmaster tools. When you are there get your self a couple of cool email addresses.

Open an Account with Every Major Social Network

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn etc. are chief means of online communication and despite certain shortcomings they are a ‘must have’. Take your time to write down info about you – make it short, personal, fun (if possible) and identical across multiple accounts. Do not forget that you can edit your privacy preferences on Facebook (especially for photos) as well as with Google+ and LinkedIn.

Create a Splash Page

This is a single page that describes you the best. It usually contains a large photo, short bio, and links to your online destinations (personal blogs, social networks etc.). You do not have to create this on your own – there are many services around the web that offer this functionality. For instance, try About.ME and/or Flavors.ME. Both of the services give you complete control over the data (filtering), provide analytics and may be the best aggregators of your personal content scattered around the Web.

Have Fun

All of this will not work if you are not having fun or are afraid of technology. Keep in mind that privacy can be controlled to a certain extent and that these tips may do wonders for your online identity.

If you are still not convinced that this can make search engines work for you, might want to take one step at the time. Maybe it is too early for a blog, but a splash page could be a good training and possibly a precursor. Also playing with social networks in a responsible manner cannot hurt. Just keep in mind that you are not taking a leap into dark, but into digital.

The .Me Registry operates the .ME domain name which is available for worldwide registration and also offers special, highly valuable premium names through its development program (see details here). .ME Registry (the d.b.a. of doMEn, d.o.o.) was chosen by the government of Montenegro to operate the new .ME domain name extension. ME Registry partners include ME-net, GoDaddy.com and Afilias Limited.

Share Your Favorite Circles with Others on Google+


Google+ announced a new feature which lets you share your circles with others thanks to their new “Share” button.

Google+ engineer Owen Prater said, “Starting today you can actually share your favorite circles with others! So if you’ve got a great Photographers or Celebrities circle, for instance, then you can share a copy with your friends.”

When you click on a circle, you’ll notice in the upper right corner it now says “Share this circle”. Google+ notes that you are only sharing its members at that time and the name of the circle always stays private.

When you click the share link, it allows you to leave a comment about the circle you are sharing, as well as choose who you would like to share the circle with. When your Google+ friends receives it, they can then pick and choose who they would like to add to their own circle.

What is Google+’s goal with this new feature? To help you share and find great new content. Here’s a video they put together talking about the new Share option.

Are You Overlooking Niche Networks?


Facebook and Twitter rule social networks. LinkedIn is definitely in the game too, and Google+ is certainly a contender. These are all general networks, though, and while they can bring you tons of traffic, don’t overlook what niche networks can do for you.  Sometimes, with just a fraction of the effort, you can get just as much traffic.


When you blog in a specific niche, like parenting or food, your most loyal readers are going to be niche superfans. Superfans, as I’m using the term, means people who live, eat, breathe the topic. They’re mom of the year, they’re obsessed with food, they’re the biggest fan of whatever your niche may be.

Superfans are always on the lookout for what’s hot and new. They use general social networks, but they also use niche networks to satisfy their need for information. By joining niche networks, you can more easily connect with these superfans. And once they know you exist? They’re extremely likely to become subscribers, even before they know if they like you as a blogger, simply because they want to read anything written about the topic. It’s up to you and your good content to keep them subscribed, but they’ve taken care of the hard part themselves.

Other Bloggers

Niche networks are also great for connecting with other bloggers in your field. You aren’t alone out there, and that’s a good thing. When you connect with other bloggers, you can start linking out to each other’s posts, promoting one another on more general social networks, guest posting for one another, and more.

It’s also a good way to get on the radars of a-listers in your niche. These are smaller networks where it is easier to get a response when attempting to contact an a-lister, or even just to get noticed by helping to promote what they post.

Some Niche Network Tips

Lastly, I wanted to go over a few tips for using niche networks. Keep in mind that this includes niche-specific bookmarking sites, niche-specific forums, and official fansites in some cases (like if you blog about a television show). Here’s how to make the best use of your time:

  • Don’t spread yourself too thin. No matter what your niche, there are a lot of networks out there. Pick a few and be very active, not a dozen that you only visit once a week.
  • Use the same avatar across all networks. You want your fans from other places to be able to find you.
  • Stick to niche-specific stuff. If you’re on a football site, talk about your football blog, not other projects. On niche sites, you have to stay in the niche or people will start ignoring you.
  • Do more than just promote. Help people. If all you do is promote your own stuff, you’ll just come off as a spammer. In other words, treat a niche-specific network the same way you’d treat Facebook or Twitter. Don’t be a jerk.

For those of you out there who blog within a specific niche, I’m interested in your experiences with niche networks. I’ve found unexpected success with these sites – have you?

My Initial Google+ Impressions


After whining to my Twitter followers (haha, sorry guys!), I finally found a sneaky backdoor way into the Google+ beta! I’ve been using it for about a day now, getting my profile set up and such, and although I know that I still have a lot to learn and Google will likely be making changes based on feedback in the coming months, I wanted to give you my initial impressions. If you’re in the beta, I hope you’ll leave a comment with your impressions as well.

  • It doesn’t seem crazy different from Facebook.

I do realize there are some differences, even some significant differences, but Facebook is really rooted in people’s minds that I’m not sure Google+ will overcome it…and I’m also not sure that there’s room for both. Maybe. After all, I don’t think Facebook will be king forever. I guess time will tell on that one. The thing is, while Facebook really is a “my generation” type of thing (I was a sophomore when our college got it, back in the day when it was limited), a lot of business owners and people older than me who aren’t into blogging/social media as a career are just now wrapping their heads around the benefits of Facebook. I worry that throwing another, similar network into the mix isn’t what the general public needs. I guess, I was hoping it would be really different from Facebook, like Twitter is, so it would be easier for people to understand the necessity (other than “Google wants to make money” of course!).

  • I like that you don’t have to be mutual friends.

I use Facebook almost exclusively for keeping in contact with friends and family. I share links I find interesting occasionally, but rarely do I do any kind of promotion on Facebook like I do on Twitter. One of the things I hate is when someone who I don’t know well (like a Twitter follower) tries to friend me on Facebook. I always feel like a jerk saying no, but I just don’t use Facebook as a blogging tool like I do with Twitter. With Google+, I like that you don’t have to be mutual friends. The person can simply add you similar to a Twitter follow and they’ll see all your public updates. Of course, if you have your Facebook privacy settings changed so that default is public, they could there as well, but you wouldn’t show up in their stream at all – they would have to manually check your page if you weren’t mutual friends.

  • Google+ cares about content creators. Thank god.

I’ve written before about the fact that you need to be careful how much you rely on Facebook – at the end of the day, Facebook is not your blog. That is, you don’t own it, and thus, the owner of the content you write there isn’t really you. Facebook could disappear tomorrow…with all your content and contacts. As the lovely Heather Solos pointed out to me earlier today, “I really like that under account overview they have Data Liberation, you can export all of your contacts, photos everything easily. Building that in from the start shows me they’ve at least been paying attention to concerns about data ownership.” Yes, yes, a million times yes.

That’s all I got…for now. I like Google+ initially, but I want to reserve my final judgment for after it is open to the masses. I think, for me, it will come down to this: will people (even non-social-media people) use it? If my Facebook friends migrate, I have to say that I’ll be on the Google+ train without looking back. If they don’t? Well, I’ll be kind miffed about having to check yet another site every day as part of my job.

Oh, also – a lot of people have written MUCH more eloquently than I have about Google+. Deb did a really great post round-up of links on Kommein, so head over and check out Google+: 50 Helpful Posts to Get You Started.

What do you think of Google+ so far?

Is Foursquare The New Twitter?


I have recently been using Foursquare on my Blackberry Storm smartphone.  I believe it is only in the beta version at this point for Blackberry users but anyone and nearly everyone with an iPhone are using it in our world, The application is still working a little clunky and not the best of user experience but I like the idea behind it. What is foursquare?  This gives you a brief look:

People use foursquare to “check-in”, which is a way of telling us your whereabouts. When you check-in someplace, we’ll tell your friends where they can find you and recommend places to go & things to do nearby. People check-in at all kind of places – cafes, bars, restaurants, parks, homes, offices. You’ll find that as your friends use foursquare to check-in, you’ll start learning more about the places they frequent. Not only is it a great way to meet up with nearby friends, but you’ll also start to learn about their favorite spots and the new places they discover.

I unlocked my badge for my first check in spot yesterday. I was not a monumental moment but it did go out on my Twitter stream to all my followers and friends.  Speaking of Twitter, I was just thinking of what it was like the first time I tried it.  I remember hearing of the Twitter application in early 2007 from Robert Scoble  just before I went down to SXSW in Austin, Texas. It was there that Twitter went ballistic and is where it is today.  My first experience with Twitter came with it the thought of “meh”, and frankly my experience of Foursquare was the same.  It is in the overall experience that we will someday perhaps call Foursquare the new Twitter.

When I signed up for Foursquare I was able to click a few of my friends and invite them as friends as well.  Most of those were from Twitter and Facebook.  Since that time I have been getting email after email asking for me to join communities of others and it is becoming much like Twitter.  I wonder if we will get the Foursquare suggested user list and the best mayors across the country, and the top 100 Foursquare players and so on until it becomes the popular rising star Twitter became.  I think Foursquare and its sister service Gowalla may need to be watched in 2010.  These services may become the next thing Oprah has to use.  I’ll be your friend on Foursquare but the only thing I think I am the Mayor of at this point is my couch.

Social Networks Changing The Way We Communicate


Remember the days of long winded phone calls, answering machine messages that filled up the entire tape, handwritten letters delivered by snail mail, or worse, horses?  Yeah, me either.  Those days are fading further and further into obscurity with every day that passes and the simple fact is this:  We do not communicate with each other like we used to.  At all.

The question then, is why?  What is changing and why is it changing?  When did the shift from length to brevity take place and will it continue to do so.  As far as blame, that’s a bit trickier to pin down but one thing is for certain:  Social networks and new social media is walking around with a giant bullseye on its back for playing a major role in exactly how we express ourselves, and how many characters we’re given to do so.

The fact is, status updates and “what’s on your mind” is rapidly replacing email conversations and back-and-forth dialogue.  We are all able to now express ourselves in tiny packages, what we’re doing, thinking, feeling and believing in 140 character tidbits.  I guess the question is Why?  When UPI.com asked FriendFeed founder Paul Buchheit these very same questions, here’s what he had to offer about the changing landscape of communication:

“I think it’s a new form of communication; not quite e-mail, more lightweight and more real time, often with a little bit of a publishing flavor to it…”

Yammer founder David Sacks agreed, saying:

“What people want to do on social network these days is post status updates…We think it’s all people want to do.”

It’s all changing, it’s all happening.  How do you feel about it?  Careful…you only have 140 characters to answer that…

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