Sunday, June 30, 2013

How will the introduction of new gTLDs change the internet?

With new gTLDs due to start appearing on the web, it’s time again for brand owners to stop and think about their domain strategy.

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the body responsible for managing and coordinating the Internet’s Domain Name System, last week made a surprise announcement that the first new gTLD could go live in the internet as early as August 28 2013 and we may see the first registrations from September 28.
The new generic top-level domain program will enable the introduction of new gTLDs into the domain name space. 
Within the next two years the internet will grow from having its existing 22 TLDs; .com, .net, .org  etc. to over 1,000 extensions including .nyc, .bank, .secure, .app, .book.  This equates to potentially 10 new domain extensions every week being introduced to the Internet.
According to ICANN, the increase in number of TLDs is not expected to negatively effect the stability and security of the internet. However many search engine optimisation (SEO) experts suspect it could have a significant impact on the way searchers use the internet and consequently have big implications for online businesses.
At present, the true nature of how search engines will handle these new gTLDs still remains uncertain, meaning brands, online businesses and consumers are left in the dark thinking about how Internet search may evolve. 
However, there are some clues and forward thinking strategies starting to emerge.

Changes happening to existing ccTLDs

With so many small and large algorithm updates happening daily, it’s hard for internet experts to isolate which ones are going to stay and which adjustments are tests or temporary.

At this point, Google appears to have updated its algorithm to start treating some Country-Level Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) as generic and thus equally to domains like .com.
Previously those with popular TLDs such as .com appeared to have been given more weight in international search. Google has now added the likes of .co, .dj, .fm, .la, .me and .tv. to the same category as TLDs  such as .com.  
This means if you’re using a ccTLD that has now been classified as generic by Google, such as .la (Laos) you will start to see more traffic from outside of your country code.
However, if you're using an extension that is still classified by Google as a country code you should not expect to see much traffic from outside of your host country. 
Some search experts believe that this change signals to us that Google may be intending to give more weight to the new gTLDs in the future. 

How could this change affect businesses?

The likes of .com have long been expensive for some smaller firms to acquire on the secondary market if the domain had already been registered and many have therefore gone with more regionally focused domains. 
So this search change will be a welcome boost to brands that want international traffic, but decided to go for a ccTLD rather than invest in a top level domains bought on the secondary market. 

How could these gTLDs change searchers' experience of the internet?

How these changes affect consumers really depends on exclusivity. Whether the successful applicant for these new extensions has to offer registrations outside of their own organisation is still to be determined by ICANN.
As consumers get to grips with how to use new gTLDS we could see the rise of a whole range of niche gTLD led search engines where consumers search for content relevant to that gTLD, or the geographic region.
So if someone is looking for information specific to a region like Tokyo they could limit their search purely to .Tokyo sites or if they are looking for movie related content they may well chose to search only .movie sites.
Now this not only presents the opportunity for consumers to find the content they are looking for quicker, but also location-based extensions like .tokyo could develop into location tags, helping to push local SEO that bit further by providing websites with another way to geographically target audiences. 
This would provide an advantage to businesses who seek out regional customers. 

What should businesses be thinking about ahead of these new gTLD’s going live?

The roll-out of new commercial gTLDs will be rapid and brand owners need to be ready. They need to start planning and structuring their online presence in this new internet. 
If the new gTLDs are adopted, used and accepted among businesses and consumers, they’ll open up new premium names at targeted domain extensions, potentially creating an opportunity for businesses to get in on names they may have had to pay large amounts for in the past. 

Cybersquatting concerns with new gTLDs

The potential for cybersquatting is somewhat mitigated by the introduction of the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) mechanism put in place. TMCH is crucial to protect the rights of brands in the new gTLD program.
All new gTLDs will have to implement agreed rights protection mechanisms, supported by the Trademark Clearinghouse. It was developed to allow brand owners to submit their trademark data into one centralized database, prior to and during the launch of new gTLDs.
TMCH will help owners of registered trademarks to participate in the Sunrise (pre-launch) periods for any of the new gTLDs in which they meet the registration requirements.
TMCH will also allow Trademark holders the option of being notified when someone registers a domain name that matches their record in the Clearinghouse during Sunrise and, as a minimum, the first 60 days of general availability.

No need to panic yet

Despite the trademark mechanism, it would be prudent to anticipate a lot of cybersquatting and a lucrative aftermarket buying and selling domain names.  
Every brand owner needs to be clear about which trademarks they will lodge in the TMCH, and which terms and suffixes they will or will not register. In order to do so, every brand owner and business alike needs to take a look at their corporate IP assets together with its business direction going forward.
ICANN has been plagued by delays and obstacles since the inception of the new gTLDs program. With so much uncertainty and questions surrounding when these new extensions will actually be available, it appears to be a desperate measure by ICANN to try and bring the program back on track.
I'm sceptical that things will go according to plan but if it does go ahead smoothly the first gTLD, although at an advantage for being the first mover, will also be under serious pressure as they will be in the spotlight and a guinea pig in many ways. Whatever happens, the program is still moving forward so it’s just a waiting game now.
These new gTLDs have the potential to change search as we know it, and if done right, could even make quality content easier to find, but until search engines become more vocal about how they intend to handle them and until ICANN determines which ones are to be exclusive to the owners, the future of internet search remains uncertain.


How Your Company Should Use Vine

Here are some fun ways to utilize vine:

Office Tour – People enjoy seeing the office of their favorite brands. It gives a sort of sneak peak, behind the scenes feel, where customers and fans get the opportunity to see where the “magic” happens. 
Here is HubSpot showing a new addition to the office -

Product Demo/Creation – Show your product being used or being created. Domino’s did a wonderful job using webcams to let you see their pizza making process, this could easily be made into a six second vine.
Domino’s Webcam

Show the Team ­- Use your vine to introduce your team. Each team member gets six seconds. Have fun with this; maybe everyone has their own catch-phrase.

Promotional ­– Promote a service! 

Contests – There is nothing that impacts social media than contests. Create a vine promoting the contest and have users create their own vine to enter.

These are just a few ways your business could and should be using Vine. It is quick, easy and best of all free. Remember to get creative!


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Social Media Helps Small Businesses Grow

As 2012 came to a close, there were more than one billion members on Facebook, nearly 500 million Twitter users, and approximately 200 million LinkedIn members. Developing an effective social media marketing strategy can allow small businesses to reach out and actively engage with prospective customers that they may not have been able to connect with using other marketing channels. Outlined below are several ways that social media can help small businesses to grow: 
  1. Humanizes your brand. People prefer to do business with other people, not just brands themselves. Twitter’s new Vine video app provides businesses with the perfect opportunity to introduce key personnel or its quirky, laid-back culture by sharing a brief six second video clip with followers. If you’re not comfortable with creating and uploading a video, a blog is another way for a business to personalize its brand to better connect with customers.
  2. Monitors your brand’s reputation.An infinite number of online conversations take place on a daily basis across social networking sites, and many of these discussions are about the public’s perception of various brands on the market, both good and bad. By utilizing online reputation management tools, you can monitor for mentions of your brand on the Internet to promptly engage in those active conversations. This can go a long way in helping to convert a prospect that has been researching your brand to a viable customer. In the event that negative feedback is being voiced, these monitoring tools allow you to take action quickly before your brand can be damaged.
  3. Positions you as an industry expert. By using your various social media channels to share compelling, industry-specific content that your customer base will find valuable, you can be viewed as an expert in your industry. Earning this status will help you to become the “go to” person in your industry, creating additional opportunities to expand your brand’s presence on the Internet through guest blogging or webcasts.
  4. Builds loyalty for your brand that could arguably be better than word-of-mouth referrals. Now more than ever, people are choosing to follow brands on social media sites, and businesses have the opportunity to turn these online visitors into lifelong customers by using social media to deliver five star customer service and share valuable content that will keep followers coming back for more. Also, since people are more likely to trust a brand that their friends “like” online, brands that are actively making an effort to expand their online fan bases will be more likely to earn new fans that were referred from existing customers.
  5. Increases search engine optimization. There is no question that the current trend with social media marketing is to create more content more often. Recent updates to search engine algorithms will list newer content toward the top of search engine results pages, therefore increasing the likelihood that someone would stumble upon your brand when searching for a product or service online. It’s important to not just create content for the sake of creating content though. Search engines also take into consideration the quality of the content when ranking it on a search engine results page, with poor quality content earning a low page rank.
In closing, small businesses can not afford to not partake in a social media marketing strategy. It offers one of the most affordable ways to reach a wide span of prospective customers while helping to give your brand a voice to connect and engage with your online fans. Also, the more active you are on your various social media channels, the more likely your business will be found online.


How Top Performing B2B Marketers Target Buyers Using Social Media

Yes, social media can be a source of lead generation for B2B marketers. In fact, 85% of Top Performers indicated social media is a top five channel for lead generation in a recent 2013 survey from Gleanster Research. That’s a little shocking considering widespread reluctance to incorporate social media in B2B marketing execution over the last 5-7 years; mainly because it’s very difficult to measure a return on investment in social media.  In truth, not a lot has changed over the last few years, so why has social media become a top five channel for lead generation?   Social media is still far more nebulous to measure than traditional B2B marketing channels like tradeshows, webinars, telemarketing, etc.

But it seems B2B marketers are starting to warm up to the idea that a handful of deals sourced by social can make the time and effort involved in pulling social media into the mix well worth the effort.  That’s because hyper-personalized content marketing strategies are forming more intimate relationships with buyers and helping B2B brands influence purchase decisions early in the buying cycle.  That’s exactly how Top Performers are getting a leg up over the competition and it has very little to do with how good your sales people are because the competitive advantage is formed long before a buyer talks to sales.  B2B marketers are literally educating and nurturing opportunities via social.  Actually Top Performers revealed quite a bit about what makes their social media marketing lead generation efforts unique, different, and lucrative.

B2B Marketers Target Top Tier Social Media Sites

B2B marketing on social media is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. You are looking for that golden conversation that turns into a real opportunity in the pipeline. But for B2B marketers, the typical deal size makes a single-source opportunity extremely compelling. With many social media sites to cover, your time is best spent targeting the sites with the largest community of users and using keywords and highly relevant messaging to get in front of these individuals. Let’s face it, capturing mindshare on social media is a bit like drinking from a fire hose. But some social sites will allow you to target users more effectively than others. When it comes to Top Performers, B2B marketers ranked the top four most effective social media sites as LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and SlideShare.

LinkedIn: Engaging buyers on LinkedIn is primarily about sharing relevant content and participating in Discussions and Groups. B2B marketers should target industry- and role-specific LinkedIn Groups and make it a regular practice to share thought leadership and blog posts with these individuals. B2B sales reps should try to inject themselves into discussions or questions by adding value, not selling. Also, it’s bad form to use Discussion forums for promotion and, for that reason, LinkedIn added a Promotion tab to Group environments, which is widely considered a waste of time for B2B promotion.
Twitter: For B2B marketers Twitter is largely a volume play. Hashtags should always be used to target specific buyers with relevant messages about products and services. Generally, short and compelling insights or Tweets are most likely to get clicks. Twitter is essentially a fire hose of unstructured information, so mindshare is largely a function of volume. Top Performers indicated that on average they tweet 12-15 times a day using the company twitter handle. Tweets could include recent product news, events, or relevant industry best practices. It’s generally a best practice not to blatantly promote services on Twitter. Use Twitter to keep the brand active and share thought leadership in the form of blog posts, videos, website links, or links to other social properties.
YouTube: Rich media has become a very popular source of promotion for B2B marketers. Create a company channel on YouTube where you can centralize and align all brand-related videos to one location. Unfortunately, YouTube constantly drives traffic away from your main web properties where forms can capture contact information. Even when videos are hosted by YouTube and posted to a website, it’s easy for users to navigate their way directly to YouTube. YouTube allows you to add links to the descriptions of videos as long as http:// is added to the beginning of the link; it will become clickable when the video posts. Links back to relevant website landing pages should be presented on the first line of a YouTube description when posting a video. At the same time, it’s critical to include keywords when posting videos to maximize organic search benefits and brand exposure.
SlideShare: As with YouTube, it’s good practice for B2B marketers to create a branded channel on SlideShare and load as many presentations as possible to the site. Take the time to fill out all of the keywords and description copy because this will help drive organic traffic to your presentations. Links can also be added to the description copy on presentations, but readers must manually copy the text and paste it into a browser. Use a URL shortening tool on links that are inserted into SlideShare so you can capture analytics around which links are driving traffic to the website from SlideShare. SlideShare also has a forms and lead capture option. Top Performing organization that use SlideShare were 15x more likely to use the premium form capture features on uploaded content.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Google Local Carousel Results: Where Do Users Click Most?

Google officially rolled out its local carousal results to all U.S. users last week for select verticals like hotels and restaurants, and since then, marketers have been trying to figure out what makes it tick.
Two search agencies independently conducted experiments of their own to see where people click when presented with the new carousel in Google local results. While these tests were largely informal and consisting of a small sample size, they are still interesting to note.
Local U and Ethical SEO Consulting had a combined sample of 112 respondents in their separate experiments. Searchers were given a prompt search results page, and asked to go to the part of the page that was most relevant to them for that search.
Here’s what one of those search result options looked like to respondents for the query: "pizza in Denver":

What the Local Carousel Result Studies Found

Both studies showed the map and carousel results on the page were favorite areas for users to click in order to find what they were looking for.
The "pizza in Denver" results showed the map result received 32 percent of the clicks, followed by the first image in the carousel at 17 percent, and then the first organic result at 11 percent.
The other experiment used the query "Chicago restaurants" to generate a results page, and found 48 percent of the total clicks were on the carousel results:
When asked why the searchers clicked where they did within the carousel, the Chicago restaurants respondents mentioned reviews as a determining factor.

What Does It Mean?

People are clicking on the carousel to find what they need. But more studies will need to be conducted to truly understand how the new carousel results in Google are impacting overall click-through rate on the results page.
Both Ethical SEO consulting and Local U and commented on the challenges and opportunities of the new look and feel of Google local results.
"One challenge with images is that Google is not letting you choose what picture to display on the front page. They choose it for you from the images that are uploaded," Local U said in its post.
Ethical SEO consulting also noted that reviews were going to continue to be important, and added, "having a long tail keyword site content strategy is also going to be an important factor in showing up in as many carousels, and map results as possible. The organic results also cannot be discounted."


Crowdsourcing Gone Wrong: How Brands Can Avoid Messy Marketing Mistakes

We've all heard about the wisdom of crowds, with Wikipedia and even entire industry of television voting shows attempting to prove the paradigm.
By involving their audience to make them feel like their input is listened to, a brand can build advocates and perhaps come up with ideas they wouldn't have had on their own.
However, it doesn't always go right.
Unsuspecting marketers who blindly attempt to take advantage of the crowds may find themselves causing more issues than benefits for their brands.

The Wit of Crowdsourcing

Dinna dinna dinna dinna, dinna dinna dinna dinna Durex

Earlier this year Durex decided to offer a new service where their condoms would be sent directly to couples in need in cities across the world, either on the web or using an app. Their marketing team decided that the best way to kick this campaign off was to ask their users to pick the first city this would launch in.
Unfortunately for them they didn't think ahead and left it open for any city to be submitted. Thanks to the wit of the crowds, this resulted in Kuala Lumpur ending in second place, and the predominantly conservative, Muslim, although amusingly named, city of Batman, Turkey.
Durex closed the campaign down without offering the service anywhere, let alone in Batman.

As it was in those prehistoric, pre-Internet days, the votes were collected via telephone. Music magazine NME heard about it and asked their readers to vote for one specific Bowie song – "The Laughing Gnome". The vote was scrapped with that song in the lead.
(The author would like to apologize for getting that stuck in your head).

D'oh the Dew

Last August Mountain Dew was ready to launch an Apple version and decided to get the crowd to share their wisdom by asking them to name this new variant. As you'd expect, the crowd decided to show their wit instead, by submitting and voting up names that wouldn't be allowed anywhere near a bottle of soda.
The vote was quickly cancelled, and the soda was imaginatively named… "Apple Mountain Dew".