Your professional source for all the latest Search Engine Marketing news and events.

Blog Content Tip – Incenting Employees to Write for the Company Blog

February 24th, 2010

We all know that Google loves new content and a blog can be a great way to continually create fresh content.  Many companies find that a blog becomes an integral part of their overall SEO strategy to drive more search engine traffic and increase Page Rank.  However, writing a blog post several times a month can get old over time.

Writer’s block?  You betcha!  The answer? Convince other people to get into the fun of content creation!

Sometimes employees are excited about this prospect, sometimes they need more motivation. So how can you motivate employees to write blog posts?  Well, there are a variety of ways limited only by your imagination.  One such way is to offer a contest where for a period of time you accept entries for best blog submission.  Ideally, you should be able to collect enough entries from one contest to have blog material for several posts. You can offer a prize for the best submission, or perhaps the best submission in each category if you receive a large number of entries.  Make sure to set criteria, it helps produce quality posts.

What criteria should you use to ensure good content? You might have to spend some time thinking about your goals setting a clear blog strategy to develop criteria that make sense for you. We’ll cover that in a follow-up blog post next week.

Prizes. Make the reward enough to be a true incentive, but not so much that it breaks the bank.  Keep in mind that companies are spending big bucks on Search Engine Optimization and the SEO value of a current and quality blog is worth a lot more than a $10 gift certificate to Starbucks!

  • The prize can simply be cash or a gift card
  • A prized toy or fun item that can be used or displayed around the office.  Rock’em Sock’em Robots or a quality motion-sensitive fart machine are classics and are always appreciated by your more sophisticated and mature co-workers!  ;o)
  • A cheesy trophy can be fun.
  • Lunch with the CEO or a member of the senior staff to bestow a little recognition and thank you for your contribution.  If you’ve been looking for the right time to chat them up about that raise or promotion you’ve been wanting, now’s your chance!
  • A free paid day off.
  • Hold a department versus department challenge to see which group can write the best blog post.  Winner gets bragging rights plus a group celebration/reward.
  • Do a monthly contest for the best blog submission and record the winners each month.  At the end of 6-12 months do a drawing from among those winners and they get a weekend vacation for two.
  • You can even use analytics to track how much traffic each blog post drives to deeper pages on your site and hold a contest around that!

As I said, the possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination.  In the end, you should have enough quality blog posts that you will rarely have to worry about a languishing blog or lacking enough content to make your site interesting to search engines.  Not bad for a bit of blog navel-gazing and some money for prizes.

Written by Matthew McKool

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Post-Holiday PPC Clean Up

February 15th, 2010

Ahhh, holidays. I’m guessing that about 50% of the country is hung over this chilly Monday morning due to either romantic champagne &  wine with a loved one, or contrary tequila shots & beer with friends or the TV.

As you try to shake off the after-effects this holiday, remember to shake off any after-effects that various holidays may have left on your PPC campaigns. A lot of PPC campaigns are probably hung over from Valentine’s campaigns today, and many are still hung over from Christmas!

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Valentine’s is over
And Christmas is too

A couple of weeks before valentine’s day I was searching for gourmet chocolates – probably a competitive keyword this time of year. Ad #4 was a an ad talking about Christmas Chocoaltes [sic] and chocolate santas.

Time and again I come across outdated holiday promotions in PPC ads. And yes, I’ve had slip-ups myself over the years, but let this valentine’s day remind you to show your PPC ads some love.

  • Scan through your ads for references to Christmases past (or any other holiday that’s not around the corner)
  • Do a search for terms like Christmas, holiday, valentine, etc. & edit anything that comes up
  • While you’re at it, go ahead and spell-check & grammar-check your ads too
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Your Site Needs an Espresso Shot

February 1st, 2010

During PubCon Vegas 2009, Matt Cutts hinted that Google will start considering page load time in their organic search ranking algorithm in 2010.  Google already factors the time the pages on your site take to populate into its quality score, a metric used for Pay Per Click customers to reward higher quality sites with top placement and lower bid requirements.  Search engines care about the speed of your site because fast load times improve the user’s experience and increases their productivity, something you should be concerned with as well if you hope for loyal customers.

Google is obsessed with speed.  They have been not so secretly developing a next-generation architecture for Google’s web search, dubbed Google Caffeine, that aims to “push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions.” Google does not, however, want to leave your site in the dust.  In fact, they recommend several tools to improve your page load speed and thus the quality of your site.

Since 2006, Google Webmaster Tools has been offering up diagnostic information on your site such as crawl errors, checking robot.txt, and content issues.  Now, under the Labs tab, Google has added a Site Performance page that delivers “information to improve the speed of your site and create a faster experience for your users.”  Here you’ll find your average page load time, how it changes over time, and how it compares to other sites.  You can also view suggestions on how to improve your site’s performance based on a tool called Page Speed.

Page Speed is a Firefox Add-on that requires a popular developer extension called Firebug.  It performs several tests on a site’s web server configuration and front-end code.  This tool will analyze the performance of each page of your site and advise best practices to implement organized by a priority score: High Priority, Medium Priority, Working Fine or Low Priority, and Informational Only.  Page Speed will also give you an overall quality score out of 100.  For the more advanced, run the Page Speed Activity option to view a timeline of all browser activities, including network events and JavaScript processing.

Even though page load time has not traditionally been part of the natural search ranking equation, Google intends to factor speed into its organic search algorithm, and so you should factor it in to your SEO strategy.  Google is doing its part to create a faster world wide web, but they need the help of webmasters, site owners, and webhosting services to usher in a higher standard of web surfing.  With these new tools, now you can keep pace with search engine ingenuity and the demands of your site’s visitors and, ultimately, win the favor of both.

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Live Search Results from Google

December 10th, 2009

Google Social Search has gone live, literally. Now when you search for a topic, Google’s universal search results feature real-time updates from social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Jaiku, Identi.ca , and Twitter, all of which have partnered with the search engine giant. So don’t be alarmed when you see tweets appearing the second they are posted amongst your web, news, blog, video, and image search results. Google says, “When they are relevant, we’ll rank these latest results to show the freshest information right on the search results page.” Below is an example of Google’s new search results.

Google Live Search

If you’re not seeing these live social media updates in your Google search results, click on the “Show Options” link just below the Google search bar. An “All Results” column will appear to the left of your screen. In this column, click “Updates” and your results will be sorted to show the most recent social network updates on your searched topic in real-time.

Google Live Search

Obviously, these live results work best for hot topics. Find out the most popular searches at that moment with Google Trends. Google just added a “Hot Topics” section to this search tool, which has recently graduated from Google Labs, that lists the most common topics people are currently publishing to the web. These new social search features from Google are likely an answer to Bing’s recent integration of live tweets in their search results. Google’s implementation of live search aggregates information from more sources and features detailed sorting options.  These enhanced live search elements make it hard for Yahoo and Bing to gain ground on this constantly moving target.

No one can be certain of the effect social search will have on search engine marketing, but one thing will always be true. In order for a company to control its message and image online, they’ll need to have a presence in all facets of the internet that can appear in the search results. Today, that means engaging consumers on social networks and optimizing posts with trending keywords.

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Optimizing for Social Search

November 17th, 2009

The dawn of a new search marketing era is upon us, marked by the rising glow emanating from Twitter deals between Microsoft’s Bing and soon after, Google. Providing real-time search results from social media outlets is a game changing addition to how people search and find information online and puts more pressure on the delicate interaction between brands and fans. Let’s see what this new era will look like and how your brand can take advantage of it.

The latest news in the integration of social media updates and organic search results is from Google with their Social Search. This is currently an experiment featured in Google Labs, but it scheduled to move to a full release after the holiday season. Google Social Search, still in beta, claims to “help you find relevant public web content from people in your social circle when you’re signed into your Google Account.” Your social circle is composed of your Gmail and Google Talk contacts as well as people you are connected with on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Picasa, FriendFeed, or whatever else you choose to add to your Google Profile. Even results from your extended social circle, or public connections of your connections, can appear in your search results, since Google finds it likely that you will know your friend’s friends or at least find them relevant. All this information is added to the bottom of your regular universal search results and creates a truly personalized search of the web for pertinent information on your query. For example, if you perform a Google search for “Happy Hour Austin,” a collection of opinions and musings from your friends’ Twitter and Facebook updates on the topic will all conveniently be presented in the search results.

Why should you take this new social search seriously? The biggest influence on purchase decisions comes from friends and the word of mouth they generate. Search engines are now making it easier to consult your friends before going out to eat, reading a book, or taking a vacation. This new landscape requires an approach that goes beyond traditional SEO. Marketers, more than ever, must be proactive in online social environments in order to positively impact their natural search rankings.

What can you do to be featured in social search results? Be active! Befriend more users on your current social networking sites and then engage in a conversation. Share entertaining and informative information targeted towards your growing audience(s) and try to include your researched keywords in your posts. By optimizing your social network updates with keywords from your on-page SEO and those with the highest search volumes each month, your updates are more likely to appear on social search results. If negative feedback comes up, respond directly to it and offer solutions. It is one of the best ways to combat and prevent negative press. Be transparent and don’t torture your friends and followers with spam. It’s not all about you or your brand anymore, so act like someone who deserves a fan. Finally, reward your social networking connections with exclusive product or service deals and contests. It’s a great way to generate positive brand buzz, attract new customers, and build brand loyalty.

The search marketing landscape has changed once again. By now you should know better than to fight the new, after all, “that Twitter fad” certainly hasn’t died out yet. In conclusion, embracing change and adapting is how your brand will weather the new climate. Start finding the time to be a presence online and revisit that Facebook fan page you built six months ago and forgot about. By the time Google Social Search has a full rollout, you’ll be ready and easy to find.

Here is a video with Matt Cutts on How Google Social Search Works:

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Apogee Teamwork at the Local Food Bank

September 21st, 2009

Janet Meiser with pies at Capital Area Food Bank

Recently, Apogee Search’s team of do-gooders returned to the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas (CAFB) for more volunteering and food processing fun. CAFB relies on the kindness and strong backs of their volunteers to fulfill their mission of nourishing the hungry people of Texas and leading the community in ending hunger. Currently, they provide food and grocery products to more than 350 partner agencies in 21 Central Texas counties.

Once again, the enthusiastic and grateful CAFB employees and other volunteers made us feel welcomed and essential. Previously, we worked in the 60,000 square foot warehouse sorting and processing canned goods, and on another occasion, non-essential items such as toys, makeup, and cleansers. On this particular afternoon, we had the opportunity to learn something new and processed a South Beach Dieter’s nightmare, bread and pastries. It was an enjoyable experience to sort through the varieties of delectable desserts and bread products at the CAFB, knowing that each item contributes to helping to feed the hungry in Central Texas.

At the end of our 3 hour shift, we processed 4,586 pounds of food, which translates into 3,669 meals for those in need. We hope that those in need enjoy eating the delicious baked goods as much as we enjoyed processing them.

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Austin Restaurant Week and Beefing Up Your Content

September 15th, 2009

Is the content on your site linkable?  Does it need to be beefed up?  Do you deserve to be ranked on the first page?  No, yes, no?  We’ll use Austin Restaurant Week to illustrate the idea behind creating sumptuous, linkable content to garner incoming links.  Google is hungry and you need to feed it.

First, what is Austin Restaurant Week? Between September 13th- 16th and September 20th – 23rd, those fortunate enough to be in Austin can visit a number of fine dining establishments to feast on a delicious menu set at an affordable fixed price, between $25 – $35.  Call in a reservation to ensure you and your significant other a seat and eat up (if you’re looking for a date idea, I think this fits the bill perfectly)!

Second, how does this have anything to do with SEO and beefy content?  Rewind to last night.  I’m sitting in my living room nearly comatose from the pizza and football I’ve gorged myself on for the past few hours.  Of course, my mind’s nose picks up the scent of Austin Restaurant Week and I head to the website.  I click the links of two places I’ve not been to, Roaring Fork and Green Pastures Restaurant, and notice links to their respective menus:

Now, like I said, I’ve never been to the Roaring Fork and am making no assumptions about the quality of their dining. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard nothing but good things. When I mentioned this blog idea to a co-worker, she said, “Roaring Fork is one of my favs.”

However, looking at these two menus, which one has you salivating?  Which one has beefier content?  Which menu would you rather link to?  Which menu provides the most information about their offerings?  I think the information provided in the Green Pastures Restaurant menu makes their food sound much more enticing – they didn’t even dress up the language with adjectives – and I’d be more inclined to link to their menu.

If I or a search engine only had the information provided by the menus, and could look at the popularity of each by way of incoming links, to determine the most relevant menu for a search term such as “austin fine dining” or “austin restaurants,” then who would likely rank in first position?

The same idea should drive your analysis of the content on your own site:  if someone came across my site, would the information I’m providing them about “Software Development Life Cycle” be enough for them to link back to my site?  If I visit a competitor’s website and notice they’re providing beefier content that likely attracts incoming links, then why should I be ranked ahead of them?

To summarize, be honest about the quality and/or quantity of the content on your site:  Is it informative?  Should more be added?  But not simply added to attain a mythical keyword density.  Is it linkable?  Smoked salmon or The Upland Game Plate: Quail, Quail and Some More Quail?  Serve your visitors with healthy portions of information.

And, in case you’re wondering, I’ll be making a trip to The Melting Pot tonight.

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BlindSearch: Which Search Engine Will You Choose?

August 18th, 2009

Brands influence purchases; there is really no argument about that. The art of advertising has paired a brand with a single adjective since the ads moved beyond basic product descriptions. For example: Coca-Cola=Classic, Gatorade=Quench, and Volvo=Safety. In today’s market, Google=Search and Bing=Decide. What would happen if brands were to disappear and only the bare bones, no glitz or glamour services and products were left behind? Michael Kordahi has provided the public with just that, a way to compare search results without the big three’s branding.

What is BlindSearch?

Kordahi has taken the famous Coke v Pepsi blind taste test and applied it to modern day technology. The introduction of BlindSearch has given Internet users the ability to search for results from Google, Bing, and Yahoo! without any branding or layout.

BlindSearch provides the results in three side by side columns with a voting button at the top of each. Each column represents results from Google, Bing, and Yahoo! The user is able to vote on the column which most closely matches their desired results. After voting, the buttons are replaced with the search engine logos to reveal which search engine’s results most closely matched your search. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t anything brand new. There are other search engine comparison sites out there. However, I found this one to be particularly blog worthy since the results are listed side by side rather than tabbed as in Zuula (not to mention a fun little test).

Why I’m writing about it

BlindSearch isn’t really a big deal per say. It is just a fun, quick way to see what search engine may be better for you without having a hundred experts telling you which one you should use. On the plus side, BlindSearch helps in beating out some lazy tendencies when doing deeper web research. Additionally, even if at a base level, it may be a helpful nudge to some users in considering other search alternatives in their every day routines.

Discrepancies
In no way is BlindSearch a statistical tool that will be the end all be all of the search engine supremacy argument. Even if it was 100% effective, it could render the same results as the Coke v Pepsi test, in which Pepsi was more generally liked but Coke was still the dominating force in sales.

The first to clarify BlindSearch’s discrepancies is Kordahi with a clear disclaimer on the BlindSearch homepage.

“The system has many flaws that I know about already, the primary one of interest is the lack of localisation. So, all searches are going through the US as US searches. The other deficiency worth noting is that there is much missing from the actual experience of using these search engines eg, image thumbnails, suggestions, refine queries, etc.”

There are other arguments that can be made against the accuracy, relevancy, and even importance of this experiment.

First, it could be that modern search engines are already too much alike in terms of results. Search engines have begun to emulate the leaders, taking what is effective and applying it to their own engines.

A simple comparison could be described with handbags. Designer handbags are extremely popular, high end stores carry these high end bags. In order to provide an alternative, lower end stores emulate the designs, colors, and patterns and sell similar bags for a cheaper price. After a bit of time, knockoff purses are released that are identical to the high end originals and if done correctly, can rarely be told apart. Basically, the best was emulated, and now, even the competitors have a similar product.

A second argument is shown when viewing the top ten results. The list shows a fairly generic breath of search. None of the ten results show any type of long tail searches and therefore do not really replicate normal search. This could be in part to lazy testing and a desire to get a result as quickly as possible to “test” a user’s search engine preference. It could also be in part to the limited amount of data, only 600,000 queries to date.

Lastly, BlindSearch is a sort of site where users would try to get off the wall results and test the boundaries/parameters. The site is small and the audience is certainly a select sample.

The results

Kordahi released the following results with roughly 8 weeks of data:
Google: 41%, Bing: 31%, Yahoo: 28%

Disclaimer
Although an employee of Microsoft, Kordahi makes it abundantly clear that this project is not initiated by or affiliated with Microsoft.

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Microsoft, Yahoo! Now What?

August 3rd, 2009

The dust has begun to settle in the Microsoft/Yahoo! deal that took place last week. Now we can finally begin to see what it really means… or can we? This specific topic can be broken down and analyzed in a million different ways. The implications on SEO, ad space, search engine market share, user interface changes, budget constraints, layoffs, and the list goes on and on. For my sake, and for your sake, let us cut through the fat and see what this new deal means at a foundational level, cut and dry.

So… What just happened?
On July 29th, 4:55am Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo!, posted on the Yahoo! blog that they had just signed a major search deal with Microsoft. The deal entailed that Yahoo! will be giving up their search technology, paid listings and organic listings, and lease Microsoft’s as of 2010. If everything goes as planned, a full transition will happen by 2012. Yahoo! will continue running their Premium Search throughout this new deal.

Running search technology is costly, and rather than own it, Yahoo! felt it was an economical decision to lease Microsoft’s and concentrate on what they do best, be a portal. Essentially, by leasing search, Yahoo! is able to optimize what Bartz refers to as “properties” such as news, sports, finance, email, and messaging.

This approach has already caused some confusion. It is important to realize that although Bing will be running the back end of search for Yahoo!, the results will still be dressed up as Yahoo’s results. The only real difference is that the bottom of the results will say “Powered by Bing” or something along the same lines. It will be interesting to see how this is going to affect local search since both Yahoo! and Bing have their own Local pages.

Coopetition
Microsoft’s massive attack on Google really launched with the release of Bing. As mentioned in previous blog posts, I believe that Bing will be gnawing away at smaller search engine’s market share but will have a tough time taking on Google. The lease of their search technology to Yahoo! is yet another strategy to gain some ground, hence, Coopetition (Cooperation + Competition). Although Yahoo! and Bing are technically competing, they are joining forces to take on the powerhouse we know as Google. Think of it as a David v. Goliath situation where Yahoo! is the rock that Microsoft is throwing. As Bartz put it, the new deal will lead to better competition “Competition equals innovation. But with one player dominating 70% of search, that field has been pretty lopsided. This transaction will create a healthy competitor that’ll keep everyone on their toes.” It is certain that both Microsoft and Yahoo! believe that if they hope to succeed, they must work together.

Google
Make no mistake of it, although Google has not radically changed their user interface or rubbed new features in our faces, they are still making headway. Just like Yahoo!, they offer applications that simplify every day life and constantly improve them through the use of Google Labs. Just recently, they removed the Beta label from their AdWords service, improved their “Show More Results” link, and launched a traditional advertising campaign to promote their apps. The latter of the three is a blatant response to Microsoft’s Bing campaign. Although we are not used to seeing Google use traditional forms of advertising, this clearly shows that Google is willing to adapt and mix it up to keep what is theirs.

What’s Next?
Microsoft is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Google. In Microsoft’s defense, they are actually making some headway. However, overthrowing a competitor who holds 70% of the market share is no simple task, especially when that competitor is continually evolving in subtle but effective fashion. We can eternally dwell into the depth of this new deal and analyze every aspect of it. The bottom line is that Microsoft is following an aggressive attack plan on Google. As the two companies already established on Wednesday, they have “options” which means that many details are still to be determined. It truly is an unpredictable outcome. There are speculations and heavily weighted odds but one should never rule out any outcome. The tortoise has beaten the hare, the mouse has scared the elephant, and it’s possible that Bing could defeat Google.

For more information on the Microsoft Yahoo! deal visit:
www.choicevalueinnovation.com

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The SEO Implications of Bing, Part II: SERPs

July 27th, 2009

My last post explored the possible differences between Bing’s new algorithm and Google, affirming some commonly cited variances and discovering others that had little or no evidence. Though there were some confirmed differences between the way Bing and Google determine the rankings of natural results, they would probably have little impact on search engine optimization tactics for two reasons:

  1. Bing algorithm is likely to change soon, so any gains from, for example, changing URLs to include keywords could be reversed in the near future.
  2. Bing does not account for enough traffic to shift focus from optimizing for Google’s algorithm.

Bing’s new algorithm has limited effects on day-to-day SEO; however, the new features of Bing’s search engine results pages (SERPs) have a clear impact on organic search strategy.

New functions like Best Match, Document Preview, and Quick Tabs provide additional spaces where sites should aim appear. Updates of old features, like Local and Shopping, mean that the some of the processes have changed from MSN and Live search. The following sections discuss new and updated features as well as the changes to online strategy that will help leverage these features.

Quick Tabs & Categorized Results

Bing - Quick Tabs

What they are: Quick Tabs (pictured to the left) are the handful of links at the top left corner of a SERP, where categorized results appear for very broad searches to break them up into more niche queries. The same longer-tail searches often appear in both places, but Quick Tabs include both these longer-tail searches and links to specific Bing services (such as Images, News, Shopping, and Videos).

Strategy: Use these spaces for discovering new keywords to target. Take note of the Quick Tabs that show up for your broadest keywords (those with the most search volume), these Bing services and deeper pages may be traffic-driving positions. For example, a Bing search for “electric wheelchairs” brings up only one Quick Tab, Videos. Assuming that 1-3% of users searching that phrase look for videos, a site that sells electric wheelchairs can gain extra visitors simply by creating a YouTube video.

 
Best Match

What it is: When Bing has an extremely high confidence rate (for example, on a search for “Sears”), it will return one result at the top of the page with the text “Best match.” A best match also gets 8 links to deeper sites in the page and an internal search form. Local companies can get it too, but not all of them–Cavender’s, a western wear store, gets a best match, whereas Amy’s Ice Creams does not.

Strategy: Be sure your URL and Title Tags contain your company name – it is unlikely that a best match will ever return for a non-branded term like “hammers.” Include the company name in the Alt tag of the header image or logo that appears on every page. Add an internal search to your page and make sure your sub-pages are both prominently listed in the main navigation and given higher priority in your XML sitemap. Lastly, if your site is a local brick-and-mortar, ensure that Bing knows your physical address by creating a local listing (and, of course, associating your URL with this listing).

Document Preview

Bing - Document Preview

What it is: Document Previews appear when a user mouses over a listing, then mouses over the orange circle that pops up to the right of the listing. It pulls information (usually body copy) from the page to populate this window. SEO must now ensure that the information coming up in the pop up window is both informative and engaging – that is, it will both let the users know exactly what to expect (to minimize unqualified traffic) and entice users to click on the link (to draw in qualified traffic). The above example, Nike, failed to do so.

Strategy: Determine the specific content that Bing is pulling from your site to populate its Document Preview. It could be as complicated as text within a Flash file or even text within a deeper page, but is most likely from the beginning of a CSS division, or <DIV> for the coding-inclined. Bing seems to like short paragraphs and bulleted lists. Modify this text to be, again, both informative and engaging.

Instant Answers (Update)

What it is: Like Google, Bing provides very specific information on the search results for certain types of search queries (i.e., currency conversion on Google or flight information on Bing). Bing’s instant answers capabilities are vastly improved from those of MSN and Live Search, providing these types of results for a much wider range of queries.

Strategy: Although appearing in the Instant Answers could potentially drive traffic and increase brand recognition, becoming one of these partners is most likely outside of the scope of SEO and probably involves direct communication with Microsoft programmers. An e-commerce or otherwise primarily commercial site has very little chance of becoming a source of information for Instant Answers. Sites that serve as informational databases on a given topic could, however, enter some sort of partnership with Bing in which they are the sole provider of a type of data. Comstock, for example, gives Bing its quotes for stock ticker searches, American Telephone & Telegraph provides information about area codes, and FlightStats enables Bing’s instant answers for flight information.

Bing Local Listings (Update)

Bing Local Listings

What it is: Also an update from an MSN and Live Search feature, Bing Local Listings change the way information about businesses are presented and improves review aggregation. Bits of reviews are categorized by keyword, as seen in the example above. For example, Bing pulls comments regarding wait times from reviews on sites like Yelp and provides aggregated ratings for wait times at restaurants. Users first fill out basic information about their business, which will be used to check whether the business is already in Bing’s database, before they add photos, videos, hours, and other information. Much like Google, users can then assign categories (up to 6) that will be used to help determine what type of business is being submitted (unlike Google, custom categories cannot be created). A snail mail piece with a verification code will be sent, and listings usually update within a few days of verification.

Strategy: The main change in strategy here is that the Webmaster Center no longer provides the link to submit a local business. That form is now at this URL. It is not linked to any of Bing’s main pages, so some users who have used this feature in the past may now have trouble finding it. Also, the new keyword categorization of portions of reviews from sites like Yelp means that the wording of reviews is very important. For example, a user mentioning a short wait time would increase the average rating for that metric on the listing pictured above. Lastly, Microsoft has initiated a partnership with Yellow Pages local listings so paid sponsors are listed above normal listings. Paid local listings link directly to the business’s page on YellowPages.com.

Bing Shopping (Update)

What it is: Bing, like Google, can return e-commerce results along with regular organic listings. The results lead to a landing page that shows various products related to a search term with pictures, descriptions, prices, and links to retailers. However, two weeks before the release of Bing (May 15, 2009), Microsoft ended its Live Search Product Upload feature. Therefore, adding products is no longer a user-end process for Bing (but it still is for Google, which uses Google Base).

Strategy: Since Microsoft has assumed the responsibility of uploading product information to its search engine, it is also no longer a free service. One must contact a Microsoft sales representative to discuss being added to this section of the site, which is apparently based on a CPC bidding model. During this process, a site owner can also decide to participate in Bing’s Cashback program. Looking at the proportion of Cashback offers to total retailers on Bing Shopping; it looks like Microsoft salespeople are enthusiastically pitching the Cashback partnership. The strategy for being listed in Bing Shopping has shifted from previously being arguably related to SEO to now PPC.

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