On a recent trip to the UK, US search marketer and prolific blogger Lee Odden visited the Webcertain offices and the team took the opportunity to get his thoughts on a range of search and social media topics.
Here are some of the questions Webcertain posed, along with Lee’s answers.
What is Google’s biggest threat?
My initial response is Facebook will continue to occupy more of peoples’ time and it is continually developing and introducing new features which will only increase its appeal. Facebook is steadily chipping away at Twitter, already adding some of Twitter’s popular features such as @reply and real time search.
However, Google’s greatest threat is probably itself. It is currently trying to be all things to all people and by spreading itself too thin, it may potentially weaken its position in key areas – i.e. search. People may begin to see an one-sidedness to using Google for every online function.
It is likely to be a long time, however, until that happens.
Does your offline/online reputation precede you when it comes to social media?
Taking Twitter as an example, people will follow you based on what they know of you already from both your on- and offline activity however they will stay following you based on how you act when you are on Twitter.
If a company has a strong brand, it can build a Twitter account and gain a lot of followers very quickly, even with little or no activity because people are anticipating what it will do in the future. However, to make any long term gains, organisations cannot simply rely on the strength of their brand, they need to do more and engage with their audiences.
This applies to other social media as well as Twitter.
What are the benefits of adding content to a blog rather than just to a page on your website?
Whether you use a blog or your website to display your content, will depend on your content marketing strategy. Websites are often the means of publishing corporate information about your company and therefore have a more formal tone.
Blogs are more conversational and less formal than websites and they are very effective for distributing the content to a wider audience through RSS feeds. You can reach people without them ever having them visit your corporate website and can communicate the personality of your organisation more effectively than through formal corporate content.
Is it advisable to have a blog instead of a website?
A blog CMS is fundamentally the same as any other CMS, giving you the same functionality as standard website and the ability to create static pages. However, it is likely to give you wider distribution and visibility of the content. Again, it does depend on the tone of voice you want to use, and the message you want to portray.
Which social media platforms are the most SEO friendly, and which are under-exploited from an SEO perspective?
Social media platforms that employ too much SEO run the risk of alienating users and turning them away from the community. It causes moderators to enforce strict rules on what you can and cannot do on the website, which defeat the purpose of social media.
Social media needs to be used as a channel to distribute content, share your brand messages and engage with users – the propagation of your content will drive traffic to your website, create brand awareness and increase the number of links, without the need for SEO.
Building a strong community with valuable and relevant content will offer great, long term value.
When building a website from scratch, what is the most important – content or links?
Content, as the most effective way to get links is to have something worth linking to. This is especially true when the links need editorial approval. Also, to get the most out of social media, you need to have good content to share and talk about.
How do you become an often-referenced blogger?
By publishing quality content on your blog consistently and by networking both on- and offline – people need to know you exist in the first place. Do not underestimate the importance of offline networking to boost your online reputation
You also need to make it easy for people to share your content and link to it.
What is the value of inserting the brand name in the title tag?
This depends on how well-known the brand is already, and how much investment has been made in brand awareness. If, for example, there are a lot of searches on the brand term or there has been a lot of PR activity about the brand, then it should be included in the tag however a start-up or small company is unlikely to have the same brand awareness; therefore including the name in the title will add little value.
Are local country TLDs becoming less relevant in Google?
This question is based on a recent video by Google’s Matt Cutts, which says that more and more generic TLDs such as .com will appear in local results e.g. on google.co.uk. This seems contradictory advice, given that Google has always attached importance to having the relevant local country domain and seems to suggest that the search engine has found a new way to determine how relevant a website is to the local market.
Other than Matt Cutts’ statement, there appears to be little other evidence to suggest that maintaining local domains is no longer useful, so local domains would certainly still feature on my checklist when advising clients on good SEO practices.
Lee had a couple questions for the Webcertain team too…..
Are there similar tools to the Google Webmaster Tools available in other languages?
Yes, there are such tools available for other search engines such as Yandex and most recently Baidu. However, with the new Baidu tool, unlike Google, you need an account with Baidu in order to access it, so it is much less accessible. And of course you need to be able to speak the language to be able to use it.
What are the main challenges in running international social media campaigns?
Finding the most relevant people to target and engage with in each country, knowing the best places to find them and using the right language to reach them – to do this you need a native speaker of the language. When running campaigns across multiple languages, it is quite a challenge to co-ordinate all of the languages and ensure they are regularly updated with fresh, relevant content.
Also, most organisations plan their social media strategy with just one language in mind, which is then difficult to deploy across multiple markets and languages. Ideally, a global strategy needs to be determined from the outset, to ensure that it will be effective across all the target markets.
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