We’ll Be Speaking At SMX West 2010

I am speaking at SMX Westby Chris Silver Smith

Both Christine Churchill, President of KeyRelevance, and Chris Silver Smith, Director of Optimization Strategies for Key Relevance, will be speaking at this year’s SMX West in March at Santa Clara, California. Christine will also be moderating the Analytics Action Plans session.

  • MAR 2 / 9:45am – Keyword Research Tools & Techniques (Christine Churchill)
  • MAR 2 / 3:00pm – Ranking Tactics For Local Search (Chris Silver Smith)
  • MAR 2 / 3:00pm – Keyword Research: Beyond The Ordinary (Christine Churchill)
  • MAR 3 / 10:45am – Twitter Marketing Tactics (Chris Silver Smith)
  • MAR 4 / 1:30pm – Analytics Action Plans For PPC & SEO (Christine Churchill)

SMX Banner, Santa Clara Convention CenterDon’t miss this valuable opportunity to learn search marketing techniques directly from us, and from other pros in the industry!

Not only is SMX an excellent conference to learn techniques from some of the top minds in search marketing, but search engines frequently choose to announce major new changes here.

With valuable opportunities to learn marketing techniques, plus chances to hear information directly from the top search engineers themselves, and great professional networking opportunities, make it a point to pencil SMX West onto your calendar. Register today!


Speaking At SEMpdx SearchFest in Portland

SEMpdx SearchFest 2010 logoby Chris Silver Smith

I’ll be speaking at the Search Engine Marketers of Portland (SEMpdx) day conference, SearchFest, on March 9th.

I’ll be speaking on Local Search Optimization tactics, along with a couple of other marketers I’ve long respected (and enjoyed socializing with as well!): Matt McGee and Mary Bowling.

For those who may be debating between attending a couple of different West Coast conferences, I’ll be covering different material at SearchFest than what I’ll be covering at SMX West. At SearchFest, I’ll be some essentials for local search ranking factors – a somewhat intermediate level of content, as Local SEO goes.

Portland, Oregon - Skyline
Portland Skyline photo by Eric Baetscher. / CC BY-SA 2.0

Town & City Name Sponsorships

I just wrote an article which published at Search Engine Land yesterday on the subject of some innovative and occasionally guerrilla marketing tactics that might be used to display advertising promotion via Google Maps. (See: Six Odd Tactics For Getting Ads Into Google Maps)

One aspect the article touches upon is how some smaller towns and cities might find it attractive to sell the rights to their names in return for sponsor dollars. I find this concept interesting, particularly as many municipalities have begun considering flogging the rights to name all sorts of things from auditoriums to subway stations to city service departments.

In the article I mentioned “DISH, Texas” which sold its name a few years ago to a satellite dish company in return for free satellite TV service for all of its residents. While this is one of the more recent examples of “City Name Sponsorships”, it’s not the first. My coworker, Mike Churchill alerted me to the fact that the small town of “Truth or Consequences, New Mexico” actually changed its name from “Hot Springs” back in 1950 in order to win a radio contest.

Truth or Consequences, NM

The NBC radio program, “Truth or Consequences” offered to broadcast their show from the first town that renamed itself for the show.

In American history, quite a number of towns and cities went through various name transitions over time, but most of these monikers were inspired by people’s names or were descriptive in some way. These days, I suspect that most larger cities would find a lot of resistance to selling off their names — and for well-known cities they’d be losing a lot of “brand equity” if they dropped a well-known name. But, for small towns, there could potentially be a lot of places which might find large corporate investment attractive enough that they could overcome constituents’ resistance to name-change.

Selling a placename is bound to create controversy whenever it happens. Winnipeg’s plans to sell off naming rights on everything from parking meters to bus tickets and even city services has apparently gotten significant criticism.

Kalle Lasn, founder and editor-in-chief of Adbusters magazine, says selling off naming rights to city services is an example of backward and unimaginative thinking.

“It’s really depressing … They should learn how to be a little bit more innovative. There are ways of cutting back and ways of generating revenue that don’t include selling your soul to corporations.”

(Adbusters is famous for helping promote “Buy Nothing Day” and other anti-commercialism and anti-advertising philosophies.)

Regardless of the controversy, the prospect of abruptly having some saleable assets available is likely to prove too attractive to resist for many city managers during these cash-strapped times. I expect we’ll see some more instances of corporate-sponsored city names appearing in online mapping systems like Google Maps.

Easy Tactics To Leverage Wikipedia For Google Maps

WikipediaI recently wrote an article outlining how Wikipedia was abruptly rocketed into being heavily influential within Google Maps (see New Behemoth Emerges In Google Maps: Wikipedia). For small businesses everywhere, I predict that this change is going to bring Wikipedia to the forefront of SMB’s attention. With just a little bit of review, I think that small business owners are going to be noticing how Wikipedia has become very ubiquitous in Place Pages for Google Maps, and they’ll notice or suspect that those Places which sport a Wikipedia association tend to rank higher than others.

Once a business proprietor notices this, they may think to themselves, “Aha! Easy as pie! I know Wikipedia allows anyone to edit articles and add articles about any and everything, so I’ll have my clever nephew who does the internets add an article about my business!” Unfortunately, it’s not this simple.

The ease with which Wikipedia allows community user edits has been a prime area for criticism of the service over the years, and Wikipedia has responded by tightening review of whether subjects are notable enough to merit their own articles, and dedicated Wikipedia devotees try to scrutinize all edits to insure that they’re factual, backed up by respectable references, and worthy of mention. So, addition of articles in a willy-nilly fashion without good understanding of the service’s rules and practices will almost certainly lead to deletion of the content added. It may not happen immediately, but it almost certainly will happen at some point.

The brutal truth is that most businesses simply are not notable enough to merit having a Wikipedia article dedicated to them. There is some sense of the arbitrary about what characteristics are required to meet notability guidelines, because there is some element of subjectivity about it. Essentially, a subject likely needs to be historically significant, culturally significant, or be widely known. A highly significant, publicly-traded company such as Google would meet the requirements, while a small clock repair shop in Anytown likely will not.

Small stores can make the cut, such as the Gotham Book Mart, for which I researched and authored the Wikipedia article a couple of years back. But, few businesses have had as many newspaper articles about them, mentioned in books as much, or had as many associations with notable individuals.

"Wise Men Fish Here" sign, Gotham Book Mart
The iconic "Wise Men Fish Here"
sign which hung above the door
of the famous Gotham Book Mart
for decades.

So, what’s to be done if you’re a small business looking to increase your promotional game? Is Wikipedia completely off-limits to you?

No! There are a number of acceptable ways by which one may integrate with Wikipedia in valid, non-spammy ways, and I’ll cover two of the easiest here. These two methods are primarily for those small businesses which do not merit articles dedicated to them in Wikipedia.

Method 1: Set up your own User page and begin authoring and editing Wikipedia articles.

The best way to understand Wikipedia is to begin participating. Here’s an article on how to start. You may validly write up a User page with links to your own sites, and the more you help out with Wikipedia articles, the more important your User page becomes. As it becomes important, your business site may benefit.

Now, User pages and other pages in Wikipedia automatically nofollow http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nofollow external links as they are added, meaning that they are flagged for search engines as not being endorsed by Wikipedia. “Nofollowing” a link was intended to halt it from passing PageRank or ranking value in search engines, and was introduced to help fight spam in sites where users are allowed to add links. There’s a debate among marketing circles as to whether Google chooses to count Wikipedia’s external links in ranking algorithms or not. My suspicion is that as other spam-fighting methods have improved in Wikipedia, the links which have been added and have sustained over time likely do have some rank value — and are therefore likely used by Google for ranking purposes.

The User pages of those who add a lot of value to Wikipedia gain PageRank themselves, and, even if they do not pass PageRank, the links do pass traffic which can indirectly help increase a site’s rankings in other ways. (For instance, see MONGO’s User page, which has developed a Google Toolbar PageRank of 4 or Durova’s which has a 6.)

If you’re setting up your User page in part to promote your business, I suggest that you consider naming it beneficially with your business name, or a category/keyword name that refers to your type of business. Describe your business briefly. Link to relevant articles about your city or neighborhood. Link to your company with descriptive link text. And, to provide a chance of enabling this to eventually help your listing in Google Maps, include a Geobox in the profile (this addes geocoordinates to the page, a key element that Google looks for when deciding if a page is about a location).

If you’re a newbie at Wikipedia, I strongly suggest you proceed slowly and learn the environment. To get a good grasp of what people edit on pages, check out the History tab on a number of articles and click to compare revisions. This shows how people make changes, what they change, and many ideally provide a super-brief snippet of text to state what they’ve altered.

It’s very easy to find areas where you can add value: read articles of subjects you’re familiar with and interested-in, and you’ll likely find text needing grammatical correction, badly phrased sentences needing clearer writing, factual errors, and articles needing some additional vital pieces of information. Be sure to find and add credible references if adding or altering facts — you should ideally back up all facts with a reference source, just as if you were writing research papers for college.

Method 2: Donate photos of local scenes to Wikimedia Commons for use in Wikipedia articles.

I’ve written before about how it can be beneficial to employ loose licensing for images so that others may be incented to use them and link back to your site, and this is a variation on that theme (see: Why Free Photos Equal Good SEO).

Chrysler Building - Wikimedia Commons PicFor instance, the photographer who donated this pic of the famous Chrysler Building, David Shankbone, included URLs on the image’s information page which link to his site.

For another example, check out the page for the photo I donated for the Gotham Book Mart of the “Wise Men Fish Here” sign.

Is this allowed? Absolutely. Read Wikipedian Durova’s article on how adding images to Wikipedia is acceptable. Wikipedia desires to have good quality photos donated for use so that they may be used to illustrate articles. This is an area where helping the community can be mutually beneficial for everyone.

This tactic is actually pretty powerful, because releasing images into Wikimedia in return for attribution (a citation when anyone uses your photo, with a link back to you) enables you to achieve a lot of links from other sites as well, depending upon the popularity of and usefulness of your photo and its subject matter.

To figure out what photos to add, I suggest reviewing the Wikipedia articles of famous places in your area, and identifying ones which do not have pics. Then take a Saturday morning with good weather and sunlight, and snap photos to donate. You can also look at Wikipedia’s page for Articles needing images, but many of these may be more specific subjects for which you may not be able to provide photos.

Naturally, there are a number of “don’ts” when adding content to Wikipedia. I won’t expand on all those here, but they probably mostly boil down to “don’t be spammy” and “be polite”. I suggest reading up on Wikipedia Etiquette if you’re just getting started. Wikipedia desires content which is informative, factual, and neutrally presented.

There are a number of more advanced means of optimizing for Google Maps and local search via Wikipedia, for those who are more experienced with the service. I’ll likely be going into more of these tactics in upcoming articles at Search Engine Land and in presentations I make at upcoming conferences. So, stay tuned for more!

Use Newspapers for Local SEO

newspaperNewspapers and search engine optimization are made for one another, but the newspaper industry has been a reluctant participant in the internet age.

Today I posted a marketing advice article geared towards small, local newspapers entitled, “Local Newspapers Need To Embrace SEO To Survive“. Ironically, Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation, has just stated this past weekend that they’re entertaining the possibility of completely yanking their news articles out of the Google index altogether! This, of course, would be a large mistake because there’s increasing evidence that information resources that are unavailable via the internet (and availability now is largely synonymous with “findable in Google”) are considered by consumers to be less relevant.

I think Murdoch’s idea of creating a walled garden is a bad strategy in this case, although I’m highly sympathetic to the plight faced by large and small newspapers all over the country. With news subscriptions having dropped all over, and advertiser revenue switching more to online and other channels, newspapers companies have been feeling the pinch terribly. It’s my believe that most have huge potential for online, and can turn this around. In my article, I described how the news archives with many papers contain a gold mine of information that a great many people don’t even know exists because it’s walled-off by badly-built sites.

Even so, it’s my opinion that newspapers continue to have a role in our day-to-day lives, and they have an important place in local marketplaces, both online and offline.

Small businesses who desire better exposure online need to keep their local papers’ websites in mind as one component of their online marketing. If you’re a small business desiring better rankings in Google, examine your local newspaper sites closely to see if there are opportunities for obtaining valuable links. Some tips:

  • Pages of newspaper sites which rank well in search engines are desireable places for you to obtain links. See what pages are exposed to the search engine, and find out what opportunities there may be to get a link to your business website from them.
  • Consider traditional promotion activites to obtain newspaper articles about your business! The old methods can still work today. Just ask the reporter really nicely if they can link to your business website at the end of the story — that makes the story more useful for their own users, too, so there’s a good reason for them to do this.
  • Link to the news story(ies) about you! So, if your local newspaper site is one of the badly-built ones, and the story about your business isn’t indexed by Google, help it out by linking to the stories about you from many other places on the internet such as from social bookmarking sites, your personal homepage, and other places. If the URL is publicly available, you can help the page get indexed by linking to it, and if it mentions you or links to you, the reference citation can only help your business site!
  • Don’t forget the classifieds! Online newspaper sites have online classifieds, frequently, and many people forget to make use of them. This can often be a free or low-cost option for you to further promote your business and business site.
  • Newspaper yellow pages? Many newspaper sites include helpful local directories of businesses, and these are places where you want to claim your business listing, expand your business profile, include links to you, and even consider spending advertising to improve your reach.
  • Comment! User comments on news stories online are also another way that one may be able to effectively interact with newspaper sites. You could comment on a news story about your business, thanking the reporter involved. You could comment about other news stories that my be related to your interests in some way. Interestingly, some major newspaper sites allow links in comments and they are not all “nofollowed”! They can do this since they may review/moderate comments prior to publishing them. In other cases, comments may not be good for links and many news sites don’t allow much customization of user profiles. Still, the references to your business are worthwhile, so consider interacting with the local news audience via comments.

So, while newspapers may be struggling to adapt to the internet age, and their sites may not be search-engine-friendly, they can still be valuable components of your overall local marketing mix.