Facebook Officially Embraces The Hashtag

facebook and hashtagFacebook has recently gone public with their plan to make bring the ever popular hashtag to their platform. Already, the process has started for those using desktop and notebook tablets. The question on everyone’s mind is whether this will be beneficial to our marketing strategies and campaigns. In reality, only time will tell. Marketers will have to spend a few months utilizing the Facebook hashtag and monitoring the progress of their campaigns before a definitive will make itself known.

For those of you who have somehow remained completely unaware, a hashtag turns topics and phrases into clickable links. These links will be posted on your Facebook page (on your timeline) and will give people an easy way to find the topics they are already interested in. When it comes to hashtag use, we would like to offer up a few tips.

Hashtag Tips For Facebook:

  1. Start using the feature immediately. People have already begun and as internet marketers, our job is to stay on top of the latest trends. Falling behind is disastrous for us. Roll them out!
  2. The hashtag feature does not yet work on mobile phones. Use them anyway when posting from a smartphone. It  will show up for those using desktops or tablets.
  3. Find new customers, followers or friends by searching popular hashtags. Use these to direct your Facebook targeting. This might be the most valuable aspect of this roll out.

Good luck! And happy hashtagging!

Register For Our Free Webinar To Learn The Top Three SEO Strategies

SEO imageThe world of small business internet marketing has changed immensely in the last five years. With the constant updates and improvements to internet marketing tools, this can only be expected. On one hand, this means that your options are constantly increasing and improving. On the other hand, it can leave business owners more than a little confused.

We know that it is often not feasible to sign up for every marketing strategy you hear about. Stretching your resources that thin is rarely a good idea in the long run. But, what do you need to sign up for? What services will get you the most results for your money?

Ajax Union Vice President Sarah Mogin and Agency Manager David Gscheidle are prepared to answer all of these questions, and more, in the free webinar they are presenting on Wednesday, April 10. The Top 3 SEO Strategies for 2013 webinar will include topics such as how to set realistic (yet, ambitious) goals for your marketing campaign, where to start, how to track your campaign’s effectiveness and conversion tips. Sarah and David will explain how each of these work, how they can work for you and why you will lose the competitive edge without them.

Mark your calendar and register now for this informative presentation. Your business’s bottom line might depend on it!

MEETUP.COM – Bridging the Online/Offline Gap Since 2001

If you aren’t familiar with Meetup.com, it’s time to be. This social media site facilitates offline get-togethers for groups of people with common interests and goals. It’s the most popular site of its kind and quite brilliant, INMHO. Meetup is free, easy-to-use and invaluable for all types of online and offline networking.Meetup combines and streamlines the basic concepts of Facebook’s events and groups, and then adds filters to help users find local groups with desired attributes. So, if a person is opening a French bistro in Midtown and wants to network with local restaurant owners for business advice, he or she can find a Meetup group related to the Food & Beverage industry in the New York area. Upon joining the Meetup group, the aspiring bistro owner receives invitations to local gatherings created specifically for restaurant owners, and he learns how to succeed in business!It’s great for small- to mid-sized business owners and entrepreneurs who primarily conduct local business.

In case you’re curious, I made a list of the Top 10 Most Popular Meetup Groups in NYC. Based on my findings, groups intended for general professional networking get the most members. After that, professional networking groups targeting a certain demographic are popular. “Black Professionals…,” “Young Lesbians…” and “Women INspiring…” are popular, as well as a group about learning Japanese and drinking sake. Interesting….

1. NY Connect and Learn Business Networking Group

1,913 Smart Networkers

2. Black Professionals In The City

1,664 Black Professionals

3. The NY Recruiting Meetup Network

1,238 Recruiters

4. NJ Tech Meetup

1,013 Techies

5. Young Lesbian Professionals

952 Lesbian Professionals

6. Women INspiring Women

765 Inspirational Women

7. Japan Club: Basic Japanese Instruction and Sake withFriends

686 Japan Club Members

8. The New York Corporate Social Responsibility MeetupGroup

678 People interested in CSR

9. The NYC Social Media Networkers Meetup Group

518 Social Media Networkers

10. NY Funders & Founders Private Equity & VentureCapital Group

475 Funders & Founders

Internet Marketing Strategies: Black Hat? Not So Fast

black hat SEOLast month, GetElastic.com published a rather wonderful blog about Black Hat Tactics That Are Not Black Hat, citing some useful loopholes that certain webmasters and SEO-ers might be reluctant to use for fear of angering Google.

Highlights:

Cloaking

The definition of cloaking — showing different things to search engine crawlers and users — covers a lot of SEO strategies, many of which are A.O.K. with Google. Examples include displaying different info to visitors based on their languages or locations, or offering “first click free” content a la The Wall Street Journal, where search engines can see the whole site, but visitors have to pay for any content beyond the first click in.

Bad cloaking? Showing search engines keyword-stuffed content and then turning off the spam for your human visitors. That’s some black hat business, right there.

Paid Linking

Paying a site to link to you to boost your search engine rankings is a no-no, but add a “nofollow” attribute on that same link, and you’re good to go. This will keep your link from messing with Google’s ranking algorithm, but still allow it to help you attract visitors from your friend’s site to yours. (And, depending on who your friend is, legal paid linking can still lead to major traffic.)

Auto-generated Pages Stuffed with Keywords

Auto-generated pages just sound bad, don’t they? But whereas creating a program to post random keyword-stuffed spam all over your site is bad news, using your Ecommerce shopping engine to create said pages logically is not. For example, let’s say that “blue striped sheets” is a very popular search term on your site. Certain shopping engines, like Bizrate, will automatically create a “blue striped sheets” category page that will show up under users’ “Related Searches” and such, and that’s okay. The only problem, GetElastic warns, is if these pages are generated without listing any items from your store.

Overall, you should stay out of black hat territory if you remember Google’s golden rule: the content that you allow robots to crawl should be helpful to searchers. Stay helpful, and your hat will stay white.

Facebook Cracks Down on Breakup Notifier App, Heartbreak Ensues

breakup notifier

Facebook just disabled one of our favorite apps in recent history: Breakup Notifier, a nifty tool that sends email updates when your friend’s relationship shatter. Until a couple of minutes ago, all you had to do was add the app on Facebook, select the friends you want to keep tabs on and check your email obsessively until your crush of the moment changes their relationship status from “In a Relationship” to “It’s Complicated.”

The problem? It’s complicated. Reps from the app recently tweeted that “Facebook emailed saying that they’ve disabled us… We are working for a fix, but ask @facebook to put is back online!” — which implies that the app violated some portion of the social network’s terms of service.

Already covered on Geek.com, PCWorld, ABC News and other top outlets, Breakup Notifier is a promising — albiet creepy — app that we hope to see back in action soon.

Black Hat SEO: Don’t Pull a Penney’s

jc penney seo

The New York Times continues to impress us with their attention to the SEO biz — from their November article on reputation wrangler DecorMyEyes to last Saturday’s coverage of J.C. Penney’s SEO scandal. After monitoring the department store’s phenomenal search rankings for a litany of terms both short- and long-tailed, NYT approached Google with their findings, and the search engine giant pronounced JCP guilty of violating the site’s webmaster standards.

Specifically, Penney’s is guilty of buying links, a black hat search technique that disrupts Google’s natural order. The process is not illegal, but Google punishes violators by demoting their rankings or even removing them from the index altogether. Google began manually demoting Penney’s for various search terms after becoming aware of the misconduct.

Reps from J.C. Penney claim that the company was unaware of the link-building, although they did fire their SEO company, SearchDEX, lickety split. Is the retailer telling the truth? Many clients are clueless of their SEO firms’ direct activities, but Penney’s link-building efforts were notably more intense around the holiday season — a finding that implies the campaign had some kind of direction.

In the end, though, it doesn’t matter if Penney’s was aware of the black hat action — if you pay for an SEO company, you’re responsible for the tactics they pursue on your behalf. That’s why Ajax Union does everything above board. Can your marketing firm say that?

Hiybbprqag! Google “Bing Sting” Hurts both Search Engines

Bing Sting

Remember that old saying, “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”? Google probably does.

The big G recently published the results of its “Bing Sting” — a covert op where Google manipulated its search engine results for the first time ever to catch Microsoft in the act of copying its handling of unusual misspellings. The sting focused on some crazy misspelled words like “Hiybbprqag,” which at the start returned few, if any, results on G & B.

To trick Bing, Google listed one or more totally unrelated pages as the number one result for “Hiybbprqag” — plus several other out there terms. These honeypot pages started appearing on Bing’s results for the same search terms within weeks. The search engine concluded that Bing had been harvesting its data, perhaps from the Bing toolbar.

Okay, that’s kind of embarrassing. But then Bing fired back, accusing Google of copying its own innovative features, including its travel search, social media integration and infinitely scrolling image search. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

In the end, all of this stone throwing reveals that both search engines are guilty of looking at the other’s test — Bing being the more overt case — and, worse of all, that the two sites might not even be that different. Proponents of newer search engines like the admittedly awesome Blekko have been arguing that for years.

What do you think? Let us know on the Ajax Union Facebook.

SEO News: Google Tweaks Algorithm to Fight Thin Content

google algorithm

With news of content scrapers — and generally spammy news sites — like Demand Media cropping up in SEO blogs and mainstream news sources alike, it’s no surprise to see Google taking action. The search engine tweaked its algorithm last week to cut down on the amount of so-called thin content appearing on both Google.com and Google News.

But before you start rioting in the streets, read on: Google’s primary intention, it seems, is to provide the correct attribution whenever possible. So, if you write a great article that is then scraped by hundreds of illegitimate sites, your version will show up on Google News — not the other guys’.

Worried your content won’t make the grade? Not all internet marketing companies but content at a premium, but the thing is, opting for better content isn’t a choice — it’s a necessity. At Ajax Union, we create original, informative and SEO-friendly content for every Tweet, Facebook post, blog, article, and press release — and everything in between. Can your SEO company say that?

Play Nice: Search Engine Friendly Websites

SEO

Search Engine Watch posted a great article yesterday about the difference between SEF and SEO — search engine friendliness and full-on search engine optimization. And despite the old maxim “Nice guys finish last,” in the online marketing world, it pays to keep it friendly.

Search engine friendly websites are those that can easily be optimized for better rankings. They have simple, easy-to-define page URLs (i.e., www.yourstore.com/womens-purses/chanel-purses), as well as flexible image elements and URL, meta info, header tags, etc. This kind of flexibility may seem like a given, but many content management systems for Ecommerce are simply not built for in-depth optimization.

The bottom line: If you don’t have a search engine friendly website, get one. This is step one in optimization game, and the whole process (off site SEO, social networking, press releases, etc. etc.) hinges on the off site content’s relevance to the content on your site, as perceived by Google. If you’ve got clunky URLs and poorly optimized images dragging you down, outranking your competition is going to be very difficult.

After you’ve got a search engine friendly platform, it’s time to start thinking about SEO. The biggest step here is prefacing any changes with thorough industry keyword research — looking into the terms buyers are searching for and those your competition is ready targeting.

Do you think search engine friendly websites are important? Let us know at the Ajax Union Facebook.

Video SEO: 2 Quickie Video Ideas

video SEO

Video SEO is the wave of the future, yes, but not all of us have fancy recording studios — or even video cameras — to create the next Piranha 3D. To tap into the potential of video SEO without investing in new resources, consider the following two quick fixes:

1. Create a Search Story.

Remember that 2010 Google Superbowl commercial that left many a chip-muncher unexpectedly in tears? Google Search Stories makes it easy to create your own heartstring-pulling tour de film and upload said creation directly to Youtube. We even made one for Ajax Union!

2. Tap Into Animoto

Featuring stock photos, video clips, music and more, Animoto allows users to create 30-second videos for free — or longer ones, if you pay for an account. Grab some photos of your company and create your own slideshow ASAP.

Why video SEO?

Video SEO is valuable for both search rankings and branding, depending on where you post your videos. Host your files on Youtube, and you’ll be able to draw users to your Youtube page (and from there, possibly your site) from their Google search results — plus benefit from video networking potential. Host your videos on your site, and you’re creating another way for searchers to click to your page directly from Google.

Want to see all of our videos? Check out the Ajax Union Youtube.

BranchOut Facebook App Challenges LinkedIn to a Duel

branchoutNote: If you’ve ever been incriminated by a Facebook photo from the days of your alma mater, this blog post isn’t from you. If you haven’t, read on.

BranchOut, a new career networking tool for Facebook, is threatening to turn everyone’s favorite time waster into a productive site the likes of LinkedIn. With BranchOut, you can search a company name and see which of your friends work(ed) there. If your friends have added the app, you can see which of their friends work at that same company.

Besides for finding out who to ask for Urban Outfitters discounts, BranchOut might also be useful for job hunters and recruiters. The app is currently permitting free classifieds for 30 days to users within your network. In the future, BranchOut will offer app-wide classifieds for $30 per month.

So, is BranchOut the wave of the future? To many users, we suspect it will be — it all depends on whether you use your Facebook for work or play, or both. Many people these days even have separate Facebook accounts for business and pleasure.

How do you balance your social and professional networking? Let us know on the ‘book.

Google AdWords Blunders to Avoid

ppcTo the unenlightened, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising might seem as simple as choosing your keywords and setting a budget, but crafting a successful Google AdWords campaign requires a good dose of creativity  as well. Search Engine Land recently posted examples of 5 Bad Google Ads — a read that gave us a good laugh, and inspired us to dispense some quick tips for our readers:

1. Really target your keywords.

Do you sell used watches? Cars? Wheelchairs? Adding “used” to your keyword list is going to attract all of these searchers and more — many of whom are unlikely to click on an ad for your pre-owned whatnots. If you’re using a modifier like “used,” “free” and “cheap,” be sure to keep these words connected to more specific search phrases relevant to your business.

2. Be agressive. Be be agressive.

But seriously, informing searchers of your 200 job openings or veritable cornucopia of discount phone apps isn’t going to cut it — to earn those clicks, you have to tell them what to do: Find a job! Save on apps! Win a free phone! And so on.

3. Don’t be a haiku. (Or in other words, make sense.)

We all love our inbox haikus encouraging us to splurge on antivirus software and Viagra, but said literature has no place in Google AdWords. Make sure your ads make sense and contain proper spelling and grammar. Another tip: Keep your title and description lines separate — Google made them that way for a reason.

Got more PPC tips? Let us know at the Ajax Union Facebook!

How To Get Your Blog Post on the First Page of Google

blogging for SEOKa-chow! Let’s cut to the chase. Blogging is great for unwinding, ranting and testing out some ideas for the ole novel, but many of us have bigger ambitions than simply expressing ourselves — we want to express ourselves on the first page of Google. Area 203 just posted an awesome Guide to Blogging for SEO, which inspired us to write up some tips of our own.

STEP ONE: Choose a compelling topic. Anyone can write about what Natalie Portman wore to the Golden Globes last Sunday — what do you have to offer that’s special? Check out Google Trends to see what people are searching, but beyond that, try to provide some information or perspective that readers can’t find anywhere else. Maybe it’s a guide. Maybe it’s a rant. Maybe it’s a top ten list. Just be sure to make it unique.

STEP TWO: SEO-ify your titles. You don’t have to go crazy advertising Brooklyn NY Marketing Services or anything, but think before you write about adding a word or two here or there to better attract search engines. For example, in a post about Flock, Area 203 used the phrase “Flock Browser” in their headline — slightly less catchy, but more attuned to the wants of Google and the like.

STEP THREE: Enhance what can be enhanced. A successful blog post requires more than a SEO-friendly title. Be sure to enhance your images (file names, alt tags and title tags) with your keyword du jour, and likewise inject your paragraph headings, post tags and categories with some SEO flair. Even your post URL can be customized to include but a single keyword.

STEP FOUR: Pimp your WordPress. To take full advantage of your suped-up content, you have to make the most of your blogging platform — which, for us, is always WordPress. Download the All In One SEO Pack to let your titles and content reach their full potential. (Also, be sure that your WP theme is wisely header-ed — if your sidebar headings are H2s, you’re doing something wrong.)

Did we mention it’s Friday? Let us in on your weekend plans at the Ajax Union Facebook.

Does Google Favor Google?

google favoritism

When you search “maps” on Google, the top result is Google Maps. Coincidence? Ben Edelman thinks not.

Edelman, a Harvard Business School assistant professor and notorious Google opponent (he’s served as a consultant for Microsoft and is participating in a lawsuit against the big G) recently published a study on search engine favoritism. His results showed that Google favors its own services in results 19% of the time — for terms like maps, mail, video and email.

And while Edelman interprets these results to say that Google is favoring itself, our pals over at Search Engine Land beg to differ. SEL has many objections, the primary qualm is this: Maybe Google Maps really is the most popular and useful result for “maps” searchers according to Google’s algorithm. Maybe it’s not favoritism, just business as usual. After all, Google Maps also shows up first on Yahoo! and Bing.

What do you think about search engine favoritism? Let us know at the Ajax Union Facebook.

Is LivingSocial the New Groupon?

Confession: As card carrying members of the blogosphere, we have a soft spot for naming ____ the new ____.

But that being said, LivingSocial — a daily deal site offering bargains in restaurants, salons and the like — is slowly climbing the ranks toward giving Groupon a run for its money. The site made headlines this morning when it launched a 24-hour deal where customers can buy $20 Amazon gift cards for $10. Groupon did a similar promotion with Gap over the summer, reeling in some $7.5 million in sales.

In LivingSocial’s case, though, the partnership may run deeper. Amazon recently invested $175 million in the site, leading some to speculate that this whole gift card business might be subsidized by Amazon itself. But subsidization schmubsidization, having your name in lights next to Amazon.com is a big deal either way.

Can LivingSocial ever catch up to Groupon? The latter recently turned down a $6 billion buyout from Google and has been legitimately on fire as of late, especially in the wake of the super-successful Grouponicus holiday sale-a-thon. An overtake may be impossible, but it could be good news for LivingSocial to simply gain recognition as “the other Groupon” — standing out from the smorgasbord of daily deals sites competing for attention.

And no matter what happens, a Groupon-LivingSocial showdown would be good news for consumers. Heightened competition means better deals, after all.

Get A Leg Up from Your Competition

This is Sparta!

God, we hate those guys. Those other guys: the competition. But ignoring your competition is not going to make them go away — in fact, you’re better off studying them to discover their strengths and weaknesses.

What should you be looking for? Read on for some ideas:

  1. Perks: Evaluate the selling points of your competition, be they free shipping, membership discounts, daily sales, customer service, or whatever else. Can you incorporate any of these techniques into your business plan?
  2. Online marketing: Promoting your business online is a great way to get ahead of the curve, but sometimes the first step is catching up. Explore the marketing strategies your competitors are employing. Do they have PPC advertisements? Onsite SEO? An email signup form? Frequent press releases? Find out what they’re doing and match — or better yet, exceed — their efforts.
  3. Customer reviews: Nobody can give you the inside scoop quite like an angry customer. Try Googling each competitor’s name and see what reviews show up on the first couple of pages. Are their products defective? Their returns non-existant? Find out their weaknesses and exploit them!

One final note: Don’t be afraid to go incognito. This is Sparta, after all. And sometimes Spartans call up competitors posing as customers. (But you didn’t hear it from us.)

Share your strategies on the Ajax Union Facebook.

Vintage Google for Old-School SEOs

Change Is Bad!

Do you long for the search engine days of yore? The tranquil era before Pay-Per-Click advertising, Google Instant, or the even more instant Google Instant Previews?

At Ajax Union, we’re all about looking forward, but sometimes we enjoy looking back, in the fetal position, and recalling the days before the Wild Wild World Wide Web was won.

And you can too! To search the interwebs using a vintage-style Google, throw on your 1999 jean jacket and head to encrypted.google.com, a familiar-looking, bare-bones version of the Google of 2011.

Not into typing “encrypted”? We don’t blame you. You can also download extensions for Chrome and Firefox to subdue that nagging nostalgia.

But nostalgia aside, modern Google is pretty rad, don’t you think? Innovations like Google Instant Previews have given legitimate businesses new ways to out-edge their spammy counterparts (through design) — and as for Pay-Per-Click, we can’t imagine a world without Quality Scores and CTRs.

How do you feel about the evolution of Google? Let us know at the Ajax Union Facebook!

Why We Love Matt Cutts

seoMatt Cutts, Google’s Webspam team leader and all-around SEO advocate, has been a major resource for the online marketing community for a number of years. The video above is only one example of Cutts’ awesome advice, giving hope to the poor, huddled SEO masses and their long-tail keywords.

In this video, Cutts discusses a handful of white-hat link-building techniques to enhance search engine rankings. Don’t have time to press play? Here’s a rundown:

  1. Content! Earn those links by giving webmasters a site worth linking to with compelling articles, blog posts, on-page contests, photos, videos, etc. And if you don’t have a blog, make one.
  2. Original research, products, and services. Offer your visitors something nobody else has. Whether it’s a study on the effectiveness of Bing Social Search or a WordPress plugin for better Twitter integration — if you post it, the links will come.
  3. Participation and social media. Reach out to potential links on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, in addition to advice forums such as Yahoo! and LinkedIn answers. Both of these techniques will allow you to connect to people that might not have otherwise stumbled upon your site.
  4. Create link bait. In moderation. Top 10 Web Design Tips. 5 Reasons Lady Gaga is a Man. Certain headlines are just screaming for links — especially lists and controversial pieces. Of course, you don’t want your entire site to go down this road, or you won’t really be offering quality content.

Got other ideas? Let us know on the Ajax Union Facebook.

Happy Birthday to Us!

seo

Ajax Union is three years old today! We’ve grown a lot since our start in 2008 and are looking forward to expanding even more in the years to come. We’d like to extend a thank you to all of our clients who have been with us through thick and thin — thanks guys!

What was your favorite birthday experience? Let us know at the Ajax Union Facebook page.

Even More SEO Tips for 2011

seo tips

Back for more SEO tips? We’re not surprised. Continuing on yesterday’s list, here are two other awesome suggestions for starting your 2011 online marketing campaign off right:

4. Become a master of your HTML 5 domain.

The new generation of HTML is relevant not just to designers, but SEOs as well. Currently, most web coding revolves around the <div> tag — navigation bars are divs, body text elements are divs, footers are divs. HTML 5 features a whole roster of new elements that function like <div> tags, except that their specific names allow search engines to better interpret your page layout. New elements include: <header>, <nav>, <article>, <section>, <aside>, and <footer>. Plus, HTML 5 is optimized for mobile devices like the iPad.

5. Convert your conversions.

When you work in SEO, it’s easy to think that your marketing campaign is all about traffic. But unless your traffic is converting, it might as well be non-existant. In 2011, boost your marketing strategies by analyzing that factors that can increase your conversions. Are you targeting the keywords of shoppers, or researchers? Does your website make converting easy and appealing?

What are your New Year’s resolutions? Let us know on the Ajax Union Facebook page!

Image courtesy of A List Apart.