Monday, November 25, 2013

Google in late 2013

This year, Penguin and Hummingbird were announced and our sites pretty much trucked along, untouched by anything. We grow.

Best Search Engine
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Is this a white or black hat technique?
The big question, has our traffic from Google been disrupted?

The fact is, we don't know. We don't track it that closely.  I couldn't tell if our search engine traffic has moved up or down. Generally, I think it's about the same but then, when I actually look up our SERP in Google, I get the impression that we have moved off the first page for large numbers of terms and phrases.

1.   Track SERP position.  We should be checking Webmaster tools regularly both for messages from Google and to track our SERP. We should also get some tool, perhaps Raven at $99/month or some integration with Adwords, so that we have a tracking of the historical pattern of our position.

2.  White Hat vs Black Hat is getting grey.  In the old days, I could say that we just don't do anything that would be sleezy and get us in trouble with Google. Our efforts were primarily to build content and organize it well.  We never bought text links or did anything else that Google would frown at.  Now however, it seems that some of our programs might get us in trouble.  For instance, I have participated in many forums and blogs and used the name of our site in my signature.  Google is now saying that all those links should be "no followed" but realistically, does anyone care over small volumes of such things? Also, many blogs and forums don't give you that much control over your signature on comments and blogs.

3. It seems like the press releases are now a focus for google. We have done press releases, 3-4 per year for half a decade, in which we have optimized them to focus attention on pages with keyphrases of importance to us. It turns out that we won't be doing that any more.

BTW, I'd like to keep writing this article but I've been horribly distracted by a NPR interview with Bill Cosby about his A-D-D and this page with info on the evolution of the Google logo (was I supposed to "No Follow" this too or is it that somehow wrong according the Google's New Testament?):

Friday, November 15, 2013

Our First Infographic - Confusing Words

We are going to print up our first poster for classrooms and we are adding an online infographic that we hope the educational community will share around.  The topic is primarily the confusing word of homophones, homonyms, and homographs.

Multiple meaning wordsWords that sound alikeSame spelling,
different pronunciation,
different meanings
 the spruce tree...
 to spruce up...
 addition for math
 edition of a book
 desert = abandon
 desert = area of land
 suit yourself...
 wore a suit...
 I want to go
 I like it too
 One plus one is two
 bass = fish
 bass = instrument
 weigh on the scale...
 scale the wall...
 capitol building
 state capital
 close = nearby
 close = to shut
 the price is fair...
 go to the fair...
 pick a flower
 bake with flour
 bow = to bend down
 bow = ribbon

Here's a sample of the sort of thinking and games that the site offers in this area.

Homonyms, or multiple meaning words, are words that share the same spelling and the same pronunciation but have different meanings. For example, bear.
bear (the animal) can bear (tolerate) very cold temperatures.
The driver turned left (opposite of right) and left (departed from) the main road.
Homophones, also known as sound-alike words, are words that are pronounced identically although they have different meanings and often have different spellings as well. These words are a very common source of confusion when writing. Common examples of sets of homophones include: to, too, and two; they're and their; bee and be; sun and son; which and witch; and plain and plane. VocabularySpellingCity is a particularly useful tool for learning to correctly use and spell the soundalike words.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

YouTube - Lets have a plan

It's said that YouTube is second only to Google itself in the number of searches.  Personally, I doubt it. There are also gazillions of searches on Ebay and Amazon and Facebook and Bing. But heck, who's
counting? Most importantly, there are an ample amount of searches on YouTube so it's time to ask some questions, get some answers, and consider whether and how to improve our marketing through it.

1.  When people are in shopping mode, do they use YouTube? The magic of Google, as the Google advertisements emphasize - "Want to know who wants a new telescope? It's people Googling on 'new telescopes'!" - is that people tend to search on Google when they are shopping.  

Parenthetical note,  Amazon is even more likely to be a search as part of a sales process but somehow, they still don't accept an annual subscription as something that can be sold through them. How is that possible?  We need to find an Amazon expert to see what is possible...

Is YouTube only used for searches that are a step or two away from shopping? In this case, we should treat it as a general brand and awareness advertising opportunity (which is not something that we do a lot of).  Most specifically, 
A.  Do we think that purchasers who are considering buying Time4Learning might jump onto YouTube to look for reviews?
B.  Do we think people are more likely to go to YouTube on general questions like, "How to Homeschool?"
If they are looking for reviews, we should probably encourage the creation of reviews which compare us with other choices so that as they look for reviews on other choices, they learn about us!
C. Do we think YouTube is going to be used by Google as feedback in their ranking of websites in any way in the near future? 

2.  How does the YouTube natural search algorithm work? Specifics:
- When I first go to YouTube, many videos are suggested to me. What algorithm?
- After I finish a video, "related videos" are suggested to me. What algorithm?
- When I do a search on YouTube, videos are suggested to me. What algorithm?

Overall, I'm thinking that the YouTube search algorithm has four general components:

Is general popularity of videos based on links?  Embeds? Plays? Completions?  Owner popularity? Likes (up and down)?  Unlike Google itself which is based traditionally on website links (ie website behavior) and is struggling to integrate human behavior (ie likes, bounce rates, other social clues from LinkedIn, G+, and Twitter back when they had access to the feed), it seems like YouTubes ranking is based primarily on human/social behavior and only slightly, on website indicators such as links and embeds. 

Is YouTube's understanding of the personal interest of the user based only on their behavior on YouTube or is Google using information from their Google searches, Google Plus, and other sources to understand the interests of users? Or, is i just their behavior on YouTube such as subscriptions, videos watched, videos completed, and videos liked?

Categories and topics. How does Google categorize and understand the content of videos? Is it 25% the category picked when the video is uploaded, 50% the title of video, 5% the interest of the author, 5% first 20 words of the descriptions, 5% the people who subscribe to it, 5% the rest of the description, and 5% a scan of the transcription of the content made by Google?

Timing: trending and time decay.  Twitter really studies and promotes hot trends.  Facebook's Edgerank algorithm has time decay as one of the top components in deciding what to put into people's newsfeed. Where does YouTube fit in this?

3. How do we find out about the popularity of certain search terms on YouTube? What sort of tools are there comparable to webmaster tools from Google (what terms are we showing up for an in what position), all  the search term popularity tools for Google, the spy-on-other-site tools for Google (major search terms, total traffic) etc

4. Advertising.  What program on YouTube is there comparable to Adwords on Google or Promote Post on Facebook. Is it pay per play (start? finish?) or pay for placement?  What are the tools for managing YouTube advertising? Are they integrated with Adsense and DoubleClick Small Business or totally apart?  BTW, the YouTube Adwords program is easily researched.

5. Programs. At one show, I met a lady from LA with a YouTube education business card. We corresponded for awhile and I pushed all of our educational materials to her for her attention. Who was she? What was she doing?  How can she help or hurt us?  How many more programs are there like that we should be part of?  

Thinking more broadly about video or song marketing, how much money could we be making by having our hugely popular YouTube songs be for sale on Itunes? Is there a comparable spot in the Android world?

6. How to leverage success. We have some kid videos that have lots and lots of videos.  I just checked and one of our kid videos has over nine million. But there is no link above the fold in the captions and the one masked advertisement for ourselves that has been placed is not that well done (poor contrast on colors).  Does this success or power just belong to that video? to the channel? How do we take advantage of it. BTW, it's tricky since the video is for very young kids and we are both COPPA 2 Compliant and we try to be decent and have common sense.  

BTW, I went to YouTube and searched on the Wheels on the Bus and found  there were two ads at the top of the first page, two video ads at the bottom and 20 Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round videos on the first page.  We weren't there, we were on the second page in the 22nd spot. Even for me and I subscribe to that channel.

Pinterest - Lets Have a Plan

After our meeting with celebrity social media informal partner, we have renewed interest and several approaches to Pinterest to work on:

  1. Further developing our own boards. This is management work in which we figure out the topics and organization.
  2. Partnering with other people with their own boards. Pinterest is a social media and part of success with the media is socializing with other people and organizations with complementary interests. Overall, the idea is we share traffic with each other. Who, who, and how formally/informally?
  3. Work on our sites. Step 1: Better images for sharing onto Pinterest for our site. 
    1. Pinterest likes big images  but we've tended to shrink our images on some sites for faster loading times.  
    2. Pinterest likes images that are statis, we've made many of ours into rotating gifs.
    3. Pinterest images are most effective with a built-in caption and a site name or URL in the corner. Our images are designed to fit onto a page where there is already a lot of text and company logos. (Masks?)
  4. Work on our sites. Step 2:  Better placement of social media icons. We've done this across three of our four major sites, we also have five minor sites to do this one.
  5. Work on our sites. Step 3:  Lets get our web design team to take a look at implementing the Pinterest icon integrated on the images on either T4W or S4U to see how it works.  On these images, on our site, we can cover up the repetitive elements (logo, captions) with a mask.