Leveraging User Generated Content at IS2011

IS conference 2011

Great IS Conference 2011 presentation by Michael DeHaven of Bazaarvoice (@stormseo) on ‘Leveraging User Generated Content for SEO and Conversion’.

Top 7 tips for SEO work around User Generated Content:

  1. Don’t forget SEO fundamentals – you have to start with the fundamentals (h1 tags, keyword targeting, great writing)
  2. Search engines get bored – ‘static sites are so 2005’, search engines crave something new (keep it exciting)
  3. The Primanti Principle – Primanti (a restaurant in Pittsburgh, PA) is one of the best places to get a corned beef sandwich.  Traditional ingredients with the exact amount of french fry additions.  Not too much, just enough to be interesting and dynamic.  Web pages are the same – you start out by building with foundational elements but add in the ‘meat’ of the webpage and layer on 8-10 pieces of fresh, User Generated Content (your french fries) to give to Google to devour.
  4. Beware of dilution – be strategic.  The average review, user question or answer is about 100 words long.  Average product description is 300 words long (fully search optimized, written by professional marketer).  Given the amount of text, be sure you don’t dilute your hard work around content optimization by putting in too many user reviews – it will blot out the work you’ve done.  Figure out the math.
  5. Unlock the potential of the archive – Tap into your treasure trove of reviews from the past.
  6. Ask for content at relevant times – Timing on requests for UGS is crucial.  Software product, solicit requests an acceptable amount of time after using it.
  7. Convert reviewers into advocates – allow your current customers to play a role in other parts of you

What should you expect from UGC?

For many communities, they receive a steep increase in Google traffic (15 – 25%) – with keyword targeting a steady but slower growth.  Make sure that your reviews can actually be viewed by search engines (not hidden or in java script).

Googlebot crawled (Bazaarvoice client) Cabela’s site 200% more often when constantly updated product reviews were included on product pages – without them, Googlebot showed less interest.

Review readers act differently – where to buy up 82% / add to cart up 125%.  Do people who use Q&A convert more often?  45% converted more often than those who didn’t.  When you find an answer – you buy!  And also call less, 3 answers on a page resulted in 81% fewer customer service calls.

Offline testing (adding rating in print coupons for newspaper inserts) worked too — Rubbermaid coupons with reviews were redeemed 10% more often.

SEO Trends: Optimizing your Site for Location

QCait at the Center of the Universe in Freemont Seattle
Me, at the so called "Center of the Univserse" in Seattle

You’ve heard it before: Location, Location, Location. Just as in the brick and mortar world, Location matters in Search Engine Optimization as well. And this trend is not one to be ignored.

Think of it this way: Google is in the business of providing the best answer for people’s questions (questions otherwise known as search queries). Your business may not be the best answer for “coffee” or even “coffee shop,” but “houston coffee shop” or “the woodlands coffee shop”? Now the field is narrowing to just your customers, and your business is rising above the pack.

Microsoft says 53% of Searches have Local Intent. Google says one in three searches happen from a Mobile Device. Location Based Services like Foursquare and Gowalla are growing. Location has been important for years, but with the increase in the importance of the mobile web, it’s more important now than ever.

What does it mean to your business?

Be sure your site is optimized for the geography of your customers.


Top 5 Tips: How to optimize your site for Location

1. Claim your Google Places Listing

You may have noticed that when you do a search, you often see more than just the traditional 10 organic Search Results. Sometimes you see images, sometimes video, and often Red Pins and a map with a list of businesses based on their relevance to your search and proximity to you.

These pins represent Google Places Pages. If Google is aware of your business, they have already made a Place Page for you. Now it’s your opportunity to claim the listing and add as much relevant information about your business as possible. To get started, look for the link at the top right labeled “Business Owner?” and click.

If your business is not listed, go to google.com/places to get started.

Google Search for "coffee" in Houston - Places Listings Displayed

More tips on Optimizing Google Places Listings from The SEM Blog

After you’ve conquered Google, check out Bing’s version of Google Places – Bing Business Portal

2. If possible, include your address in the sidebar or footer on every page

This is dual purpose – for visitors and for Google. You don’t want site visitors (potential customers) to have to search all over for your phone number and address. This is also helpful for Google because it reinforces your address and city name on every page Google indexes.

In the SEO world these references are known as “Citations” – anytime your business name and phone number or address appear together on the web, even if there is no link to your site. This adds validity to the address on your Google Places listing and tell Google you are relevant (similar to link backs).

For some sites, you just can’t add every location to the footer because there are too many. Consider text like “serving XYZ geography” with a link to you locations page.

3. If you have multiple locations, create separate pages on your site for each

If you have multiple locations, consider creating separate pages for each. Each page can stand on its own for the keywords related to that city or neighborhood. Be sure that every page has unique content, or you may get dinged by Google for having duplicate content.

Ideas for content: an embedded Google map showing the locations, text directions from at least two points of interest in the city, a paragraph of text on what that location specializes in, photos of the locations, information about the Staff, etc. etc.

Stop: Hammertime Stop Sign
Don't Stop at the homepage, optimize interior pages as well

4. Make sure city information is in title tag, meta description on interior pages

Don’t stop at the homepage, make sure geography terms are sprinkled in throughout the entire site. Add your city or state (or neighborhood) where it makes sense in your page’s content, title tag, and meta data. Consider every page of your site, as each page will stand alone in its specific keywords.

5. Submit to applicable directories

Tackled all of the above and looking for more? Consider submitting your site to directories. To find applicable Directories, follow SEOMoz’s advice on finding linkbacks for your business advice and do a search for Cityname + Business Type + Listings/Businesses/Results. You will get a list of links to various directories that catalog your type of business.

Want More SEO Tips from the Schipul Team?

Check out blog posts from the Schipul Search Engine Marketing Team over at TheSEMBlog.com and follow us on twitter @SEMBlog.

A Reality, A Challenge, An Adventure

Performing Arts Marketing Online

I’ve been working here at Schipul for almost a year now. I came here after 4+ years of working for the Society for the Performing Arts in Houston, TX. During this time, my mind has not strayed far from trying to find better ways for performing arts organizations to harness the power of the Internet to enhance audience development and, more importantly, sell more tickets.

This post is a first step in helping performing arts institutions to better understand and use the Internet for their organizations and their artists. I welcome your feeback, and hope you forward this on to anyone you know that works for a performing arts organization if you find it useful.

A Reality: Performing Arts needs SEO

You probably think an organization like Lincoln Center wouldn’t need Search Engine Optimization.  You’re wrong.

Despite being quite familiar with their site, I had to Google them first to find their site. Today’s web user is very reluctant to start slapping .com on anything you want on the web.  For instance, try typing whitehouse.com into your browser. You will not find our President.

Need more proof? Take a look at this report from Google Insights about searches including the words lincoln and center. NOTE: These results are from New York state.


I don’t know about you, but I know Lincoln Center is in New York City. Yet above you can see that many people actually search for “lincoln center nyc” or “lincoln center ny”. Again, these are searched from the state of New York. The point here is that regardless of how strong your brand or position is in a patron’s mind, they will more likely be Googling you or the performer first.

Wait! Don’t go optimizing your performances just  yet. You need to develop your strategy first. You’re probably thinking you’ll succeed if you start optimizing around the same time you start marketing the performances through your other outlets. That’s not going to work. You need at least three months of continuous optimization to start getting attention of the great and powerful Google. This means your online marketing should not, in any way, be tied to your other marketing plans. Why?

Newspapers are dying because they thought reprinting their paper on the web was all they needed to do. They were wrong. You must market to an online audience (i.e. Google) if you want people to find your web site. This means you need to start treating Google like your oldest subscriber and donor.

A Challenge: Performing Arts needs Video

Do you remember when we all thought how crazy it was to have a camera on a cell phone? Now we have phones offering HD video! But there’s a HUGE drawback as it’s not so easy to transmit video via today’s web. However, as the Internet continues to become more mobile, and the transmission lines get faster and more widespread, sharing video is going to become as ubiquitous as photo sharing is today.

Today, many performing artists rely on photos to tell their story. Take this image from Diavolo’s Trajectoire.

But doesn’t this video do a better job of telling their story?

Of course, it’s not just about presenting it, it’s HOW you share the video. Take this video I’ve embedded from Alvin Ailey Dance Company. NOTE: Alvin Ailey has restricted our ability to share their videos to this format.

Revelations from AlvinAileyAmericanDanceTheater on Vimeo.

Not very impressive, is it? If you do decide to click on it, you will bear witness to one of the greatest displays of American choreography the world has ever seen. But if you’re like most web users,  you are more likely to trust the Diavolo video link  (32K+ hits) over the link from Alvin Ailey (26K+ hits).

Proving a picture is worth 6,000 clicks.

Artists and presenting organizations have to work together to provide better opportunities for patron video consumption. It’s not about showing entire pieces or performances, it’s about whetting the appetite of an audience that is starved for good content. And like we’ve seen above, how you allow your patrons and fans to present is important as well.

An Adventure: Check in, Experience the Performing Arts

Do you remember your reaction when you first heard someone talk about Twitter? It was probably the same reaction you have had listening to someone talk about Foursquare, Gowalla or SCVNGR. I must admit, I long fought against the location-based check in services. However, the more I learn about them, the more I begin to see the dawning of a new level of personal interaction.

The purpose behind these services isn’t to alert people of your location, it’s to tell a story about a location. Every time you walk into a special place, like a performing arts venue, a memory is made. You are not the person you were after you’ve walked into one of your special locations.

For a performing arts organization’s patrons, this is a regular experience every time they walk into your performance hall. The hall is your sandbox, and you now have some pretty amazing toys to play with in it. Whether you create photo contests with Instagram or Hipstamatic, or offer discounts to patrons who check in via Gowalla or SCVNGR, you now have the ability, generally for FREE, to create memories and expand your patrons’ experiences beyond the stage and performance.

Performing Arts Online

I want to explore these and other ways the Internet can be used to tell the story of performing arts over the course of this year. I can tell you now, the performing arts groups are not fully utilizing the power of the web to further their mission and vision. My goal, my New Year’s resolution, is to help change that.

I hope this is a first step in the right direction.

Google search page gets a facelift

We love seeing well though out updates to tools we use regularly.   Google’s latest search page re-design makes finding the content online you want even even easier.   While many of these features are not exactly new, it’s nice to see them placed a bit more in the forefront so many might be new to you!

Here are a few Google search options to know about – you can click on the image above to blow up our labeled screenshot or watch this handy video to learn from the mouths of Google all-stars themselves:

  1. Universal Search options – the Web is an enormous place and narrowing down what you’d like to search through can make it easier for you to find relevant content.   Search through the entire Web, news items, blogs, images and more.   Your time is valuable and Google is helping you reclaim some of that 🙂
  2. Set your preferred timeframe – if you only want content added recently or want to take a step back in time and look up Web site results from 2009, Google helps you make it happen.
  3. Location location location – given how important location-based marketing is these days, Google lets you   select where your information is coming from and that doesn’t just mean geographically speaking either.   You can also select to search your ‘social circle’ on Google for content, which will pull in links from you Google chat pals and contacts, direct connections linked from your Google profile and even content from your Google Reader feeds.   Learn more about Google Social Search here.
  4. New or re-visited sites, you decide – sometimes you’re hungry for something new and refreshing.   If you don’t want to go back and visit sites Google knows you’ve already visited, you don’t have to.   Here’s to new adventures!
  5. Pick your view, any view– Google even lets you customize your own search results page view:
    1. The Google Wonder Wheel breaks down your search term into different categories or clusters, giving you some more search ideas
    2. Google timeline gives you a different view of search results, for the more linear-minded
    3. Related search gives you extra search ideas that may help you find the information that you need (hey, we could all use a little help now and then)
  6. Something different – Google is pretty darn smart and these ‘something different’ search options might help give you an extra boost into other search possibilities in a similar category of your original search.

Trend Tuesday – Will Bing cut into Google’s market share?

You’ve probably seen the commercials, and maybe even the tweets. Microsoft is putting its hat into the search ring (again). This time, it’s shiny and new (and rebranded) with Microsoft’s “Decision Engine” called Bing.


How it works

Bing is marketed as a “decision” engine – it displays results based on what Bing thinks is most helpful. Bing is fully equipped with what Microsoft is touting as a powerful set of intuitive tools to “help you make smarter, faster decisions.”

Bing decision making engine

Image searches allow you to view related searches, filter results by size, layout, color, style, and people… and customize your view. Mouseover an image and to give feedback on the result, and view similar images.

search for "kitten" images on bing

So, how’s it doing?

The SEM blog reported Bing’s release two weeks ago. So what has happened since then?

Bing had 11% of the search market share last week, according to Comscore. Much of this has to do with the fact that it’s Internet Explorer’s default search engine, and the television commercials may have people going on to just “check it out”…   but the bottom line is that 11% after two weeks is nothing to sneeze at. For now.

Also, advertisers are reporting that heat tracking studies have shown Bing’s ad placement to be more effective than even Google’s. There’s that good old Microsoft know-how at work!

bing - finding sushi

See for yourself

Keep watching this little engine that could. If Microsoft continues to innovate and give the people what they want – a way to cut through the clutter of search – they could take a niche group out of Google’s market share. One thing’s for sure – it’s “differentiate or get out” time… and that’s what Microsoft seems to get.

Oh, and no, there is no Bing iPhone app yet!

Read Schipul’s new Search Engine Marketing Blog!

Thesemblog Schipul’s Search Engine Marketing team has just recently launched the brand new ‘The SEM Blog‘ at www.thesemblog.com

It’s a great spot for current SEM clients and also for Web site administrators interested in learning handy tips and tricks for succeeding in the search engines.

Expect up-to-date search engine news, useful links and engaging posts on ways to convert online visitors to repeat customers.  You can subscribe to The SEM Blog’s RSS feed here and even talk back to us on the Schipul SEM forum here.