SMX East – quick notes from the cheap seats

November 21, 2019

Sometimes good software does bad things. Today I was reminded how important the very first piece of software is – the human brain. Programs and tools make a lot of things faster, but sometimes we forget to stop, think with our brain and apply common sense. Ironically, it happened at the 2019 Search Marketing Expo East Conference in New York.

I’ve been going to SMX East in New York for quite a few years now. To clarify, when I say ‘going’ I really mean walking the floor on the free expo pass and trying to read between the lines of the more interesting free sponsor presentations. I’m too cheap to pony up the $1K+ or so it costs for a full pass. The agency I work for, shall we say, has other places to allocate this type of spend (read: cheap).

Fortunately, living in NYC means the convention is only a few stops off my normal commute. Including the miserable hike out to the Javits Center that any local is familiar with. Although the insanely large Hudson Yards project has changed the area quite a bit.

Like most years, I ate well and rested up the night before planning to absorb as much knowledge as the expo pass offered. Like most years, my attentions span gave up after about three presentations. After a quick victory lap around the convention floor booths – which seem to be the same the past few years – I was back in midtown at the office catching up on email.

The good news was that I did walk away with something valuable this year – a renewed respect for common sense and practicality. As any search professional knows, things in this industry change fast and it can get very overwhelming. The realization that best practices and common sense still pay dividends was refreshing.

Sponsored SMX Presentation 1- LongTailUX

One of the first presentations was from a company that focused on long tail keywords in paid search and user interface. If that sounds a little in the weeds, it is and you should probably skip the next few paragraphs and go to the second presentation notes. I’ll link to the sponsors at the end (uncompensated).

In all fairness, they did have a software product that seemed great for larger retailers selling products online (1K+ SKU’s and $20K budgets and north). That part however isn’t what I cared about. What interested me was how they came up with it and the practical examples of why it could be used. It took no software to explain this part, only brain power.

Without using any software, you can use both Amazon and Google Shopping to perform search queries for a given product (like most customers shopping online). In each of these, you’ll see similar type results at the top of the page. Usually these are price carousels with different products, from different vendors at different pricing. Most of the time they keep the user in the Amazon or Google Shopping ecosystem through the point of purchase.

The point here was that if you were a company selling products, you were essentially being turned into a supplier. When customers searched and purchased entirely in Amazon or Google Shopping, they were not being exposed to your website, your brand etc. And even if you did have an individual product page you wanted to rank for, it would almost surely be down page from these shopping and comparison type carousels on the first search page.

This where someone (the founder I assume) used their brain and came up with the idea to fix this. Instead of using a keyword to drive traffic to a page with one product, why not feature multiple products in a similar way that Amazon and Google were doing? And why not make it super relevant and build it to scale.

The result was a single keyword landing page with multiple relevant products that ranked well organically, converted better and returned more on ad spend.

I loved this because it almost boiled down to a “why not do what they’re doing only better” using the keywords and products we’re already selling. Simple and smart. Of course, that’s just the idea – they actually had to build it.

Sponsored SMX Presentation 2 – Bruce Clay

The second presentation was one I had seen in the past. Seeing it with fresh eyes, I remembered how good it was all over again. This was a presentation about ‘content silos’ from someone who’s been around search longer than Google – Bruce Clay.

Content Silo’s are generally groups of related content in a website. There is a lot of value in taking the time to organize, research and archetype these when building a website.

I was particularly interested in this as it’s something most agencies don’t do or do very poorly when building a new site. Since I’m positive my boss won’t read this deep into a blog post I’ll admit our agency doesn’t do a very good job at this either.
Bruce has been around so long that being on stage at a conference speaking looked comfortable and easy. He spoke as casually about organizing enterprise amounts of web content as I speak to my favorite Monday bartender.

The best part about this is how much of it seems to be common sense. I’m surprised so many companies and agencies aren’t doing this type of thing in their sleep. I’m just as guilty as others in this respect.

Using Google’s own content guidelines on improving search, Bruce came up with a way to better organize content and navigation to improve search performance. These are content guidelines that have been around for awhile yet still seem to get overlooked.

Of course, there a lot of technical pieces to doing this at scale. The takeaway for me is that he used his brain and common sense. Books are organized in chapters, organization charts have a hierarchy, the military has a chain of command; Websites need to structure their content better as pay attention to how it interlinks sitewide.

Naturally there is a lot of analysis, keyword research and work that goes into ‘siloing’ a site. The results were undeniably positive when implemented in Bruce’s experience.

Another think I particularly liked about this was how easy it was to understand. You could explain this to a C level 60-year old or a hot shot 20 year. Both would understand.

In Summary

I’ll drop a few links below in all fairness (uncompensated and just being honest) but here’s a quick summary of my short drive by visit to SMX

  • Critical thinking and common sense trump software much of the time
  • Anything worth doing well takes time
  • Is it me or are the SMX vendors almost the same every year?
  • A lot of the info only applies to larger companies or business at the enterprise level
  • The Javits Center still sucks

The first presentation I caught was by LongTailUX and they mentioned a tool at that seemed interesting to companies that have > 1K SKU’s or $20K+ ad budgets

The second was from Bruce Clay and he seemed very cool sharing his knowledge/deck here so I feel comfortable sharing.

I’ll be back next year, sitting in the SMX East cheap seats.

Half of search results pages using mobile-first indexing

January 31, 2019

Google is now using mobile-first indexing for over half of all web pages. Websites that aren’t designed with mobile devices in mind should plan for this. This post explains more about what this means and how it impacts your website.


What is Google’s mobile-first Index
Why it matters to every website
How to tell if your site is using mobile-first indexing
What steps (if any) you need to take
Quick Takeaways

Before we get started, think for a second on something we all take for granted – Google. Google literally has to process millions of search queries every single minute and return instant results. Not only does it have to do this, it has to do it accurately and quickly. It also has to keep track of millions of brand new web pages published every month and compare them to pages already published. And that’s only part of what Google does.

What is Google’s Mobile-First Index

Let’s start with the term “Google Index”. This term refers to all the individual web pages in the universe that Google is aware of. Every time a user types in a search query, it compares all the pages in the Index with the search query, ranks them accordingly, and returns the results. There are a number of factors the Google algorithm considers when matching pages with queries, but that discussion’s for another post.

Remember, just because a web page is published and public, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in the Google Index.

Smart Phones Changed Things


Smartphones changed the way people search and use the Internet. Prior to smartphones, everyone browsed and searched on desktop computers. Web sites and pages were designed and built accordingly. When Google first developed their algorithm to score and rank webpages, it used the desktop version of the page’s content to score the page.

Now that phones, tablets and high speed wifi are ubiquitous – both website design and the way people search the web continues to change. For example, I might browse the same website on my way to work using an iPhone as I do at work at my desktop or at home on my Surface Pro. As a user I want this experience to feel seamless.

The way people search has also evolved. More people started searching on Mobile than on Desktop in 2016 and it has continued to grow ever since. Google decided to change how they index web pages in response to this.

In 2016, Google announced that it had started the process of migrating sites for mobile-first indexing. This was a huge deal for anyone managing a website because it marked a fundamental change in the way Google indexed and ranked web pages. From that point on, Google began to first use the mobile version of a web page for indexing and ranking, instead of the desktop version. If a website does not have a mobile version, the desktop version will still be used.

Why it Matters to Every Website


People and businesses want to attract more visitors and traffic to their website (If you’re not interested in this you can stop reading now). If your website is not mobile-responsive, or it displays different information in mobile versus desktop view – your ranking position could be impacted. Additionally, this could be an opportunity to outrank a competitor site or gain visibility through mobile optimization.

Google still has one index and there are not separate indexes for mobile and desktop. Moving forward it will just use the mobile version first rather than the desktop.  Half of the websites have been migrated over to this type of indexing so far.

How to Tell if Your Site is Using Mobile-First Indexing

The best way to verify this is by using Google Search Console (formerly known as Webmaster Tools). This is a completely free tool, from Google, that is relatively easy to setup. At VWM, our agency all but insists that every single website we work with uses this tool. Google will notify you when migrating to the mobile-first indexing. They will also give you other tips and advice on how to optimize your website or fix related issues.

Read our guide on Google Search Console, Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager here.

What Steps (if any) You Need to Take

Mobile-responsive sites are good to go and should be impacted by the mobile-first indexation changes. Keep in mind there is a difference between mobile-friendly and mobile-responsive. Generally speaking, a mobile-responsive site means your content dynamically syncs between desktop and mobile views and generally sends the same HTML code regardless of the device that is requesting it. Mobile-friendly can refer to sites that conform to mobile, but the content might change slightly between desktop and mobile views – impacting how your mobile page is scored vs your desktop page.

You should also make sure to install Google Search Console on your website. You will be notified if your site has been migrated over. If your site hasn’t been migrated over already, you still have time to make adjustments or changes to help take advantage when it migrates over.

Quick Takeaways

  • Google has already migrated about half of all websites and continues to work on the remaining sites
  • Mobile-responsive sites should generally be fine and have no issues
  • Take 5 minutes to setup Google Search Console
  • This can be an opportunity to rank higher or a sign it’s time to build a new website

Other Resources:

Mobile-first and SEO article from MOZ

Site Preparedness Article from Search Engine Journal

WordPress Gutenberg – What you need to know

November 27, 2018

If your website runs on WordPress, you might want to pay attention to the upcoming Gutenberg update. Unlike previous WordPress updates, this update debuts the overhauled editor – impacting how everyone creates new content. Read our post below to find out more.

What Are WordPress Updates?
Why is the Gutenberg Update different?
Do I Need to Do Anything to use Gutenberg?
Can I keep using the Classic Editor?
Video of us trying Gutenberg

WordPress & Updates

WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world. With this popularity comes some unwanted attention from hackers and people with bad intentions.

There are literally millions of websites running WordPress software.

If hackers can find a way to break into just one of these websites, they can potentially use the same method to access others. This gives them the ability to install adware, malware or other malicious code on thousands of sites using just one exploit.

Fortunately, the good folks at WordPress know this and are very proactive in helping users keep things secure. They do this by regularly releasing minor updates and security patches to the software. These security patches address known vulnerabilities & update features. Most of the time these are minor patches, but they shouldn’t be ignored. Many WordPress sites and hosting providers automatically apply security patches as soon as they are released.

Occasionally, WordPress releases a major update that includes more significant changes to the platform. For Example, an update from 4.9.7 to 4.9.8 is a minor security patch, but an update from 4.x.x to 5.o would be considered a major update. The latest major update from WordPress is Version 5.0 and it is being referred to as the Gutenberg Update.

What’s new in Gutenberg?

In Version 5.0 (aka Gutenberg), WordPress introduces a major overall to the text editor used to write posts/pages. This is significant because it impacts thing people do most often in WordPress – write and publish content. The idea behind the new Gutenberg editor is to improve and simplify the process of building new posts/pages. It’s quite a bit different than what you might be used to.

Here is a screenshot of the Classic Editor in WordPress:

wordpress classic editor

Here is a screenshot of the new Gutenberg Editor in WordPress:

gutenberg wordpress editor


Just looking at the new Gutenberg editor you can see the editor is totally different. The whole idea of this new editor is that it will allow people to better control and handle their content. Instead of adding text in one big box, like the classic editor, the new Gutenberg editor uses movable blocks. You can create and customize as many different blocks as you want when making your content – similar to the idea of a page builder.

If you’ve ever used WordPress before you might know the frustration of trying to apply different styles using the classic visual editor – especially in long posts or pages. Alignment issues and problems using headers and font styles could get tricky. If you had some HTML or web experience it was almost easier to jump into code view and apply the tags manually.

Content blocks in the new Gutenberg release should make it easier for users to control the different individual elements that make up a page/post. It’s also possible to save and reuse common elements that might reoccur throughout the post. You can drag and drop blocks to different areas of the page and move them around once they are created.

Do I need to do Anything to use Gutenberg?

Gutenberg will be included in WordPress Version 5.0. If you want to experiment with using it or play around without upgrading your WordPress website, you can install it as a plugin. If you currently have custom pages/posts templates, you might want to check with your development team or web manager before you implement Gutenberg.

At VWM, we always recommend making a full backup of your site before updating to a major release. Often times plugin conflicts or other unintended issues can arise when updating. It’s good to know you can revert back to the existing install if things go south. If you use a development server it might be better to test it there before deploying to production.

Can you keep using Classic Editor?

Short answer – YES! There are a lot of mixed reviews of Gutenberg out there and some users prefer to keep using the classic editor. The good news is that you can continue to use the classic editor, even if you update to WordPress Version 5.0. WordPress has even said it plans to officially support the classic editor Plugin through 2021.

Classic Editor options available by default and Classic Editor Plugin:

We recently updated a development site to Version 5.0 with Gutenberg and it looked like there was more than one way to revert back to the classic editor. First, without doing anything we noticed that when you mouse over a post you see a text link below with the option to use the classic editor, as well as in the drop down above for creating a new post.


If you absolutely do not like Gutenberg and want to always use the classic editor, you can change a setting to replace the new Gutenberg Block Editor entirely with the classic editor. First, install the classic editor plugin and then navigate to the Settings > Writing menu area. You’ll see a radio button option under classic editor settings (screenshot below)

Watch this video of our first attempt using Gutenberg. I took a little bit to get used to and we might stick with the classic editor plugin for now.

Still hungry for more info on Gutenberg? Here are some other blog posts and related info we found useful:

Smashing Magazine – The Complete Anatomy Of The Gutenberg WordPress Editor

Kinsta – Diving Into the New Gutenberg WordPress Editor (Pros and Cons)

Delicious Brains – Is Gutenberg the End or a New Beginning for WordPress?

Is Your Website ADA Compliant?

November 6, 2017

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) is a landmark civil rights law that, among other things, prohibits discrimination based on certain disabilities. Since its enactment, places of public accommodation have been required to be physically accessible to people with disabilities. Although there is no specific language regarding websites (yet), the US Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has indicated, and the state and federal courts are now making it clear, that under the ADA, “public accommodation” applies to websites as well.

This means that in the same way that businesses make physical accommodations such as wheelchair ramps, braille next to signs, and automatic doors, accommodations must also be applied in the virtual world. Websites must be accessible on desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones.

Many people with disabilities use assistive technology that enables them to use computers. Some assistive technology uses separate programs or devices such as text enlargement software, audio scanners, screen readers, etc. These tools need special instructions to help translate or convey information on the web page to users. Access problems occur when websites mistakenly assume that everyone sees and accesses a site in the same way.

Is your website accessible?

Whereas the DOJ previously indicated that it would provide some guidance to the law’s application to websites in 2018, this initiative has recently been placed in the “inactive category”, meaning it could be some time, years in fact, before there is black-letter law to follow.  In the meantime, the “substantially compliant” standard that is emerging is embodied by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) A and AA accessibility standards (the “Guidelines”). Below are just a few of the requirements contained within the Guidelines:

  • Media players contain a link to the site where the software can be downloaded.
  • Images should contain alternative text readable by screen reader software
  • Video content or audio content has an accompanying text transcript or description.
  • Appearance of site does not rely solely on color.
  • Buttons and/or links are clearly named.
  • Each page has language code in the header to identify which language the code is written and should be read in.
  • The site is free of strobe effects or rapidly flashing colors or animations.
  • Keyboard focus should not get locked onto any specific page element.
  • Images do not replace any function that can be achieved using text.
  • Menus and buttons should have consistent order and presentation throughout the site.
  • Usage of redundant links on the same page is either minimized or eliminated.
  • Suggestions are provided whenever the user encounters input errors.

Again, until the DOJ issues a clarification, what it means for your website to be ADA compliant will be determined by the Courts and already inconsistent standards are emerging depending on whether your business is located in New York, Texas, Florida, or elsewhere.  Opportunistic plaintiff’s lawyers have started issuing “threat to sue” letters and are looking to certify class action lawsuits.[1]

While there is no guarantee that strict compliance with the Guidelines will be sufficient to ward off a lawsuit, the effort you put in now in making sure your website is compatible with assistive technology, and staying on top of advances in these technologies, will minimize the risk of costly litigation, not to mention a PR headache.  The first step is to complete an audit of your site, something we will be glad to help with!

If you would like to know if your website is ADA compliant, email us for an audit at

[1] Whereas disabled plaintiff’s  brought 240 website accessibility suites in 2015 and 2016 combined, there has already been over 700 commenced in 2017. Source, Reuters

Snapchat’s Biggest Threat is its Own Design

August 23, 2016

If you think Instagram’s new Stories feature looks remarkably similar to Snapchat’s feature of the same name, that’s because it is. Apparently, it’s completely legal to copy draw inspiration from other applications (apps). How? It turns out copyright law doesn’t protect ideas so as long as there are inherent differences in the interfaces of the competing apps. Instagram’s Stories feature is free to use and is formatted like Snapchat which has become the most popular social network among teens.

The Stories feature is a bold move on Instagram’s part. Prior to the release of Instagram Stories, there were obvious differences between the two platforms. Snapchat, with its disappearing photos, was geared more towards short-term, in-the-moment glimpses of a user’s everyday life. Instagram, however, provided a variety of filters used to create and amplify aesthetically pleasing images and videos, perfecting an album of the best parts of a users’ life for the long-term. Although it’s not the case for every user, Snapchat stories tempted users to post every day, while Instagram posts were not necessarily published as frequently.

Is Instagram declaring war on Snapchat?

…Or is the platform simply just trying to inspire more content creation from users?

The two features of Snapchat and Instagram share a lot in common:

  • Both allow 10-second clips
  • Both stories remove images after 24 hours
  • Both let you reply to stories
  • Both allow you to add custom text
  • Both have filters
  • Both have a built-in marker
  • Both let you save the media to your camera roll
  • Both show who views your story

The differences between the two are few:

  • Instagram lets you “rewind” stories
  • Instagram lets you post sections of your story as an Instagram post
  • Unlike Snapchat, Instagram doesn’t show you who screenshots your story
  • Instagram does not feature geo-filters or facial-mapping

SM Banner

Whatever Instagram’s intentions may be, two things are apparent. Firstly, the new Instagram feature cannot single-handedly crush Snapchat. It may have some impact on Snapchat’s numbers – but not enough to completely sway the minds of avid Snapchat users to switch over Instagram 100 percent of the time. Secondly, the aforementioned information doesn’t mean Instagram Stories don’t have potential. In fact, it has several factors going for it. For starters, Instagram Stories is very well made; it is easy to understand and navigate in a way that is much more user-friendly than Snapchat. Most importantly, Instagram has taken a powerful hold on the social world by creating a network which allows users to easily follow new people and “experience” places all over the world through the eyes of another person. This existing sense of community makes it so much easier to have access to the everyday lives of users you may be interested in without having to find them through a username the way Snapchat users create their list of friends.

It will be interesting to see if Instagram’s new feature takes off right away or if it will be another Instagram Direct scenario (which only gained traction about three years after its initial launch). What will be even more interesting is to see how Snapchat will react to this whole ordeal.

In the past, Facebook (Instagram’s parent company) has repeatedly tried and failed to buy Snapchat. It seems to us this feature launch might be Facebook’s way of saying it’s done trying to acquire Snapchat and is taking on their niche with the highly successful Instagram app.

Your move, Snapchat.

Microsoft Just Bought LinkedIn: Now What?

June 21, 2016

In case you haven’t heard the news yet, Microsoft is set to buy LinkedIn in a $26.2 billion dollar cash deal. Currently, there are no known plans to drastically change anything about LinkedIn through this acquisition. Both Microsoft and LinkedIn CEO’s have expressed their plans to merge Microsoft’s leading cloud services with the professional network while simultaneously keeping LinkedIn’s brand and independence intact.

LinkedIn, with over 440 million users in 200 different countries, has become much more than a simple resume-displaying platform. Since its launch in 2003, the business-oriented social networking site has morphed into a powerful marketing platform for businesses of all sizes, which now resides under the Microsoft umbrella.

So, how do businesses successfully utilize LinkedIn for social media marketing?


For starters, don’t lose sight of the fact that LinkedIn hosts a community of professionals, all with a business mindset. Creating an effective presence for your business on LinkedIn requires these three key practices:

  • Establishing your brand

Keep your profile professional and credible by customizing the URL, uploading your brand logo in places such as the cover photo, optimizing your profile for SEO with specific keywords, etc.

  • Connecting with your audience

Check your network updates, comment on or create discussions that have to do with your brand, make connections with old and new contacts to grow your professional network.

  • Engaging with relevant content

Provide your audience with compelling content to help establish your thought leadership. Frequently share a variety of industry news and original content, while also encouraging your peers to take some sort of action on your posts (e.g., to comment, like, share, etc.).

The Takeaway

What can businesses with successful LinkedIn profiles teach you about your own content marketing?

  • Continually update users on industry news.
  • Release new and engaging content customized to specific audiences.
  • Share your voice to relevant conversations that audiences care about.

With Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn, the long-term effects remain to be seen. In the meantime, if you want an expert’s opinion on your social media strategy, contact our team at Van West Media today.

What’s New With Snapchat

April 27, 2016

VWM_AprilNewsletter_ApprovedImage_snap-ghost-yellowThe recent Snapchat update has been about a year in the making – but totally worth the wait. The new and improved Snapchat 2.0 released in March 2016 includes features meant to enhance the experience of communication between users. The app has introduced an improved version of video calls, audio calls, voice and audio notes, stickers, the way photos can be exchanged in private chats, and auto-advancing Snapchat stories. Below are the highlights of each feature:

Auto Advancing Stories

Prior to the updated Snapchat, users would have to individually click on each friend’s username to view a story and then be brought back to their feed. Now, Snapchat automatically plays the next story on your queue without having to click on any thumbnail. In order to exit the feature, a user simply has to swipe down; if they want to move on to the next friends story, they can just swipe left.

Video and Audio Calls

Snapchats previous video calling feature was not as popular as it could have been since it required a slightly uncomfortable finger hold down in order to keep the video screen up. This time around the process is a lot easier. Users simply press one button to make a call and then wait for their friend to either ignore it, join the call,  or watch your stream. If they choose to join, both users will get fullscreen video streams of each other which can be swiped down to confine the stream to a small circle allowing users to send text or sticker messages while still streaming.

Audio calls are essentially just like a normal phone conversation. This feature is best used for people already communicating on the app who would like to communicate in more detail for a short period of time.


Notes are just snippets of either audio or video that can be sent to one on one exchanges with other users. Video notes play in an infinite loop – think GIFs being sent with optional sound, and audio notes feel similar to short voicemails.


Snapchat 2.0 now has over 200 sticker options for users to use in private chats with one another. To access all of the sticker options, users just need to click on the icon of the smiley with its tongue out or type in keywords to find all related stickers to the word.

Snapchat’s update has only made it easier for users to choose when and how to express themselves to people of their choosing. While they may be one of the last messaging platforms to introduce features such as Stickers, the app was still successful in making it a feature users enjoy using regularly. This means big things for Snapchat as it gives them an upper hand in the competition with the platforms in terms of consumer attention and usage. The trick is to not overwhelm users with easy to use features that enhance the app experience. So far, Snapchat seems to be on the right track towards becoming the most popular app used by the masses.

Facebook’s Shopping Feature: Good News for Retailers

July 29, 2015

Earlier this year, we shared five things to expect from digital marketing in 2015 – and so far, every item on the list has been implemented in some way across all popular social media sites.

Number five on our list was “online advertising budgets will increase,” which allows room for more hyper-local consumer targeting and increased online spending by consumers.

According to a company representative, Facebook’s shopping feature is currently being tested and will allow retailers to essentially have a mini e-commerce site within their Page enabling a whole shopping experience to occur within the site.

That’s right, soon users will be able to buy items straight from retailer’s Facebook Pages. The shopping features will be under a new “Shopping” section where currently existing tabs for Timeline, About, and Photos are located. Within the shopping section, companies are able to choose whether to keep the transaction within Facebook or redirect to the company’s website.

Facebook already has ads that include a call-to-action “Buy” button, allowing desktop and mobile users to click on ads and brand Page posts to purchase a product directly from a business, without ever having to leave Facebook, however, until now these have been limited to small and mid-size businesses solely within the U.S.

With Pinterest adding buy-able pins for all brands in June 2015, Facebook is just the latest social media site to join the party. Pinterest is currently not charging for the buy-able pins, and it’s highly likely Facebook will also start off the same.

Let’s not forget, with all of the demographic and behavioral data Facebook gathers, the social platform will now be able to collect data on completed purchases. Talk about valuable information for advertisers!

The new shopping feature is still being tested, but start prepping now; the roll-out can be expected anytime. Contact Van West Media today to get a strategy in place for your brand. Our experts are here to help you make the most of Facebook’s newest feature!

Facebook’s Latest Update: What Marketers Need to Know

July 10, 2015

Facebook’s ever-changing News Feed algorithm has been updated once more with new features. Last year the company updated their News Feed to allow users control unfollowing and refollowing posts from people, Pages, and Groups. Now, they’re allowing users to personalize their News Feed experience based on what they enjoy viewing the most. Facebook News Feed’s updated controls include:

  • selecting whose content users see first,
  • being able to find new pages to connect to,
  • unfollowing people to hide their posts, and
  • reconnecting with people previously unfollowed.

So what does this mean for brands who utilize Facebook as a means for targeting their consumers?

We’ve highlighted a few things marketers need to know:

Prioritize Friends and Pages to See First

Users can now select up to 30 accounts to prioritize, meaning their updates will appear at the top of the News Feed. A star next to the account will remind users that they have chosen to see their updates the most.

Discover New Pages

This section is based on Pages similar to those users have already liked, and Pages liked by similar people. This feature is meant to let users easily find Pages that they would be most interested in.

Unfollow or Reconnect

This is an updated design of the feature released last year. Here, users can see a list of the top accounts they’ve seen in the past week and choose to unfollow any friend, Page or Group if they no longer wish to see their updates. There is also a section of all the accounts users have unfollowed in the past and have the option to refollow them at any given moment.

Brand Strategies

These updated News Feed features will likely alter how brands will craft their presence on Facebook. They’ll now have to think about what kind of posts will make users want to prioritize them on their news feeds, as well as how much content is too much content, leading users to unfollow. There is an advantage! Brands will be able to get a number of how many users are prioritizing their pages – a factor that provides insight on what’s working and what’s not when developing posts.

Is your brand ready for the Facebook update? Contact our team at Van West Media for assistance with your social media marketing plan!

Shape Up Your Site for Summer with Google Knowledge Graph

June 18, 2015

In November 2014, Google began adding links to social network sites in the Knowledge Graph Box for famous actors, political figures and bands. Next came social network links for big-name brands such as Apple and Starbucks. Then, even corporate brands had their social sites displayed. Now, thanks to the recent release of new structure data markup, Google is allowing you to specify your own brand’s social profile.

Add your social media sites to the knowledge graph

The best way to make sure that Google adds your social media sites to their Knowledge Graph is by marking them up in your site. If you meet Google’s requirements, they will add the social sites you specified in your markup code. Keep in mind that if your site has a verification process, Google will only display profiles that are verified. Here’s how.

Potential technical and algorithm issues

Because Google relies on the structured data markup on your site, the codes you use must specifically say what  your social accounts are. If your brand does not have these links set up in their site, Google will look for the best alternative and this isn’t always the right one. If you notice the wrong links being displayed in your brands knowledge graph, there are several ways to fix the problem. You could either go in and attempt to change the markup in your site using the Google Help page, request a correction from the feedback form on the bottom right corner of the Knowledge Graph, or you could contact Google’s Account Management for help.

What it means for your brand

Google embedding your social media even further in their search results can be beneficial for your brand, but only if they are being used correctly and consistently. The objective of the Google Knowledge Graph is to allow users to find what they are seeking from the brand by leading them to direct information from the actual brand without having to click other search results and piece together their answer. So say for example, a brand decides to include all their social media sites but doesn’t update their Twitter often or has little to no traffic on their Facebook page – if these are some of the first links users click, they are going to be disappointed and set back on their search. Make sure that the sites you display are being updated regularly with relevant information about your brand!

What it means for marketers

There seems to be a trend where users who search for a specific brand also end up searching for their social profiles. This may be why sites like Facebook, and now Instagram have decided to add call-to-action buttons that lead from one related site to another.

Google Knowledge Graph allows brands to add links to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Increasing a brand’s social visibility has the potential to bring in more traffic to sites. Don’t forget about checking the analytics, too! Tracking impacts from increased visibility, whether its an increase in followers, user feedback, etc. can help adjust or improve the social strategies being used for your brand.

Ready to get started? Just give Van West Media a shout. We’ll whip your site into shape in no time.