Hot At Sphinn: Can You Ignore Facebook, J.C. Penney Slapped, HuffPo’s SEO & More

sphinn-logoAnother busy week on Sphinn included a couple well-known brands having … shall we say SEO “issues”? Slate pretty much called out The Huffington Post on part of its SEO strategy, and the New York Times did a big exposé of how J.C. Penney managed to use low-quality links to reach the top of the search results for all kinds of popular, short-tail terms. Those were a couple of the most popular stories over the past week on Sphinn.

In the “Discussion of the Week,” we asked Can Marketers Ignore the Facebook Opportunity?, and that led to the most active discussion of the week. Our choice for best comment comes from Sphinn member Thomas Ballantyne of Bulwark Exterminating, who answered the question thusly:

In search marketing, the audience is actively engaged in looking for something. If you can match their need with your product or service then you win. But they are coming to you. They need something that is why they are searching. They are open to suggestions that is why they asked.

Facebook is a social platform and people are socializing. They are not focused on a need. They don’t need anything in that moment. They are not engaged with a marketer they are engaged with friends.

Capitalize on the tool’s strength. You can pound a nail into a wall using a screw driver, but I wouldn’t call the most effective system.

You can still join the conversation or just check out the other 16 comments. In the meantime, here’s a look at the full list of most popular Sphinn content from the past week.

Most Comments

  • DOTW: Can Marketers Ignore the Facebook Opportunity? – There are many businesses that survive just fine without doing PPC advertising, and many that do fine without focusing much on SEO. Studies suggest a combination of SEO and PPC is the best, but companies have been making it work for years by focusing on just one and ignoring the other. But what about Facebook? Can you ignore it? Considering its enormous reach — which is still growing according to the stats published this week — our "Discussion of the Week" asks, is advertising/marketing on Facebook a must in 2011?
  • HuffPo's Achilles Heel – Search Engine Optimization Won't Work Forever – Farhad Manjoo at Slate ponders the long term viability of what has to date been a successful strategy in garnering eyeballs for the Huffington Post (oh and thousands of other sites). From the article: "Not all SEO is bad, and not all HuffPo articles employ shady SEO, but some of the tricks that HuffPo uses to gin up search traffic are pretty sketchy. These tricks include: stuffing articles with strings of meaningless keywords (HuffPo does this on every piece), repeating potential search queries at the top of a story, and carefully engineering articles in response to rising search terms. These tactics exploit obvious weaknesses in Google and other search engines. If Google's mission is to provide search results that you—a human being—find useful, then HuffPo's keyword-glutted pieces don't belong, because no human being considers a list of synonyms an interesting way to start an article."
  • Facebook Page redesign: 10 things admins should do RIGHT NOW – A great article highlighting all the changes that were made with the Facebook Page redesign.
  • The n00b Guide to Online Marketing – with a giant Infographic – A 6-month course containing 50 marketing activities designed to take a new business from zero to hero.
  • Why Most People Quit Blogging: The Princess Syndrome – Judy Dunn provides some information and inspiration to keep you blogging after the first 2-3 months when many new bloggers get frustrated and call it quits.

Most Tweeted

  • New York Times Exposes J.C. Penney Link Scheme That Causes Plummeting Rankings in Google – From Vanessa Fox at Search Engine Land: "Today, the New York Times published an article about a search engine optimization investigation of  J.C. Penney. Perplexed by how well jcpenney.com did in unpaid (organic) search results for practically everything the retailer sold, they asked someone familiar with the world of search engine optimization (SEO) to look into it a bit more. The investigation found that thousands of seemingly unrelated web sites (many that seemed to contain only links) were linking to the J.C. Penney web site. And most of those links had really descriptive anchor text. It was almost like someone had arranged for all of those links in order to get better rankings in Google."
  • A More ‘Organic’ Experience – On the RKG blog, Joy Barberio writes: "Google is pretty clever! The sponsored ads are looking more and more like organic listings recently. The two spaces are blending together. The new features, listed below, are both taking up more real estate on the page and feeling a lot like natural results."
  • Time to Renew Your Blogging Vows: 16 Vows for 2011 – Your blogging is stale. It seems like a chore. You’re not really adding value to anyone. Your blog is not taking off. You question why you, your corporation, your small business or your non-profit has a blog in the first place!  Just like a good marriage, every now and again it’s time to think back to why you’re blogging and to Renew Your Blogging Vows.
  • Mea Culpa: How I Failed At Link Building – Adam Audette's post where he details how he lost a valued client due to a low quality link-building strategy.

Hot On Sphinn: February 7 to February 13, 2011

  • Using Dayparting Effectively in PPC, Part 2: Advanced Tactics – One of the areas that PPCers often overlook is the times of the day, or days of the week, that conversions are generated.  Since ROI tends to be higher during these times and days it is important to understand how to use Dayparting to for your campaigns.  -  The 2nd part of In Part 1, we talked about basic dayparting techniques, such as turning off ads during days or hours where results are poor. But what if you don’t want to turn things all the way off?
  • Testing, Testing, 1-2-3: A/B Tests Boost Creativity, Productivity, and Bottom Line – Yes, you guessed it, the topic of this post is testing. More specifically the topic is testing alternative website content and features to produce the best possible traffic conversion rates. I have illustrated some of my points with tests conducted using Monetate’s testing, targeting, and optimization platform. However, the need to test, and the value of testing to the enterprise, is quite independent of Monetate and there are other technologies you can use to conduct tests. Right now I’m more interested in getting you excited about testing in general than about Monetate in particular…
  • Why Google, SEOs & Users Must ‘Blekko Up’ – As a professional writer, there’s a lot I could say and a lot that I want to say about the issue of content farms and its effect on search engine relevance, SEO, and branding. But I know me. It would get angry and passionate and people would accuse me of ranting. So I won’t. The fact that content is the red-headed step child of the Internet is just something us writers have to accept. For all its importance, as vital as it is, writers will never earn the respect they deserve. Not when you can buy a batch of 100 unique articles for less than a McDonald’s value meal. Oreo McFlurry and chocolate chip cookie included.
  • Yes, SEOs do need to learn a programming language – An interesting article (and conversation) regarding SEOs needing to be able to program to be successful.
  • RDFa: The Inside Story from Best Buy – An interesting and insightful interview about the implementation of RDFa on Best Buy's website with Jay Myers, Lead Development Engineer.
  • A Case Study in ORM: How Taco Bell Used Humor & Social Media to Dig Itself Out of Beef Scandal – Taco Bell took a bold approach to the early February reputation management crisis by addressing a beef scandal head on.  There are still brands today that follow a different course of action when faced with controversy with a see-no-evil/hear-no-evil/speak-no-evil approach — diverting consumers to a customer service line and countersuing their accusers.  Here is how Taco Bell avoided that pitfall and came out on top.
  • How Split-Testing Our Opt-In Form Increased Our Conversion Rate by 102.2 percent – An interesting post on split-testing email opt-in forms for newsletter subscribers. – I’ll admit it… when I design opt-in forms, I’m confident that my form converts well.  It’s simple really. Make a compelling offer, demonstrate social proof, and ask for action, and bam! Instant subscribers.  Well, the other day, I discovered that my system was flawed.
  • Excuse Me While I Have A Ranking Report Rant – Sadly, this is still incredibly relevant, since so many companies (and their agencies) still rely on rankings and ranking reports as the primary success metric for an SEO program.
  • Intelligent Site Structure for better SEO – When developing a new site, or restructuring an existing one, it helps to draw out your site's structure in something like Visio, or even putting it in Excel. What you'll want to do is put all the pages and sections in there as a tree…Once you're satisfied with your site structure, have a look at the names you've come up with for your sections. If you have enough content about a subject for it to be able to have its own section, you can bet people are searching for it as well. That's why it's very wise to make sure your section names use the keywords people are searching for!
  • A Beginner's Guide To AB Testing: An Introduction – Kiss Metrics offers a fantastic beginner's guide to AB Testing.
  • SERP Sniffing – A Long Tail Keyword Strategy – A great article explaining how the data received from running a black hat campaign can help your long term white hat SEO campaign.
  • It's the IDEA that Determines Domain Values. Your Job is to Extract that Value. – A strong argument for the proposition that domain value is in the eye of the beholder.
  • Web Analytics: Frequently Asked Questions and Direct Answers – Over 30 Web Analytics FAQ & Answers – After 416,350 words in posts and 845,128 words in comments on this blog, thus far, there is always more to explore, illuminate and share. Hence every once in a while I flip the tables and ask you for challenges you are facing.
  • Internet 2010 in numbers – How many websites were added? How many emails were sent? How many Internet users were there? This post will answer all of those questions and many, many more. If it’s stats you want, you’ve come to the right place.
  • Turning The Tables On The Google Toolbar & Disclosure Claims #Copygate – Danny Sullivan dissects Google's toolbar for IE and FF, applying Matt Cutt's "Mom test". It seems that over the years Google pretty much lost it's former "better disclosure" about user behavior data the toolbar sends to Google.
  • Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics: The Beginning of a Useful Integration? – Vanessa Fox breaks some pretty darn exciting news; the beginning of a Google Webmaster Tools & Google Analytics integration.All I can say is "Yay!"
  • Google AdWords Rewards Good Sentence Structure – Last Thursday, Google AdWords announced a big change to (select) PPC ads. It seems those marketers who like proper sentence structure will be rewarded with a much longer "headline" – but only if they're already showing up in the coveted "top 3" section. For those ads utilizing sentences for each line of their ads, they'll see the second line jump up to join the first – separated by a hyphen – and the third line will occupy the second's place:
  • 21 Real Blog Metrics Your Company Needs to Track – Blogs no longer get the same buzz as their newer social media cousins, Facebook and Twitter. That said, blogs are at the heart of social media, especially if you’re involved in content marketing. Chris Brogan refers to blogs as your social media outpost because blogs supply the content that drives social media conversations. In 2011, eMarketer projects that roughly two out of five companies will create a public-facing blog.
  • The Rising Importance of Flexible Web Layouts – Just a few years ago, creating a fixed-width design and the coding to stick to that width was practical, as long as it could accommodate a wide range of users. However, just a few years ago, having the Internet on a cell phone was a luxury, netbooks were rare, and the convenient tablet device, such as an iPad, didn't even exist. Now, a fixed-width design is almost inconvenient.
  • Why Does Google Police Links While Ignoring Garbage Content? – Aaron Wall offers up an interesting take on how Google's treats paid links vs. how it treats content farms.
  • What are the core UX considerations when targeting the 50+ demographic? – A great questions that refers specifically to web applications.  There are currently 3 quality answers that are each unique and helpful.
  • Scoring the 2011 Super Bowl Commercials For Search Visibility and Visitor Engagement – Every year, advertisers pay millions to air commercials during the Super Bowl. (The price this year is around three million dollars for a thirty second slot.) Advertisers are looking not only for conversions but also heightened awareness and engagement. The more you engage with a brand and have a positive association with it, the more likely you’ll buy that brand in the future, so conventional wisdom goes. Here is a breakdown of the ad class of 2011…

This is the latest in a weekly look at the stories that were “hot” on Sphinn in the past week. We’ll post these recaps every week.

Related Topics: Channel: Other | Sphinn

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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