The Better Mousetrap

5 Takeaways from SXSW 2017

Tags: Conferences and Events
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Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, South by Southwest has not missed a year in showing off the very best of interactive, film, and music industries. The conferences host thought-provoking sessions, share innovation, and allow creators to develop a network among their peers. This year SXSW, on March 10 – 19, 2017 once again gave a platform to show off new and exciting ideas.

Social Media

Social media plays a huge part in the everyday life of consumers. Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have become huge avenues for businesses to reach a broad range of consumers, but knowing how to utilize these platforms correctly can make or break a marketing plan. At SXSW there were several talks on how to leverage the various social media outlets to spread brand awareness and promote customer loyalty. One tactic shared through several discussions is to create emotional narratives through digital content, like gifs. The other side of social media is data. Companies can collect data to predict trends in consumer behavior, and learn more about how a product is received.

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) isn’t just making a comeback, its brought a friend named Augmented Reality (AR). VR and AR have evolved over the last several years and become more accessible to creators and users alike. Through headsets like Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear, wearers can enter immersive landscapes and journey across the world from the safety of their home.  With the popularity of Pokémon Go, AR shot into the mainstream and showed new ways smartphones could be used. When VR and AR married, they had Mixed Reality (MR), which is the best of both worlds. MR uses the concept of a virtual world to project digital characters or object into a physical space just like AR. The evolution of VR, AR, and MR open up a huge realm of possibilities for creators to create interactive landscapes similar to our own.

Wearable Tech

Smart apparel could be the new fashion trend and might even partner with VR and AR. Stepping away from the bulky headpiece like the Samsung Gear, wearable tech can be even smaller by not just attaching to your clothes, but becoming part of your daily dress. Smart watches were just the tip of the iceberg for this emerging market. There are practical applications that can be made for Smart apparel too such as tracking runners during a race.

A.I. and Robots

Each year our world looks more and more like a science fiction movie with smartphones in nearly every pocket, an internet that connects the world, and autonomous self-thinking machines right on the horizon. Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) has made significant leaps, and robotics aren’t far behind as more companies like Hanson Robotics unveil a nearly human looking android. The use of A.I. is becoming more prevalent and accessible through programs like IBM Watson. Using IBM Watson to create chatbots can help revolutionize a company’s customer service. Robots can take over manual and dangerous jobs, or become a companion for kids.

Diversity in the Tech World

There has been a lot of talk over the last several years about diversity in the workspace. The conversation has only grown larger as more businesses and entrepreneurs recognize the benefits of having a culturally diverse team. Instead of focusing on the perfect match, opening to differences will prevent innovation from becoming stagnant and will cultivate new ideas instead.

A Quick History of Google Algorithm Updates

Search Engines
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Google’s search algorithms are ever-changing to create a better user experience for casual Internet surfers. Google’s algorithms are improved at least 500 to 600 times a year, making it difficult for the SEO community and websites to stay at the top of Search engine results pages (SERPs). Below is a brief history on some of the major updates Google has done to their algorithm over the last six years.

2011 Panda: originally designed to filter out websites with low-quality content and de-rank them so that they would appear less often on SERPs. Panda was added to the core Google algorithm by 2016 with Panda 4.0.

2012 Penguin: improved on Panda’s de-ranking algorithm but focused more on de-ranking sites with spam content that resulted in manipulative clicks. Penguin would search a web page, and it’s associated linked content to confirm that the website is not buying or stuffing links to boost Google ranking.

2013 Humming Bird: improved search results by understanding users queries, instead of relying on keywords, and produced more relevant results. Before Humming Bird, Google’s algorithm relied on keywords, which websites could use to drive traffic by keyword stuffing their content.

2014 Pigeon: placed more importance on local search results and put high-quality links at the top of SERPs. The local algorithm better connected Google maps and the core search engine, which dramatically altered return queries on both platforms.

2015 Mobile Friendly Updates: displayed mobile-friendly sites at the top of mobile SERPs. This update gave a rank boost to websites that optimized their pages for mobile viewing.

2015 Rank Brain: delivered better search results based on relevance and machine learning. Rank Brain builds on Humming Bird’s algorithm, but the use of machine learning allows Google searches to gain a better understanding and decipher the meaning behind a user’s query.

2016 Unnamed algorithm: The SEO community refers to the newest Google update as Possum. The local algorithm prioritizes search results by user location. Businesses saw an increase to their website ranking after the implantation.

Google is continuously updating their algorithm to create the best user experience. Each of their updates targets and eliminates spam sites, low-quality content and more, to bring the best out of the web.

Growth Science: A Call to Arms

Uncategorized
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The path from SEO to SSO

By Anne Ahola Ward

For more than a decade I’ve been a practitioner of search, an SEO. Before that, I was a web developer. In the last few years my title has extended to the new fangled Growth Hacker… which never felt quite right. Don’t get me wrong; I love growth marketing and it’s what I’ve dedicated my career to- but it never felt like it fit me as a label. In development the term ‘hacking’ is negative for two reasons; it means you’re either doing something bad to someone else or you’re doing something half assed, i.e. hacking things apart to cobble them back together. As such, can we finally throw the cobbled “growth hacker” term aside? I like to think of my work as more than tinkering.

Data science is where the top 2% of us friskers live, so the fancy data title doesn’t fit majority of SEOs. Data Scientists come from many backgrounds, but what they share is a broad knowledge of statistics and data modelling. As a former DBA I had the data modeling experience, but had to add the statistics part later. SEOs enhance and maintain growth, which is applied science: a continuous round-robin of investigation, experimentation, and information gathering. Just like any scientist, I follow the scientific method out in the field as researchers would in their respective disciplines.

SEO is certainly more scientific and technical today than it was in the mid 2000s when I started. It’s 2017 we’re knee-deep in data, so we get to question almost everything around us. Marketing keeps evolving to towards the technical so it’s time we coin a new term: Growth Science.

Growth Science is an emerging field, and as such, some specialization is needed. In terms of SEO, ASO, and general search engine efficacy, the commonality of all these ideas is that they all seek to measure and/or create Growth. This is the niche of us who are emerging as Growth Scientists. She (or he) strives above all to seek new methods, not magic, to bring new insights into the data. What does a Growth Scientist do, exactly? Is it SEO? No, it’s SSO- Scientific Search Optimization (SSO), which has some well-defined parameters:

  • Hypothesis — study data and form conclusions. Take guesses for what you think might be happening and posit a theory.
  • Methodical — the process to determine the results was determined beforehand, and built around a hypothesis. (I.E., “Adding additional schema to the pictures on my homepage will draw more organic search traffic.).
  • Provable — the hypothesis is validated or disproven given through the resulting inputs.
  • Reproducible — if the test was re-run on a separate but similar project, the conclusions should be the same.

Growth Scientists should also embrace open standards. As data sets become larger and toolsets become more integrated, open standards and open source software are important to maintain transparency. Freedom for independent toolset integrations can help prevent vendor lock-in.

This all suggests a future path for the discipline of SEO… SSO. Just as with science in any other field of expertise, only public experiments contribute to a collective body of knowledge, and improvement to the growth discipline. To truly earn the title of growth scientists, we must also grow into a community of fellow practitioners who share our results, discuss our latest experiments, and peer review our results.

Are you in?

Shameless plug: buy my O’Reilly book, The SEO Battlefield: Winning Strategies for Search Engine Marketing Programs. Due out March 2017!

SEO Factors to Watch for Mobile Search

Search Engines
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Long gone are the days of being able to easily rank in Google. The market has radically shifted towards mobile search and local search, and each have their own factors that influence optimization of results.

While the market has changed, both mobile and local present great opportunities for those who understand how they both differ from traditional search. There are some simple factors that can assist you in targeting both.

SEO Factors in Mobile

In April 2015 Google implemented what was dubbed “Mobilegeddon,” a process that shifted the goal post by ranking results based on the mobile-friendliness of the site. Sites that are more mobile friendly are ranked higher than sites that may be superior in other more traditional ways but don’t look so great on a mobile device.

Technical factors feature heavily in how Google assesses the mobile friendliness of a site.

Site speed tops the list. Mobile devices usually download content across mobile networks that are not always super quick- hence the need for making sure a site is super quick to load.

Google itself warns that sites that feature unplayable videos (avoid Flash at all costs), and offer a poor search experience can be demoted in rankings, or even displayed with a warning in mobile search results.

SEO Factors in Local

For local search every business should have a Google My Business page, those are the results that appear at the top of Google for any search and also include a link back to your site.

That listing should include all the relevant details for your business (address, contact number, opening hours), as well photos of your business.

For your website the same rules apply with mobile-  it should be quick and user-friendly.

Links in 2016 may be disregarded by some, but studies have shown they do play a strong role with sites targeting a local audience, as does one other more traditional consideration: content. Local sites with rich, in-depth content do better on Google, as particularly small businesses targeting a local audience tend to have content-lite sites.

The Top SEO Conferences for 2016 and Beyond

Conferences and Events
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While we are now in the second half of 2016, there are still many opportunities to check out some of the top SEO conferences still to be held in the closing months of this year. Here is a list of the top of conferences that SEO professionals should check out, with some looks into the future of conferences that are still being organized and finalized. If you don’t have the time or budget to make it to a conference, webinars can also be helpful resources. For example, check out our CEO Anne A. Ward’s Search Engine Journal webinar a couple of weeks ago, SEO in a Mobile World.

MozCon, September 12-14 in Seattle

MozCon bills itself as “not your typical marketing conference,” and promises to be three days of social media, community building, content marketing, brand development, CRO, the mobile landscape, analytics, and so much more.  Skipping the traditional and often forced networking events of most conferences, MozCon seeks to connect the SEO community with industry leaders in low-pressure, low-stress environments.  Along with meeting industry insiders at these events, there is also cool swag and hugs offered by the MozCon robot, Roger.

PubCon, October 11-13 in Las Vegas

PubCon offers attendees seven full workshop tracks, ensuring areas of interest for all those in attendance.  With a live audience case study and an “Ask the Experts,” opportunity everyone can find something to learn from, and enjoy.  Forbes called PubCon a must-attend event while Inc. called PubCon a top conference for growing your business.  Offering breakout sessions in a wide range of topics, PubCon Labs featuring peer-to-peer discussions, networking opportunities, and site reviews for feedback on sites sets PubCon apart from many other SEO conferences.

State of Search, November 14-15 in Dallas

This year is the fifth edition of the State of Search Conference held in Dallas. It initially started as a grassroots effort to galvanize the Dallas/Fort Worth SEO professionals.  With the conference slowly growing as out-of-state participants learn about this unique opportunity the focus of State of Search is on local SEO and networking opportunities.  The conference itself will be held in a unique location, Life in Deep Ellum, and is perfect for the new graduate and the seasoned professional focusing on local SEO, SEo, PPC, and social media marketing.

SearchLoveOctober 17-18 in London and February 23-24 in San Diego

SearchLove’s two day events offer an intimate setting, allowing attendees to interact closely with leaders in the field with the latest in search, analytics, content creation, optimization, paid promotions, among other topics of interest.  Panels occur in single-room settings, helping to ensure that you do not miss the panelists you are interested in learning from, while also ensuring to check out the panelists your boss thinks you need to see. Along with holding multiple topic tables, there is plenty of opportunity to grow and learn when it comes to SEO.   With sessions geared towards business owners, managers, and SEOs the content of the conference is highly relevant.

ClickZ, ClickZ Live San Francisco August 29-31, 2017

ClickZ, formerly known as SES, is an opportunity to network with, and make connections from, the key players in the SEO industry.  Like most conferences, there are sessions for those who are new in the field, but ClickZ offers numerous opportunities for the seasoned professional to learn more about the latest and developing trends in SEO.  This conference is massive, which for a new professional can be overwhelming, but it offers an abundance of opportunity by offering multiple sessions and speakers across a wide range of topics.  The information and material shared at ClickZ is meant to be immediately implementable by those in attendance in their day-to-day SEO careers.

SEO in a Mobile World: #SEJThinkTank Webinar Recap

Conferences and Events
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This week CircleClick’s CEO, Anne A. Ward, was featured in a webinar by Search Engine Journal to discuss SEO in a Mobile World as part of the #SEJThinkTank series. She was invited to participate in this webinar after she gave a similar presentation that resonated with the crowd at the SEJ Summit in April in Santa Monica, CA.

Folks participating in the webinar were also active on Twitter during the hour-long presentation. Anne discussed a variety of topics, from the nth screen, to rich snippets, local search behavior, and to build or not to build an app, to name a few. Participants also answered a poll question which asked if they had deployed Project AMP yet. The majority answered “No” or “What’s Project AMP?”

Below is the video from her presentation. Please note the introduction is not available due to a technical difficulty.

Anne is currently writing the next SEO book for O’Reilly, entitled The SEO Battlefield: Winning Strategies for Search Marketing Programs, due to be published in early 2017.

SEO Factors to Watch for Mobile and Local Search

Search Engines
featured image

Long gone are the days of being able to easily rank in Google as the market has radically shifted towards mobile search and local search with both having their own factors that influence optimization of results.

While the market has changed both mobile and local present great opportunities for those who understand how both differ from traditional search, and there are some simple factors that can assist you in targeting both.

SEO factors in mobile

In April 2015 Google implemented what was dubbed “Mobilegeddon,” a process that shifted the goal post by ranking results based on the mobile-friendliness of the site, with sites that are more mobile friendly being ranked higher than sites that may have been superior in other more traditional ways but didn’t look so great on a mobile device.

Technical factors feature heavily in how Google assesses the mobile friendliness of a site.

Site speed tops the list. Mobile devices usually download content across mobile networks that are not always super quick hence the need for making sure a site is super quick to load.

Google itself warns that sites that feature unplayable videos (avoid Flash at all costs) and offer a poor search experience can be demoted in rankings or even displayed with a warning in mobile search results.

SEO factors in local

For local search every business should have a Google My Business page, those are the results that appear at the top of Google for any search and also include a link back to your site.

That listing should include all the relevant details for your business (address, contact number, opening hours) as well photos of your business as well. SEOs commonly call this the “NAP” – name, address and phone number.

For your website the same rules apply with mobile it should be quick and user-friendly.

Links in 2016 may be disregarded by some but studies have shown they do play a strong role with sites targeting a local audience, as does one other more traditional consideration: content. Local sites with rich, in-depth content do better on Google as particularly small businesses targeting a local audience tend to have content-lite sites.

Brexit: What it Means to an American Teenager

Business Not-So Usual, Social Media
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Before starting my internship at CircleClick this summer, I spent two weeks on a scholastic sightseeing tour through—part of what was and what is still—Europe. During my visit in June, I fell witness to one of the most historically significant events of the 21st century. You might be thinking I’m talking about England’s tragic (1-2) loss to Iceland in the EuroCup, however this is a much more serious situation. On June 23, citizens of the United Kingdom voted on whether to leave or remain part of the European Union. On June 24, when the poll results came in, the answers were split in half: leave won 52% to 48% with 30 million voters in total and a 71.8% turnout.

When I first heard news of the split, I had no clue what this any of this “referendum” nonsense meant. To gain an understanding, I searched “Brexit” on Google. I learned that it is simply an abbreviation of the words “British exit”. Interested about this topic, I decided to continue exploring…

So what happens now?
The Prime Minister will need to spawn an agreement known as Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. A treaty which states “Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.”

Who wanted to leave the European Union?
The UK Independence Party, lead by Nigel Farage, campaigned for Britain’s exit from the EU.

What were the reasons for wanting to leave?
People of the Independence party believed that the European Union was holding Britain back. There were too many rules imposed on business and membership fees were expensive for the amount they were getting in return. Independents also wanted full control of their borders and to reduce the amount of immigrants entering Britain.

Why did others want to remain part of the European Union?
The non- independents believe that staying in the EU would make business with other Union members easier. They also argued that the immigrants who travel to Britain fuel economic growth and contribute in paying for public services.

After gaining knowledge of the abbreviation, I searched “#Brexit” on Twitter.
The first tweet to appear is breaking news of an arising economic crisis.


The next post to catch my eye talks about the unforeseen plummet in traveling prices.


My next read came as a shock to me and the rest of the United Kingdom as Prime Minister Cameron decides to resign from his position, passing the torch to the next best qualified successor after serving for six years.


Curious about the Twitter analytics after the referendum was put in place, I found an article written by The Daily Record. It is estimated that “approximately 13,330 tweets were sent per minute as the Prime Minister made his speech following the historic decision to leave… “
Once I collected as much information as I could through social media platforms, I decided to gain insight from a local. I spoke to the owner of family- run store known as “The Tea House” located in Covent Garden, London, who admitted she was upset about the split.

“My family moved from France to London when I was a child and I have spent most of my life in England. The thought of having to leave or getting a visa to live here breaks my heart. UKIP is tearing the country apart economically and emotionally. The United Kingdom has Nigel Farage and the United States has…” Well, you know who.

Visiting the United Kingdom at such a politically powerful time was an experience I will never forget. The opportunity to travel across the world at such a young age has opened my eyes and given me a different insight on the world.

Why Social Media Matters for SEO

Search Engines, Social Media
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Many of my colleagues do not think social counts for SEO. I think this is a flawed conclusion!

Social media has taken the world by storm with a seemingly endless reliance and dependence on being able to be in constant communication with your friends and loved ones.  With platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Snapchat attracting hundreds of millions of users, there is no doubt that social media is valuable to SEO.  According to AdWeek, in December 2015 Facebook had 1.59 billion users, a population bigger than China while Instagram reached 400 million users in September 2015 offering more than one billions reasons why social media matters to SEO.  

Trends change very quickly, but the need for a relationship between social media and SEO developers, regardless of trends, can be quite valuable because social media is not diminishing, it is growing.  Jayson DeMers has written extensively on the relationship between social media and SEOs, highlighting for Entrepreneur eight trends that are worth considering in the development of an SEO strategy.  Perhaps most importantly is to embrace social media platforms and understand the value of live video and real-time engagement that gets to the very crux of what social media is all about–being able to interact with others in real time.  By creating a strategy that involves live-streaming it be beneficial in the long-term as the trend develops and grows and exposure increases.  

In a Forbes article, recently written by DeMers, he highlights the need to grow your followers, and doing it organically on all social media platforms.  For example, if an organization makes the decision to purchase proxy Twitter followers, Google is able to detect that the followers are low-quality which affects rankings in search results.  Using social media to grow a legitimate following requires careful planning, particularly as platforms such as Facebook have shareholders to please through increasing profits resulting in increased costs for businesses to gain exposure.

Through social media it is possible to encourage external inbound links where the platform is acting essentially as a broadcast channel.  Kristina Cisnero of Hootsuite believes that content marketing and social media are powerful SEO weapons particularly now that Google uses Twitter to find new content, so that link the organization shares about a product or service very well may turn up in a search result. With Google having access to the one-half billion tweets sent each and every day to display in the SERP of a Google search, the implications of a social media strategy for SEO is huge.  

Social media may not seem like a natural part of the SEO environment, but the user experience is changing, and Google has started to favor popular social media updates in the top sections of its SERPs.  Meanwhile social media has heralded the introduction of social commerce.  Forbes’ Baldwin Cunningham recognizes the effect that social commerce has on marketing and sales and driving the two together.  Cunningham points out that 59% of all online retail browsing is done on a mobile device, but mobile devices are responsible for just 15% of e-commerce sales, indicating that there is a huge amount of opportunity to drive sales, the ultimate purpose of an SEO strategy.  DeMers offers the thought that perhaps one day in the near future social media may entirely eliminate the need for a stand-alone website changing the entire focus of an SEO strategy onto social media alone.

Happy 7th Birthday, CircleClick!

Business Not-So Usual
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This week marks seven years since CircleClick opened its doors. While there’s plenty to look forward to in the coming years, it’s also important to reflect on significant milestones such as this one. According to our CEO, Anne A. Ward,

“One of the most awesome parts about living and working in San Francisco is the variety and amount of projects people are involved in. Innovation lurks in every corner. There is so much collaboration and inspiration all around us every day and I am thankful for that.”

2016 has been especially exciting for the agency thus far. Anne has already spoken at a few conferences, including SEJ Summit, DevOps Day, and the Integrated Marketing Virtual Conference.

We also recently announced that Anne is writing the next book on SEO for O’Reilly Media, titled The SEO Battlefield: Winning Strategies for Search Marketing Programs. This will be available in October and is available for pre-order on Amazon now. Getting there was a long road, which Anne waxes nostalgic about,

It’s truly an honor to be a member of the O’Reilly author family. My first web development job in the late 90s was converting O’Reilly books into HTML and graphics at night for a (now failed) startup in Austin. While editing those books, I was reading them. I’m so glad I did…

Here’s to the next seven years!