Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fake Fans,Followers,Likes ,Reviews, etc. – The Social Media Spam And Its Impact On Search & Ecommerce

Author : Bharati Ahuja

 Google has been fighting spam right from the time it started indexing the web but as the anti-spam methods and tactics become rigid the spammers too come up with more sophisticated methods making the anti-spam teams restart from square one. This reminds me of the snakes and ladders game that we played in childhood where the player reaches almost the finish of the game but has to go back all the way because he comes across a snake just one square before the finish box.

Google lately has been doing well in combating diverse methods of spam by the Panda and the Penguin updates but as the search engines to come up with better quality results have integrated social and search , the impact of fake fans, likes, reviews, followers, etc is bound to be felt by the search engines too .

This kind of social media spam is bound to effect the quality of search results for sure.The social media and search budgets are showing an increasing trend according to SEMPO 2012 Survey but at the same time the measurement and ROI of SEO and Social Media are still a very big challenge .

Gartner Says By 2014, 10-15 Percent of Social Media Reviews to Be Fake, Paid for By Companies

I think this kind of pressure on social media companies adds the fuel to the social media spam fire in the form of fake fans, likes, reviews, followers etc. The PageRank technology made the black hat SEOs go on a link building spree in the form of paid links and other black hat methods of building low quality links and in the bargain defeated the very purpose of the PageRank introduced by Google. If this social media spam increases the very purpose of social and search integration is going to be defeated as the users will get distorted opinions in the search results adversely affecting the trust of the online buyers and in the long run have a negative impact on the growth of the ecommerce industry.

Google now not only combats spam from the search perspective but also keeps a check on the social media signals which are being incorporated to display search results. Google gives priority to the social media signals from Google+ and with the Authorship markup, +1s , rich snippets, meta data, etc. it tries to verify the signals trying to beat this social media spam as much as possible.

We also as social media and website owners can help in reducing the spam at this very stage when it is still at the initial stage and not let it become rampant like the spammy links on the web which the spammy link builders built just to have a high PageRank and Google had to devalue its importance and also have a Penguin Update.

Social media is not only Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+ but also blogs which generate UGC in the form of comments and reviews.

How can we as website owners and social media participants try to reduce the spam from mushrooming on the web?

We sure can try by the following some Dos and Donts:

1. Always moderate comments and add the comment only if it adds to the discussion.

2. Always give genuine reviews only when one is logged in to their Google account or a reputed social media account

3. Keep blocking spammy followers on Twitter else they will add up to the fake followers in your account which may negatively impact your account.

4. If we keep blocking these spambots then they get deleted by the social media sites else we are giving them a platform to exist.

5. Connect with people whom you think contribute to your knowledge or may benefit from your knowledge .

6. If you have a blog then add the Authorship Markup so that Google can verify the identity of the authors.

7. Have a company social media account to engage with existing customers and potential customers to clear their doubts so that they get genuine first hand information . This will surely help in restoring the trust in ecommerce.

All the fake social media fans, followers, likes, +1s, reviews and other forms of UGC might show a rosy picture to the brands in a myopic way but in the long run it will become the main reason for the decreased online sales as this will be the major reason for which the online buyer will lose trust and not feel confident to buy online. 

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

SEO Objectives, Budgets, Metrics, Challenges and SEO Fee Structure In 2012 As Per The SEMPO Survey 2012

Author : Bharati Ahuja

The State of Search Marketing Report is based on an online survey of nearly 900 client-side (advertisers) and agency respondents. The survey was live between March 12th and May 15th 2012. A total of 883respondents from 36 countries took part in the survey, with US-based respondents accounting for 64% of the total. The sample included 272 advertisers and 611 supply-side respondents (mainly agencies) carrying out search marketing and social media activity on behalf of clients.

Following is a brief synopsis of the survey regarding the SEO trends for 2012 :

Objectives For SEO 2012 

To generate leads and drive traffic to the website is the major SEO objective for companies investing in SEO. But the objective of driving traffic to website has gone down by 8% in 2012 since last year.

The other main SEO objective is to sell products, services or content online which is the prime objective for companies investing in paid search according to the survey.

As the focus on driving traffic decreases the focus on increasing brand awareness and enhancing reputation has gone up by 6% since 2011. I think this indicates that companies investing in SEO are focusing more on quality SEO metrics and activities.

Metrics To Measure For SEO In 2012: 

From the above metrics being focused on, by the companies the SEO trend will take a true turn for quality when the quality of the sales/leads will be more important that the quantity. As good SEO should drive targeted traffic not just volumes of traffic. 

Secondly, it is not only about keyword rankings but about ranking for global keywords and global terms and terminology for the products and services offered by the companies. So its more about getting the site rank for correlated terms which can be achieved only by having substantial quality content and an engaging social media presence. This global keyword search presence should be a more important metric than traffic volume as the traffic volume and brand perception will follow if this has been achieved.

Though from the above objectives we can see that the companies are more open to quality SEO activities, a lot still needs to be done to educate the clients to focus on quality metrics so that the objectives can be achieved.

Budget For SEO In 2012

Though the companies having a budget of $1 to $25000 has gone down by 7% in 2012 as compared to last year , the companies allocating a budget of $25000 to $75000 has gone up by 9% in 2012. There is a 4% increase in the no. of companies allocating a budget of more than $3 million too. This again is a positive trend that companies are willing to allocate higher budgets for SEO.

This will pave the way for quality SEO activities as good content and good social media presence both are highly priced.

SEO – Inhouse v/s Hiring An SEO Specialist or Agency 

Glad to see that there are more companies willing to hire SEO specialists rather than SEO agencies. This again proves that SEO is a specialized service which needs to be implemented by individuals or small close knit and like minded teams for better results.

Challenges For Managing SEO In 2012: 

Measuring the ROI from SEO seems to be still at the helm for the challenges faced for managing SEO. This problem will be automatically solved when the metrics to measure SEO is decided upon by the company. This will be a continuing trend though, because the total ROI from SEO can never be measured as the ROI from SEO is an ongoing thing. This is because the brand and reputation created by SEO makes the company accrue returns in future. Many times the targeted traffic which visits the site as a result of SEO services may not take any immediate decision for buying or contacting the company but may delay the decision for various reasons.

Typical Fee Structure For SEO 

40% of the companies pay a flat fee to their SEO specialists or agencies. This is again a very positive trend and I am glad to see this because we have been having this SEO flat fee structure for our annual SEO projects since 2005.

Overall SEO seems to be on the main agenda of the companies. This again proves that SEO is evolving and not dying.

The full SEMPO report is available to SEMPO members which can be downloaded from SEM Research page.