Archive for May, 2014

Title: Bing Is Shutting Down Its Webmaster Forums

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

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Microsoft announced that it is shutting down Bing’s Webmaster Forums as they have apparently not grown in a meaningful way.

As of the end of this month or early next month, the Bing Webmaster Community Forum will be no more.

Senior product manager Duane Forrester wrote on the Bing webmaster blog, “Over the last few years, we’ve had our Webmaster forums up and running. They’ve been around a while now in a few iterations, and like any community, the goal is to grow it to be vibrant and engaging. To foster the deep involvement of experts who help others, creating a community that contributes to improvements and makes its own gravity. There comes a time, however, when you sometimes need to re-evaluate, and once in a while, regroup.”

Bing will be directing users to its Help & How To section and its webmaster blog, which will have weekly posts with open comments.

Those simply having issues with Webmaster Tools are told to use email support.

For everything else, Forrester directs people to WebmasterWorld and similar forums. Bing itself participates at WMW, so that’s probably your best bet for Bing-related threads.

Image via Bing

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Title: Here’s Why Pinterest’s New Funding Is Good News For Your Business

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

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Pinterest has reportedly raised a new $200 million round of funding, valuing the company at $5 billion. Investors are apparently impressed with the direction the already popular visual social media site is taking, which includes new native ads and enhancements to the search experience.

Is Pinterest search part of your business strategy? Will it be in the future? Let us know in the comments.

Pinterest raised two separate rounds last year, totaling $425 million, and has now raised a grand total of $764 million.

ReadWrite shares this statement from Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann:

Pinterest has a vision of solving discovery and helping everyone find things they’ll love. This new investment gives us additional resources to realize our vision.

“Solving discovery and helping everyone find things” makes it sound like search is going to continue to be the main focus.

Improving Search

Last month, the company launched Guided Search, which lets people find ideas for things like where to plan vacations, what to have for dinner, etc.

“It’s made for exploring, whether you know exactly what you want, or you’re just starting to look around,” explained Hui Xu, head of the discovery team at Pinterest. “There are more than 750 million boards with 30 billion Pins hand-picked by travelers, foodies, and other Pinners, so the right idea is just a few taps away.”

“Now when you search for something (road trips, running, summer BBQ), descriptive guides will help you sift through all the good ideas from other Pinners,” Xu added. “Scroll through the guides and tap any that look interesting to steer your search in the right direction. Say you’re looking for plants to green up your apartment, guides help you get more specific—indoors, shade, succulents—so you can hone in on the ones that suit your space. Or when it’s time for your next haircut, search by specific styles—for redheads, curly hair, layers—to find your next look.”

Here’s a use case for plants:

This was the second big search move by Pinterest this year. In January, it launched an improved recipe search experience, enabling users to search for ingredients (like whatever is in their refrigerators), to find collections of relevant recipes. It has filters like vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, paleo, etc.

One can see where this type of thing could be expanded to more verticals. The feature is part of Pinterest’s “more useful Pins” initiative, which uses structured data (like ingredients, cook time, and servings) to display more info right on the pin.

Promoted Pins

Search is one of the most obvious ways of monetizing the site, and they’re starting to do that as well. Earlier this week, Pinterest announced that it is rolling out the next phase of its Promoted Pins ad product, which it began testing last fall.

Promoted Pins

The company currently counts ABC Family, Banana Republic, Expedia, GAP, General Mills, Kraft, Lullemon Athletica, Nestle (Purina, Dreyer’s/Edy’s Ice Cream, Nespresso), Old Navy, Target, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, and Ziploc, among its advertisers.

“During the test brands will work with Pinterest to help ensure the pins are tasteful, transparent, relevant and improved based on feedback from the Pinterest community,” a Pinterest spokesperson told WebProNews in an email.

“Tens of millions of people have added more than 30 billion Pins to Pinterest and brands are a big part of this,” said head of partnerships Joanne Bradford. “Brands help people find inspiration and discover things they care about, whether it’s ideas for dinner, places to go or gifts to buy. We hope Promoted Pins give businesses of all sizes a chance to connect with more Pinners.”

The company will use this early group of advertisements to collect feedback, and will then open up them up to more businesses later this year.

AdAge reported a couple months back that Pinterest was looking for spending commitments of between one and two million dollars.

Later, Digiday shared a pitch deck from the company indicating that CPMs would be about $30, and that the company is seeking six-month commitments at roughly $150K per month ($900,000 total). Ads targeted upon search keywords will be priced on a CPC basis, it indicated, while those placed in “Everything & Popular Feeds” will be on a CPM basis. Promoted Pins can be placed in 32 different categories, according to that, and advertisers will be able to target US-only, the user’s location and the “metro-city level”. The ads will also be targeted based on device. Age will not be a targeting option initially, but apparently will become one later.

Traffic To Your Site

Promoted Pins might be out of your business’ reach for now, but there’s plenty of opportunity for some good old organic traffic. We recently looked at a report from Shareaholic on social media traffic referrals, which showed that Facebook referrals are growing significantly, with the social network leading all social sites. Guess what number 2 is.

Pinterest may be significantly behind Facebook in this department, but look how much further ahead it is than all the rest, and look at the growth curve compared to the rest. Now consider that they’re only starting to make drastic search improvements. The site stands to only increase traffic referral potential.

If you haven’t been using Pinterest for business, you may be unaware that it also recently added a new way for businesses to track their pinned links with support for Google Analytics UTM variables.

“If you’re already using Google Analytics, it’s easy to see how your Pins are performing by tagging your Pin links with the correct UTM parameters,” explained Pinterest’s Jason Costa. “If you’ve already got UTM tracking on your Pin links, you’ll start to see more activity on your campaign and source tracking on Google Analytics.”

Pinterest has suggested using humor, using quotes, going “behind-the-scenes,” including fans, highlighting products and spaces, offering exclusive content and “sneak peeks,” and helping users lived “inspired lives” as ways to generate more engagement and referrals.

Keep in mind that Pinterest so far hasn’t been the greatest social channel for engagement after the click. Another recent Shareaholic report found it to be near the bottom of the list in the average time on site (your site) metric, and not all that great for the pages/visit metric either. But if you’re looking to get people to a specific page, you could do a lot worse.

Pinterest Users Are Shoppers

Rest assured, Pinterest users want to buy things.

A new report out from Ahalogy finds that 52% of daily users are opening the app in stores. Mobile Marketer shares some commentary:

“Pinterest is becoming a universal in-store shopping list,” said Bob Gilbreath, co-founder and president of Ahalogy, Cincinnati, OH. “Many Pinterest users claim to pin items at home and then pull up the app in store, for example, to remember that dress from Nordstrom that she pinned, or find the ingredients for a recipe that she pinned.

“We’ve now got data to prove this is a common task: 28 percent of users claim to pull up the Pinterest app on their smartphones while shopping, and 52 percent of daily Pinterest users do this,” he said.

“Only 27 percent of active Pinterest users claim to be following any brand on Pinterest, yet most believe that marketers can add value to the platform. Too many brands have been on the sidelines of Pinterest.”

As Pinterest turns into more of a search destination, brands aren’t going to necessarily need to gain large follower counts for the channel to be effective. That is if they can gain visibility in the results. It’s only going to get more competitive.

Are you getting significant traffic and/or conversions from Pinterest? Do you expect to going forward? Let us know in the comments.

Images via Pinterest, Shareaholic

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Title: Google: Links Will Become Less Important

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

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Links are becoming less important as Google gets better at understanding the natural language of users’ queries. That’s the message we’re getting from Google’s latest Webmaster Help video. It will be a while before links become completely irrelevant, but the signal that Google’s algorithm was basically based upon is going to play less and less of a role as time goes on.

Do you think Google should de-emphasize links in its algorithm? Do you think they should count as a strong signal even now? Share your thoughts.

In the video, Matt Cutts takes on this user-submitted question:

Google changed the search engine market in the 90s by evaluating a website’s backlinks instead of just the content, like others did. Updates like Panda and Penguin show a shift in importance towards content. Will backlinks lose their importance?

“Well, I think backlinks have many, many years left in them, but inevitably, what we’re trying to do is figure out how an expert user would say this particular page matched their information needs, and sometimes backlinks matter for that,” says Cutts. “It’s helpful to find out what the reputation of a site or of a page is, but for the most part, people care about the quality of the content on that particular page – the one that they landed on. So I think over time, backlinks will become a little less important. If we could really be able to tell, you know, Danny Sullivan wrote this article or Vanessa Fox wrote this article – something like that, that would help us understand, ‘Okay, this is something where it’s an expert – an expert in this particular field – and then even if we don’t know who actually wrote something, Google is getting better and better at understanding actual language.”

“One of the big areas that we’re investing in for the coming few months is trying to figure out more like how to do a Star Trek computer, so conversational search – the sort of search where you can talk to a machine, and it will be able to understand you, where you’re not just using keywords,” he adds.

You know, things like this:

Cutts continues,”And in order to understand what someone is saying, like, ‘How tall is Justin Bieber?’ and then, you know, ‘When was he born?’ to be able to know what that’s referring to, ‘he’ is referring to Justin Bieber – that’s the sort of thing where in order to do that well, we need to understand natural language more. And so I think as we get better at understanding who wrote something and what the real meaning of that content is, inevitably over time, there will be a little less emphasis on links. But I would expect that for the next few years we will continue to use links in order to assess the basic reputation of pages and of sites.”

Links have always been the backbone of the web. Before Google, they were how you got from one page to the next. One site to the next. Thanks to Google, however (or at least thanks to those trying desperately to game Google, depending on how you look at it), linking is broken. It’s broken as a signal because of said Google gaming, which the search giant continues to fight on an ongoing basis. The very concept of linking is broken as a result of all of this too.

Sure, you can still link however you want to whoever you want. You don’t have to please Google if you don’t care about it, but the reality is, most sites do care, because Google is how the majority of people discover content. As a result of various algorithm changes and manual actions against some sites, many are afraid of the linking that they would have once engaged in. We’ve seen time after time that sites are worried about legitimate sites linking to them because they’re afraid Google might not like it. We’ve seen sites afraid to naturally link to other sites in the first place because they’re afraid Google might not approve.

No matter how you slice it, linking isn’t what it used to be, and that’s largely because of Google.

But regardless of what Google does, the web is changing, and much of that is going mobile. That’s a large part of why Google must adapt with this natural language search. Asking your phone a question is simply a common way of searching. Texting the types of queries you’ve been doing from the desktop for years is just annoying, and when your phone has that nice little microphone icon, which lets you ask Google a question, it’s just the easier choice (in appropriate locations at least).

Google is also adapting to this mobile world by indexing content within apps as it does links, so you if you’re searching on your phone, you can open content right in the app rather than in the browser.

Last week, Facebook made an announcement taking this concept to another level when it introduced App Links. This is an open source standard (assuming it becomes widely adopted) for apps to link to one another, enabling users to avoid the browser and traditional links altogether by jumping from app to app.

It’s unclear how Google will treat App Links, but it would make sense to treat them the same as other links.

The point is that linking itself is both eroding and evolving at the same time. It’s changing, and Google has to deal with that as it comes. As Cutts said, linking will still play a significant role for years to come, but how well Google is able to adapt to the changes in linking remains to be seen. Will it be able to deliver the best content based on links if some of that content is not being linked to because others are afraid to link to it? Will it acknowledge App Links, and if so, what about the issues that’ having? Here’s the “standard” breaking the web, as one guy put it:

What if this does become a widely adopted standard, but proves to be buggy as shown above?

Obviously, Google is trying to give you the answers to your queries on its own with the Knowledge Graph when it can. Other times it’s trying to fill in the gaps in that knowledge with similarly styled answers from websites. It’s unclear how much links fit into the significance of these answers. We’ve seen two examples in recent weeks where Google was turning to parked domains.

Other times, the Knowledge Graph just provides erroneous information. As Cutts said, Google will get better and better at natural language, but it’s clear this is the type of search results it wants to provide whenever possible. The problem is it’s not always reliable, and in some cases, the better answer comes from good old fashioned organic search results (of the link-based variety). We saw an example of this recently, which Google ended up changing after we wrote about it (not saying it was because we wrote about it).

So if backlinks will become less important over time, does that mean traditional organic results will continue to become a less significant part of the Google search experience? It’s certainly already trended in that direction over the years.

What do you think? How important should links be to Google’s ranking? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Images via YouTube, Google

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