What is an exact match domain (EMD) and why does Google want to punish them?

emd search

In which we describe what an exact match domain (EMD) looks like, how they can manipulate search rankings and why you should avoid them.

What is an exact match domain (EMD)?

An EMD is a domain name that precisely matches a search query that will likely drive traffic to your website. For instance, if you call your website BuyCheapJeansOnline.com.

The search query ‘buy cheap jeans’ is a lucrative search term, and if you call your website this then you might assume this is a short cut to the top of a search engine results page (SERP).

But as you’ll learn, even if this works in the short term, you’ll still want to avoid doing it.

What’s the problem with EMDs?

First of all, it’s the surest sign of a spammy website if its URL exactly matches a search term. Just think of all those ‘watch movies for free’ websites that proliferate SERPs when you search for that phrase.

Even if you remove the word ‘free’ and search for ‘watch movies online’, the SERP is a wild west town full of unsavoury characters.

emd search

You have to scroll halfway down the page before you get to legitimate streaming companies like Crackle or Hulu. And Netflix barely makes a dent.

Most domains from legitimate companies will take its name from the brand name itself, with perhaps a single keyword they may hope to rank for. As long as its in the brand name. To use Graham Charlton’s example: glassesdirect.com.

EMDs have been long thought of as having an unfair advantage.

As opposed to websites that rise to the top of Google through quality content, solid architecture, trusted backlinks and assorted other white hat best practices, Exact Match Domains can just rise to the top by shoe-horning in a few tasty keywords.

Bill Slawski wrote in 2011:

“A company may attempt to “trick” the search engine into listing the company’s website more highly. For example, if the search engine gives greater weight in ranking results to words used in the domain name associated with websites, a company may attempt to trick the search engine into ranking the company’s listing more highly by including desirable search terms in the domain name associated with the company’s listing.”

It’s basically unfair to the legitimate companies, and risky for the user.

A paid-for film streaming service offering the best possible user experience and security is surely preferable to one that will download malware to your hard-drive and take you through all sorts of unsavoury black hat practices.

But as you can see from the examples above, Google hasn’t quite got it right just yet.

What is Google doing about EMDs?

In 2012, Google’s then Head of Webspam Matt Cutts announced an algorithm change meant to reduce the amount of low quality exact match domains in search results.

matt-cutts-domain-match-tweet

Cutts also tweeted, “New exact-match domain (EMD) algo affects 0.6% of English-US queries to a noticeable degree. Unrelated to Panda/Penguin.”

However things went a bit quiet on the EMD front post 2012, until this past weekend when Search Engine Roundtable reported a few interesting tweets sent Google’s Gary Illyes on Friday.

It seems Illyes is on the hunt for spammy EMDs once again…

@gfiorelli1 @pedrodias @aleyda @pelogia It’s funny you say that! I was hunting for (bad) EMDs for the past two weeks without much luck 🙂

— Gary Illyes ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ (@methode) November 25, 2016

And is asking for assistance too…

@gfiorelli1 @aleyda @pelogia OK, I’ll go public (already asked a bunch of folk in private): if you see spammy EMDs, send them my way.

— Gary Illyes ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ (@methode) November 25, 2016

How do I stay on the right side of Google?

There are plenty of examples of EMDs that manage to stay high on the SERPs without fear of penalty – cheapflights.com being one of the more high profile examples.

It does this by being a legitimate non-spammy operation.

And that’s really all you need to worry about. As Illyes also stated on Friday…

@gfiorelli1 @aleyda @pelogia there is no inherent problem with EMDs. The problem is when it’s combined with other spam tactics

— Gary Illyes ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ (@methode) November 25, 2016

If you’re a low quality site, with an EMD and you’re engaging in spammy tactics – then you should definitely worry.

If you’re a solid, genuine business that just happens to have a brand name that also looks like an exact match domain, but is otherwise a bastion of trustworthy internet practices – then you should be fine.

Off-page PR: everything you need to know about changes to the local press

International broadsheet newspapers and postcards on wire racks outside news agent's shop

The regional press still carries great importance. Wrongly maligned in some quarters, the stats almost speak for themselves.

The 1,000 local newspapers and 1,700 associated websites across the UK attract a whopping 97 million users every month. Studies show that regional news outlets are the most trusted and attract the most effective response to adverts too.

Yet let’s not beat around the bush, the regional press is also facing up to huge challenges.

The fall of classified advertising and the growth of online news – free and convenient to access – has resulted in a dangerous drop in revenues and a significant fall in the number of people reading print editions.

Big titles have seen the number of people paying for a copy halve in less than a decade. Large publishers such as Johnston Press no longer report their sales figures and many choose to focus on their total audience.

Those twin pressures have led to some pretty drastic action. If you’ve got an interest in journalism then feel free to depress yourself by reading the NUJ’s ‘roll call of newspaper closures and job losses’ to take a look at some of the more recent cuts. Thousands of people have left local newspapers and hundreds of titles now cease to exist.

The industry has achieved great reach online but, if we’re honest, no-one has definitively found a way to make enough money from this. That search continues.

So, what does this all mean for the world of marketing?

Well, only a fool would ignore the importance of the regional press. Unsurprisingly, people still want to know about the roads, schools, courts, shops and – above all else – people around them. The ‘content’ carries a big interest, the method of delivery is still in the process of evolving.

But there’s another thing that should be considered. The challenges outlined above and cost-cutting measures that these have sparked have drastically changed the way the regional press now looks.

By failing to keep up with the latest developments you risk misunderstanding the way papers now work and missing out on the chance to pitch your PR efforts in the right way.

So, what’s different?

Group editors

Let’s start at the top by looking at editors. It used to be the case that every title had its own editor, but this is no longer the case. Over recent years, groups of titles have been clustered together into regional groups. This has left group editors in charge of a long list of titles.

This has two meanings for people in PR.

Firstly, the editor for the title you are pitching to may well not be the person who runs the news operation there on a day-to-day basis. Secondly, with a long list of titles to manage, editors may well not be the people to contact or approach with pitches.

Too many spam messages in email

You might well get lost amid hundreds of emails in their swamped inbox. Equally, get in their good books and you might be able to get your content to run across a number of titles.

The emergence of group editors has been accompanied by new editorial structures that also need to be better understood.

In Johnston Press, this change has been known as the ‘newsroom of the future’. In simple terms this has meant that multiple titles have had their staff grouped into teams.

Instead of every reporter covering news in their own right, this model sees one team cover the entertainment, community and feature material for all of the titles in the group and another team looking at the news.

Again, this splitting of roles is significant when it comes to knowing who to contact. It has always been important to try to land on the right person at the right time when sending a press release and by understanding who you are contacting and their exact remit you can get this right.

In short then, each title might not have its own editor and each reporter may not work for a single title.

Photographers

Many regional newspapers no longer employ photographers. These roles have diminished significantly during the cuts of recent years.

Instead, they now rely on a mixture of freelance photographers – often the people they used to employ – images taken by reporters on smartphones and pictures submitted by members of the public.

Images are just as important as ever, however. Every web story needs an image to accompany it, after all, so there is still a big demand for pictures. For people in marketing, I think this makes it even more important to send a picture alongside a press release.

In the past, a staff photographer might have been sent out to cover something in a press release you’d send. Yet now, it’s unlikely that an editor would sanction freelance spending – which is saved for sporting events and major news stories – for anything you’ll send.

That might mean you need to source your own images or maybe even attend an event you’re promoting armed with a camera. Providing a quality image will help your pitch and is more important than ever.

Web deadlines

It used to be the case that regional papers were split into ‘weeklies’ and ‘dailies’. PR people could then get used to the deadlines surrounding these – either the time of the day or day of the week the title was ‘off stone’.

typewriter on table

This information isn’t relevant for people in digital marketing. Pretty much every regional news outlet should now be seen as a daily operation online.

Every title will have its own targets for the number of stories it has to upload each day and will look to ensure it is pushing out fresh material in the morning, at lunch time and in the evenings.

In many ways, this helps people in PR. There is a constant demand to feed the 24/7 news cycle – even at relatively small titles – and to have things to push out to social channels.

Good, well-written content that can quickly be turned around and uploaded is worth its weight in gold. Provide it and you’ll earn yourself a good reputation with a journalist.

Video

Within those web targets, journalists will be expected to produce some form of video content.

One third of all online activity is spent watching video and the regional press, like everyone else, wants to capitalise on this by offering video to its readers.

Marketers should explore ways in which they can add video content to their PR pitches and need to be aware that the regional press might well appreciate this.

Receiving a nicely edited, interesting video could save a reporter an awful lot of time and effort – earning you plenty of brownie points and even more exposure for your brand.

Workload

Speaking of which, it’s important to remember that reporters working in the regional press probably have a lot on their plate.

Ex-Derby Telegraph and Leicester Mercury editor Keith Perch says some local newspapers have lost up to 80% of their staff in the last 10 years. He presented evidence on the state of the industry to the House of Lords and told the Press Gazette how one paper went from 140 journalists in 2006 to 36 in 2016. He said that his former paper, the Derby Telegraph, went from 120 to 32 journalists in the same period.

That means that journalists have had to be selective. These smaller teams will still have to produce a print edition and maintain web targets, and we’ve already seen that reporters now often have to double as photographers.

There’s no denying that this can result in a pressured environment and might mean fewer events can be covered in person.

From a marketing perspective, this means that it is important to present material that isn’t incomplete. By presenting a comprehensive package of quotes, pictures and maybe even video you’ll ease the journalist’s workload.

You might need to attend a client’s event yourself and provide material that ensures it receives coverage. If you’re prepared to put the effort in, it will bear fruit.

It’s important to present information that is as relevant as possible for the title in question. If you’ve got local stats or a particular angle that works for one specific title, flag this up as clearly as possible.

Don’t leave someone else to have to wade through a ton of data to find what they need. This, as I’ve written before, is one of the reasons why a journalist might well say no to you.

Sub editors – the wise figures in the newsroom that ensured quality control – have largely disappeared too, meaning it’s more important than ever to be ‘right first time’. If you can assist a reporter with this, by providing clean copy that needs little or no changes, you’ll prove popular.

Physical premises

Many newspaper offices have closed down in recent years. Some have simply moved to a smaller (and less expensive) location, often with no reception area to welcome members of the public. Meanwhile, others no longer have a physical building at all, with reporters now working from home or even libraries.

Again, it’s worth bearing this mind, especially if you’re trying to set up an interview between a contact and a reporter or even if you just want to get hold of a journalist.

Bear in mind too that many of these changes have only happened in the last couple of years and, as a result, the contact details on the paper’s site might well not be up to date.

Hyperlocals

One result of the changes in the regional press is that a number of fresh news outlets have sprung up.

Hyperlocal websites and papers have been set up across the country, often – as this example in Lincolnshire shows – by the people who have left jobs with traditional publishers as cuts have been made.

The fact that many of these are set up by trained and experienced journalists means that many have already been able to quickly establish themselves as trusted news outlets in their own right.

For people in marketing, this is another reason to update the old contacts book. These hyperlocals offer another PR opportunity and shouldn’t be overlooked.

A changing picture

There have, then, been a lot of changes in the regional press in recent years. By understanding these you’ll be better placed to get your material used by this important outlet.

Bear in mind too that the change is not yet finished – with interesting developments that may see a closer tie-up between the BBC and the regional press.

For now, here are seven lessons to take on board to help improve your relations with the local press:

  • The regional press has changed in structure – many titles no longer have their own editor and many reporters no longer work for just one title
  • There aren’t many staff photographers on the books any more so sending images is more important than ever
  • The web means that every news outlet is effectively a daily operation
  • Reporters are always on the lookout for good video, text and images – see if you can feed their need
  • Job cuts have added to the workload for many journalists – this makes it important to present material that doesn’t have lots of loose ends to tie up
  • Many papers have moved or closed offices – you might need to update your contacts book and bear this in mind
  • Hyperlocals offer new PR opportunities.

How search and email acquisition campaigns benefit both channels

Search and email are good marketing partners because they make each other more productive. Add a layer of “big data,” and you have a firm foundation for digital marketing success.

Take email acquisition, for example. Instead of just going it alone, email and search teams should partner up on PPC ads to build email acquisition.

“Email + search” not “email versus search”

Why spend a few bucks on a PPC campaign to acquire new customers through email when your website has opt-in forms all over it?

Because it can deliver a higher-quality stream of customers: people who are truly interested in your brands but might not discover them any other way.

The email address allows you address each consumer individually using data –preferences, behavior or transactions plus data you buy from a third-party provider that shows what your customers do beyond your boundaries.

Acquiring a customer’s email address is even more valuable than connecting a click-through to that customer. Plus, it’s easier than unwrapping an individual identity from cookies and other identifiers.

That’s why acquiring a large base of high-quality email addresses is so important and not something you can leave to chance.

How to set up a PPC acquisition campaign

The goal is to acquire email addresses from search customers who click on your PPC ad offering discounts, freebies or other enticements to people who opt in for your emails.

Build ads using specific keywords, such as “deals” or “coupons” for your brand. Then, build a custom landing page tied to that ad. This is the key component of this campaign. You’re selling your customers on what they’ll get in exchange for their email addresses:

Tell customers what to expect and when, such as like daily sales alerts, weekly tips and tricks, company/brand news or whatever would appeal to your customers.
Post a sample of your best newsletter.
Show the benefits: VIP access to special events, special content or discounts just for subscribers, etc.
Provide a form that collects more than just name and email address. It could be birth date, mailing address, postal code, preferences – anything that fits your brand and would let you start segmenting and targeting messages immediately.
Don’t break the budget

Start with three search campaigns keyed to terms such as “discount,” “deal,” “coupon” or whatever works for your brands. Your custom landing page can serve all three campaigns. Test it with a daily cap of maybe $50, and see what happens.

Even if only one or two people sign up every day, your experiment hasn’t failed. Adjust your campaigns based on what you’ve learned. Try different keywords, ad copy and incentives. Review your landing page. Does it reflect the language in your search ads? Use responsive design so that the page works as well on a mobile phone as it does on a desktop computer.

Benefits: higher quality customers, better data, more insights

Once you acquire enough customers this way you can start experimenting. What would happen if you were stop emailing a segment of the subscribers you acquired through search?

Hold out a random number of customers as your control group, and experiment on the rest.

Study the customers you acquire via search to see if they yield different results from people who subscribe after a conversion (purchase, download) or by opting from your homepage or some random page on your site. Track what they do. Do they buy? Browse? Click on your emails or ignore them?

This is how B2B marketers operate, by the way. By adopting their tactics, you can become more precise in your targeting, content, calls to action and analytics. In other words, when you know more about each of your customers, you market better, use resources more wisely and generate better results for your company.

Quality beats quantity

Data informs how you identify your customers and how you use that data to target them. Without accurate information, you have to work much harder. That’s why genuine email addresses are so important in this giant data universe.

Email is at the center of that universe. It holds the key to the future of advertising to identifiable consumers. Address quality has to beat quantity because quality has so much more extension, and quantity does not.

Five most interesting search news stories of the week

A simple graph showing peak times for store foot traffic on Black Friday. The area between 12 PM and 4 PM is highlighted red, showing the busiest time for foot traffic.

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

Whether you’re taking a break from Black Friday shopping mania, recovering from a post-Thanksgiving food coma, or just getting on with your normal working day because you’re in one of those boring countries that doesn’t celebrate Turkey Day (*raises hand*), we’ve got all of the most up-to-the-minute search news for your reading pleasure.

This week, Google has released some canny changes to AdWords ahead of Black Friday, introverts have a new best friend in the form of real-time Popular Times data, and we take a look at the steps Facebook has taken so far to tackle the issue of fake news.

Google releases new AdWords improvements and stats ahead of Black Friday

As retailers around the world look to cash in on the annual shopping frenzy that is Black Friday, you can be sure that Google, at least, will be raking it in. Ahead of this year’s Black Friday, Google has released additional store visits data to the AdWords location extension, allowing retailers to see exactly how far away people are from their store when they perform a search.

It also published a bumper crop of Black Friday data with shopping searches and foot traffic trends for 2016, in a move that will benefit both physical and digital retailers alike.

Christopher Ratcliff reported for Search Engine Watch this week on exactly how the AdWords improvements work, as well as some key findings from the Black Friday data.

Google adds real-time data to its Popular Times tool in Search and Maps

If, like me, you’re a hard-core hermit introvert who hates to set foot outside unless absolutely necessary, good news! Google has a function that’s tailor-made for you.

Google’s Popular Times feature in Search and Maps has always been convenient for checking when a business is typically busy, helping you to avoid the rush. But now, the feature works in real-time, allowing you to see whether a bar or restaurant is busy right at that moment so you can decide whether or not to leave the house.

Christopher Ratcliff took a closer look at the new functionality this week, including the ability to see how long people typically stay at any given location, and an improved ‘operating hours’ feature for business, service providers and restaurants within larger premises.

Google’s rich cards have expanded to restaurants and online courses

What’s that, you say? You want some more Google news? All right! How about the news that Google has now expanded its ‘rich cards’ to cover local restaurants and online courses?

Rich cards are a visual carousel of search results in ‘card’ form which appear underneath search snippets on mobile, allowing users to swipe from one result to the next.

Like rich snippets, they use schema.org structured markup to display content, making it even more important for website owners who want to stay ahead of the game to hop on the schema.org bandwagon.

From standard results to rich snippets to rich cards. Image: Google Webmasters

When rich cards first launched back in May, they were limited to film and recipe searches. Now Google has expanded their repertoire to include restaurants and online courses, as reported by Search Engine Journal’s Matt Southern. Google’s developer documents for local restaurants and online courses give instructions for website owners on the right structured data to include to trigger rich cards for their business.

Google has also added upgrades to its Structured Data Testing Tool, Search Console and AMP Testing Tool to help developers build and test their new card functionality.

Bing launches new carousel of Black Friday flyers

Not to be outdone, Google’s main rival in search has also been making improvements to its own carousel-style feature: the Black Friday flyers carousel. Jennifer Slegg reported for The SEM Post on the new look for Bing’s annual Black Friday carousel, which this year is serving ads directly from the brand advertisers instead of via Flipp, its partner of last year.

bing-black-friday-flyers-1
Image: The SEM Post

Bing is still showing ads above the carousel for retailers who want to target Black Friday keywords, but is limiting those to only two spots.

While the flyers themselves are eye-catching, they don’t provide a lot of useful detail to make shoppers want to click on them, and it would be interesting to see how their CTR compares to regular text ads if Bing decides to release any data. Is the visual alone enough to make people click?

Has Facebook found a way to deal with fake news?

We reported last week in our search news roundup that Google was tackling the widespread issue of fake news online by cutting off their AdSense ad revenue, and Facebook has been close behind.

Tereza Litsa took a look this week at the measures that Facebook has taken to deal with fake news on its site, and whether they are enough to deal with the real issue at heart.

She wrote,

Facebook may not be keen on accepting its responsibility as a curated media publisher (and it doesn’t see the platform as such), but it certainly needs to admit how its ambitious plan to reach more people and attract more publishers have their consequences.

The age of social media and the way publishing speed became more competitive is certainly the main reason fact checking became a luxury for many publishers, while users got addicted to an increasing content consumption (and a filter bubble that serves the relevancy they like).

Moreover, we are also experiencing a changing nature of media, with the integration of digital technology being demanding and challenging.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Search Engine Watch & ClickZ team

our-almost-traditional-thanksgiving-dinner

To all of our readers and anyone else who has swung by accidentally thinking that this is an actual search engine (you’ll be surprised at how often this happens; you won’t be surprised at their most popular search terms), a very happy thanksgiving from us all!

We’ll publish a couple more things for Europe tomorrow morning if you do happen to swing by the site. We apologise in advance for the pyjamas and meat-sweats. In the meantime, have a safe and peaceful Thanksgiving.

How neuroscience can help increase engagement with mobile users

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Emotion can be very powerful when trying to reach an audience, and it can be boosted by linking it with the way memory affects the human behaviour. How can all these apply to the demanding mobile audience?

It’s not easy to be effective with the ever-increasing mobile audience, but emotion along with memory can contribute to a more meaningful relationship between a brand and a target user.

Heather Andrew, CEO of Neuro-Insight, talked to Integrated Live about the way neuroscience can boost the marketing efforts towards a mobile audience, provided that there is the right understanding of what makes a successful connection.

As people become more attached to their smartphones, marketing needs to be adjusted to build trust between a brand and a consumer and neuroscience can be very helpful in this journey.

Maximise long term memory encoding on mobile #IntegratedLive pic.twitter.com/yRZjIQwIYr

— Neuro-Insight (@neuro_insight) November 16, 2016

Five ways to activate brains in a mobile world

It’s about triggering, not brand-building

People are building a unique connection with their mobile phones, and that’s what makes them powerful triggering devices.

However, it’s not easy for a brand to reach a consumer, but it may be helpful to aim for an association that could affect the future purchasing decisions.

As Heather Andrew mentioned, we all have a “brand room” in our heads, where we store all the information we receive from brands. These may be the popular brands that make an instant impact even with their logos.

There may also be room for brands that we haven’t built the right association yet and it may take a harder effort to reach this dark room through the use of the right triggers.

Advertising can help illuminate these rooms and build the connection that will make the future purchase easier. The use of emotion along with memory can make advertising more effective and even the branding on the logo and the user experience may affect a user’s reaction to a trigger.

Source: Marketing Society

It’s not about shouting loudest

A successful branded message on mobile devices doesn’t have to be over-promotional, as this doesn’t usually work with users. A mobile device is personal, which means that users become more demanding with the communication they receive.

Thus, a brand needs to be informative, relevant and appealing. Even the use of the logo has to be subtle to increase the chances of grabbing the users’ attention. In a world full of shouting for marketing purposes, the mobile audience needs a connection to trust a brand and spend the necessary amount of time to process a branded message.

Make it personal

A branded message cannot get through the noise without being relevant for the users. Our brains create an association between a message and a personal experience, which facilitates the process of creating a trigger.

Engagement can be easier if a message appeals to a relevant context for its audience and this is even more important when marketing reaches more “personal” devices, like our smartphones.

For example, Heather Andrew mentioned that Samsung is occasionally trying to target iPhone users without luck, although a particular ad they created for Samsung Galaxy S5 worked surprisingly well. It was an ad for Samsung Glaxy S5 and it tapped to the common battery problem for iPhone users, trying to link emotions with a behaviour to store the data into their memory and make an impression.

This is an interesting part all new marketing campaigns should consider, always having in mind their target audience.

Deliver emotional intensity

It has been observed that the level of emotional intensity affects the level of engagement among messages on mobile phones.

This may be helpful for brands trying to understand why they need to create more relevant, personal and emotionally appealing messages when trying to approach their target audience.

Source: Marketing Society

Drive physical interaction

It’s not just about the emotional appeal when delivering branded messages, as physical interaction may also be useful. According to Neuro-Insight, the ads with the highest level of interaction elicited responses 10% greater than other ads.

If physical interaction can be combined with relevance then engagement may be easier, involving the audience on the actual message in the best possible way.

Time to “furnish” the brand room

It’s not easy to “furnish” the brand room in people’s heads, but it’s also an interesting process to consider when crafting your next marketing campaign.

We don’t have to be experts in neuroscience to realise how emotion and memory can enhance the users’ reactions to a mobile message.

It’s all about relevance and it may be helpful to think like a consumer. What would make you pay attention to a marketing message?

Inclusive marketing: the need to remove binary data

british-bank-becomes-the-first-to-welcome-gender

Last week Metro Bank became the first financial institution to offer a gender neutral option for both its staff and customers.

The move was made in response to an interview with a Scottish teenager who couldn’t open a bank account because they didn’t identify as either male or female, which was a required question on the form.

Image from Buzzfeed.

Metro Bank now offer a title of ‘Mx’ and a gender option of ‘nonbinary’ in addition to the standard ‘male’ or ‘female’ options. While the response to the change has been polarised, these changes are something that will impact marketing data and how we use it going forward.

We seem to have accepted that ethnicity, and more importantly how people identify themselves is varied, so why is gender different? Metro Bank may be leading the way here, but I can’t imagine it will be long before other large organisations follow, particularly with the various anti-discrimination acts in place.

So what does this mean for marketing?

When developers are dealing with large amounts of data, they tend to ensure that storage is as efficient as possible. You may remember the Millennium Bug where problems were perceived due to the year 2000 being denoted by only the final two digits, making it indistinguishable from 1900.

This has been the case for gender data storage in practically every database and application I’ve seen over the years, where a binary (0 or 1) field is used for gender, with 0 being mapped to the most common gender for that application.

Even where gender isn’t explicitly gathered, it is sometimes inferred based on title. I regularly get emails and post addressed to Mr Janet Bastiman – almost certainly because my data has been passed from a system where my Dr title is allowed into a system where it isn’t, and the mapping rules are less than intelligent.

The first thing to consider is whether you are gathering and storing the data appropriately.

While I may not care whether a company gets my title or gender incorrect, there are a large number of people who would be offended by such a mistake and will not do business with you if you get it wrong. If these customers are important to you, then you need to take action and get it right.

Speak to your developers and add the options into your websites, databases and any other means of getting your customers’ details. Make sure any third party that collates and processes your data doesn’t override these changes back to a binary format.

Any data processor should be adaptable to your fields and not assume what you want to store, or impose any rigid data structure that decreases the detail.

Sometimes these mapping rules can be harder to change than adding a new option to a web form. So review whether you assume a person’s gender and the rules you are using. Software changes like this can take time and need to be planned.

One thing you should ask yourself is why you are segmenting based on a macro trait such as gender at all. Surely a better approach would be to target customers based on their interests, whether they are implicitly or explicitly expressed?

Does it matter that a cis female likes tech and power tools, or someone who is gender neutral is interested in romance novels? If you stick to stereotypes you will be missing out on opportunities.

Understand your data and what it is telling you. Find the correlations between what interests your customers and what purchases they make, and personalise your campaigns based on that and not traditional absolute categorisations.

“Only a Sith deals in absolutes” – so let’s all be a bit more Jedi.

Dr Janet Bastiman is the Chief Science Officer at SmartFocus and a contributor to ClickZ.

Eight tools to combine several social media feeds into one

hootsuite

Are you interested in a more efficient way to view your social media profiles? This article lists some tools allowing you to combine your social media feeds into one!

Do you often feel overwhelmed? If you are pretty much anyone with modern social media habits, the answer is going to be yes.

With so many people using social networking for both personal and professional purposes (and a fair amount of you reading this are probably marketers in charge of a brand), being more productive on social media is a necessity.

Clutter is no reason to ignore social media though. These days, social media marketing is no longer for “fun” niches only.

Most ecommerce sites use social media as successful source of sales, especially holiday sales! M-Connect Media has published an eBook citing that last year ecommerce sites received purchases worth $74.6 million directly from social media channels over Black Friday and Thanksgiving.

Social media is a huge channel and no one can afford to neglect it!

Putting it all in one place

Over the years I have discovered that the easiest way to go about running social media is to combine it as much as possible. By having all of your feeds in the same place, you are better able to monitor them. Not only that, but you can see which are most active, and change your social strategy to reflect that.

I personally manage around a dozen of Facebook pages and at least five Twitter accounts (one is personal and four represent all kinds of brands I am operating). I have a separate Facebook page for every little project I own.

Unless I get organized, I’ll fail!

I put all of the feeds onto a social dashboard so I can dedicate the same amount of energy to all of them. By doing this I am able to get a full picture of social engagement and thus engage, diagnose the lack of activity and connect to people in a more efficient way.

Here are eight awesome tools, some well known and some more obscure, that will combine your feeds across multiple networks.

Hootsuite

You have probably heard of and used this one before, but it belongs on any list for its sheer brand power and reputation. You can set up multiple feeds and control all of your accounts in one place.

A paid account gives you credits to apply towards additional features (such as other third party site connections), and analytics. In fact, there is a whole host of tools, which you can learn about through their webinars. Hootsuite is a more expensive option, but it is well known for a reason.

Bynd

bynd

If you are a mobile social user, this is a great option. It is an app on iOS and Android that allows you to sync up multiple feeds and use them in one place.

It creates a central dashboard that connect to all your different feeds. You then get all of your notifications and updates on your phone, in one place. Easy to use, convenient, and mobile.

Cyfe

cyfe

Cyfe is one of the best tools I have come across that is still shockingly unknown by many. It is an all in one business dashboard that allows you to create customized widgets to control every aspect of your online business.

From social monitoring feeds that watch all your accounts, to analytics trackers, to customer service controls, you can do everything from one place. All for about $19 per month… no joke.

Sprout Social

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Like Hootsuite, Sprout Social is another very well known social media dashboard and account monitor that allows you to sync up multiple profiles along every network. I actually prefer Sprout Social to Hootsuite, as it has a wider array of connected accounts, and the pricing structure isn’t nearly as complicated and frustrating.

On the other hand, I have only ever used it under their Team accounts as part of a much larger brand. It is great for bigger companies, maybe not so feasible for the little guys.

I mostly use Drumup instead of Hootsuite and SproutSocial which I explain here.

Sobees

Want something simple, free, and easy to use? Sobees is a social media dashboard that has limited functionality, but works well for what it gives you. You add in your accounts authorizing them. Sobees creates a social media dashboard to allow you to post, monitor, get notifications, and track all accounts.

The only strange thing about Sobees is that it is not, like most of the other tools on this list, browser or app based. Instead you install the program directly onto your desktop, making it a pretty old school tool. It also only covers three networks: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. But you can use multiple profiles on each.

Scruddle

scruddle

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, email and news feeds… these are the four points covered by Scruddle, a new kind of social feed network that combines all four into a single area. The point is to take both social and news, and have them in one place, working as an inbox.

They have a free version, or a premium for only $4 per month. That premium service allows you to schedule messages, which is helpful if you don’t want to use another tool, or do it manually.

Jyst

jyst

Real time previews, combined feeds, and quick-posting are some of the features offered with social platform Jyst.

This is the most straightforward of all of the tools on this list, working for Facebook and Twitter and making it easier to use both, and switch between the two.

Social Feed

Do you want to integrate your social feeds more fully with your browser? This is a super cool JavaScript plugin that allows you to do just that. It works with Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and Facebook.

You will get a constant monitored feed, which is excellent if you want to keep track of brand pages and their mentions in particular. But it can work just as well on a personal level as it can for a professional one.

Are there any other tools that belong to this list? Share in the comments!

Google adds real-time data to its Popular Times tool in Search and Maps

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You can now check whether a shop, bar or restaurant is busy right at this very moment with Google’s new real-time view.

There are few other tweaks and improvements to aid the search experience too, as outlined below. Most of them designed to keep you out of the cold and away from Black Friday frenzy for as long as possible.

Crowd control

Popular Times has been a feature in Google Search and Maps since last year. It’s a way of seeing what time and day during the week a business is typically busy.

But now, Google is adding real-time data to this functionality so you can see whether it’s worth leaving the house or not right now.

Perfect timing for this coming Black Friday.

Here’s a sneak preview of how it will look…

Time management

Google has also added a feature where you can check to see how long people typically stay at any given location. This is particularly useful to those of you who wish to keep their fun on a strict itinerary.

Department and service hours

And finally, Google has improved its ‘operating hours’ features for businesses, service providers and restaurants, within larger premises.

More often than not, businesses have multiple opening hours for different departments and services. Google will now tell you what time is best to visit the pharmacy, when takeout begins at a local restaurant or when a particular concession stand opens and closes.

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The roll-out of these features has already begun. Have a peaceful Black Friday.

Google releases new AdWords improvements and stats ahead of Black Friday

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Google is adding more store visits data to AdWords distance reporting, available when measuring geographic performance of your ads.

At the moment you’re able to view your ads’ performance based on different locations, revealing the places your customers are located and the locations they’re most interested in visiting.

But now if you use the location extension you can see a distance report that will show store visits based on how far away people are from your store when they search.

To use an example from Google, if your store visit rate is highest within one mile of a store, you could apply targeting around that specific radius.

Store visits distance reporting is available for Search campaigns right now and will roll out to Shopping campaigns soon.

Google also stated that store visits performance is also coming soon to geographic and user locations reports too. This will show you which geographic areas are driving the most ad clicks resulting in a store visit.

Google data on Black Friday Shoppers

Ahead of Black Friday madness, Google has also released a bumper crop of data revealing shopping searches and store-foot-traffic trends for 2016.

Let’s take a quick look at the stats:

  • 76% of people search for something nearby on their smartphone visit a related business within a day.
  • Foot traffic is heaviest in the afternoon, but mobile shopping is all day long.
  • During Thanksgiving people don’t wait till 6pm for stores to open, 59% of mobile shopping searches happen earlier and long after doors close, peaking at 8pm.

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  • On Black Friday, store foot traffic peaks in the afternoon between 12pm – 4pm. Mobile shopping searches on the other hand remain steady all day and peak in the evening.

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  • By 10am on Black Friday, more than 1/4 of New England shoppers have stepped inside a store, the rest of the country lags behind by an hour. The same is true on mobile.

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