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The social web is rapidly growing and Google is trying to tap into this massive industry with the launch of Friend Connect. Released in a limited preview, Friend Connect allows web site owners to incorporate a number of gadgets to their site in an effort to improve the overall user experience.

Friend Connect helps webmasters make their websites more appealing, engage users, and help increase the average time on site. Incorporating a number of available social features is made easy, and does not require any programming skills whatsoever.

Webmasters select from a list of Google and Member gadgets, choose their colors and other options, and then simply cut and paste the code directly to their site.

When your site visitors opt in to use Friend Connect within your site, when they enter a review, post photos, or interact with your gadgets, notices are posted within their friends various social media accounts which can attract them to visit your site.

Currently Friend Connect is available only in a preview release, with select sites being accepted. If you are interested in participating, fill out the application form and cross your fingers that Google will accept you.

I am just on the way out the door but I caught this (opens in PDF) excellent news release by Nielsen/NetRatings stating that “one in four members of UK social networks use their phones to network.” Now considering that Europeans tend to be dramatically ahead of North Americans in cellular adoption this statistics release seemed worth of attention.

Here is a chart that really drove home the popularity of social networking via mobiles (click the image for a larger version):

Whats the point? Nothing all that fancy, this is just more great evidence of the power of social marketing; and it seems the more evidence to convince skeptics the better.

In my travels today I came across a few articles I just had to share.

  • How Social Networking Could Kill Web Search as We Know It
    Source: Popular Mechanics. April 16th, 2008.

    Excerpt: Such a prediction probably seems ridiculous when Google has a market capitalization five times that of Ford and General Motors combined. After all, Google has developed a superfast, highly efficient method of making sense of the most overwhelming mass of data mankind has ever created. What’s more…” read on

  • 20 (Rare) Questions for Google Search Guru Udi Manber
    Source Popular Mechanics. April 16th, 2008.This is an excellent interview and it even covers a response (as shown below) from Guru to the concept that social media will kill search.

    Excerpt: (Interviewer)While we’re talking on the subject of personalization, a colleague of mine said that search as you know it is falling to the wayside and changing dramatically as social networking comes into play—trending toward this MySpace-Facebook model where people look to their friends or their community as the take-off point. Do you see that as a bona fide trend? And, if so, does search become less important?(Reponse from Guru)Search has always been about people. It’s not an abstract thing. It’s not a formula. It’s about getting people what they need. The art of ranking is one of taking lots of signals and putting them together. Signals from...” read on

I hope you enjoy those two articles. It seems this week is a Google-fest over here at StepForth, what with our debut of “How to Optimize for Google, Part 1 of 3” just yesterday on our SEO blog and in our weekly web marketing newsletter. Oh well, the fact of the matter is Google is a monster company and the more light we can shed on the monster the less anyone has to fear it. Well, unless you taunt the monster… and I am recommending you don’t.

by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Web Marketing Inc.

In this article two important marketing strategies are reviewed: search engine optimization and social media.

Just as the spokes of a wheel are held together and strengthened by its hub so too is the planning for a successful marketing campaign. The greater the integrity and quality of the hub, the better are the chances that the spokes will stay true and provide far reaching performance.

In this series we have looked at several ‘spokes’ that contribute to a winning web marketing strategy. Part 1 looked at several of these building blocks: marketing budget and timelines, market research, and competitor analysis while Part 2 discussed the importance of keyword research, focus on achievable phrases, creating relevant textual content and search friendly website design. A future article will deal with the remaining spokes: link building, blogs, newsletters, and website analytics. Read more…

As posted at Yodel Anecdotal, Yahoo has developed and launched a new website targeted at women. Unveiled on Monday, Yahoo! Shine “features the best writers and bloggers in women’s publishing”. It helps “connect like-minded women, share stories, and more”.

Shines editorial team features editors from Lucky, Jane, and the Wall Street Journal. They created Shine to appeal to a large demographic of women and give them a “smart, dynamic place for women to gather, get info, and connect with each other”. Read more…

AOL Time Warner had acquired Bebo, one of the largest social networks outside of North America. Bebo is huge in both the U.K. and New Zealand. It’s the third biggest social network in the U.S. after MySpace and Facebook and for AOL it “positions us to offer advertisers even greater reach and marketers significant insights into the desires and needs of consumers.” With 4.1 billion supposed to be spent on social network advertising by 2011 it’s understandable why the major players want to secure a spot on these sites.

Myspace mobile has been officially launched and people using this social network can use this site to connect with one another on the go.

Mobile phone search is reaching large proportions and search engine’s are well aware of this trend and are finding new ways of speeding up this process. This article has a good rundown of “a Google search plug-in that puts a search box on the “home screen” of the phone and reduces the time it takes to get there (to Google) and get results.”

Searches on question and answer web sites have risen by almost 1000% compared with use on these sites two years ago. “The popularity of user-generated media has helped to establish a category for social knowledge.” Helping on Q & A sites is also a web marketing strategy where sharing your knowledge of a particular subject can bring traffic and awareness to you because of your good answers.

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Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

Today's Social Media Linkforth

When building a new site you want to create a powerful and respected reputation on the web. A company or individual can do this by having a great homepage (lots of great content and a blog), finding the appropriate communities to share their expertise, creating publicity, and building their brands image (expanding community).

A structured social media campaign can provide lots of traffic to your site. Social media can be indexed in organic listings and provide links to your site. The important point brought out in this article is to not just make a few attempts at social media but to keep on trying. A business should be encouraged to consistently provide new content to social sites because its a great way for their content to be promoted.

Social media ideally helps to find the best (current, peer reviewed) information available on the web. To be seen as “highly important information” people must be able to find it, want to link to it, and it should be so good that people want to share it with people who have similar interests. The best way to do this is to provide informed, engaging, and unique content.

More and more people who grew up with the web are using it as a trusted space to find unbiased news. Surveys have shown that people are becoming frustrated with traditional news sources because they lack quality and are out of touch with today’s generation.

Youtube will be allowing live video this year. That means that people can broadcast themselves and what they are up to 24/7 and promote it to an already large user base. It should make for some interesting content and provide an exciting new venue for people to interact.

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Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Today's Social Media Linkforth

Yahoo Search is aiming to show more useful information on its results page. Yahoo state’s it will eventually “enable 3rd parties to build and present the next generation of search results”. This includes bringing data found within a website like ratings and other useful information into it’s Yahoo search results page. Instead of just a website’s URL and abstract on its results page Yahoo will include “ratings, images, deep links, and all kinds of other useful data”. Although this is still in the works the plan is to let websites “regain some control over how their content is presented without allowing them to actually muck with search result ordering.”

Great Q & A from people working with social media (Lee Odden, Shana Albert, Neil Patel, Jane Copland). Topics include good sites to promote content, attracting links, social media as a marketing strategy, and an insiders guide to Social Media.

Google Maps is now including a “refine by user rating and neighborhood system” to its search results of local services (hotels, restaurants). So whether you are downtown or uptown you can find more specific and user rated search results.

Yahoo is changing its minimum bid for PPC. Depending on what keywords you are targeting your minimum bid can now be under the previous .10 cent minimum. Although this will not affect any competitive keywords it will likely help to lower costs of targeting smaller niche markets.

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Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Today's Social Media Linkforth

Combining marketing with social networks can be a great way to spread your message through word of mouth and viral marketing campaigns. If they become popular they will drive exponential traffic to your website. In “ What makes a Successful Marketing Campaign on Social Networks?” 9 key attributes are given that are shared by the social media campaigns.

I enjoyed this great interview of Jeff Quipp of Search Engine People as he gave his secrets of the SEO business. He placed SEO as part of your overall marketing strategy. He gave his views on linkbuilding, linkbaiting, an insiders guide for new bloggers,and how he became head of his own SEO company. He also looked into the crystal ball for the future of SEO and what search engines will be crawling some time soon.

Topix, a news site, will be providing discussion forums for NBC affiliates.

Yahoo has been making improvements on consumer satisfaction scores for Yahoo Search.

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Friday, February 8th, 2008

Google Introduces Social Graph API

Last week Google introduced the Google Social Graph API, a new application programming interface to allow wed developers to make better use of relationship data for social networking sites.

The new API will have a number of practical applications, with one possibility being the integration of a button to allow users to easily add friends.