Facebook Graph Search. Staying Social In A New Way

The news feeds were buzzing yesterday with the launch of Facebook’s new search feature, called Graph Search. This is by far one of their biggest launches since going public. It was rumored that there would be a mobile phone of some sorts of a full web based search engine. While Graph Search does not have the capacity or search features as Google, it appears to have a competitive edge to one of the biggest search engines. Could Graph Search be the start to a full web based search engine? Zuckerburg has said that they don’t want to delve into Internet Searches.

Graph Search is still in beta form and it allows users to search through content that has been shared with them. Each user will have tailored results. This is somewhat like Google’s custom search results. Facebook’s new feature is a way for people to find other users with similar interests. As Facebook puts it, “Find more of what you’re looking for through your friends and connections.”

Because the new product launch is in beta form, you have to sign up to use it. There is currently a waiting list to use the new search function. You can preview a video here https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch Search terms in the video included such phrases as: friends who like trail running, people at my company who like to ski, photos before 1995. It allows a more custom and personal experience and a way to discover what your friends are interested in, what music the like, where they eat, etc. People will be able to use Facebook in a whole new way and it seems like the largest social network is staying on top of their game.

I am currently on the waiting list to test out the new function and I am very excited about it. I was hoping to be able to test it out and review my search results as well as opinions about the searches. Alas, I will have to write a second blog post once my name comes up on the waiting list.

Author: Krystle Green is the Vice President of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization Austin firm located in Texas. For more information about SEO, SEM, or social media please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

New Year’s Resolution – Lose That (Website) Fat!

It’s a new year and a great time to embark on a quest to lose all that extra fat that we have put on over the years. I’m talking about website fat, of course. All of that bloated code, deprecated HTML tags, tables, javascript, JQuery, Flash, images and such. The new trend in both web design and search is to get lean – less is more! Not only does leaner code (faster loading websites) improve search engine rankings (the importance of speed in search engine rankings is no longer merely a topic of debate, it is accepted fact among knowledgeable SEO providers), but also dramatically improves the user experience (in other words, increases conversions, stickiness, and return visits) for the vast numbers of mobile users. If you aren’t willing to cut the fat from your site to create a speedy and enjoyable experience for mobile users, you could be missing out on over half (yes, upwards of 50% of all web searches are now conducted on mobile devices) of your customers.

(As an aside, at the time of writing in January of 2013 I am well aware that our own company’s website is in dire need of a weight loss regimen in accordance with the recommendations in this article. Fear not, as I am not only willing to prescribe the medicine, but I am willing to take it too! Our new website is currently under construction and is anticipated to be launched next month.)

Known as responsive web design, modern user and search engine trends require that most websites over two years old be reworked so as to upgrade to HTML5 and CSS3. The use of these new tools eliminates fat by dispensing with the need for Javascript, JQuery, Flash, and many images, as well as creating leaner HTML code and reducing HTTP requests to the server.

Throught the use of what is called a “media query”, a website can be adapted (or respond to, hence the term “responsive” web design) to any number of screen resolutions or screen sizes, from the smallest mobile device to the largest flat screen display. Media queries establish the operating system, browser, and viewport size (basically, the screen size), among other items, and then tell the site how to display itself to automatically fit the device it is being viewed on. Media queries can also be utilized to serve different file sizes of the same image, for low resolutions (low file size) images for smaller viewports on handheld devices with low bandwidth to high resolution, larger file sizes for HD or “retina” display devices with large screens and a broadband connection. This ensures that the user will get the most optimum viewer experience regardless of the device utilized to view the site.

HTML5 and CSS3 also eliminate the need for many images (therefore HTTP requests to the server and image file downloads) by enabling the site to display gradients, navigation buttons, backgrounds, rounded corners, text effects such as drop shadows, divider lines and the like through the use of a few lines of code. In other words, there is no need to create and download actual images, the code and stylesheet can now be written so as to tell the machine to draw the image or effect itself! Also, the need for Flash or javascript/JQuery transitions and animations can largely be eliminated via this same technique. This cuts tons of website fat, increases download speed and response time. Forms also are no longer dependent on javascript/JQuery or other scripting, as HTML5 fully supports native form functionality.

Also, through the addition of a few lines of code, all of these new features can be made backward compatible for older browsers that do not support HTML5 or CSS3.

With the increasing use of limited bandwidth mobile devices, the above techniques greatly reduce site load times. This, in turn, improves a site’s performance on the search engines as well. Therefore, I would strongly recommend getting a website checkup today so as to maximize your site’s customer reach and SEO performance. Happy new year, and good luck with your new website diet!

About the Author: Matt Foster is the founder of ArteWorks SEO, a web design and SEO firm based in Austin, Texa. For more information, please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

What You Shouldn’t Change in 2013

SEO 2013

A new year is something to celebrate! It’s a time to start fresh, make resolutions, and strategize for another successful (or more successful) year of business. SEO had quite a few changes in 2012 and the new year allows us to question and/or predict what changes might occur over the course of 2013. The many updates by Google had the industry on its toes fixing problems, reevaluting strategies, and trying to new ways to enhance or improve our campaigns for clients. While a new year offers a lot of opportunities and challenges, there are some tried and true SEO strategies that you shouldn’t change in 2013.

First and foremost, you should always have a solid foundation from which to build your search engine optimization campaign. The foundation begins with a fully optimized site. SEO your site, but do not over optimize. A site is for the user and should be built to be user-friendly. However, there are onpage elements that should be properly optimized. One change that you might want to consider for 2013 is ensuring that your site is mobile friendly. Last year we all saw the effects of mobile search and how it has increased with the addition of smart phones.

Content will always be king in the world of search engine optimization. This I feel will never change. High quality content both on the site itself and through blogging is useful and a very integral part of a campaign. Social media content, status updates and such, should also remain at the top of your list for continued practices in 2013. Content should continue to remain fresh and posted regularly. Fresh content could consist of social media updates, videos, and/or blog articles. Promote content in a natural way and build links without black hat practices.

Staying up to date with social media platforms is another practice you shouldn’t change in 2013. Social has been a proven technique for increasing traffic, brand awareness, mentions, links, and the like. Popular social media platforms in 2012 included Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, and Pinterest. Post regularly and stay engaged with your target audience.

About the Author: Krystle Green is the Vice President of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization Austin firm located in Texas. For more information about SEO, SEM, or social media please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

That Photo Was Private

Zuckerburg made headlines today, but it wasn’t Mark we are reading about. His sister Randi caused a viral storm without realizing it after posting a family photo on her Facebook account. This poses an interesting question about the privacy policies in regards to Facebook photo posting. Are Facebook’s privacy settings confusing? Facebook undergoes a lot of changes and the privacy settings are no stranger to the updates. There are privacy loopholes that users, including Randi Zuckerburg, have fallen victim too.

Randi posted a family photo from Christmas of the Zuckerburg’s to her Facebook account. She was under the impression that the family photo was only viewable by her friends. She had tagged people in the photo which then, by default, made the picture appear in those peoples’ timelines. A lot of Facebook users’ do this with pictures they post of friends. Once you tag someone and the picture is posted on their timeline, the image is no longer private especially if the user doesn’t use privacy settings. This is what happened in Randi’s case. A friend of the person she tagged was able to view the photo, and she posted it to her Twitter account (of which she has 40,000 followers).

Randi tweeted at the user and was furious that her private photo went public. A few tweets were exchanged and deleted…however we all know once a tweet is seen it isn’t always deleted permanently especially when people use third party applications such as Tweetdeck. The story of the private family photo and the image itself went viral.

If a Facebook employee doesn’t even understand the privacy settings, how is the average user viewing these settings as well? Are the privacy settings too confusing? I wonder if there will be another Facebook update after this photo fiasco.

This controversy isn’t just happening on Facebook. Instagram is also under pressure from its users about picture privacy guidelines. If you post pictures to a social network, who really owns the rights to the pictures? Privacy policy should be clear for all users to comprehend. As a user of different social networks, it is important to take your own precautions. Especially in regards to private messages, status updates, and pictures. Once something is posted online, it is there forever. Not only should private users take precautions, but this is an important lesson for corporations to follow as well.

About the Author: Krystle Green is the Vice President of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization company located in Austin, TX. For more information about social media, SEM, or SEO Austin please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

Worried About the Latest Google Updates?

Search Engine Optimization is still a very new form of online marketing; and Google has made a billion dollar industry out of focusing website traffic, increasing online exposure and implementing unique online advertising campaigns. Since Google is the leading search engine and one of the most successful tech companies in the world and offers websites the chance at gaining unprecedented online exposure through qualified SEO practices. Like most things of value, however, people will find a way to offer cheap imitations and knock-offs. In Google’s case, it was black-hat SEO companies promising to give companies top rankings for their sites, using spammy linking and deceitful, back-alley short cuts.

Luckily, Google got themselves to the top of their industry through innovative ideas and masterful troubleshooting, and have been able to weed out some of these unreliable SEO companies through the Google Updates. These updates are complex and highly guarded algorithms, which can detect when websites have engaged in unfair and deceitful SEO practices. Their most recent updates have been known as the Panda and Penguin updates, and have created quite a stir in the SEO industry. Fortunately, top SEO companies that have engaged in white hat tactics all along shouldn’t worry too much about the updates, since they’ve known these important SEO secrets all along:

Link Earning – There’s a difference between link buying and link building; link buying or sharing deals with trading or buying links from reputable sites with a high page rank. These sites are basically recommending your site and offer their current credibility and good standing to show that your site is also credible. Link building is free, but requires time and dedication from your SEO Company. Building links is a great way to keep your site optimized and to stay within Google’s strict guidelines for SEO. Link Earning goes one step further than link building and earns credibility and backlinks based on your website’s merit, your quality content and your informative blogs.

Quality Content – Earning and building quality links is key, but it’s virtually impossible to do so without quality content. Your site can offer informative product reviews, important industry insights, or simple “how to’s” on your company’s products or services. The internet has become a virtual library for millions of users, and when readers find your site to be informative and easily understood, they will want to share it with others. Another huge factor in SEO Austin is staying relevant and up-to-date, so blogging 3-4 times a week is imperative.

There are hundreds of other factors involved in achieving an optimized site, but as Google changes its standards, those may be slowly weeded out. Quality content and earning links is the key to keeping your site optimized.

About the Author: Allison Schnur is the Marketing Manager of ArteWorks SEO, a full service Austin SEO firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about our top rated search engine optimization company please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

Google for Educators

It’s no secret that Google has transformed the search engine industry in its short sixteen years of existence. What you may not know, is that Google is involved in hundreds of side projects, including home automation projects, robots, and even a driverless car! While Google invests over $2 billion a year on research and development projects, some products are just better than others. Some need tweaking, customer surveys and feedback, while other projects are abandoned in their early stages. One project that Google continues to improve is its’ Google for Educators program, which compiles hundreds of great instructor resources all in one place, offers training and education for instructors, and competitions for students K-12. Here is a brief rundown of what Google has to offer:

Google Teacher Academy – A free professional development program for both primary and secondary educators from around the globe. The Academies are an intensive, two-day event where educators are given a hands-on experience with all of Google’s free products and applications. Participants can network with the 50 other professionals that have been hand selected based on their merits, dedication to teaching and passion for learning.

Google Apps for Education – Google’s Apps for Education are very similar to the apps they provide for companies and individuals. They offer Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and Google Maps. Another application they have is geared towards education and is their “Google Book Search,” which is a virtual library for students to find books, magazines, and encyclopedias. Finally, the Google Drive application pulls the applications all together in a clean and easy to use dashboard.

Google+ for Universities – Google+ for Universities is a great tool for connecting students with their professors and teaching assistants. Both students and teachers can organize their demanding lives with online social and academic circles. Each campus organization can have their own circle, which integrates with the other applications, keeping everything in one place.

Google for Students – As if Google didn’t already offer students and educators enough tools to succeed, they also offer competitions and awards for students interested in higher learning. They offer competitions for web developers, called Google Code Jam, for ages 13+, Google Science Fair for Middle and High Schoolers and a Doodle 4 Google competition for K-12. For awards, Google likes to recognize students for excellence in math, computer science and programming.

For more information on Google, search engine techniques, and how your search engine optimization company should be optimizing your site, check us out at ArteWorks.com.

About the Author: Allison Schnur is the Marketing Manager of ArteWorks SEO, a full service Austin SEO firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about our top rated search engine optimization company please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

Why Does SEO Take Time?

Now that companies realize how effective and important search engine optimization is to their online marketing efforts, they want to optimize; NOW. Unfortunately, the search engine optimization world doesn’t work that way, and if you do find a company that guarantees you overnight results, you could actually be harming your efforts and setting your website back in the rankings.

There are quite a few reasons why SEO takes much longer than a pay-per-click or even social media campaign. These are actually two of the biggest reasons why companies have given up on an effective SEO campaign; because they’ve either been scammed or swindled by a company that promises quick results for a low cost, or they have worked with a legitimate SEO company that didn’t produce immediate results.

Implementation – Your company can research hundreds of SEO companies, talk strategies and compare prices for months before even beginning your search engine optimization efforts. While we do recommend finding a quality SEO company, all the analysis and preparing won’t get you the results that an implemented campaign will, so it’s important to know what you want and to get going as soon as possible. The best part about hiring an SEO Austin Company is that they can help you analyze your website’s efforts as you go, and can make recommendations and adjustments along the way.

Competition – Search Engine Optimization has become a very competitive field, since a top ranking page can increase a company’s traffic and visibility. A site in the top ranking position usually receives 40% or more for a keyword’s given traffic volume! Even brick and mortar businesses. Understand that getting traffic in the door is the first step to making sales, and this is no different in the online world. Since the majority of your efforts will go towards optimization specific keywords and key phrases, you’re bound to have some competition. Sometimes your competition is years ahead of you in their SEO efforts, but that shouldn’t discourage you. An aggressive SEO campaign can start to see page movement in the first three to six months, and if your competitors have decided to slow down on their campaigns, you can easily catch up in as little as a year.

Steady Progression – Any effective strategy will take time and results will not happen overnight. They shouldn’t happen overnight either. Link building, increasing traffic, and building the reputation of the domain takes time. Google and other major search engines do not want to see that your site has gone from 10 to 1,000 links in one day. This isn’t natural and it is a clear sign that links have been bought, and we all know what happens when you pay for links. It can also take a few months to bounce back from a penalization by Google if a previous strategy wasn’t implemented correctly or if you suffered from one of the many algorithm updates. While some keywords can rank fairly quickly (30 days or less), others are highly competitive and given your current position, budget, and other factors it can take a month or longer to be ranking in the #1 position.

About the Author: Allison Schnur is the Marketing Manager of ArteWorks SEO, a full service Austin SEO firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about our top rated search engine optimization company please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

Why is Google Shutting Down Products?

Google has become one of the most cutting-edge companies in the entire world and they got that way through taking a lot of risks with their products. Some of these risky programs and applications have been profitable, and others not as much. Luckily, Google’s leaders know when to pull the plug on these products, and have a “spring cleaning” of sorts. Their latest round included The Google Mini, Google Talk Chatback, Google Video, iGoogle and Google Symbian Search App. While some of these products may be unfamiliar to you, there are almost always devout users that don’t take the news very well. iGoogle shutting down, for instance, has left quite a few loyal “Googlers” pretty upset, and they’re letting Google know just how they feel.

Google recently released this statement: “On November 1, 2013, iGoogle will be retired. We originally launched iGoogle in 2005 before anyone could fully imagine the ways that today’s web and mobile apps would put personalized, real-time information at your fingertips. With modern apps that run on platforms like Chrome and Android, the need for iGoogle has eroded over time, so we’ll be winding it down. Users will have 16 months to adjust or export their data.”

While it may be an inconvenience, Google is giving users a significant amount of time to find a replacement product, since they feel iGoogle is becoming antiquated anyways. While this may be true, and other apps may be more effective, Google could be potentially harming their brand by introducing and eliminating products too quickly. First of all, apps like iGoogle integrate with Chrome, which helps Google stay in front of users every time they open their browser. More importantly, Google may be discouraging users from trying their newest products, since users may be more reluctant to get attached to their products.

One the other hand, Austin SEO companies understand Google takes pride in introducing new and ever-changing products, and has built an empire with this technique. While a small amount of users will inevitably be affected in any cutback, Google is freeing up the space and capacity for the newest and most effective products, which may capture millions of users. So how many products and services has Google burned through in the past few years? Here is a list of just some of the most recent cuts:

  • Google Buzz
  • Google Wave
  • Code Search
  • Jaiku
  • Google Labs
  • Google Bookmarks Lists
  • Google Friend Connect
  • Google Gears
  • Google Search Timeline
  • Knol
  • Google Health
  • PowerMeter
  • Slide (and Super Poke Pets)
  • Aardvark
  • Google Desktop
  • Fast Flip
  • Google Notebook
  • Sidewiki

About the Author: Allison Schnur is the Marketing Manager of ArteWorks SEO, a full service Austin SEO firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about our top rated search engine optimization company please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

Promoting your Small Business with Google

Search Engine Optimization has become one of the best ways to get your website the kind of visibility and traffic necessary to keep your business thriving. Many smaller companies, however, may have never considered an SEO campaign, mostly because they feel that local and specialized businesses work different in search engine rankings than the larger, more competitive businesses do.

While Google admits that small businesses need to take a different approach to SEO than larger businesses would, it’s beginning to focus more on how small businesses can optimize their sites. Google has never intentionally overlooked small businesses; however they are definitely trying to focus on these businesses more and tap into the billions of dollars of revenue they’ve been missing out on. “Small businesses” are those with 99 or less employees, which make up more than 95% of U.S. businesses.

A recent Wall Street Journal article helped outline how Google plans to change its interactions with these small businesses. Google has been trying to push Google+ and may be able to push small businesses towards experimenting with this social media tool, as a way to not only promote Google+, but to find almost a niche market to advertise in for these smaller businesses.

Another way Google is trying to attract small businesses is with a more unified dashboard that makes interacting with all Google products easier and more user friendly. Since the majority of small businesses are actually sized more in the one to ten employee category, it’s very realistic to assume that some business are not advertising online because they have no one skilled enough to handle the undertaking.

Here are a couple more suggestions from Google for small businesses looking to work on their search engine position:

  • Keyword Research
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Google+ Local Page Optimization
  • Google Analytics tracking and reporting
  • Fresh, Relevant Content
  • Link Building

Luckily for many smaller businesses, if any of that looks like jibberish to you, you can always hire an experienced SEO company to create an integrated campaign for you. A company experienced in SEO in Austin will be able to evaluate your current standing, how to surpass your competition and how to keep you organically ranked. Even if you don’t have a huge budget for advertising, many SEO companies are willing to work with you on creating a smaller, and more focused campaign. The reality is that your competitors will probably be in the same position (budget-wise), so even a small budget can make a big difference, especially if your competition isn’t doing any optimizing themselves.

About the Author: Allison Schnur is the Marketing Manager of ArteWorks SEO, a full service Austin SEO firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about our top rated search engine optimization company please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

How Social Media Has Forever Changed the Way We Do Business

Social Media has only been around for a short 10 years, but has already drastically changed the way we advertise and operate online. Facebook became one of the first social media vehicles to give companies, big and small, a chance to connect and interact with their target market. Social media has helped turn advertising from a one-way marketing vehicle to an actual dialogue between customer and corporation.

Now that the consumers have a voice in the media, companies are learning quickly that one wrong step can lead to a less than savory public outcry. While consumers have historically learned to stand up to corporations when they feel there is a perceived injustice, it’s becoming easier with the help of social media. Both Bank of America and Verizon learned that lesson when they made extreme changes to their policies that negatively affected their customers.

That’s when one 23-year old tweeter became a hero of the people, when she refused to accept Bank of America’s proposed $5 monthly fee on its debit-card accounts and she wasn’t alone in her distaste for the idea. She drew in over 300,000 signatures last October opposing the change after blogging about changes.

While some may think deeming these small victories as successful “twitter uprisings,” they’re missing the point of how social media is playing into our day-to-day lives and our ability to communicate our concerns with large corporations with a simple 140-character tweet. Could you imagine if those 300,000 petitioners had instead switched banks after the $5 monthly fee was imposed? Bank of America would have to devote tens of thousands of marketing dollars just to reacquire their lost and dissatisfied customers. What’s more important is to note the number of customers that would have been permanently turned off by the company, those that couldn’t be bought back with even the most desirable introduction rates and marketing tactics.

While some companies may fear the shift of power from corporation to consumer, the smart businesses are learning to take advantage of these social media vehicles to connect with their consumers. “Friending” and following your consumers is a great way to get to know their thoughts and feelings, not only on a demographic base, but for their qualitative feedback that they so readily provide. These are the kinds of comments and reviews that companies pay to gather in focus groups and consumer interviews. The companies on the forefront of social media are learning to appreciate their consumer feedback. They are utilizing social media to keep their customers happy and gage how they should be operating their business. Combining an active social media campaign with an already intensive search engine optimization austin campaign is one of the best ways to not only keep your business on the top of the search engines, but to keep your customers as satisfied as possible.

About the Author: Allison Schnur is the Marketing Manager of ArteWorks SEO, a full service Austin SEO firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about our top rated search engine optimization company please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.