Search has changed and the area of expertise an SEO has gotten wider passing the years. What was once a mostly only-technical profession, right now must open to topics and disciplines that are usually the gaming field of other disciplines or that especially focus on the once overlooked word of (Search) Marketing. This wider complexity was well represented by the different nature of the speaker intervening at Searchlove and the topics they talked about.
Culturability. Is Your Website Alienating Half Your Audience?
Nathalie Nahai, web psychologist and author of Web of Influence. The Psychology of Online Persuasion (who we interviewed last year), directly asked this question to the audience. Cultural behavior, in fact, it is not something that web marketers usually take into consideration, but that is a mistake, because it helps shaping how people act when visiting a web site. For this reason a discipline like psychology, and specifically Web Psychology should be in the knowledge baggage of any Internet marketer. Thanks to Web Psychology we can:
- Know better whom we are targeting;
- Communicate with them in a persuasive way;
- Sell with integrity.
What Web Psychology is?
It is the empirical study of how online environments influence our attitudes and behaviors, It is the result of many elements like neuroscience, user experience, aesthetics, social psychology and many others, and substantially it is all about the context of the audience and how it infers with the psychology of the users. It is therefore easy to understand how much culture plays an important role. Culture, in fact, can be defined as values shared by a group of people, and it influences the perception that group looks at things. Even if we can find global cultural trends, even those tend to decline differently between countries and even between regions. If we split the elements that compose a culture, then we can find:
- The language;
- The body language;
- Social Context;
In the specific of the Web, we have to add culturability, which is the relation between culture and usability.
The Hofstede’s dimensions
They are six:
- Power distance;
- Individualism vs. Collectivism;
- Masculinity vs. Femininity;
- Uncertainty avoidance;
- Long- vs. Short-Term orientation
- Indulgence vs. Restraint.
She jumps directly to the fourth dimension: uncertainty avoidance, which measures how uncomfortable we are with ambiguity. For instance, a country like Portugal presents a high UAI (uncertainty avoidance index). Portuguese, in general, are threatened by uncertainty, have rigid codes of conducts, strict beliefs and fear the unusual. On the opposite side we can find Sweden. If we are targeting a country with high UAI, we should:
- Reduce ambiguity
- Offer a clear navigation and structure;
- Be predictable and reassuring;
- Avoid pop-ups and non-essential information;
- Use explicit language and images.
Instead, if we are targeting a country with low UAI, we should:
- Facilitate open dialogue and plain language;
- Don’t be over-emotionally expressive;
- Allow users to take greater risks;
- Offer complexity and a wider choice of actions to the users;
- Layer the navigation.
Stumble Upon is an excellent example of a Low UAI design. The fifth Hofstede’s dimension is Long-Term vs. Short-Term, or – expressed using the Confucian concept of dynamism: relative vs. absolute. A culture like the Chinese one tend to Long-Term values as skills, education, hard work, perseverance, patience, frugality, family values. The opposite, short-term oriented, is the Spanish culture. Spanish people live the moment, look for quick results and personal fulfillment. If we target a country that tends to Long-Term, then we should:
- Offer practical value and free material;
- Prefer long-term evergreen content;
- Emphasize tradition, heritage and history;
- Create a less structured navigation;
- Offer smaller recurring payments.
Instead, if we target a country that tend to Short-Term, we should:
- Offer instant gratifications and immediate access;
- Present customer ratings;
- Offer facts, evidence and certainty;
- Pay attention and reflect relevant social trends,
- Offer a rapid customer service.
The sixth dimension of Hofstede is Indulgence vs. Restraint, or – explained more extensively, the extent to which society allows us to have fun and enjoy life through free gratification of natural drives. A country where people highly tend to indulgence is Mexico. In general Mexican are happier, optimistic, extrovert. All the contrary is Egypt, whose inhabitants (as in many Middle East countries) tend to think that gratification should be repressed, are tightly-knit, cynical and frugal. If we are targeting a culture like the Mexican one, we should:
- Make interactions fun;
- Give away entertaining freebies;
- Use and encourage UGC;
- Provide space for honest discussion;
- Gender roles loose.
Instead if we target a country where restraint prevails, then we should:
- Emphasize how we will serve the community;
- Be frugal, showing to the users how they can save money;
- Be strict and respecting the gender roles culture as codified;
- Offer a structured and predictable web site;
- Use a formal communication.
If we want to engage and convert a global audience, we must know and understand the cultures of the countries we are targeting. In fact, to different countries different usage strategies are needed. Web psychology should be embraced as a useful and needed discipline for marketers, as it provides a psychographic context. Finally, using the Hofstede’s dimensions, we can craft the design of our web site in order to obtain better results, because it will be aligned to the culturability of our target. [Please, find her slideshare here]
First Interlude: So, You Have a Mobile Friendly Website; Now What? by Bridget Randolph
Graph Theory! The theory that underpins how all search engines works
If it is true that as SEOs we must expand our knowledge to fields like web psychology, at the same time we should deepen our knowledge of how search engines really work. One of the topics less known by a big part of the SEO practitioners, and one that especially junior SEOs tend to overcome, is the Graph Theory. The Graph Theory is not easy; it is a mathematical and AI fest. Luckily we had Kelvin Newman on stage presenting it: maybe someone with a past in Media is the best person to explain in plain English (but still with precision) such a tough topic. The Graph Theory is the most important one related to Search. Shame that few people talks about it. Kelvin starts proposing us a non-conventional starting point: the Facebook Graph Search can tell us where Google may be in the next future. The Graph Theory, then, can make understand how Google is working now, due to the simple fact that based of that theory are the Link Graph, the Knowledge Graph, the Social Graph, being the Facebook Open Graph a variant of this one.
How Search Engines use the Graph Theory?
The Graph Theory is about objects and the relations between objects. It is a structure represented by vertices and nodes. Vertices and nodes can be real persons, documents, web pages… and the edges are the connection between these nodes. In other words, nodes are nouns and edges are verbs. In the phrase: “Mike kicked the ball”, Mike and ball are nodes and kicked is the edge. We can visualize the graphs tracing the edges that connect the nodes. When more than one edge connect a node we have a vertex. Thanks to a visual graph we can understand how many nodes exists and what are the relations within a graph. We can also represent a graph isomorphically or using a matrix view. In this second option, we can use “1” for existing relations and “0” for non-existing ones. Then, the number of the nodes present in a graph is defined as cardinality, while the degrees of vertex is how many edges a vertex has. Two kind of graph exist:
- The tree, which is a graph that can’t loop on itself;
- The circuit, which is a graph that can loop on itself.
Every SEO should know what really is the PageRank and how it works. PageRank is not the Green Bar PageRank many still worry about. It is, instead, a set of rules, which can be used to give a numerical weighting to asses the importance of a document (node) within a linked data set. By the way, did you know that PageRank is not only used in the Google algorithm? Kelvin invites us reading these three articles:
- Algorithm similar to Google PageRank helps map spread of lung cancer;
- Eigenfactor, SCImago, Journal Rankings and the PageRank algorithm;
- Self-organized natural roads for predicting traffic flow: a sensitivity study.
When we look at how people search things in Internet, we can define three model of surfers:
- The random surfer, who will probably leave a site through a link chosen at random, so all equally likely and therefore valuable;
- The reasonable surfer, whose model supposes that some links are more likely to be clicked on and therefore should be given more value;
- The intentional surfer, for which links that actually receive the most links should be given more value.
PageRank and the surfers’ model are not new, and a lot has changed at Google. But Google will always be a search engine, which relies upon PageRank; which is a practical application of the Graph Theory. But, what if we insert audience participation to the Graph?
Facebook Search Graph
Maybe just few consider Facebook Graph Search the best search engine right now, but one of them is Kelvin. He is convinced that Facebook is the only one that could substitute Google as search engine. Not only because of its volume, but also because of the main difference existing between the two. Google, in fact, is about documents and links. Instead Facebook is about things and the relation between these things. Google is trying to adapt with Knowledge Graph, but Facebook owns better data, while Google must infer the structure of the data; Facebook, instead, already knows it. On Graph Search we are not really making a search. We are filtering a structured database of all the data Facebook has: a giant database. In the Graph Search every user, document, photo, etc. is a node. Every friendship, check in, tags or like is an edge. Graph Search allows us to search the Edges as well as the Nodes. It makes it easy to find nodes that connected to another node by searching for an edge-type combined with an input node. For instance:
- Your friends >> friends: 10003;
- People who live in New York >> Lives-in: 111;
- People who like Downtown Abbey >> Like: 222.
Facebook use query-independent signals to come up with a numeric value for importance. This value is called the “static rank” of the Entity. What makes up Static Rank is still up for debate, says Kelvin, but sensibly it could be informed by the elements of Edgerank (aka: the old name for newsfeed algo). The Edgerank formula is based over affinity, weight and decay.
The Google shift
But, as told before, Google is moving on fast. Hummingbird, for instance, which is not just a new update but a change of paradigm. Or Knowledge Graph (and all those things that technically aren’t KG but move along the same lines). Amit Singhal said:
The Knowledge Graph enables you to search for things, people or places that Google knows about – landmarks, celebrities, cities, sports teams, buildings, geographical features, movies, celestial objects, works of art and more – and instantly get information that’s relevant to your query.
In Kelvin words, “Knowledge Graph is part of a huge change in how Google delivers search results”. You can see how it changed the SERPs checking out the study done by Dr. Pete of Moz. We are assisting to a change in purpose: from help finding pages to help finding answers. Because of this change we can no longer rely on Google to send us traffic (or even tell us about it). And do you know why? Because Search isn’t about keywords anymore, it’s about entities. Entities can be people, things… but can also be any “thing”, which has a relationship to another “thing”. But how can we make money if Google stops sending people to our site? We still can, but we must revisit our business model. Our products are a database, and our site is our front-end. But Google wants to be the front-end now. So, why not thinking if our business may have an API? We should start playing with FreeBase, DBPedia and BlueNod. We should start using seriously the Open Graph Protocol and Schema.org. Do you know that you can create and propose new Schema? Ultimately, we should do good marketing.
SEO is changing and it is not about optimizing our web site for search engine, it’s about optimizing our business for search engines. (Please, find his slideshare here)
Second Interlude: Goodbye Spam, Hello Data! by Paul Madden
How to Win Fans and Influence Users
That changes suffered by Google and updates like Panda and Penguin are celebrated by Chris Bennett of 97th Floor. Without them we SEOs would not have evolved and started seriously looking at Content Marketing for the value it really has. It is Content Marketing, the successes and the failures, that allow us to pretend being free to test and trying new things. If a competitor is already successfully using Content Marketing, simply show to your client what it is doing. It will be then easier to have the budget for implement Content Marketing also in your client strategy. Another way for proving the value of Content Marketing to clients is creating small tests, as infographics, slideshares, videos, etc. Create your own cases histories to show to your clients and potential pitches. One thing must be clear, though: we cannot pretend to be so creative to discover new great content ideas that may become viral every day or week. We must make Content Marketing scalable, and one of easiest way for doing it is repurposing content. In fact, you can repurpose a successful content – for instance a White Paper – in others like, decks, infographics, memes, videos [Note mine: actually the content is always the same, but the forms it is shaped into are different. Video is not a content, but a format]. Then Chris ask a provocative question:
What if I told you, “15 minutes or less can get you 35,000 views”?
Let’s take an infographic, slice it up and convert it in a deck that we upload to Slideshare, where it obtain 35,000 additional views. Pure recycle. And if we upload it on friday and we are lucky enough to have it pushed in the home page of Slideshare, then you can hope in even more views (yes! Slideshare doesn’t update its Most View lists during week end!). That is not a magic formula, though. You must work on the deck, make it excellent and clickable. It is a good idea, then, to include the slideshare in the landing page of your infographic in order to increase views. Another channel that may work very well is repurposing content for other sites. 97th Floor did it on BuzzFeeed with an DIY kind of content. The result? 1,2 million views. Chris, then, presented us the O.C. Tanner appreciate case history. When they contacted 97th Floor, they were creating content for search engine, hence only focusing on keyword rankings. They were not writing with an audience in mind and neither had a presence in Social Media. With this premises, there was just a solution: changing everything. 97th Floor proposed the idea of creating a list of the 10 coolest place where to work in Boston. The results where outstanding. And here it comes the best tip: beat a dead horse. If a content had success, and if it is easy to replicate it, when create new content starting from it. Following this principle they created lists also for Philadelphia and Seattle. Chris makes us notice that not all targeted geographies reacts the same way to this kind of content. For instance, the Boston and Philadelphia companies were very proactive in sharing and promoting the lists, but the Seattle one – quite surprisingly – not. Another case history that Chris uses for explaining the benefits of repurposing content is the site www.pixartheory.com. This time the original content wasn’t a proprietary one, but a long in-depth article by Jon Negroni, where the author demonstrates how all the movies by Pixar pertains to the same universe following a precise timeline. In this case it was essential how rapidly the repurpose has been completed. Luckily, noone had the same idea. The result? Million visits to the site, just a 26% bounce rate and tons of links and mentions. A great percentage of visits came from mobile, and previewing that the content of the site, which is strongly interactive, was thought for well performing also in a mobile device. This is something we should always remember when we crate our content. As we should always remember to optimize the code of our content with Open Graph, so to offer the best user experience when it is shared on Facebook. Similarly we have to use all existing mark-up for Social, as they are things like the Twitter Cards. Finally, Chris reminds us that creating content but not tracking its success, especially on social, is stupid. For this reason he suggest using sites like Tracksocial or Nuviapp. [Please, find his slideshare here)
Finale. Make Your Mark Online: Local Business Edition by Will Critchlow