Making a case for Google+

For many small business owners, staying on top of social media can be challenging at times so the thought of adding one more social network to the mix may seem like a daunting task. However, the benefits of having a Google+ business page and community may outweigh the drawbacks of having to set one up (which really isn’t that hard anyway).

Google+ is owned by Google, so what happens on G+ can actually impact your standing in search engine ranking and improve your search engine optimization (SEO). The reason for this is that Google gives a great deal of weight to the social behaviors and recommendations from your connections on Google+, especially at the local level.  In fact, Google treats Google+ pages as regular sites. You can check this out yourself by doing a search and see what pages come up. Often, information from G+ pages is ranked higher than other, non-Google sites.

As a small business, having a Google+ Business page and working to increase your connections (circles), by sharing reviews, posting YouTube video, images and posts, you can actually increase your visibility in search results. Another bonus is that by analyzing those in your circles, Google will be able gather more and more targeted information about what your customers are looking for. Google will incorporate recommended and shared sites from people you are connected to on G+, which can go a long way in ensuring that their friends and circles will be more likely to find your business in a search.

For your customer, this is a good thing. It means that they may actually be presented with search results that not only are they more interested in but with endorsements from trusted friends and colleagues who have vouched for the business/product/place etc. 

Let’s look at it this way.  Say you do a search for the best local restaurant.  In your search results, you see that your friend has shared a great review of the restaurant and vouches for the restaurant’s cleanliness. Can you think of better validation than the endorsement from a trusted friend? 

By creating a page and reaching out to other G+ pages to increase visibility and connections, you will not only help establish yourself in the local community where you do business but you can engage with other, complementary businesses to become a local referral source. Using reviews, +1’s and discussions on group pages, you will be able to continue to build your community, and your brand.

So, what are you waiting for? Go claim your spot on Google+! We’d love to connect with you. We could even Hangout!

The ins and outs of RSS feed distribution (and what to do about Feedburner)

An RSS feed is an easy way to syndicate a form of content from blog posts to podcasts to videos. The name “RSS” stands for “rich site summary” or for some, “really simple syndication”. A rich site summary is basically a stripped down version of website updates delivered to subscribers by way of a feed (accessed through feed readers, like Google Reader). Most modern websites are set up with functionality that includes an RSS feed.

What’s the point of an RSS feed distributor?

My initial reason for using an RSS distributor was the ease of subscribing. All those blogs I was subscribing to that used Feedburner were so easy to add to Google Reader that I wanted that for my subscribers. I just can’t be bothered to copy and paste a feed into Google Reader. (It’s wise to assume that all blog readers are tech-lazy like me.) So, I logged in and signed myself up and then I saw the stats. Oh. My. God. Stats!!! 

Using Feedburner, I could see how many were subscribed to my little personal blog at any given time. I appreciated each and every one of those two subscribers. Then the number started growing and that was good to see - I was heading in the right direction. Three. Four. Five. YAY!

It wasn’t just the RSS distribution that was nice. I also told Feedburner to post my content to Twitter for me. Every blog post was automatically tweeted. I also set up an email subscription option for people who like subscribing that way. I think I spent two hours reading through all of the different options available to help me promote my blog and setting up everything that sounded reasonable.

Feedburner is a very handy tool and the price is right for many.

But isn’t Feedburner going away? 

Not exactly. But there is a lot of confusion about some recent events.

It all started when google posted that the Feedburner API would be shut down as of October 20th.

An API is an application programming interface and that’s how software developers can build third-party apps that use Feedburner to do various tasks. It’s a bit like a direct telephone line between the app/widget/plugin to Feedburner.

Google’s announcement that the API will be shut down effectively cuts the line and disables all those third-party apps. That includes any blog plugins, widgets and apps that rely on Feedburner to run.

This announcement has prompted some people to revert back to the built-in feed on their site.

Some of the more geeky types think you should never even start using Feedburner. (Meh.) Sure, they have a point, but there’s a convenience factor with RSS distribution tools. And yes, it is very easy to use other tools to duplicate the email functionality (even free tools). It is NOT easy to duplicate the metrics depending on your platform.

Should you move your RSS feed or stay with Feedburner? 

Some big names are jumping the Feedburner ship, but moving to a paid tool like Feedblitz is a big commitment. Switching tools can also mean you lose subscribers. There are tools besides Feedblitz - some paid, some free. (I can’t endorse any as I haven’t tried them.)

Once I finally figured out that the API was being shut down and not the service, I started to wonder what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s true that Feedburner hasn’t exactly been flourishing since Google bought it:

But one point from a commenter on this post (included in the author’s update) has helped me make the decision that I’m going to stay with Feedburner for now:

A more positive read of this would be that they’re sweeping away the deprecated (and, I suspect, ill-used) APIs prior to the final integration of Feedburner into the rest of Google.

It’s a calculated risk, but because Feedburner is actually a source of (some) revenue for Google, I can’t see Feedburner being shut down…yet. I’m also really curious about the possibility of integration with the rest of Google.

The fact is, Google is pretty good about announcing service shutdowns with lots of lead time for users to prepare - and they have lots of practice at it because Google shuts down a lot of services. (There’s even a Google Graveyard over on Pinterest.)

If you’re not willing to take the risk, do your research before you switch. Just recognize that you can (and probably will) lose subscribers. There are ways to make the switch as seamless as possible, though there is no way to guarantee that you won’t lose subscribers.

For email subscribers, you can export your subscribers for import into a different system (AWeber, MailChimp, etc). This video goes step by step through the process:

MailChimp has a fantastic tutorial to guide you through setting up your RSS to email list and it’s a prominent feature on AWeber as well.

Let us know in the comments what you decide to do and if you have any questions we can help with.

How do you cross-post content on different social platforms?

I shared my views about automated or scheduled posts a few weeks ago. A couple of days ago, I saw this post on Lara Wellman’s Facebook page that sparked a pretty in-depth conversation about linking posts or cross-posting to different platforms. This is a different type of automation that can turn off an audience fairly quickly.

Lara shared the tip that one shouldn’t link your Twitter feed to Facebook or LinkedIn, both of which are very easy to set up. Some people do so selectively and that’s okay because they’re consciously thinking about which tweets they want to share with their Facebook audience rather than indiscriminately posting them all. There is only one word for linking a twitter account to other platforms: annoying. If I follow someone on twitter, having them post those updates to LinkedIn and Facebook as well is a big turn off. I will generally hide (or unfollow) people who do this on Facebook. That means I miss any original content they happen to post.

In the process of discussing the practice of linking social networks, another controversial practice was brought up - posting identical content across several platforms. This is primarily an issue that is isolated to Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ since they allow long-form status updates. It can include Twitter, but I’ll come back to that.

When I shared my last Media Mesh post, here’s what happened:

  • Facebook: Automatically updated when RSS Graffiti pulls my feed. (Side note: I’m considering discontinuing this particular automation due to the impact it has on engagement and Edge Rank. Even Facebook doesn’t like you to automate!) I try to remember to manually share the same post the next day when I don’t have a regular post scheduled.
  • LinkedIn: I posted the link with this message - “Do you have a business or know of one that’s interested in starting a blog? Here’s a few suggestions on where to start.”
  • Google+: Again, I posted the link, but with a different message - “This is just the first ten I thought of, but I’m sure there are more suggestions. What advice would you give to a business that wants to start a blog?”

It’s my view that these three tools are unique in features, audience, reach and engagement.

I’m just getting started using LinkedIn to promote my content, but for now I’m going with a business angle because that seems to make the most sense. I also don’t see a lot of engagement on LinkedIn, so a call to action may not be appropriate. With Google+ I do get a lot of feedback from the audience, so I tend to ask their opinion and give them the option of adding to my thoughts. With Facebook I might do something similar, but I might ask users what their top DOs and DON’Ts are for starting a blog.

These are subtle differences that will create a different conversation on each platform - ideally - and engage users/followers in a way that works best on the platform. That’s a strategic decision that I’ve made for my content.

But does it work to post the identical message and call to action on all three? Sometimes, but it’s not always a good idea. It’s important to know your audience with each platform. If you have a lot of overlap, tailor your messaging or change the time you post so that you don’t look as if you’re blatantly copying and pasting. It’s really worth it to take a few extra seconds to actively engage in a more personalized, audience-specific way.

To follow or "nofollow": How to handle paid links

Last week, I (Karen) posted a link on Facebook about nofollow links and the dangers of not using them. It generated a great deal of confusion and many excellent questions. So, I started doing some additional research into this issue (and indeed it is a hotly debated topic). What I found was that the supporting links in the post I shared were only telling part of the story. 


I started with Wikipedia:

nofollow is a value that can be assigned to the rel attribute of an HTML a element to instruct some search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index. It is intended to reduce the effectiveness of certain types of search engine spam, thereby improving the quality of search engine results and preventing spamdexing from occurring.

The original purpose of the rel=”nofollow” attribute was to prevent comment spam. It didn’t (and doesn’t) work perfectly to solve the original issue and there are a host of issues with the attribute - read more about the issues here

In 2005, Matt Cutts wrote about Google’s stance on paid links, suggesting that using the nofollow attribute would give search bots the heads up that a link was paid (or not recommended):

But for everyone else, let me talk about why we consider it outside our guidelines to get PageRank via buying links. Google (and pretty much every other major search engine) uses hyperlinks to help determine reputation. Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and link-based analysis has greatly improved the quality of web search. Selling links muddies the quality of link-based reputation and makes it harder for many search engines (not just Google) to return relevant results. 

So, for 7 years, there has been an ongoing and lengthy debate about whether or not to use nofollow and why. This particular quote [emphasis mine] is probably one that would be considered extremely controversial:

But not everyone agrees it’s up to webmasters to help Google figure out how to rank websites. Romanian search blogger Ionut Alex. Chitu told me that webmasters should put paid links on a separated place on the website, and label them in such a way that users don’t think the webmaster is affiliated with them. Other than that, Ionut argues, “Search engines should be smart enough to detect navigation areas, unrelated links or spam.” When asked on whether he thinks webmasters should use the “nofollow” value, Ionut says, “No, they shouldn’t. Unless they care a lot about search engines. Ideally, webmasters should act as if search engines don’t exist.”

It would be interesting to know what that blogger’s views are five years later.


The nofollow attribute is not exclusively a signal to indicate a paid link. It’s also a flag that a link is not being endorsed by the site hosting the link. Why? Nofollow links receive no SEO benefit. That can be a reason to use them if you have a difference of opinion with the site you’re linking to for any reason.

Not All Search Engines are Equal

I’m not referring to market share. I’m talking about how they treat the nofollow attribute. Here’s a breakdown, courtesy of the Wikipedia article:

rel=”nofollow” ActionGoogleYahoo!
Uses the link for ranking No No No ?
Follows the link Yes Yes ? No
Indexes the “linked to” page No Yes No No
Shows the existence of the link Only previously indexed pages Yes Yes Yes
In results pages for anchor text Only previously indexed pages Yes Only previously indexed pages Yes

My Conclusion

Originally, my advice was to nofollow any paid link. My view on this has changed, despite the threat of negative action from Google, which appears to be minimal from what I’ve seen so far.

Whether to use the rel=”nofollow” attribute is a grey area. I know of many bloggers who will add any advertiser to their blog to generate revenue. I know of just as many who carefully vet the advertisers they promote for the express purpose of endorsing their business. 

My personal practice going forward will be to use follow/nofollow as an endorsement method. If I want to endorse even a paid advertiser, I will not use the nofollow attribute. For links to sites I don’t endorse, I’ll determine if it’s appropriate to add nofollow to the link or not. 

Do you understand the nofollow attribute better now? Do you need to know more to decide how you’ll decide to use (or not use) it?

Buzz and Brilliance: Week ending March 3

Every week I compile list of the noteworthy news (Buzz) from my week of reading. I like to balance news with commentary, but it has to be really valuable for my readers (Brilliance). The links that follow are to sites and blogs that I read on a regular basis - consider them recommended reading for you too. Or you can just come back here each week for a taste of what stuck out to me.

- Karen


It feels a little like there are three social networks out there right now. Facebook, ever present in all its controversial glory. Google+…same. And Pinterest…yeah, same. What happened to Twitter!? Twitter’s out there, vying for attention but not doing too well. They are expanding ads. Just like…you guessed it: Facebook! Based on my RSS feed this week, they couldn’t even get much attention from selling our old tweets. Is this a sign that people are okay with this attempt at monetization?

Pinterest is all the rage these days and everyone is working hard to convince others that it is important and worth their time. You know your social networking site has made it when words are made up to identify with you (Pinfluence) and tools are built specifically to measure influence (PinClout). Another good metric of success is becoming the top driver of traffic for women’s magazines. There seems to be no end to the stories about interesting and innovative uses of the tool and how to drive traffic to your content, even YouTube. Unfortunately, all is not well in the area of copyright on Pinterest, but this post by Amy Lynn Andrews has a comprehensive run-down of the whole situation and sound advice for users to consider. One Arizona attorney has gone on record as saying that Pinterest needs to change their TOS or risk being shut down by the DMCA. We’ll keep all of you avid Pinterest users posted as this plays out.

Admittedly, our site (and company) is very new, but we’ve added our LinkedIn follow company button that was just announced this week.  It took two seconds to create and install. (Okay, maybe ten.) If you want one, just visit this site to get your button. And, if you don’t have your Company set up on LinkedIn…consider changing that. Here’s a bonus LinkedIn profile tip for you, too.

Google officially hit go on its umbrella privacy policy and it’s been a hot topic this week. I think the move is fine. I will continue to use Docs, Webmaster, Analytics, Gmail, Reader and all the other services through Google that I’ve had for years. What they’re doing isn’t any different from what other sites have done. Do they always honor the “Don’t Be Evil” mantra they’re famous for? No, but name me one person/company who does. Some people see great benefits and actually want to be tracked by Google (and others). I can’t argue with his logic when I know it makes for a better web experience. The privacy policy isn’t the only privacy brouhaha that Google is involved in, though.

I’ve saved the longest, biggest news for last. There was a rumor going around this week that Facebook is reading your texts if you have the mobile app on your phone. Don’t worry - it’s not true, says Facebook. (Note: If they mislead us in their statement, I guarantee you we would know, because there are ways to test it.)

Okay, so that wasn’t really the biggest news of the week. Facebook’s announcements at fCM were the big headline grabber, with just one month for Facebook marketers to get ready. Here’s a quick overview of the whole shebang from Marketing Land. Here’s a list of just a few articles that cover a few of the bigger announcements in greater depth:

Here’s a great resource with information on how to prepare (and look for more from us later this week as we continue the Social 101 series with more Facebook).


Some of the best brilliance I uncover each week are posts where the people who know what they’re doing just talk about how they do it. This post from Jay Baer on his 9 social media hacks is an example of this. Easy information to share that will most certainly help others.

We all have different “hacks” we use daily. Tell me some of yours!

It’s important when starting with a social media network that once you gain an audience (even one person is an audience, by the way) that you’re fully committed to participation. I’m not speaking to individuals - this is about businesses. Do you agree with these sentiments about Twitter users who are “not really there”?

Though personally I’m not a huge fan of email newsletters, I do subscribe to more each week and I know the value they hold. But do you? I’ve noted several times where people have referred to email as the greatest social network and perhaps there is something to this idea.

You might read this next one and think I’m trying to get onto Christopher Penn’s Follow Friday list since I think this is the third link to his site I’ve included. I’m honestly not. I just really like the way he thinks about the data we gather from our sites day-to-day. He’s got brilliant ideas for using this data to thank those who support us most and that’s truly valuable.

I gave my first presentation in a long time this week. It went well, but I’m sure there were improvements I could have made. I wish I’d read this list of tips a week and a half ago. 

Have a great week!