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The Online Publishers Association (OPA) announced today a group of brands that have started using its new larger ad units across OPA member sites.

The new ad units were originally announced in March with the goal of boosting creative advertising online that meets the needs of marketers by better integrating their messages.

A total of 37 OPA member companies are making the units available, up from the 24 originally announced.

Pam Horan
Pam Horan

The OPA ad units include:

The Fixed Panel: 336 wide x 700 tall, remains constant as the user scrolls to the top and bottom of the page

The XXL Box: 468 wide x 648 tall, opens for seven seconds to 936 wide x 648 tall with 1/24x frequency

The Pushdown: 970 wide x 418 tall, opens to display the advertisement and then after seven seconds rolls up to 970 wide x 66 tall, with 1/24x frequency.

Some of the brands implementing the new OPA ad units include Bank of America, which will run the Pushdown ad on CNN.com and Time.com. The Cleveland Clinic is running the Fixed Panel ad on NYTimes.com and Mercedes-Benz will run various OPA units on FOXSports.com, Retuers.com, and The Wall Street Journal website.

"The new ad formats really struck a chord with the industry because they represented a change in the way marketers and agencies think about digital ads and new ways of delivering engaging brand campaigns," said Pam Horan, president of the Online Publishers Association.

"The caliber of the brands actively leveraging the new formats is impressive and our members are working hand-in-hand with agencies and marketers to provide the right tools for them to connect effectively with their readers."

In May 2009, the 37 publishers had a combined reach of 132.1 million visitors, or 68 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience.

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The way of the web has become very social, as you are more than likely aware. Fortunately, this makes for more widespread conversations about any and all issues that are deemed worthy of discussion by anyone on the Internet.

Unfortunately, it also opens up many pathways for abuse including spam, which can quickly turn a positive user experience into an ugly one.

As the web continues to become a more social animal, more and more webmasters find ways to make their own sites more social. Essentially, this makes for a web full of little social networks. A webmaster that is going this route may run into some of those spam issues right in the profile pages of his/her so-called users.

Jason Morrison of Google's Search Quality Team has posted an interesting article on the company's Webmaster Central Blog. Within this article are 8 tips for dealing with this social profile spam.

Jason Morrison tweet

The tips are:

1. Make sure you have standard security features in place

2. Use a blacklist to prevent repetitive spamming attempts

3. Watch out for cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities

4. Consider nofollowing the links on untrusted user profile pages

5. Consider noindexing profile pages

6. Add a "report spam" feature to user profiles and friend invitations

7. Monitor your site for spammy pages

8. Watch for spikes in traffic from suspicious queries

Morrison elaborates on each of these, but I think you get the gist of it. "Google is constantly under attack by spammers trying to create fake accounts and generate spam profiles on our sites, and despite all of our efforts some have managed to slip through," he says, citing the tips as ways to make spammers' lives more difficult.

It would appear that spam (in any form) just isn't going to go away. All you can do is use the tools and strategies that are at your disposal to minimize it and try to maintain a positive user experience. That's what Google does.

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The .yu ccTLD for Yugoslavia will cease to be available for websites on September 30th. This has been known for a while, but there has been a two-year transition period for existing sites using .yu.

Since the date is only a few months away, Google is offering some tips for easing the transition on the company's Webmaster Central blog. Search Quality Senior Analyst Luisella Mazza says to:

- Check your backlinks
- Check your internal links
- Start moving the site to your new domain

The second two are pretty obvious, but the first one may go overlooked by some webmasters. "Since it won't be possible to set up a redirection from the old .yu domain to your new one, all links pointing to .yu domains will lead to dead ends," says Mazza. "This means that it will be increasingly difficult for search engines to retrieve your new content."

You can find out who is linking to you by searching Google using the link: operator. For example, "link:http://maximizingrevenuetips.blogspot.com/" would bring up sites that link to the My blog homepage. You can also use Google Webmaster Tools and select the "links to your site" option under "your site on the web."


"While you're moving your site, you can test how Google crawls and indexes your new site at its new location by submitting a Sitemap via Google Webmaster Tools," says Mazza. "Although we may not crawl or index all the pages listed in each Sitemap, we recommend that you submit one because doing so helps Google understand your site better."

.you domains will be transferred to either .me (Montenegro) or .rs (Serbian). According to Wikipedia, the .cs ccTLD was reserved for Serbia and Montenegro after the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia became Serbia and Montenegro in 2003, but it was never used.

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Google's Matt Cutts has an interesting video up (one of many) on the Google Webmaster Central YouTube channel that deals with switching to a new content management system and how that can affect search engine rankings. Someone asks:

We are changing a farily large HTML site to CMS. What are the essentials to keep in mind so that we do not lose our search rankings?

Essentially the answer to the question is that you should test the waters before going all out with the entire site. When you're changing a lot of elements on your site, it can affect rankings, but more than likely, you will be fine.

The biggest piece of advice that Cutts offers is, "Try not to launch all of this at once."

"For example, if your CMS means that your layout has to change, you can mock that up," he continues. "You can try to make it so you change your HTML so that it looks like it would look like from your content management system. And then make sure that your rankings don't change. They shouldn't change very much at all, but you know, if you change a whole bunch of stuff on your page, that can affect how Google scores it."

Cutts suggests changing one directory at first to sort of "dip your foot into the water." It's a good idea to do a mock-up first and then:

- Do some A/B Testing
- Gauge users' reactions
- See how it affects search engine rankings

You can try changing one directory at first almost like "dipping your foot in the water." Basically, you don't want to spend a whole lot of time redesigning your site and changing it over to a new CMS, only to find that it kills your rankings. Test the waters, then if looks good, go for it.

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Google is traditionally the main area of focus when it comes to search engine optimization. With the search engine giant so far ahead of the game in terms of search market share, it's not hard to understand why.

Search is changing though, and there are always new elements coming into play. Since social media has come into its own, more opportunities and questions have come along with it. Now Microsoft is going for Google's throat with a new search engine and an aggressive marketing campaign. What this means for the future of search market share is yet to be determined, but there's no denying Bing is capturing some attention, and that means there are people searching with it.

SEO for Bing

Microsoft's stance on search engine optimization really doesn't appear to be all that different from Google's. You're not going to get the same results on both Google and Bing in many cases, but that is after all why the two can co-exist. The real difference is in how the results are presented, and not as much in how the two determine quality and relevancy.

Bing and Google have separate algorithms, but both like quality, relevant links and good content, as opposed to deception and spam. Bing in fact, hasn't really changed much (from Live Search) in terms of crawling.

"There have been no major changes to the MSNBot crawler during the upgrade to Bing," Microsoft says in a Bing white paper for webmasters (pdf). "However, the Bing team is continuously refining and improving our crawling and indexing abilities. Note that the bot name hasn't changed. It will still show up in the web server access logs as MSNBog."

Sidenote: Webmasters will want to acknowledge that Microsoft has increased the size limit of sitemaps from 10,000 URLs to 50,000. Google is also now supporting up to 50,000 "child sitemaps" of sitemaps index files.

Like I was saying, the biggest difference between the two search engines is in the presentation. Bing of course separates (some) results into categories. This has worried some search marketers, but Microsoft says good SEO will work just as well with this set up. Bing also has the explore pane (navigational menu on the left-hand side of search results), which corresponds with the categories in the SERPs. In some ways, this is similar to Google's recent addition of "search options."

I discussed what Google's search options would mean for SEO here. Basically, I just broke it down section by section, and you could do the same thing with Bing I think. Look at the keyword phrases you want to rank for, and see how Bing breaks it up. Let's say "cell phones" for example. Bing gives you categories like shopping, brands, buying guide, providers, accessories, images, videos, and local.

Cell Phone results on Bing

This tells me that you want to play up the appropriate categories on your site, so that it shows up in the relevant categories on Bing. If you sell accessories, place emphasize that, and you'll probably have a better shot ending up in that category. With Bing, it's not about getting to the top of the SERP. It's about getting to the top of the right part of the SERP. I'll let you in on a little secret. Having quality and relevant (to that part of the SERP) content is the best thing you can do. Incidentally, this will probably help your cause in Google (and other search engines) at the same time.

"Ultimately, SEO is still SEO. Bing doesn’t change that. Bing’s new user interface design simply adds new opportunities to searchers to find what the information they want more quickly and easily, and that benefits webmasters who have taken the time to work on the quality of their content and website design," says Microsoft.

Curious About What Bing Looks for in Links?

Rick DeJarnette of Bing Webmaster Center recently posted a pair of blog posts looking at what makes some links good and some bad. You may find some of these things familiar:

- "If you don’t feel you can endorse the quality of the content at another site, you shouldn’t be linking to them."

- Don't seek links from sites whose content isn't worthy of your endorsement.

- Links to and from your site should be relevant to your site (or at least the page you’re linking from/to)

- Focus on quality, not quantity. Few highly relevant links are better than a bunch of crap links

- Avoid "bad neighborhoods" like dedicated domains or IP ranges that do nothing but set up meaningless link exchanges.

- Avoid hidden text

You can't stop bad links coming to your site. "We take the approach that bad inbound links won't adversely affect your site ranking unless most or all of your inbound links are from bad sites," explains DeJarnette.

But in a nutshell, that's essentially where Microsoft stands on SEO practices, or at least what they are giving to the public.

Rick Dejarnette tweet

Social media Really Is Important to SEO

Social media definitely enters the SEO equation. "Effective social media management can be a tremendous source for generating buzz, those all-important inbound links and just plain direct referral traffic," says Mike McDonald.

Facebook

Copyblogger has an interesting article about how Facebook is "killing SEO." I think that's a bit sensationalist, but the points made by author Mike Wasylik are valid, nonetheless.

Michael Wasylik "The rise of Facebook creates a growing segment of the web that's completely invisible to search engines - most of which, Facebook blocks - and can be seen only by logged-in Facebook users," he says. "So as Facebook becomes ever larger, and keeps more users inside its walled garden, your web site will need to appear in Facebook’s feeds and searches or you will miss out on an important source of web traffic."

"What's the best way to keep your links in front of Facebook users?" asks Wasylik. "The ever-more-important linkbait strategy."

The term linkbait sometimes carries a negative connotation, but generally, again, it's just good solid content that people want to link to.

Twitter

Twitter has gone from a confusing (to many) communication tool/social network, to that plus a way to find information in real time. This means that it is a good idea to tweet regularly. When someone performs a search on Twitter, they are searching right now. The fresher the tweet, the more likely they are to see it.

Mihaela Lica But Twitter's search implications are not limited to its own search. "Although Twitter is a social media tool meant to create community and relationships, it does have an SEO value," says Mihaela Lica at Sitepoint. "For example, Twitter can affect positively your Alexa rankings by sending visitors to your pages. Usage data is a sign of quality for Google and all the other search engines. If you can make people come to your site via Twitter, then this is an SEO advantage you cannot afford to miss."

With both Twitter and Facebook, good content that you create will be shared. The links within the social networks may not boost your rankings, but they can lead to more links outside of them. Either way, it is added exposure.

Wrapping Up

The roots of search engine optimization really haven't changed that much. Creating great and fresh content is still your best bet. That's what people will share, and that's what will be considered relevant for searches it pertains to.

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Close to half (45%) of online shoppers have abandoned their carts multiple times in the past three weeks due to high shipping costs, security concerns and lack of convenience, according to a new survey released by PayPal and conducted by comScore.

High shipping costs was the most commonly given reason for cart abandonment with the average cost of abandoning U.S. shopping carts reaching $109. The survey found that providing shipping costs upfront might have led to 40 percent to complete the purchase.

To help reduce shopping cart abandonment, PayPal has introduced an "Instant Update API," that allows merchants to show order details earlier in the process including shipping options, insurance choices and tax totals.

Eddie Davis
Eddie Davis

"To get shoppers to buy, it's critical merchants make the checkout experience easy and costs transparent," said Eddie Davis, senior director of SMB merchant services, PayPal.

The survey also found indications that the economy still has shoppers wary about clicking the purchase button. More than one-third of respondents abandoned checkout because they did not plan for all of the expenses; while more than 25 percent left a site to search for a coupon. The good news is one-third of shoppers later returned to the same site to make a purchase.

"Merchants who don't welcome back abandoners with open arms are leaving hundreds of dollars per shopper on the table," added Davis.

"Merchants need to remember the items that customers abandon and make it easy for them to buy when they return. Sweetening the deal with free shipping, coupons and special discounts is also a great way to encourage online shoppers to complete their purchases."

Breakdown on Why Shoppers Abandon

At least a fifth of all U.S. survey respondents cited the following as very important reasons for cart abandonment:

  • High shipping charges: 46 percent
  • Wanted to comparison shop: 37 percent
  • Lack of money: 36 percent
  • Wanted to look for a coupon: 27 percent
  • Wanted to shop offline: 26 percent
  • Couldn't find preferred pay option: 24 percent
  • Item was unavailable at checkout: 23 percent
  • Couldn't find customer support: 22 percent
  • Concerned about security of credit card data: 21 percent

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Will advertising kill Twitter? Probably not, but it might kill the popularity of the Twitterers tweeting the ads if some consideration isn't put into it.

The concept is nothing new. Don't like the ads you are getting in an email subscription? You'll probably unsubscribe. Don't like paid posts on a blog you read? You'll probably stop reading. I don't see why the same principal wouldn't apply to Twitter.

Word is that popular blogger Perez Hilton is making big-money deals to do some paid tweeting. Some will be quick to point out that this kind of behavior will ruin Twitter, but really, it will just piss off Perez Hilton's followers at worst. If it pisses them off enough, they'll just stop following him. At best, he is selective with his sponsored tweets and does not alienate his audience, and makes some nice bank while he's entertaining his fans (not that he isn't already doing that).

Perez - Please don't spam us!

Here's some stats about Hilton's blog audience from his own advertising page:

Twitter Ads Perez Hilton averages 250 million impressions and 10.5 million unique readers per month.

* 88% female
* 9% age 18-20
* 70% age 21-34
* 14% age 35-45
* 90% have attended college
* 60% earn $60,000 or greater (HHI)


On Twitter, he has 1,008,960 (at the time of writing)followers. And look at what Facebook and Twitter have done for his traffic. It's no wonder sponsored tweets from him would be attractive to advertisers.

Of course there are others out there doing this already. Heard of PayPerPost? Izea, the company behind that offers services where advertisers can pay for sponsored tweets, complete with unique tracking URLs and everything. Marketers pay for Twitter advertising campaigns on a Cost Per Click (CPC) basis.

URL for Twitter

Izea says its sponsored tweets are all marked with the hashtag #spon. This can lead to scenarios like this where many people are retweeting sponsored tweets:

Blockbuster sponsored tweets

Could this annoy followers? Sure. You're taking your following into your own hands when you go the sponsored tweet route. I don't think this will ruin Twitter for the followers as much as it could for the ones tweeting the sponsored links if they are not considerate with their sponsored tweets. It's a reputation issue. Do you want to be known as the guy pushing ads on people all the time?

Quality and audience factor in as well. "Sponsored" often comes with a negative connotation attached to it, but it isn't always a negative, even from the reader's point of view. If you are tweeting a sponsored link for a something your followers might actually be into, I don't see why they would mind.

Choose your tweets carefully. This is a good rule to live by sponsored tweets or no sponsored tweets. And if they're sponsored, you better mark them as such, or you are bound to alienate people. I'm not sure where the FTC stands on paid tweeting, but that could be a whole other set of problems.

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Last year, Google began crawling and indexing Flash content, but now Google has announced that it can also index external resource loading. In other words, Google can index external content that loads within an SWF file, and associate it with that file, so that it will appear in search results.

For example, a site that loads something like this in Flash:

Transporter Flash file

..might appear in a Google SERP like this:

This is new to Google's Flash-crawling abilities. On Google's Webmaster Central Blog, Software Engineer Janis Stipins breaks down just what Google can do when it encounters SWF files:

- Index textual content displayed as a user interacts with the file. We click buttons and enter input, just like a user would.

- Discover links within Flash files.

- Load external resources and associate the content with the parent file.

- Support common JavaScript techniques for embedding Flash, such as SWFObject and SWFObject2.

- Index sites scripted with AS1, AS2, and AS3 even if the ActionScript is obfuscated.

With regards to AS3, Stipins says, "The ActionScript version isn't particularly relevant in our Indexing process, so we support older versions of AS in addition to the latest."

Webmasters who have SWF files on the web that don't want them or any of their external resources crawled, can take care of this with their robots.txt file.

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Youtube is supposedly the second largest search engine. It only makes sense that the video site's search capabilities should be expanded. that is just what YouTube has been working on. This week, they have added some new ways to customize your search experience, and hopefully better find the videos you are looking for.

The Wonder Wheel

You may recall that Google introduced its new search options a while back, which gives users of the search engine a lot more control over the results they see for any given search. One of the features in this release was the "wonder wheel," which is basically a visual representation of related searches that you can use to navigate through your search experience.

YouTube has now incorporated this into its results as well. When you perform a search on YouTube, you may see a link on the right side above the results that says "wonder wheel". Clicking it will bring up something that looks like this:

Wonder Wheel on YouTube

Wonder wheel doesn't appear to be an option for all searches. When I search for "social media" I am not presented with the option, but when I search for "Facebook" as in the above image, I am.

Improved Advanced Search

When you go to search something on YouTube, and you click the "advanced options" link, you will now be presented with more options.

"Let's say you want to narrow down your search for a video and be more precise about what you're looking for," explains the YouTube Team. "Advanced Search allows you to specify many more details than our normal search, including when a video was uploaded, the location it came from, and its length. We've reworked Advanced Search to be easier to use and to better reflect the range of content on YouTube (lots of new stuff!)."

Advanced Search on YouTube

To be honest, I'm not really sure what all features were available here in the past, but now you can find results using queries and specifying to use all words, an exact phrase, one or more words, or none of the words. You can request results based on videos, channels, playlists, shows, movies, or all. You can request results to show only HD, annotations, closed captions, or partner videos.

You can also refine your search by duration, language, upload time (general - anytime, this month, this week, or today), location, and category.

Other recent features added to YouTube include a remaining time display on the upload progress bar, the ability to download MP4 files of your own videos, and YouTube XL, which is designed to give users a more television-like experience. YouTub'e mobile app is also now available in French, UK English, Italian, Spanish, German, and Dutch.

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New research suggests that email marketing in the US will reach $2 billion by 2014. This isn't exactly in line with research from JupiterRearch earlier this year, which suggested $2.1 billion in 2012, but it's looking good for the industry nonetheless.

This new research comes from Forrester Research, who says that falling CPMs (cost per thousands), higher ROI (return on investment) and growing consumer use of social email accounts will all contribute to the use of email by direct marketing professionals. The firm says that in five years consumers will opt-in to receive over 9,000 email marketing messages annually.

Forrester's research cites the following as key growth areas for shaping the future of email marketing:

- Retention email — email that recipients have blessed with their permission — will continue to replace paper communications and will make up the largest share of marketing messages. Retention emails will account for more than a one-third of all marketing messages in consumers’ inboxes by 2014, representing increased competition for marketers.

- While the bulk of the market will continue to deploy email marketing on a self-service basis, the growing complexity associated with data integration and new tactics to increase relevancy will drive healthy growth in use of email service providers.

- Spending on opt-in ad-sponsored or ad-supported newsletters will double over the next five years as traditional print publishers face falling circulation and ad revenue.

iEntry, Inc. which is the parent of WebProNews, has been a leading source of B2B email marketing for ten years.

Susan Coppersmith"iEntry Network clients continue to see great results today. It only makes sense for more dollars to be spent on email since agencies and companies are seeing the value of building rapport with their target audience," says Susan Coppersmith, Director of Sales at iEntry, Inc. "Companies that have the most success within our B2B network opt for more complex email campaigns, which include follow up sponsorships, banners and dedicated email. They understand that they need to invest in their target if they want their target to invest in them."

"Keeping in front of decision makers on a regular basis with information, benefits and features of a product or service is vital in making sales and taking market share," she adds. "As for Social Media and email they are a natural fit. After all email was the first form of Social Media."

David Daniels of ForresterSocial media has brought an interesting new element into the world of email marketing. This element brings with it both opportunities and challenges. "The use of email in social networks will be one of the biggest challenges for direct marketers," says Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst David Daniels. "Over the next five years, marketers must bridge the gap between social and traditional inboxes with social sharing tools."

In an interview for SmallBusinessNewz a few months ago, I discussed the relationship between social media and email marketing with Steve Adams, the VP of Marketing for email marketing firm Campaigner.
Steve Adams of Campaigner

"As social media becomes more integrated into the lives of consumers, you will see email marketing services building more types of features and functionality into their offerings, enhancing users’ interactivity and social experiences," Adams said. "It’s likely that you will see the integration of email with other social media communications on the rise – giving subscribers the option to receive email marketing promotions via RSS, updates from Twitter or to their actual email inbox. Many businesses have already been integrating video and podcasts into their email marketing campaigns. It’s an exciting time for small businesses and marketers to reach out to their audiences with a mix of online tools and services at a very low cost."

There is no denying that social media-specific marketing has been talked up relentlessly over the past year or two, and it sometimes seems that the emergence of the new strategies that come with it have overshadowed the more established channels like email marketing, but email marketing is clearly still a bread-winner.

"Although social media marketing is becoming more and more popular, recent studies are finding that people still like and want to receive emails," explained Adams. "For example a study by Epsilon and ROI Research entitled 'Beyond the Click: The Indirect Value of Email' found that 84 percent of recipients liked receiving email from companies with whom they’ve subscribed to their e-newsletters. Another stat to note is from an Aberdeen report which states that email marketing is ranked the number one recessionary marketing tool. Although there are other marketing techniques gaining popularity, email marketing is here to stay, especially for small businesses." (emphasis added)

In April, Ball State University, the Email Marketer's Club, and ExactTarget shared results of another study, which found that only 13% of email marketers were integrating social media into their campaigns, though 46% of them intended to do so this year. This is just a testament to how the need for complimentary campaigns among different channels exists to those looking to reach the largest amount of potential customers, and highlights the evolution of online marketing in general.

If you want another testament to how effective an email marketing campaign can be, look at this Hitwise data showing how Circuitcity.com jumped following a big campaign:

Circuit City graph

Email Marketing Tips

I've discussed these tips in a previous posts, but they still hold true, and you can consider all of the above information to be context for the application of them.

- Track your campaigns. A recent study from eROI showed that 18% of email marketers in the US were not tracking their campaigns. Things that should be tracked include delivery rate, open rate, click-through rate, unsubscribe rate, and conversion rate.

Not Tracking Campaigns - eROI

- Consider spam filters. Spam filters are a hurdle all email marketers have to clear, and this even includes legitimate ones. Just because you are a legitimate email marketer, this does not mean you will make it through the filters your audience and their service providers have set up. For some specific tips on dealing with this, refer to my SBN article from last year.

- Pay special attention to subject lines and from lines. These things are critical to your open rate. A clear and familiar from line is important simply for the trust factor. People want to know who they are getting mail from before they open it. The subject line is where it gets a little trickier. You have to create subject lines that make people care enough to open it. More on subject lines.

- Provide quality content. Keep your content interesting and relevant to your audience. Think about why they would have signed up to receive messages from you in the first place.

- Consider the timing of messages. Timing can be a factor in a successful campaign. Not only marketing based on events or holidays, but also the time of day. If you are targeting an audience in the UK, for example, but you are sending from the US, you need to take time zones into consideration, and depending on who you are hoping to reach, try to get your messages sent at the right time of day. Are you hoping to catch people at the office? Get your messages out early. Are you hoping to get them after work? Maybe later is fine.

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Today, Google announced the addition of search-by-voice and transit directions to Google Maps on Android devices. In addition, some improvements have been made to Google Latitude in Google Maps for Android.

Searching By Voice

Users can search for a place on Google Maps by simply saying it out loud. Currently, it is set up to understand English in American, Australian, and British Accents (I have to wonder how it handles the wide variety of sub-accents...there is quite a difference between an Eastern Kentucky accent, a Boston accent, and a Wisconsin accent for example).

Once a user searches with their voice, a map of places will be presented to them. Google has improved upon its business listings to include content like store hours, prices, ratings, and reviews.

Transit and Walking Directions

Users can access public transportation directions for over 250 cities. Specific cities can be found here. "If you're looking for the best route on foot, use walking directions to take advantage of pedestrian-only pathways and to avoid one-way restrictions - just in time for summer," Google says in a post on the Google Mobile Blog.

Google Maps for Android Transit directions


Latitude Improvements

Previously, some users were experiencing some hiccups, which caused background location updates to stop periodically. Google has now fixed this, and users can select "Detect your location" from the Latitude privacy menu, and thir location will continue to update as long as their phone is on.

There has also been a feature added called Updates, which lets users communicate with friends and post messages. To use this, simply click the "updates" tab. Friends will have to download the new version of Google Maps for Android to use the feature, which is still in the "experimental" stage.

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It's no secret that real-time search is one of Google's weak points. Since Bing launched, fewer people have been willing to acknowledge Google as the best search engine overall, too. But the search giant seems to be fighting back, as new reports have it addressing issues on both fronts.

Google Logo

Let's start with real-time search. Twitter's search engine can show users things that were published just a minute or two ago. Google Blog Search and Google News operate more in increments of quarter- or half-hours. This seemed to allow for the possibility that Google might turn to Twitter for its expertise, or even that Twitter would dominate this one niche more or less unchallenged.

Over the weekend, though, Alex Chitu discovered a statement hidden away on a Google site that read, "This is the MicroBlogsearch Universal result group header text. A Microblog is a blog with very short entries. Twitter is the popular service associated with this format." So Google appears to have an offering of its own in the works.

As for the Bing matter, James Doran reported, "Sergey Brin is so rattled by the launch of Microsoft's rival search engine that he has assembled a team of top engineers to work on urgent upgrades to his Web service . . . . Brin, according to sources inside the tech behemoth, is himself leading the team . . ."

And although it's well known that Brin isn't the type of exec who sits in an office tending to paperwork all day, this sounds a bit unusual. It looks like recent events are moving Google away from any semblance of complacency.

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500,000 usernames taken in 15 minutes


Personally, the process went hard for me. I did not register username (i do NOT have facebook account,so i was not granted to register it,damn!)

Ben Parr, Associate Editor for Mashable, was able to find out some early numbers from the usernames launch...

In 3 minutes, there were 200,000 usernames registered. In 15 minutes, over half a million, and it is rising.

Darnn! Talk about a success.

I went digging through Search.Twitter to see if anyone was complaining of the site being down or slow... and I couldn't find one negative tweet about the launch (except for users upset about not getting their desired username).

Most of the tweets about the launch were praising Facebook for dealing with a traffic rush of that magnitude.

Tweet priasing Facebook

So, was you able to get your desired username?

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Google has been working on updates to how it uses sitemaps. Considering research highlighted in this study (pdf), which showed how search engines find new and changed content faster with sitemaps, webmasters should take note.

For one, Google and the other search engines that make up sitemaps.org are now supporting as many as 50,000 "child sitemaps" of sitemaps index files. In the past, they only supported 1,000. With this increased limit, webmasters can submit up to 2.5 billion URLs with one sitemap index.

Google's Webmaster Tools design update shows users all sitemap files that were submitted for a verified site. By the way, here's a brief look at the update:

"This is particularly useful if you have multiple owners verified in Webmaster Tools or if you are submitting some Sitemap files via HTTP ping or through your robots.txt file," notes John Müller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google Switzerland. In addition, the indexed URL count for sitemap files in Webmaster Tools is "more precise" according to Müller.

XSD schemas have been updated to allow sitemap extensions. This allows for the creation of better sitemaps through the verification of more features. Müller says that sitemap file processing is also much faster than before, meaning the time it takes to submit a sitemap file, process it and see initial data, is much shorter.

The question is, are you taking advantage of all of this? If you don't use sitemaps or aren't sure if you're doing it the right way, I would suggest perusing the following resources:

- The Study Mentioned Earlier - Sitemaps: Above and Beyond the Crawl of Duty

- Sitemaps.org

- Google's Sitemaps FAQs

- Google's Sitemaps Help Center

- Googles Forum Search

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Microsoft has not been in the spotlight this much for its offerings in search for quite some time. Whether or not you think Bing is a legitimate contender in the battle for search market share, you can rest assured that all eyes are upon it.

A number of research agencies have revealed new stats reflecting the interest level in Bing. So here is something of a round up of this data.

The Hitwise Numbers


In the US, Bing became the 17th most popular website out of 450,000 once it launched, after the placeholder rested at 5,120 a week before the launch. For the week ending June 6th, Bing actually ranked number 4 out of the search engines Hitwise tracks, with Bing Image Search ranking 15th.

Hitwise - Bing info

In Canada, Bing was ranked within the top ten among all sites during the first week, and represented 1% of all Canadian Internet visits, according to Hitwise's Heather Dougherty. Here it ranked third in the search engine category, behind Google and Google Canada.

Hitwise - Bing info

More interesting stats from Hitwise for the US and Canada:

- In both countries, MSN was the leasing site referring traffic to Bing (36% and37%)

- In the US, Bing sent traffic the most to shopping and classifieds sites, followed by entertainment, and business and finance.

- In Canada, it went entertainment, social networking, then shopping and classifieds

- Facebook was the number one search term in both the US and Canada

- In both countries, 9 out of 10 searches were navigational searches for specific sites
Hitwise - Bing info

Hitwise - Bing info

Hitwises's Alan Long shared some more Bing stats looking at the Asia Pacific region. In this region, Australia reacted the strongest to Bing's launch. Australian traffic peaked on June 3rd with 5.13% share of all visits to the Search Engine category.

Hitwise - Bing info

All of Microsoft's search properties made up 5.4% that day, which is a 23.4% increase on the same day in 2008. Long notes, "The launch of Bing did not hurt Google’s share substantially with the monolith’s share decreasing 0.12% and Yahoo! Search declining 0.99% from the week prior to launch, week ending 23 May 2009."

"In New Zealand Bing has taken over the fourth ranking position, formerly held by the very Search Engine it replaced, Live.com," he says. "A similar story is found in Hong Kong and Singapore where Bing is now the eight and fifth ranked search engine respectively replacing Live.com in the same positions."

The StatCounter Numbers

StatCounter says that Bing has fallen back to third place behind Goolge and Yahoo, but is winning market share from them in the US and worldwide.

StatCounter analyzed search engine market share two weeks before and after the formal launch of Bing. The firm says that for the US market:

- Google decreased from 78.68% to 77.94% (-0.74%).

- Yahoo decreased from 11.46% to 10.76% (-0.7%)

- Microsoft (Bing, MSN Search and Live Search) increased from 7.4% to 9% (+1.6%)

"It is too early to say what the long term result will be but this is a creditable performance by Bing," says StatCounter CEO Aodhan Cullen. "It remains to be seen what happens to Bing after user curiosity and the reported $100m advertising budget runs out."

The Compete Numbers

In an email from a spokesperson for Compete.com, WebProNews was told:

- To date it appears there has not been a noticeable shift in Query Market Share towards Bing.com if we aggregate pre-Bing MSFT search and track through the launch. Essentially Bing.com is tracking with prior MSFT market share levels.

- MSFT search's user base increased fairly dramatically on the day of the Bing.com launch. A significant volume of new users tried out Bing and that continues to remain elevated. However to date this increase does not appear to be pulling users from Google or Yahoo! as their user bases remain essentially flat.

- It appears that to date a fair number of Google and Yahoo users are testing out Bing.com in parallel with Yahoo and Google as they go about their typical searching.

Compete Bing data

The comScore Numbers

Research from comScore showed a substantial improvement in Microsoft's position in the search market in the days following Bing's launch. According to them, Microsoft increased its average daily penetration among US searchers from 13.8% to 15.5%

Microsoft Sites Search Performance

Microsoft's share of search results pages in the U.S. increased from 9.1% to 11.1%.

"These initial data suggest that Microsoft Bing has generated early interest, resulting in a spike in search engagement and an immediate term improvement to Microsoft's position in the search market," said Mike Hurt, comScore senior vice president.

So, have you had enough yet? To be perfectly honest, I'm more interested in what the numbers will look like several months from now, once the initial Bing hysteria wears down. Perhaps at that point, we can see how worried the competitors should really be.

I wonder can you make money online with Bing?

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More employers are turning to social media tools in an effort to deal with reduced communication budgets and to keep their workforce engaged, according to new survey out today.

In its "Employee Engagement Survey," the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) partnered with Buck Consultants, to examine how organizations are communicating with employees to keep them engaged and productive.

Robin McCaseland
Robin McCaseland

"Communicating for optimal employee engagement is always a timely topic, but even more so during challenging economic times," said Robin McCasland, a director in Buck Consultants' communication practice and 2009-2010 chair of IABC Research Foundation.

"Our results represent opportunities for communicators to have greater influence in delivering messages that encourage employees to remain productive, and to understand how their work contributes toward achieving business priorities."

More than three-quarters (79%) of respondents said they use social media frequently to engage employees and foster productivity, outranking even email (75%). Company blogs are the most popular social media tool currently in use (47%), with discussion boards ranking as the highest for future planned use.

"It's encouraging to see the rising popularity of social media in employee communication," said Julie Freeman, ABC, APR, president of IABC. "Companies are moving away from the one-way communication model where they would send out information hoping people would read it."

"Using the various social media tools, companies can now engage employees in discussions and foster conversations between teams across geographic and other boundaries."

Current use of social networking sites such as Twitter (21%), Yammer (20%), and Facebook (18%) is significant, but organizations are planning to use those tools even more in the future.

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Until now, the .MX country code top-level domain of Mexico has only been offered to a few select institutions. Now the country is making it available for wide use - starting September 1.

Naturally well-known domain registrar GoDaddy has jumped at the occasion to announce its own availability of the ccTLDs extensions. Actually, the company opened registration for the sub-extension .COM.MX back in May. Anyone who owned a sub-extension before March 1 can participate in .MX domain pre-resistration.

Mexican Domains

"We realize many of our customers will want a dot-MX domain," said Go Daddy CEO and Founder Bob Parsons.
We plan to help them get it the same way we do everything at Go Daddy – easily and affordably."

GoDaddy cites Internet World Stats, claiming that the number of Spanish-speaking Internet users has grown 619% in the last eight years. Now over 130 million Spanish speakers use the Internet. This makes Spanish one of the top three languages on the Internet.

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Wolfram Alpha has made its first major update, just three weeks after the much-hyped search/answer engine was launched. So what does this update include?

Wolfram Update tweet

The Wolfram Alpha Team was kind enough to list a number of specific elements that have been updated. These elements include:

- Additional linguistic forms for many types of data and questions

- More comparisons of composite properties (e.g. "US military vs. UK")
* Combined time series plots of different quantities (e.g. "germany gdp vs population")

- More complete handling of government positions (e.g. "chancellor", etc.)

- Updates to country borders for India, China, Slovenia, Croatia, and others

- Updates to naming for certain politically sensitive countries and regions

- Additional subcountry regions (e.g. "Wales"); many more to come

- Additional support for current and past fractional timezones (e.g. "Iran time")

- City-by-city handling of U.S. states with multiple timezones

- Updates to certain European currencies (e.g. for "Cyprus" and "Slovakia")

- Some additional historical events; many more to come

- Additional probability computations for cards and coins (e.g. "2 or 3 aces")

- Additional output for partitions of integers (e.g. "partitions of 47")

- Implicit handling of geometric figure properties (e.g. "ellipse with area 6 and major axis 2")

- Additional support for Mathematica 3D graphics syntax

- Additional support for stock prices with explicit dates

- Support for planet-to-planet distances and “nearest planet”, etc.
Wolfram Update - Distance between planets
- Extra information when comparing incompatible units (e.g. "ergs vs. newtons")

- Improved linguistic handling for many foods (e.g. "love apple")

- More mountains added, especially in Australia

- Support for many less-common given names (e.g. "zebulon")

- More “self-aware” questions answered (e.g. "how old are you")

- More consistent handling of sidebar links to Wikipedia, etc.

The team says that altogether there have been 1850 code commits, and 591 code files have been changed. Nearly 1.1 million data values have also been affected in one way or another.

Feedback to the update appears to be generally positive, with some clearly being impressed my the rate of updates. It will be interesting to see how often these occur, and if they are often this large.

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Michael Arrington's TechCrunch has been the top tech blog for quite some time in terms of traffic. It has been discovered that Pete Cashmore's Mashable has actually overtaken that title now.

Nicholas Carlson, at Business Insider, who as far as I can tell is the original source on this information, claims that Mashable accomplished this by offering solid content, lots of search engine-friendly how-tos, having readers in the social media industry who share everything, and having a dominating Twitter presence. He notes that Mashable is the top shared site on Twitter other than Tweetmeme.

A look at data from both Compete and Quantcast shows that Mashable has surpassed TechCrunch in unique visitors. Here's Compete's graph:

Ryan Deal, who often writes for Mashable says, "Mashable has been growing like crazy thanks to twitter popularity, its access to information, and the contributions of a slew of guest writers (like myself)." Besides the Compete and Quantcast data, Deal also points to some Twitter and Alexa numbers:

Pete vs Mike on Twitter

If you check out the Facebook pages for both TechCrunch and Mashable, you'll see that Mashable is also winning there in terms of fans - and by quite a large margin at that. Here are TechCrunch's and Mashable's numbers respectively:

TechCrunch Facebook Fans Mashable Facebook Fans

A quick Twitter search will show an almost overwhelming enthusiasm from Twitterers supporting Mashable's achievement. It will be interesting to keep an eye on the stats for both blogs. There's no question that both are incredibly popular, and we'll have to wait and see if Mashable continues to lead by a wider margin or if the playing field is leveled.

I encourage you to see my new project, the gadget blog. :)

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Heaven help Google's competitors if the search giant ever figures out how to consistently make money off individual YouTube videos. According to a new report, a stunning number of clips are streamed worldwide each day: over 1 billion.

That works out to about 41.7 million clips per hour, or 694,000 clips per minute. Or as Michael Arrington, who confirmed the billion-per-day streaming rate with Google, noted, "That pretty much means everyone on the Internet, on average, is watching one YouTube video per day."

YouTube Down

Not everything in YouTube's world is sunshine and roses, though. New Compete numbers are out, and it seems that the video-sharing site saw 1.75 percent fewer visitors in May than in April.

Other social media sites, including Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, all experienced month-over-month increases in this respect, which makes the YouTube development something of an anomaly.

Plus, if you stop to remember that YouTube isn't making money off of every video it streams, the billion-per-day rate sounds a lot less impressive.

On the bright side (as far as Google's bank accounts are concerned), there's a gigantic ad for a game called Prototype on the YouTube homepage at the moment.

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Today Microsoft announced Bing411, which is essentially voice search powered by Tellme. This can be accessed at 1-800-BING-411 or 1-800-246-4411.

Bing 411 announced

"More than simple local business search, Bing 411 makes it easier to get on-the-go information: driving directions, traffic reports, sports scores, stock quotes, weather reports, and even information the cheapest place near you to buy gas," says Yvonne Chou, Senior Program Lead for Bing411.

According to Chou, Bing411 can be called to find a business and connect to it or get a text message with a link to a map, which can also be sent to friends. The service also includes star ratings of businesses based on reviews from other consumers.

Though the service was officially announced today, PC Magazine had an opportunity to review it recently and Mark Hachman with that publication says it doesn't do a great job of differentiating between actual and sponsored search results.

He compares the service to Google's 1-800-GOOG-411, and says while Google is actually better in the area mentioned above, Bing is "at least comparable if not slightly superior to what Google has accomplished."

That is certainly an interesting endorsement, especially considering over half of people (from one survey) can imagine using Bing over Google. Meanwhile, Bing has already taken the number 2 spot in search market share according to StatCounter.

What you think?

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Google announced today that its SEO Starter Guide is now available in 40 languages. This covers 98% of the global Internet audience according to the company.

"We hope that webmasters around the world can use the guide to improve their sites' crawlability and indexing in search engines," says Brandon Falls of Google's Search Quality Team.

If you are unfamiliar with Google's SEO Starter Guide, it is a "compact guide" that lists best practices according to Google that both teams within the company and external webmasters can use to improve the indexing of their sites.

SEO Starter Guide

The guide was announced back in November, focusing on areas like improving title and description meta tags, URL structure, site navigation, content creation, anchor text, etc.

Here's the list of the languages it is now available in:


- Arabic
- Bulgarian
- Catalan
- Chinese (Simplified)
- Chinese (Traditional)
- Croatian
- Czech
- Danish
- Dutch
- English
- English (GB)
- Filipino
- Finnish
- French
- German
- Greek
- Hebrew
- Hindi
- Hungarian
- Indonesian
- Italian
- Japanese
- Korean
- Latvian
- Lithuanian
- Norwegian
- Polish
- Portuguese (BR)
- Portuguese (PT)
- Romanian
- Russian
- Serbian
- Slovak
- Slovenian
- Spanish
- Swedish
- Thai
- Turkish
- Ukrainian
- Vietnamese

You can get the download link for any of those languages here. If you want to make sure your site is ranking as well as it should be in Google, it's probably not a bad idea to go over it and apply the advice to your site - particularly if you are new to the game.

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Twitter has an insurmountable number of applications from the very useful to the rather comical . It’s hard to weed through and find the truly great applications/services.

To better help you in your Twittering efforts, I’ve put together a list of 5 great tools to help you monitor your followers and unfollowers… since we all know is about that ratio. Hopefully you find the list useful. If there are some I’ve neglected to add or if you know of other ones please leave a comment with a description and a link.

Are you using any of these apps to manage your unfollowers?

Twellow Followers

Twellow, The Twitter Yellow Pages, has many features that range from extended profiles to Twellowhood (one of my personal favorite Twitter tools on the Internet).

Twellow Screen Shot

Mixed in with the plethora of features that Twellow offers is an unsung hero which is just simply called "Followers". With this you can easily see who is reciprocally following you. But, the best part of Followers is... you can follow or unfollow directly from Twellow. No clicking to go back to Twitter, you can get the job done without leaving the page.

UPDATE: Twellow has added a new feature that adds to the capabilities of "Followers" and "Friends", called "View Non-Mutuals". (Please note you must be logged in to use "View Non-Mutuals".)

Twellow: View Non-Mutuals

View Non-Mutuals allows you to quickly see "Who your following, but not following you" and vice-versa "Whose falling you, but your not following". Just another simple, yet effective, update from Twellow.



Qwitter

Qwitter is a nice little service that emails you when someone stops following you on Twitter with a message, below is an example.

Qwitter Email example

That's pretty much it... no extra frills.



Friend or Follow

Friend or Follow is pretty self-explanatory, you enter in your Twitter username and it gives you three tabs of information.

Friend or Follow tabs

Following (who your following, but not following you back), fans (who’s following you, but your not following them back) and friends (people who you follow and they follow you back.



TweetLater

TweetLater is an online service that has an abundance of features ranging from scheduling tweets to Ping.fm integration. They offer a free account as well as a payed professional account.

TweetLater Screen Shot

Buried deep within the features of TweetLater is the option to "Follow those who follow you" and "Unfollow those who unfollow you". This is completely automated and set by the user.



Twitterless

Twitterless is an online service that notifies you when any Twitterer stops following you, and gives you their username. But, they don't stop there. They take it one step further and give you a graphed out "follower history" over a period of time to help you understand where your gaining or losing followers.

Twitterless Graph Example

They also offer follower filters that give you a more descriptive view of your followers. You can filter in real time and search using keywords to see if your followers are talking about anything that interest you.

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