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September 2013 - Posts

  • Google’s 15th Birthday Includes a “Hummingbird” Algorithm Update

    Sep 27 2013

    Google celebrated its quinceanera with the announcement of Hummingbird, a nearly brand new search algorithm, named for the “precise and fast” bird that can fit in the palm of your hand. The update is the Google's most recent endeavor to put the most relevant, high-authority search result in the #1 organic position in order to better ensure that the “right” answer always appears as the first and most prominent search result.

    Though it was announced today, the algorithm was actually rolled out nearly a month ago, but most brand sites should not have lost any traffic. Brand-driven sites will most likely continue to outrank lower authority aggregators. Google says that this departure from the black and white animals of the past represents a whole new “animal” in search.

    New features we’re keeping close tabs on include a Conversation Search feature for mobile devices similar to the voice search feature for Chrome This is an indication that mobile, voice activated search is now a vital part of Google’s search algorithm and that they anticipate a big change in the way that users search. Hummingbird will measure more of the intent behind the voice search query and not necessarily match keyword for keyword à la 2003 (watch out content farms!). It will be interesting to test whether Google is able to measure emotion, accents/dialects, and tone in analyzing voice search queries.

    Another part of this algorithm update is a major investment in Knowledge Graph which allows for comparisons and filters around search terms.  For example, you can Google “thing 1 vs thing 2” and you should see a side-by-side Knowledge Graph comparison.  It is also now possible to filter certain Knowledge Graph carousel results.  But it is TBD how widely these features will be adopted.

    As long as you have been following holistic SEO principles that obsess over the end user experience, your site shouldn't get dinged.  Just monitor your traffic closely over the next month and keep producing high quality content so that Hummingbird doesn’t suck your nectar dry!


    Jessica Lee - SEO Specialist

  • Social Media Geek Out Round #2 - The Medium is the Message: "Transmedia Storytelling for Good"

    Sep 26 2013

    Several associates attended Social Media Week LA's "Transmedia Storytelling for Good," featuring experts from The Alchemists, Writerguy, Pax Manifesto, Invisible People and Weinreich Communications.

    Transmedia storytelling delivers stories on multiple platforms and engages the audience through an immersive narrative that tells different parts of the story through various mediums, often in real time. This type of participatory storytelling has been effective for major brands and big-budget films. Now, nonprofit organizations and social cause campaigns are harnessing the power of transmedia storytelling to create dialogue and compel action. The featured speakers on the interactive panel created some of the most effective transmedia projects for good, from Invisible Children to I Am She and East/Los High. Event takeaways and insights:

    • Transmedia storytelling for good is about starting organic conversations and telling the stories of the people on the ground…the ones not told by the mainstream media
    • The tools used to capture these stories don't matter as much as the purpose behind the storytelling
    • The best medium of choice is the one that best serves the story
    • "Authenticity has replaced production value" –Mark Horvath, Invisible Children
    • Trust is critical to the storytelling—deliver an authentic message, while maintaining the trust and safety of those whose stories are being told
    • Ultimately, change is achieved by getting people to participate in transmedia storytelling
    Transmedia storytelling is compelling and effective for big brands and nonprofits alike. When it's leveraged to educate and inform the public about an important issue, it gives voice to the people we don't often hear and makes very real social causes engaging, approachable and actionable.

    Essentially, we can all be impactful storytellers who do more with the tools we have to tell the stories that are not being told.

    Sara Nazarian - Public Relations Specialist
  • Knowledge Tap - Think Before You App – Execution is Not a Strategy

    Sep 25 2013

    It's Social Media Week in Los Angeles, and Phelps is joining in on the fun by hosting our third Knowledge Tap event Wednesday, Sept. 25. In keeping with our previous Knowledge Tap events, we'll be rolling out the barrel with brews, bites and mobile insights on the latest trends in the industry. On topic with SMWLA, we'll have a panel of experts discussing mobile strategy and how apps and mobile-responsive sites can fit into your brand's overall marketing strategy.

    Our panelists include marketing experts from SoCalGas, Echoecho and our own integrated media and strategy coaches at Phelps, who will share their thoughts on best practices in integrating mobile apps or websites into brand communications plans. Join us for good company and lively discussion and follow along at #smwKnowledgeTap.

  • Social Media Week geek out round #1: What all marketers should take away from the Obama Campaign – Don’t Be Lame

    Sep 25 2013

    this iconic image courtesy of the Obama Campaign

    To recap: President Obama’s digital team raised $690 million dollars online, organized the most effective grassroots army in political history, built some of the largest social media properties in the world, and developed groundbreaking new tools for online persuasion, mobilization, and fundraising. Yesterday as part of Social Media Week LA, The Obama Campaign’s 2012 Digital Director Teddy Goff (@teddygoff) gave attendees a behind-the-scenes look at how they “redefined the limits of viral politics” (TIME Magazine), starting with the simple, effective creed, “don’t be lame.” Here are some of the other things we learned from Goff’s talk:

    • Assess risks, and then take them. Also, don’t be lame: In a move that would never before have passed a campaign vetting, Obama addressed an audience of millions via the then fringe-y phenomenon, the Reddit Ask Me Anything. The AMA was so popular that it nearly took down Reddit’s servers. In the end, it reached 5.2 million people, 30k of which registered to vote that day after he mentioned

    • A picture and a clever caption is worth a thousand press releases. Also, don’t be lame. Instead of issuing a traditional press statement to be repurposed by traditional media outlets, the Obama campaign made their own statement, (and subsequently, news), by posting this response on twitter to Clint Eastwood's RNC speech. It was retweeted over 60K times.

    • Use digital medium(s) to cleverly illustrate how people are feeling about the situation at hand. And, don’t be…you get it. Want the details of the Romney Tax Plan? Go to In lesser hands, this subject matter could have been nothing but boring, but everything about this is creative, including the so obvious it’s brilliant url.

  • Bing Updates Its Search Experience With New Results Pages And Device Layout

    Sep 17 2013

     New Bing rollout

    There was rumbling about a potential Bing sale this time last year.  But those rumors have been squashed by the announcement of Bing’s new interface rollout which includes a new logo and search results page restructure.

    This is Microsoft's latest attempt to reposition Bing is as a search experience, not just a search engine.  Bing is consistently trying to stand apart as a "social engine" versus a Google-type blackbox that indexes billions of pages.  A recent Bing post had some fierce words towards Google – “What if we walked away from this old view of ‘searching’ and created the birth of ‘finding and doing’?”

    Key changes

    Social Sidebar and Snapshot integration in the right rail
    Google has the Knowledge Graph in the right rail.  Bing has combined its Snapshot (Knowledge Graph equivalent in Bing terms) along with the Facebook-driven Social Sidebar.  

    Page Zero
    Below the search box where the keyword predictions appear, Bing added a “Page Zero” result with a rich snippet to enable a user to click on the canonical result.  This may dissuade people from even looking at page 1 of the Bing SERP for common searches.

    Pole Position
    For results with a high confidence answer (i.e. “Capital of Finland”) – Bing will serve a static greyed box at the top of the SERP that will stay static.  

    Bing has very slowly eaten into Google’s market share year of year – up 2% from August 2013 – but with this update Bing is attempting to optimize the user experience unique to each device.  Bing search results will display different layouts depending on the size of your screen. It will be interesting to watch Microsoft's movements under their new mobile mantra "devices and services" post Nokia acquisition.

    With Yahoo making some gains under Marissa Mayer, it remains to be seen whether Bing can continue taking away fractions of the search market from Google. Though Bing is a search engine we love to count out, they can still surprise us if they continue with smart social media integration and a search "experience" that doesn't just allow a blackbox algorithm to decide relevancy for us users.

  • Hey SEOs! Let’s Think Like Geeks, But Speak Like Translators

    Sep 13 2013

     SEO Phelps Agency

    As a search geek at an IMC agency, my everyday strategy to win everyone over at Phelps is simple.  Don’t turn people off by being such a geek! 

    Us search geeks are one of a type – between SMX and SES and SearchLove and Patrón shots and Matt Cutts stargazing – there are not many people would be comfortable talking semantic web for an entire weekend.  This puts us in danger of being inaccessible, and it puts us in danger of missing opportunities to work with other disciplines.

    Everyone knows that SEOs are geeks, and everyone is happy to have geeks working on their projects.  Unfortunately it’s easy to ignore the marketing side and forget about the audience.  We need to share our knowledge better.

    The best SEOs are translators.  We need the technical skill to translate client needs to our developers, but with the creative and social skills to translate data to our clients.  We need to translate the latest Google updates to our teammates and then translate the changing landscape into a new digital strategy.  Even though our minds are running a million miles a minute, we can’t show that on our faces.  We have to be as cool as Don Draper and act as polished as any marketing executive.  

    Remember - the story is what sells, not the rows and rows of Excel data.  So we can’t overload our dashboards with complex data and graphs then read the slides verbatim to a client.  That’s boring.  Everyone will be reaching for their iPhone 5Ss by minute three.  Find the story behind the data, and find the connection with your audience.  If your audience is a bunch of car enthusiasts, then by all means use every auto analogy you can think of.

    Let’s channel our obsession with search into training sessions, information sharing and checking in with people.  Reaching more people means we get more people excited about our discipline.  And that means greater buy-in, more clients, more sales and eventually more stuff to SEO!!!!

    Jessica Lee - SEO Specialist

  • Be a Sensitive Newsjacker

    Sep 10 2013

    Newsjacking, the art of generating attention for your brand during an unrelated news story, has picked up major steam with the adoption of the 24-hour news cycle— and most specifically, Twitter.

    Many brands have taken up the practice to piggy back on big television events, i.e. the Super Bowl, and pop culture stories such as the Royal Wedding and subsequent Royal Baby. Oreo, Audi and Best Buy are just a few of the brands to take to Twitter during the Super Bowl blackout earlier this year, showing quick minds and speed usually reserved for crises to grab attention for their products.


    However, even shameless plugging has its limits. This week, fashion designer Kenneth Cole sent waves through the Twittersphere for newsjacking the ongoing conflict in Syria by tweeting about “boots on the ground”—a phrase used in recent weeks by top political officials to refer to sending troops to Syria— to promote his line of footwear.


    It’s not the first time Cole—who’s admitted that most of his tweets are himself and not a community manager—has used unrest in the Middle East to plug about his product, famously tweeting that protests in Cairo were just millions of Egyptians celebrating that his new spring collection was online.

    While Cole has admitted his latest tweet was intended to “provoke a dialogue” about Syria, social media circles can agree his approach outweighs any explanations. It’s also difficult to believe Cole had anything but business motives, especially with the designer being quoted in an upcoming Details article that the exposure from his “inappropriate, self-promoting” Egypt tweet  resulted in rising stock, better e-commerce and in-store business, and 3,000 new followers on Twitter.

    Newsjacking may not always be light-hearted tweets about dunking cookies in the dark, but it does require a certain level of tact by the social media team.  It's important to stop and ask a few quick questions before you hit send:
    •    How much of a stretch is this to my brand?
    •    Would my current followers be turned off by this?
    •    How hard a news story is this?
    •    If this is a tragedy, how long should I stay off social media?

    For serious news stories, it's probably best to stay far away, lest your own brand get tarnished as insensitive and out of the loop.

    Susan Shimotsu - Public Relations Specialist

  • SearchLove San Diego 2013 Conference – Day 2 Recap

    Sep 07 2013

    Day 2 arrived!  The speakers on Day 1 were a tough act to follow, but there was so much excitement in the air to get Day 2 started the right way.  The conference exploded out of the gates with Joanna Lord of Big Door. I must say that the ladies ruled Day 2.  Joanna, Lauren Vaccarello, and Rebecca Bridge had us all eating out of their hands.  All were incredibly intelligent, beautiful, kind of crazy women who commanded the stage.

    As on Day 1, I lived tweeted the best quotes and thoughts from the @phelps_agency Twitter account. Please go check that out!

    • Joanna Lord of  talked about branding as a major and mostly forgotten component of search.  She claims that if marketers don’t understand brand loyalty, they won’t be able to get jobs in the near future.  Joanna referenced Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos’ article “Your Culture Is Your Brand.”

      Joanna also left us with this quote from Philip Kotler of the Kellogg School of Management:
      "The art of marketing is largely brand building. If not a brand, it will be viewed as a commodity.  Then price is everything and the low-cost producer is the only winner."

    • Chris Savage of Wistia talked video. He said SEO is the easy part - planning and finding your audience is the tough part.  However, you MUST invest in a good lighting kit.  An expensive camera doesn’t matter for web video if you get lighting right.  Here’s a DIY $100 lighting kit you can buy and assemble from Home Depot

    • Lauren Vaccarello of AdRoll told about 5 stories about how she screwed up during her tenure at Salesforce, but how she learned her lessons fast.  She also worked with Neil Young on retargeting campaigns. Wow.  Lauren had us all speechless when she discussed how she used SEM to test new brand messaging.  Since search is a high volume, quick focus group, she conducted split testing to see how users responded to new messaging.  Salesforce understood that it was worth sacrificing a few months of SEM revenue in order to conduct this testing.  Lauren is absolutely brilliant.

    • Paul May of Buzzstream talked about the red-headed stepchild of SEO – linking.  But he approaches it in a community building way.  His talk was all tactics and no BS.  To find prospective influencers who will share your content try Klout, Topsy, Moz tools (Fresh Web and Open Site Explorer), FullContact, Freebase, and Google Trends.  Also – don’t send the same generic template email with fake flattery!

    • Steven Pavlovich of Conversion Factory brought us back down to earth talking about mobile Conversion Rate Optimization.  He was deadpan in discussing the lost opportunities with mobile.  He walked us through some great mobile sites – Home Depot, Target, and Airbnb.  Next Steven walked us through Gap’s mobile site and gave us optimization feedback.  Two tools for user mobility testing include and

    • Geoff Kenyon of Distilled looked at some print ads that didn't include the company's website anywhere on the creative. All offline campaigns should either have the homepage URL or a landing page/microsite with parameters to track the reach of the print campaign.  Geoff also discussed how content with useful data is highly shareable and easy to reference/earn a link.  He mentioned Kane Jamison’s article about how data makes your content “harder better faster stronger:”

    • Rebecca Bridge of Portent preached to us about how we need to stop saying that “content is king” and start taking bigger risks with what we publish.  She talked about a 70-20-10 split with your content development.  70% of your content should be safe and appealing to a wide audience, 20% should be medium risky and appeal to a narrow audience, and 10% is the “go big or go home” content that may fail spectacularly.

      In order to help measure the results of the risky 10%, Portent put together a Google Analytics dashboard:

    Everyone was looking a little fried at the end with information overload, myself included.  Luckily we ended the conference with a great networking session (and open bar thanks to Wistia).  I learned way more than I ever thought could in two days.  Thanks to all the speakers for the mindshare and thanks to Distilled for keeping us feed, connected, and entertained.  See you in 2014!

    Jessica Lee - SEO Specialist

  • SearchLove San Diego 2013 Conference – Day 1 Recap

    Sep 06 2013

    distilled searchlove phelps agency

    I’m lucky to be attending Distilled’s SearchLove 2013 conference in San Diego.  Distilled booked an incredible lineup of speakers from SEO, PPC, content marketing, video, and more. 

    Rand Fishkin of Moz is a staple of any good SEO conference and we all use his tools!  Venture Capitalist Mark Suster captivated everyone while discussing future web trends (he even discussed the future of holograms!).  Ian Lurie got through 200 slides in 40 minutes, sharing an average of 2 tips per minute.  And I didn’t previously know of Mackenzie Fogelson but I loved her candid case study of doing community building for a “boring” brand.

    I live tweeted my key takeaways in 140 characters or less at @phelps_agency so be sure to check that out!   I also wanted to share some articles and tools that we discussed today written by our presenters and other influential people in search.

    Stay tuned for Day 2 tomorrow!

    Jessica Lee - SEO Specialist