All About Content

Google Plus Brand Pages in the SERPs

Posted by Melanie Phung on Monday, November 14, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Ok, so you’ve got a brand page on Google+; now you’re wondering how that will appear in Google’s search engine results.

Last week I speculated it might be  similar to how Google Profiles show up for individual users, but today I noticed this integration (screenshow below) of a Google+ brand page directly underneath the brand’s website. Note how the SERP pulls the posted G+ status updates right into the results page, as well the +1 counts and the number of comments for those posts.

You can “add to Circles” right from the SERP if you’re logged in.

Screen shot 2011-11-14 at 5.30.58 PM

This display isn’t limited to pages you’ve added to your circles, since it shows up even if you’re logged out.

Google+ Brand Pages in the SERPs

So far I’ve only seen this treatment for “verified” accounts, but not on every verified account.

There’s been a lot of speculation about what will differentiate Google’s new social platform from Facebook, and why a brand would bother maintaining a separate preference. I think this is just the beginning of an aggressive push by Google to provide value to brands (or give a competitive disadvantage to brands that aren’t using Google+).

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Category: Google,Social Media

I’d Be #1 … If It Weren’t for All Those Other Sites

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Years ago I was teaching a friend how to drive. She wasn’t feeling very comfortable pulling into traffic and making unprotected turns. In a moment of frustration she exclaimed, “I KNOW how to drive. I just can’t do it with all this traffic.”

I don’t recall how I responded at the time, but her statement got me thinking. Only later was I able to put my finger on why this didn’t sit right with me.

Now that I’ve set up that scenario, you can probably articulate immediately the conclusion I came to later.

Let’s compare notes after the jump.


Here’s the thing: Knowing how to drive is not about knowing how to operate a vehicle. Understanding how to make a car move and maneuvering it down a paved road is a necessary, but not sufficient, part of this thing we call “driving.”

Driving requires knowing how to react to other cars… yes, even if they don’t follow the rules of the road. You have to be able to gauge how soon oncoming traffic will reach you, when you should turn, how quickly you’ll need to slow down or accelerate, whether that car at the intersection is likely to pull out ahead of you. You should be able to guess what the speed limit probably is, even if you don’t see a sign. You also need to be able to drive on roads you’ve never been on before. Driving up and down the driveway doesn’t count.

Even if you follow all the rules, you still might get hit by some jackhole who isn’t doing what he’s supposed to be doing and your insurance rates will skyrocket through no fault of yours. But the odds of that tend to be lower if you drive defensively and don’t take unnecessary risks. On the other hand, if you are too conservative and are scared of driving on roads where you might encounter other cars, you may never get where you’re going (or not in a reasonable timeframe).

Does any of this sound familiar? Try replacing “search engine optimization” for “driving a car”. Now substitute “other cars on the road” with any dumb or even legitimate thing you’ve heard webmasters gripe about.

Part of being an SEO is understanding the consequences of algorithm shifts, dealing with the fact that competitors do shady things, pursuing strong ROI while also managing risk levels, knowing what pitfalls lay ahead and having some idea of what to do about them. Being an in-house SEO involves getting executive or company-wide buy-in and prioritizing tactics and resources. Being a client-facing SEO service provider also involves being able to convince clients to do things and, yes, even making sure they pay their invoices. Unless you’re an academic, that is part of being an SEO.

You might hear people say, “I KNOW how to do SEO and I’d be wildly successful except…”

Except Google keeps changing the algorithm.

Except my clients don’t do what I tell them.

Except my competitors engage in spammy paid link building practices.

Except I have an e-commerce site and no one links to commercial sites.

Except my crappy CMS keeps spitting out duplicate content.

Except blah blah blah…

If this is something you hear your SEO provider or colleague (or yourself) repeating regularly, perhaps you need to say: Dude, consider that perhaps you don’t know how to drive. (And then: But I still love you. Or: Get off the friggin road! — whichever is more appropriate.)

Image: “Traffic Jam” by K2D2vaca used under CC license.

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Category: Navel-Gazing

Media 2.0 Day: Pew Internet & American Life

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 11:08 pm

This is Part 3 of a series of notes from Media 2.0 Day, part of the Digital Capital Week conference. Part 1 covered a session called “Social and Traditional Media: How News and Media Organizations are Getting Social and Why They Need To Do It”; Part 2 covered a talk by Jeff Pulver. (These are basically my raw notes. I’ll be going back and cleaning up typos and formatting as time allows.)

… Lack of connectivity in the Media 2.0 venue was driving me crazy, so I sneaked out to grab some wifi time at the Caribou Coffee around the corner. I ended up being a little late to this session, which is where Pew Research talked about the latest findings.

I walk in as Lee Rainie (@lrainie), Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, is talking about the rise of the “internet of things”.

Next, he shows a graphic from the Metaverse Roadmap, that segments the different directions in which the internet could evolve or is involving:

DC Week

We now get into surveys that asked experts to predict the future of the internet. Rainie says that previous survey respondents (who were asked to predict where we’d be in 2010) got some things right but there were also some misses.

Before going into the results of the latest survey, Rainie explains that there were some methodology changes. Among them is that the new survey included new participants (not just previously questioned “experts”, but new people too).  Furthermore, the questions were set up as tension pairs; rather than posing a prediction and asking respondents to agree or disagree, the option was now presented as A or B, and respondents had to pick which they agreed with more.  Then they were asked to explain why.

First question was based on Nick Carr’s argument: The internet makes us dumber vs. internet makes it easier to connect and get smarter. Most said it doesn’t make us dumber.

Themes arising out of the free-form answers:

  • Cognitive capacities will shift. Different skills are necessary in the new world. Not necessary to remember stuff, but critical thinking becomes more important.  People who can sift through info will do better.
  • There are new types of literacy. Fourth “R” is retrieval (reading, writing, ‘rithmetic and now retrieval). “Extreme  Googlers” was a term that was mentioned to describe a new skillset. As networked individuals make decisions, we need to adapt and learn to search out info.
  • People are people. Internet applies same tendencies. If you are lazy/distracted, the internet helps you be you. If you are an info omnivore, technology lets you do that better. Tech isn’t the problem; it’s inherent character traits of people.
  • Performance of “information markets” is a big unknown, especially in age of social media and junk information. There will be pressure on technologists to filter good vs. bad stuff.

What’s around the corner? The tension pair was: Hot gadgets are pretty evident today (no surprises) vs. hot new tech are not anticipated by many of today’s savviest innovators.  Most answered that the hot new thing is not something we know about yet.

Common themes in responses:

  • Look what the iPhone did – an example of something we couldn’t predict.
  • Tech people aren’t very good at anticipating the market place and social stuff
  • Innovation ecosystems will change: bandwidth/processing. Ecosystem will be different so hard to anticipate what will work there, what marketplace will work/how it’ll function.

What about the future of online anonymity? Which is more likely: Anonymous online activity will be sharply curtailed vs. by 2020 it will still be easy to communicate anonymously? Results to this question were pretty evenly split

Themes in the free-form answers:

  • Anonymity will be a different thing by then. New definitions of anonymity.
  • New laws/regs will give people some privacy protections even though they are required to disclose more. (i.e., more feeling of anonymity, even if less anonymity in reality)
  • There will still be work-arounds: “Pseudonymity” will be available to people. Public disclosure will be separate from than registration requirements.
  • Anonymity not same as confidentiality and autonomy. The latter will replace yearning for anonymity.
  • Rise of social media is as much a challenge to anonymity as authentication requirements. Reputation management and “information responsibility” will emerge.  Being part of SM, showing some part of yourself and your social graph, will allow people to figure out who you are… it’s not the tech itself that discloses who you are, it’s the social practices and people’s ability to just look at info YOU are sharing.

Next question deals with impact of internet on institutions. Will institutions change/become more responsive? Most experts agreed they would change.


  • Pressures for transparency are powerful
  • The “future” is unevenly distributed – businesses will change most; governments least.
  • Data will be platform for change.
  • Even if institutions don’t change, social media will facilitate work-arounds. Tools in consumers’ hands will help figure out ways around these barriers erected by institutions. Citizen engagement/crowdsourcing will force change in market place.
  • Efficiency and responsiveness aren’t the same thing.
  • More people responded anonymously when saying they are worried about corporate power. Institutions will resist.

Rainie shared there that there were quite a few criticisms about this question as lumping different types of  “organizations” (nonprofits, governments, businesses) into a single category didn’t make sense. He concedes this point.

Next question deals with impact of internet on reading, writing, rendering of knowledge.

He points out that young people don’t think of texting as “writing”… it’s just conversation.  So it’s not fair to use “text speak” as evidence that literacy is suffering.

More experts agree that the internet will improve reading, writing, rendering of knowledge.


  • People are doing more reading, writing now so it has to be better. Participation breeds engagement.
  • Pressure to get better driven by concerns about reputation, etc.
  • Reading/writing will be different in 10 years.  “Screen” literacy will become important. Content creation will be done in public. It’s not better or worse, just different. These are public acts, so feedback will compel people to get better.
  • Networked information models are changing creation and consumption process. So metrics of consumption will change (become richer/broader more complex).

Next question: Will internet continue to be dominated by end-to-end principle? Most of the respondents think it’ll remain the same.


  • Openness has its own virtues and its served us well so far.
  • Those who disagreed weren’t arguing for the end of this paradigm. It wasn’t a value judgment; rather they were predicting that there will be pressures to regulate (including from users who want to avoid bad experiences).

Next question was about the semantic web. Answers were fairly even split. Comments were along the lines that the semantic web won’t take off until there’s a killer app for it.

The speaker now rushing through slides are breakneck speed and it’s hard to catch any details.

Next two slides are about the internet’s influence on human relationships and something about the millenials. The latter dealt with opinions that millenials will continue to be very enthusiastic about information sharing even as they move onto other phases of their lives.

At this point, I make a note to refer to Pew Internet site so follow up on these data. Lots of interesting stuff, but Rainie doesn’t have the time to cover all the material in his deck and he wants to move on to Q&A. (Note: his slides can be viewed here. In fact, his slides probably have all the info I typed out above, but with fewer typos. Sigh. )

DC Week: Pew Internet & American Life

Audience Questions:

Q: Is there a  correlation between literacy and broadband adoption?

Rainie says this is a really interesting question. No direct studies of correlation were done but he throws out some related questions: What are the issues? Is it access/price versus no perceived need/interest?

Sometimes it’s a knowledge issue – people who don’t have internet only know what media says about the internet (it’s a dangerous place full of scams, etc). They don’t want/need it because they don’t know what it is.

Others think it’s a tech issue. They are afraid of the technology/computers.

What’s needed to get next increment of new users may be combo of tech support/hand holding and public education about what the internet is.

What is the internet? Rainie says it’s personal, participatory, pervasive.

Rainie expands to discuss some hard data about the Digital Divide:

  • 79% of adults use the internet. (i.e, 21% don’t)
  • Of those who self-report as using the internet, 93% have email. This percentage of email users has stayed pretty constant. Even when only 50% of population had internet, 90% used email.

He goes on to say that maybe we need to rethink how we define the Digital Divide and access issues. How do you count people who use only mobile web? Does having an internet-enabled mobile device lead to the same level of access?

Q. What’s the future of the the Web?

Biggest challenge is the business  model itself. (e.g., compelling people to pay for access to content?)

Rainee thinks Chris Anderson is onto something with freemium idea/model.

He says the media world frequently gets slammed for being slow to embrace the internet, but that this isn’t a fair characterization. He says  it’s the advertising world that hasn’t figured it out; editorial side of things has innovated tremendously. Not fair to knock the editorial side of publishing for not getting it or jumping on opportunity fast enough.

This presentation about what the “experts” predict will be the future of the internet is a great segway into the next panel, which is supposed to cover “The Future of Media”… stay tuned. (Although if you were at the event, you know the next session didn’t go so well.)

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Category: Data

Media 2.0 Day, Digital Capital Week

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Given that I haven’t blogged in over a year (not counting a job change announcement), you’d think that the next thing I posted would have to be really good. Something, perhaps, that I’d been perfected for weeks to signal my return to blogging. Something so juicy that it was inspiration for breaking my blogging hiatus.

You might think that. But you’d be wrong.

Today I attended Media 2.0 Day, a part of Digital Capital Week, and I took a boat-load of notes. I figured I might as well do something with those notes, so I’m sharing them here in hopes that they are of interest to anyone who wasn’t able to attend.

First off, let me say I have a new appreciation of live bloggers. It’s surprisingly hard to turn session notes into something coherent and worth publishing. Whether I will succeed in that endeavor remains to be seen.

Without more ado, live blogging of the first session:

Media 2.0 Day, #DCWEEK

Social and Traditional Media:
How News and Media Organizations are Getting Social and Why They Need To Do It

Host: Peter Corbett, CEO of iStrategy Labs (co-host of DC Week)
Moderator: Carlos Roig, VP of Digital for Home Front Communications

Robert Michael Murray, Vice President of Social Media, National Geographic Digital Media
Benet Wilson, Editor of Aviation Week
Andy Carvin, Digital Strategist, NPR
Brian Dresher, Manager of Social Media & Digital Partnerships, USA Today

The moderator introduces panel and asks about how their social media positions were created.

NatGeo’s Head of Digital, Robert Michael Murray, talks about all the types of media the Geographic is involved in. It’s not just magazines and a website. NG has its own record label. They are all about content and distribution.

Murray says his position was created because of realization by NG executives that something was happening out there — conversations among the public, even engagement by NG — but they were in need of a real, long-term strategy (not platform specific) to understand how it works and how to apply it. They were looking to answer the question of how to intimately engage with audience and involve them/get them to contribute to the media output. Murray explains that he’s not actively blogging, but his job is to help drive decisions on what to invest in.

Andy Carvin of NPR is up next. He says NPR’s social media focus is on collaboration. We joke that “Public” is our middle name, but we’re not just a radio station, so we don’t use “National Public Radio”; We call ourselves NPR now. We have a well-educated, curious, engaged audience. Our audience has always been social. Now technology has caught up to our mission and how people engage with us. NPR is a lifestyle, how people define themselves. As long as we understand that, it allows us to reach out and collaborate effectively. We try to create an atmosphere where it’s ok for NPR staff to say “I need help” and reach out to the public. From small things to big things.: Small things would include crowdsourcing questions for press conference coverage. A “large” thing would be organizing volunteers (or building community that can self-organize) to actually go build stuff.

Benet Wilson of Aviation Week talks about her organization’s small steps into social media. She got into social media role because she was looking for a way to get content published on the site that never made it into the magazine. Her manager told her to go create a TypePad blog, but not to tell anyone about it; now there are several bloggers for Aviation Week. One of her roles is to help other AW journalists embrace new media. She says that tools allow her to interact with her audiences as a journalist. Her advice to other organizations just starting with social media: Just start with one thing. Don’t be afraid to reach outside your organization.

Brian Dresher of USA Today: Journalists are now the “brand”, not staff who are shielded behind the brand of the newspaper. It’s a new form of journalism and journalists must now shape the opportunity. It’s been a slow road for journalists to realize there are different set of rules for different “sandboxes” (different voice, different styles, expectations, etc). Challenge is to help journalists understand that being on the frontlines is an opportunity. Twitter is micro-communities. Journalists can build their own brands/readerships. Some niche piece of news could qualify as “breaking news” for Twitter handle, but would never be a breaking news story at the USAToday brand level. That’s a great opportunity for beat reporters to grab the reins and speak directly to a niche audience.

Next, Carvin talks about example of NPR talks about crowdsourcing news about voting issues on election day. NPR used volunteers to help develop widgets and called on citizen designers/developers/editors/researchers/reporters. The community basically helped to report and curate election/voting stories.

Question is raised in response: Why do people volunteer to help NPR build stuff? Carvin says it’s a serious public service. NPR mission is to create an informed public. Benefit of an informed public is people who want to give back and be part of that.

National Geographic is asked to talk about the strategy behind their social media and how they stay relevant. Murray says: We’re part of a larger ecosystem. It’s a crowded landscape. What are we doing to make content be shareable? How do we give opportunities to audience to contribute? We have to make sure we are embedded in people’s lifestyles in order to leverage moments of opportunity.

It’s obvious that National Geographic “gets” that social media isn’t about broadcasting their content, but using social as a feedback and community mechanism.

USAToday is up next to talk about why they use social media/what the purpose of it is: The question that we try to answer is how do we get people to stay engaged? No good way to measure social media engagement, but it’s where all of us are. It’s important to stay top of mind. We (as consumers) start and end our days with social media. But eventually you want to make sure audiences come to you when they aren’t on social networks. Dresher says that USA Today focuses on Return on Interaction, Influence, and Investment (ROIII).

Roig points out that social media has created transparency and a lot more sharing. How should organizations react to that?

Murray from National Geographic says confidently that sharing is not threatening. NG is half a media company, but also half nonprofit so we also have to think about our mission. We’re all learning through open dialogue. We’re not trying to poach ideas. Ideas have to be authentic and relevant to each audience. What works for one won’t work for another, so there’s no downside for media companies to talk to and learn from each other.

Roig next asks Carvin how NPR approaches planning strategy? How do you address the risk of trying to rush to every platform?

Carvin: It depends on the platform. It’s not resource intensive to maintain multiple outlets on video, for example, with tools like TubeMogul; but other types of platforms (i.e., mobile) you need to prioritize. For mobile, NPR prioritizes the mobile web, then iPhone (because of market share) and Android (because focus on openness and collaboration).

For social media, NPR asked, “which of these audiences really focus on collaboration and sharing of news?” That’s why we focus on Twitter and Facebook. Just because it’s easy to rollout on platforms like Tumblr, doesn’t mean you should because those types of platforms may not be core to our goals/mission/relationship with communities.

Carvin emphasizes an aside: They aren’t “audiences”, they are “communities”.

He stresses that strategy has to start with goals, not platforms. It has to make sense with the community; don’t worry about what competitors are doing or how easy it is to roll something out. He then tells a story about how a firefighter used the NPR API to publish an iPhone about 6 months before NPR was ready with its own. He says that’s ok though. There’s no point in hoarding the info, because getting the public involved creating things keeps you on your toes and forces you to be competitive (i.e., make sure you are creating something really good).

Wilson adds that her company is also focusing on mobile web compatibility, but that Aviation Week isn’t currently pursuing apps aggressively. She does say though that she created an Aviation Week iPhone app on her own to show her bosses – they liked it but told her not to pursue it.

The moderator says that even if a skunk works project doesn’t get launched, it’s okay to pursue them because they can trigger ideas.

Dresher chimes in with an example of a small idea/experiment that that really took off: USAToday’s America Wants campaign shows that democratic nature of social media can outperform a bunch of high-profile celebs, and even now (weeks after the contest ended), it’s still getting tweeted about.

Question from the audience: How do you maintain NPR-level quality if you crowdsource? Carvin: we have very little resources, so we pull things together and then say “can you help us?” and volunteers will improve on it. It’s hard to be nimble when you pay people. The “crowdsourcing” example for NPR’s election project, the hurricane Google maps mashups, etc. were not funded and pulled together very quickly and executed almost entirely by NPR’s community. It’s about acknowledging when you have limitations, not about cutting corners.

Next, the panelists talk about different ways they are innovating around social media.

Carvin shares a little about “Project Argo”, a framework for community based aggregators for specific topics. NPR is building the technology framework and individual stations are hiring bloggers/editors who aggregate community contributions and then do reporting on top of that. It’s about building news-reporting capacity at local level.

USAToday talks about how they are innovating in new ways to use social media. They are the first major media partner of FARK.

To answer a question about different uses of social media, National Geographic says that they see a lot of potential around location-based, mobile apps playing into mission of NG. Working with NOAA, they are getting community to catalog and “tag” flaura/fauna.

Carvin is excited to add to the NOAA example to point out the oil reporter app, a geolocation application with a feed that allows you to create all sorts of data visualizations and mashups. The oil reporter app uses geolocation (the same sort of geolocation that drives social apps like GoWalla and Foursquare) to identify where people find oil spill/tar balls.

Please note:

Live blogging isn’t intended to be a “transcription”. I hope it’s clear where a panelist’s comments end and my commentary (sparse as it may be, in this case) begins. I also tried not to be words into anyone’s mouth. If you have corrections or noticed any serious omissions, or want to share your own reactions to the session, I encourage you to leave a comment.

Updated 11:20pm — And already one correction: The moderator was Carlos Roig, not Peter Corbett, as I had originally written (see, this is why I don’t get paid to live blog!). Glad I had opportunity to correct that, because he did an excellent job moderating.

More (of my) Coverage of Media 2.0 Day:

Part 2: State of Now
Part 3: Pew Internet & American Life Research

Other People’s Coverage:
Live (Sort of) from DC Week: Traditional and Social Media Coming Together

Comments (3)

Category: Social Media

Change. Brought to You by the Letters P, B, and S

Posted by Melanie Phung on Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 7:44 am

Wow, it’s been more than a year since I last posted on this blog. I’m dusting it off because I have some exciting news to share.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading over to PBS, where I’ll serve as Director, New Media, within the Interactive Division. In that position, I’ll be responsible for SEO and content strategy! I’m thrilled for this opportunity to work in-house for such a wonderful brand.

PBS is doing incredibly innovative things online and I can’t wait to be a part of the team responsible for making those things happen.


p.s. I’m usually much wordier than this, but just wanted to make sure I got an announcement up. I hope to blog more about what drew me to this opportunity, my experiences working at an agency vs. doing SEO in-house, the challenges and opportunities working with huge sites that contain multiple brands, things I’ve learned while managing the social media presence of a major international nonprofit, and other thoughts rattling around in my head.

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Category: Navel-Gazing