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Sitelinks on Subdomains and Subdirectories

Posted by Melanie Phung on Friday, January 16, 2009 at 11:16 am

A while back there was a lot of talk of subdomains being abused for SEO and how people thought Google was going to start treating subdomains more like site folders (aka subdirectories), instead of separate web sites. That didn’t make a ton of sense to me; after all, if a site is using subdomains to spam the SERPs, shouldn’t Google discount those subdomains? Treating them like folders doesn’t solve the underlying problem.

The truth is, some subdomains ARE completely separate sites — just look at sites hosted on blogging platforms. Google understands that, and in the examples below is even showing Sitelinks on subdomains.

notlarrysabato SiteLinks 081215

I have yet to see subfolders on a site get their own Sitelinks.

For more info on Google sitelinks, check out my older post on what factors influence Sitelinks and how anchor text is chosen, as well as Eric Lander’s excellent Sitelinks research.

Anyone have examples of Sitelinks for subdirectories? Or know something specific about how Google may treat blog hosts differently?

UPDATE: Okay, that’s what happens when I blog from the hip. Just got tipped off on examples of each. Big thanks to @rishil and @streko for these examples.  Screenshots up momentarily.

Sitelinks for a subdomain (on a site that’s not an obvious authority site, e.g.

Sitelinks for subdirectories:


Comments (12)

Category: Blogging,Google,Indexing,Social Media

3M’s Post-It Note Viral Marketing Attempt – Redux

Posted by Melanie Phung on Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 11:43 am

My post about 3M’s Post It Notes viral marketing campaign told the story of how 3M Corporation contacted my friend to use some very well-known, recognizable photos of his for a national marketing campaign called “One Million Uses and Counting” — but when he quoted them his licensing fee, they said they could just copy his photos … and did. (Please read that post now if you haven’t already.) It’s been several months and I thought it was time for a post-game analysis.

What happened was that, as one commenter aptly put it, 3M “crapped in the sandbox they were trying to play in.” And as a result, their bad faith dealings surrounding the launch of their social media marketing campaign got a ton of negative buzz.

At one point, the general product search terms [3M post it note] and [3M post it notes] even brought up sites blasting 3M for what they had done.

Google Results for [3M Post It Note]

The various articles focused on differing aspects of what 3M’s Marketing Department did wrong — everything from contacting the photog and shredding any semblance of plausible deniability, to acting like a Big Dumb Company and steamrolling right over “the little guy” when he could have easily been their biggest cheerleader. It’s clear that the story had legs.

Although I think the incident made well the point that big corporations can’t just run rough shod over social media and content producers (and, seriously, don’t screw over my friends, k? thxbai), my post on 3M’s viral marketing failure did not go as hot as I secretly hoped it would.

Most of the marketers who heard this story agreed it was a great example of how not to do viral marketing, even commenting that they’d love to use it as a case study in social media marketing presentations. It’s precisely the sort of David-vs-Goliath story that tends to capture the imaginations of social media users. So while the story got some attention, why did my post not go truly “viral”?

What I Could Have Done Differently
aka Things to Consider If You’re Trying to Get Your Story to Go Hot

  • Promote the Story More Aggressively — It was clear to me that this was a story that was made for social media. First, it was about social media. Social media loves to eat itself. Second, it was a story of a corporation ripping off the little guy — also a story the Internet loves. So I wrote the post to be “social-media friendly” and got a Digg power user to submit it to Digg. And I got someone to submit it to StumbleUpon for me. Then I reached out to several of the large sites that featured Scott’s original photos, as well as sites like Consumerist and AdRants (which like stories of big companies acting like jerks and failed marketing campaigns, respectively). I also tweeted the Digg link a couple of times, but not more than a half a dozen times.
    .The obvious advice would have been to be more aggressive in pimping my blog post, but social media is tricky and if you push too hard people tend to resent that. The obvious answer might backfire. And when I say “backfire” I don’t just mean that people would have buried the story on Digg or unfollowed me on Twitter for being too self-promotional; my worry was that my friend Scott (the photographer whom 3M ripped off) would receive the brunt of the backlash. Every time I saw someone criticize Scott for being anything less than flattered that 3M even approached him at all, I cringed a little. It was a delicate balancing act to push the story while also being mindful of his reputation
  • Pitch the Story to Different Audiences — In the end, it wasn’t the SEO crowd (active Sphinn users, my Twitter friends, etc.) who took this story and ran with it: it was more traditional (for lack of a better word) online marketers and the professional photography bloggers who took a genuine interest in this story and reached out to their audiences. Rather than focusing just on the social media scene, I could have reached out to more, and perhaps more traditional, marketing blogs, as well as gone after blogs catering to professional photographers rather than hobbyists. In hindsight, I should have. Unfortunately I didn’t really know the players who could have helped spread the story to their followers and didn’t put enough effort into connecting with them.Great blogger outreach isn’t just about sending a well-composed pitch to a blogger; it’s also about doing research to find the right targets.
  • Continue Pushing the Story for a Longer Period of Time — After my initial Digg push(es), I stopped promoting the story, figuring that it was time for the story to go viral organically. After all, I figured, the point of “viral” is that it’s not a single person creating the growth and spread of information; it’s about seeding the story and getting other people to spread it. There are diminishing returns to pushing the same story to the same audience, but this wasn’t (only) about getting my post to hit Digg FP.Digg isn’t the be-all end-all of going viral. While two weeks felt like a decent amount of time to push the story — at which point I was feeling like the date stamp on the blog post was getting stale by blogosphere standards — the fact is that I didn’t even come close to reaching all the people who would have been eager to here about it.
  • Post the Story on a “Bigger” Blog — The “Dell Hell” fiasco would merely have been a “Dell M’eh” if it hadn’t originated on Jeff Jarvis’ blog, but that doesn’t mean you need to be an A-list blogger to do a lot of damage to a company’s reputation. However, the bigger the site, the bigger the audience and the bigger the potential damage. Considering that I don’t have a large Twitter following or even a well-read blog, I was taking a risk by posting it on this site and hoping the post was compelling enough on its own.I could have approached a bigger blog and asked to do a guest post. From there it would have reached a wider audience, and surely would have been submitted to whatever voting sites that audience liked, and then voted up according both to the merits of the story and the popularity of the site’s owner.The problem again is that my best connections were in the SEO/social media blogger world, which may not have helped me with the broader audience (it certainly would have torpedoed the story on Digg). But much more to the point, this was as much about getting my blog noticed (and certainly I was hoping for some links) as it was about pimping Scott’s story out to the biggest blog I could find. Now while I’m sure some might criticize me for the admission I just made (the shock, the horror, a blogger who writes something for recognition and links, oh my!) let’s be realistic, of course I was hoping to get something out of it (something in addition to speaking up for Scott and venting my outrage, both as a marketer and as a content producer): I wanted some kick-ass content on my blog.
  • Bait 3M Into Responding – It’s debatable whether 3M helped themselves when they refused to join the conversation, apologize or even acknowledge their growing reputation management issue . However, my suspicion is that if 3M had responded to any of the negative buzz around its brand, regardless of whether it cooled the outraged, initially at least it would have helped draw a lot of attention to my original post. Could I have done some things to put pressure on 3M’s marketing department (and in particular the eMarketing Supervisor who wrote the incriminating email) to respond? Certainly. But it was not my intention to embarrass a specific person (although googling her name shows that others were not as kind and included her full name in their own write-ups).Certainly if a story that you’re pushing to go hot contains some sort of controversy or involves other people, you can fan the flames by getting people to respond to the fight you’re picking. But it’s hard to do that and stay classy. I was not trying to gain popularity at any cost — in this particular case, getting into an internet brawl wasn’t going to serve my ultimate purpose.
  • Keep It Simple: One Story and One Story Only — Here’s where my mistake became immediately obvious just as soon as feedback started rolling in: I complicated the story unnecessarily by bringing up the issue of intellectual property rights. I love IPR debates but it distracted from the “tone deaf social marketing” angle, which should have been the only angle. Not only did it possibly dilute the power of the story, but it served as an annoying red herring that drew a lot of non-supportive comments on sites like Digg and Flickr (e.g., people focused too much on whether or not a copyright violation occurred and not on how stupid 3M’s actions were, regardless of the legality of what they did).If there’s one lesson that will stick with me about how to create a compelling narrative, it’s this one: focus on the one story you’re trying to sell, and don’t introduce distractions.

In hindsight, there are things I could have done better to draw attention to the story and my post. I did have some things going in my favor in terms of potential for going viral though: 1) It was an interesting story, not a marketing campaign. While I did have an “agenda”, it wasn’t about profit and there was a real hook. Those types of things tend to have the easiest time going hot. And 2) It was original. I had the inside skinny: Scott hadn’t talked to too many people about his experience and I was the only blogger he’d shared it with. Since I wasn’t up against any one else who might “break” the story before me, it meant I could take the time I needed to craft my post the way I wanted, including whatever elements I felt would make the post as compelling as possible.

So there you have it. While my original post never went into “the social media marketing lessons to be drawn from the 3M viral fiasco” (David Meerman Scott’s post does a nice job of that, if you’re interested), I’ve finally gotten around to putting down some notes on lessons learned from helping turn a simple failure into a fiasco in the first place.

Lastly, I want to give a big thanks to all the sites that wrote-up and gave their input on the story of 3M’s viral marketing screw-up. Couldn’t have done it without you!

In particular:

Comments (7)

Category: Social Media

Quote of the Week: Links Are Not Bad

Posted by Melanie Phung on Friday, December 19, 2008 at 8:29 pm

John Andrews, always thought-provoking, has a great piece on affiliate links vis-a-vis Google.

He ends with:

The FTC is a consumer advocate,not Googleā€™s private police force.

Don’t let Google scare you into thinking their rules are “the law”. By law, you don’t need to disclose your affiliate links. You don’t need to put nofollow on your links either… by law. As John’s post explains, links are not bad for consumers and don’t need to be sanitized. The stuff you do to your links you do for Google, not for the FTC. If they imply otherwise, that’s pure Google FUD.

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Category: Quote of the Week

What Information Sources Consumers Trust

Posted by Melanie Phung on Monday, December 15, 2008 at 12:01 pm

Newly released survey data from Forrester sheds light on some things that reinforce what we already suspected (consumers don’t trust company blogs) and some things that I find quite surprising: Who Do Consumers Trust?

Forrester graph via the Groundswell blog.

According to the survey, people trust email from people they know and consumer ratings – not a surprise. The third most trusted source is search engine results (mwuahahaha… just kidding), with half or Forrester’s respondents putting a high level of trust in the likes of Google. Somewhat ironically, only a third of people trust Wikipedia as an information source even though tends to be at the top of Google’s search results practically by default.

What I find flabbergasting once you go down the list is that more people trust things like Facebook’s Friend Feed than do online content sites like the New York Times’ website! I mean come on.

I get that people are leery of corporate blogs (only 16% said they trusted company blogs as information resources), but more people place trust in message boards (which are open to manipulation and spammers) and personal blogs (ditto) than company blogs, which at least have a brand to protect and generally tend to be fully transparent by virtue of being part of the company’s own site.

This confirms my suspicion that the average consumer of information is both paranoid and naive, at the same time, about what information sources are trust worthy. I mean sure, most corporate blogs aren’t very good, tend to lack personality or worthwhile content, but does the fact that they tend to rehash press releases make these blogs inherently untrustworthy sources of information? Less worthy than, say, a message board?

Rohit Bhargava, the authors of Groundswell and a few others have some thoughts on how corporate bloggers can win consumer trust. (But maybe someone else can address how the can improve its trust factor.)

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Category: Data

Quote of the Week: Like Riding a Bicycle

Posted by Melanie Phung on Monday, December 15, 2008 at 12:59 am

Quadzilla draws an apt analogy when confronted with the question of how to succeed in search or the MMO niche, one that precisely sums up my own thinking on the matter:

ā€?How do I ride a bicycle?ā€¯

Thatā€™s what I hear when people ask me how to make money on the web or to rank in Google. The best way to learn is to get on the bike and start peddling. Youā€™ll fall at first, but eventually you should get it. I can describe the basics and warn of some pitfalls, but in the end you gotta just try it to learn how.

Don’t get me wrong — you can read, read, read everything there is about the subject, talk to the experts, take courses, read reviews of products that are supposed to help, watch videos of people diagramming the mechanics … but until you’re actually doing it, it’s all just theoretical. You don’t ride a bicycle by talking (or blogging) about it.

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Category: Quote of the Week