Saturday, August 20, 2011

¶ Could Mobile Apps Be Wilting in the Heat of Summer?

Image credit: Financial Times

It’s hard to believe, but mobile marketing didn’t really get going in earnest until Apple launched its App Store in 2008. Three years later there are now marketplaces on all five major device platforms - Apple’s iOS, Android, BlackBerry, HP WebOS and Windows Mobile. What’s more, there seems to be a constant footrace between brands not only to be first to market with their own apps, but to refresh them for a fickle public.

Some of what’s driving this is the zeitgeist. Overnight, it seems, apps have become deeply embedded in our culture. To stand out at a dinner party you better pack some apps. The New York Times now has a weekly column covering them. And even Sesame Street, arguably a mirror image of American society, posted a video ode to apps on YouTube that has been viewed nearly 750,000 times.

This columnist, too, has gone ape for apps. A year ago I posited that, as smartphone and tablet adoption rise, mobile applications could unseat the web as the primary means we interact with content. Now I am second guessing myself. Things are once again changing.

This summer, the app ecosystem started to show signs that it maybe fraying at the edge. Several major players in media and social networking including the Financial Times, Twitter, LinkedIn and
Facebook have all launched rich web applications. These sites, thanks to the magic of HTML5, run in any modern browser and come very close to matching the functionality of their “native” app cousins.

Now none of these companies has abandoned their Apple or Android apps. Still, the sudden interest in web apps is notable. There are arguably three factors driving it.

First, HTML5 has finally matured into a strong alternative to native iOS and Android apps. These web apps can even run offline.

Second, it shows that perhaps developers are frustrated that they need to support multiple platforms. Android devices alone come in so many shapes, sizes and resolutions, that supporting them is a difficult and expensive challenge. Web apps solve this conundrum.

Finally, there’s freedom. Apple, most notably, recently changed the way that developers can sell content from within their applications. If a developer links out to their own online store, they must also allow consumers to purchase content using an iTunes account. However, Apple takes a 30% cut of the latter.

Most content companies have reluctantly relented to Apple’s rules. However, a few, notably Amazon, chose not to provide any e-commerce functionality in their iOS ebook apps. Amazon instead responded by launching the Kindle Cloud Reader, a web application that runs in a browser across multiple platforms. It features a rich, engaging shopping and reading experience that rivals their native apps. Downloaded books can also be read offline.

To date, no major brand has made the jump to prioritize an HTML5-based web application over a native app. This is for a good reason. Most consumers are still downloading smartphone and tablet apps in droves.

However, this could change over time as marketers get more comfortable developing for mobile devices, start dabbling with new web development tools from the likes of Adobe and aspire to exert greater control over user experience.

Here are three trends to watch when considering your own strategy.

First, there’s Apple. To date, the company has backed off on some of its more draconian policies. Still, they remain strict. However, if more companies start to prioritize their web apps over iOS apps, Apple may blink to protect its ecosystem and relent further.

Second, there’s Google. While Google has thousands of native applications in its Android Marketplace, the company has also been actively promoting HTML5 as an emerging alternative, starting with its own sites. Web applications are arguably more important to Google than native apps. They encourage users to browse and search more and thus could drive ad revenue.

Finally, there’s the global economy. The fragmentation in mobile space shows no signs of abating. Marketers may decide it’s more cost effective to develop a strong web application and control the experience end-to-end, rather than support hundreds of phone and tablet formats.

Time will tell how this all shakes out. Remember that just a few years ago there were hardly any mobile applications. Today there are hundreds of thousands of them. Things can change fast if developers are motivated.

How to Use Facebook Places and Facebook Deals for Local Business

Facebook Marketing for Local Businesses

As more customers become smartphone-savvy, local businesses can leverage the opportunities offered by Facebook Places and Facebook Deals to get new customers to come to their location and to reward current customers. Mari shares what you need to know.


Discover how to get more business from smartphone-savvy customers.

Facebook Places

You’ll learn how to claim your business on Facebook and take advantage of your Facebook Place page so you can make offers through Facebook Deals.

claim your business

Find out how to claim your business so you can start offering Facebook Deals.

Facebook Deals

Find out about the four different kinds of deals and how your business can use them.

  1. Individual deals: For one-time offers

  2. Loyalty deals: To reward repeat business

  3. Friend deals: To incite up to 8 people to check in at once

  4. Charity deals: To get people to donate to a charity

And Mari shares how some brands are using deals to grow their business.

mcdonalds deals

Hear how McDonald's used a Facebook Charity deal to promote their business.

Be sure to listen for Mari’s hot marketing tip to find out how you can also include Twitter to leverage your Facebook marketing with Places and Deals.

A Quick Start Guide and Checklist for Bing Search Engine Optimization

Bing isn’t the top search engine used by searchers but it still is a powerful tool for driving traffic to your blog and most likely you’ve got a good percentage of organic traffic coming from Microsoft’s Bing – enough to warrant a bit of time learning more about it and how you can maximize some returns.

And the reasons are only getting stronger: If you add up Bing and Yahoo! search queries you might get an accurate picture of what the future looks like for your blog and it’s traffic from Bing since Yahoo!’s search engine is going to be powered by Bing (and co-branded with “Powered by Bing”) starting in early 2012:

Microsoft’s Bing search engine will power the Yahoo website and Yahoo will in turn become the advertising sales team for Microsoft’s online offering.

That’s worth noting – that’s worth mentioning and studying a bit, right? And even without a Yahoo! + Bing partnership it’s been shown that Bing’s marketshare is increasing year over year growing nearly 7% from 23.64% to 30% from 2010 to 2011!

Some people have suggested that at some point the possibility of Bing overtaking Google’s marketshare is possible:

Possible? Likely?

Now I’m not sure if it’s really going to happen but it’s worth my time (and yours) to understand at least the basics of Bing-related SEO strategies, right?

And, of course, we all get traffic via Bing already so it’s also worth it to optimize and maximize if possible:

I'll take any and all traffic, right?

So here are a few suggestions that are relevant to not only search engine optimization for Bing but also most other search engines as well.

Bing breaks it down into 5 main areas: Crawlability, Site Structure, On-Page SEO, Content, and Links:

Your Blog’s Crawlability:

  • XML Sitemaps – Make sure to have one! You can create one here if you have WordPress.
  • Navigation Structure – Make sure it’s easily accessed by crawlers. Learn more about site architecture here and here as well.
  • Limit Adobe Flash – Read more about SEO limitations here.
  • Limit JavaScript – Read more about SEO limitations here.
  • Limit Ajax – Read more about SEO limitations here.
  • Rich Media – If you do use rich media make sure that the user experience is clean and has a down-level experience and flow to it.
  • Keywords – Use clean and keyword rich URL structure. Permalinks and blog post slugs can help.
  • Robots.txt – Make sure you have one!

Your Blog’s Site Structure:

  • Logical Hiearchy – Make sure your content is laid out logically and with a focus on usability.
  • Internal Linking – Make sure your content has a great internal linking. Become a master architect!
  • Clean URLs – Make sure that your links have no extraneous parameters where possible. Examples are adding sessions, tracking, and other calls on the links when not necessary.
  • Sitemaps – Make sure you have sitemaps for both humans and search engines!
  • Rich Media – Make sure they don’t block links or cover up links. See SEO limitations as well here.

Your Blog’s On-Page SEO:

  • Good Titles – Should be unique relevant and between 60 and 70 characters in length. Read this kick-butt post on how to optimize your titles! Only one title per page please!
  • Meta Descriptions – Make sure they are unique, relevant, and 160 characters or less. You can learn all you want about meta descriptions and meta elements here. Only one description per page as well here!
  • Content Tags – Make sure you have the right content tags (H1, H2, etc) in your content. Learn more here.
  • Images – Make sure you are using images well and wisely with ALT tags as appropriate and descriptions with keywords. Learn about images here.
  • Keyword Targeting – Make sure you use targeted keywords for each blog post and piece of content.
  • Internal Linking – Make sure the links have the right anchor text.

Your Blog Content:

  • Keyword Research – This is so important that I dedicated an entire blog post to it! Learn more about keyword research.
  • Usability – Make sure your content is usable and is built for people, not search engines!
  • Design – Design is so important and even more important now for SEO.
  • Copy – Written copy is your ultimate weapon of choice when it comes to creating an attractive blog for search engines.
  • Architecture Depth – Make sure you create deep and content-rich pages.
  • Authority – Create amazing blog content and you’ll be seen as an authority via the search engines. Your level of authenticity helps with this as well
  • Consistency – Create a schedule and have the discipline to produce new content frequently.
  • Unique – Make sure your content is unique and not re-blogged or re-used from other sources.
  • Broken Links – Make sure you’ve captured any 404 errors, broken links, and internal 301 redirects. Have a useful 404 page as well.
  • Canonicalization – Make sure you understand the power and importance of the Canonical tag.

Your Blog’s Links and Link Structure:

  • Links – This is one of your top ingredients for optimizing your blog. Become a master link architect! Internal and external linking strategies!
  • Linking – Make sure your optimizing your links for SEO.
  • Viral Content – Make sure you know which types of blog posts often get a lot of viral traffic!
  • Paid Links – Stay away from paid links. Period.

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