Category Archives: Things we notice

Are Tech Companies Better Digital Marketers?

[Author Note: This post was originally written to be published simultaneous with and in support of the April update for the GeekWire 200.  The folks at GeekWire liked it enough that they wound up publishing virtually the entire post on their site.  My intention isn’t to duplicate the post but I wanted to post it on the Rival IQ blog as well since the concepts I cover are valid for any marketer to consider and I want to make sure our full audience at the Rival IQ blog got a chance to see the post as well.  Enjoy — John Clark]

In our last few posts we’ve explored a couple of key SEO techniques by comparing key players in specific markets and drawing competitive insights from what we saw.

And that got me wondering…are tech companies more savvy when it comes to digital marketing?

Lucky for me, through our partnership with Geekwire, Rival IQ monitors and benchmarks the digital activities of approximately 297 Seattle-area tech companies that move in and out of the GeekWire 200 ranked index every month. So it didn’t take long to find answers…

Drumroll please…

I decided to compare these high-growth tech companies to the thousands of companies Rival IQ tracks regularly.  Specifically, I looked at the quality of their meta descriptions and whether or not they were exposing their keywords to the world.

Top-Notch Meta Description? No better than the average bear.

Even though homepage meta descriptions play an important role in getting people to your website, Rival IQ determined that 56% of the companies in our database had left their meta descriptions blank or had descriptions that were too long to be effective. (Read more at – Is Your Meta Description Working As Hard As Your Tagline?)

How did the tech companies compare?

Meta Description Comparison

Companies in the GeekWire 200 fare no better than the typical company on meta description quality

Turns out 36% of the GeekWire 200 had missing meta descriptions and another 19% had written descriptions that were too long and therefore getting cut-off mid sentence in the search results. So 55% of the tech companies rated a fail.

Score:  TIE

Keyword Savvy? Not so much.

Even though the search engines no longer leverage meta keywords in their algorithms, quite a few companies, over 50% in our database, are still populating these fields on their website and 27% of those are optimizing their content. As a result, they’re exposing their keyword strategy to the world. (Read more at – Are you accidentally exposing your keyword strategy?!)

Are tech companies on the ball?

Meta keyword quality

Slightly fewer GeekWire 200 companies are not exposing their meta keywords

I’ll give this a qualified yes. Only 35% of the GeekWire 200 is sharing their keywords with the world and fewer are actively optimizing them. Better, but that’s still a lot of opportunity for market-watchers to gain valuable insight on how to compete against these market-leading tech companies.

Score: Point to the Tech Companies.

Conclusion? Technology DNA Doesn’t Necessarily Raise Your Digital IQ

Running With The Social Media Big Dogs

Many of the GeekWire 200 leverage social media in their marketing mix. Analyzing their activity on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn gave me a great opportunity to explore the strategic insights available to marketers, including:

  • Channel choice
  • Market movers
  • Audience engagement

Let’s take a look. It’s time to get off the porch and run with the big dogs!

Twitter Standing, Movement & Engagement.

I always recommend having a baseline understanding of how your following on social media compares to others in your market. Here’s an example:

Top GeekWire 200 Companies based on twitter followers

Cheezburger is the big dog in the GeekWire 200 based on twitter followers

In terms of a raw following on Twitter, the humor site Cheezburger is the big dog in the GeekWire 200.  Lockerz, the social commerce and sharing site, comes in second with less than half as many followers.

We also have two video game developers in this analysis⎯Bungie and Runic Games⎯with Bungie being the big dog with over 130,000 more followers.

Insight: As a marketer at Runic Games, I’d be looking more closely at Twitter. Assuming the companies have similar target audiences, Twitter could be a powerful channel to engage Runic’s customers and prospects.

Who’s Making a Play?

Benchmarking alone doesn’t provide insight on who’s achieving success via a specific channel. If we look at who gained followers in the last 30 days, we discover that RootMetrics, a company specializing in wireless coverage mapping, made the big play⎯increasing their followers by 200%.

RootMetrics Tops Percentage Change in Twitter Followers in the Last Month

RootMetrics Tops Percentage Change in Twitter Followers Over the Last 30 Days

If you’re looking at percentage increases, it’s important to confirm you’re beginning with a respectable base. Adding 20 new followers to a base of 10 is a 200% increase, but isn’t worth getting  fired up over.

GeekWire 200 Absolute Change In Twitter Followers

RootMetrics had a reasonable base for their 200% increase to be considered significant

In the case of RootMetrics, they’ve grown from a base of 744 followers to 2,226 in 30 days. That’s 1,482 new followers. Movement worth watching and understanding.

Insight: A deeper look reveals that RootMetrics has upped their tweet volume and the number of audience retweets has also increased significantly.

As a marketer in the same industry, I’d be looking closely the level of my Twitter volume and investigating the RootMetric’s tweet topics that resonating enough to merit retweeting.

Insights from the Facebook Big Dogs.

Again beginning with the benchmark view, we discover that among the GeekWire 200, free online photo editor PicMonkey is the biggest dog on Facebook. But there are several other big dogs nipping at their heels. It’s also interesting to note that the Facebook big dogs are all chasing consumers.

Top GeekWire 200 Companies based on twitter followers

PicMonkey is the big dog in the GeekWire 200 based on Facebook likes

Z2 is making a Facebook play.

A look at the percentage change growth in Facebook Likes indicates mobile online game developer, Z2, is making a move.

Z2 had the biggest percentage change in Facebook likes amongst the GeekWire 200

Z2 had the biggest percentage change in Facebook likes amongst the GeekWire 200

Z2 chalked up a 9x growth spurt in Facebook followers, growing from 1,619 to 16,835 in the last 30 days. Definitely something to know if you’re competing for mobile gaming mind share.

But wait… there’s movement from the back of the pack.

A check of posting activity for the month reveals that DreamBox Learning, creators of math learning games for kids K-5, has drastically increased their Facebook activity in March.

Changes in Facebook posting activity

Dreambox Learning stands out in increase in posting activity with their recent concerted engagement on Facebook

Insight: Big changes in posting volume can highlight a shift in market strategy. If I were competing against DreamBox, I’d be watching their growth in engagement via Likes and Talking About numbers to determine if Facebook is a channel I should leverage more.

Tableau Dominates LinkedIn.

Unlike Facebook, there’s only one big dog in the GeekWire 200 when it comes leveraging LinkedIn. Tableau Software, developers of data visualization products for business intelligence, dominates this channel.

Tableau Dominates LinkedIn in the GeekWire 200

Tableau is the leader by far in the GeekWire 200 in LinkedIn followers

Domination requires dedication.

Tableau posted to LinkedIn twenty one times in March – approximately once every business day in the month. That’s nearly twice as often as the next tier of companies the pack.

Tableau leads GeekWire 200 in LinkedIn Updates

Tableau also leads GeekWire 200 in LinkedIn updates

Tableau’s is hitting their target audience.

The content of Tableau’s posts on LinkedIn is resonating with their followers. In March, they received 44 LinkedIn Likes. That number may not seem significant, but it turns out only 16 companies in GeekWire 200 received Update Likes in March. Context is everything.

Tableau has significant LinkedIn engagement

Tableau has significant LinkedIn engagement amongst the GeekWire 200

Insight: Tableau’s domination of LinkedIn stems from both the frequency and quality of their posts. If I were competing against them, I’d closely review Tableau’s LinkedIn content for insights on topics that are top of mind with my audience and use their post frequency to set my activity objectives.

Have we learned from Seattle’s Tech Community?

So while the GeekWire 200 failed to make the case that technology companies are better digital marketers, I think taking a closer look at their efforts yielded some important learning:

  • Check Your Meta Description. Given that 50% of the companies in Rival IQs database are failing to optimize their homepage meta descriptions, you should probably confirm that yours is encouraging searchers to click-through to your site. Leverage our free meta description comparison tool to explore how yours compares.
  • Don’t Broadcast Your Keywords. It’s also worth checking that you aren’t one of the 35% – 50% sharing your keyword strategy with the world.
  • Monitoring Social Networks Informs Strategy. Knowing how your use of social media compares to others in your market sheds light on whether you should be leveraging a specific channel. It also provides insight on topics that resonate and the level of activity that will help you gain engagement with your audience.  It also shines a light on activity that merits your attention⎯competitors who are upping their game or adopting new strategies for reaching your audience.

Want to Dig Deeper Into the GeekWire 200?

If you want to do your own deeper analysis, Rival IQ is happy to give you access to the data and our analysis tools.  Click here to add the GeekWire 200 profile to your existing account or to signup and we will populate a profile with information on the 297 Seattle Tech companies monitored in this index.

Is Rival IQ Right For You?

[begin shameless plug] If you’re looking for an easy way to benchmark and monitor your market landscape, Rival IQ may be the tool for you. We put the insights outlined in this post and more at your fingertips. Set up is easy and the first 30 days are on us! [end shameless plug]

Reverse Engineering a Website Redesign for Competitor Research

Most marketers will agree that competitor research is key when establishing a marketing strategy. The question is, how many marketers continue to monitor their competitors after the initial research is done? You don’t want your business to start losing customers because your competitor has upped their game. In this post, we’re going to show what you can learn from analyzing your competitor’s website redesign.

Overall Look & Feel

If your business doesn’t have the time or the budget to invest in a web design that might not do the job, you can relax. Chances are, your larger competitors do have the ability to invest in the research it takes to find the perfect design for maximum conversions. All you have to do is monitor their moves and the best design is likely to be revealed.

Let’s take Sprout Social, the robust social CRM tool for business. Rival IQ picked up changes to their web design in early 2013.

Analyzing a Website Redesign

Viewing website design changes in Rival IQ.

These changes were not minor – and any social media tool for business would be wise to note the key updates they have made. Just by browsing the thumbnails, you can see that the new look and feel is much cleaner with less text and larger images. Now, let’s dig deeper.

New Products, Services, and Features

The first thing you may want to find out when a competitor updates their website is whether they are offering new products or services, or if they have made significant changes to their existing products and services.

One of the things you will notice immediately about the opening of the features page is the difference in text. Before, there was a lot to read. The main tagline on the product focused on design and user experience.

Product Features Page Before

Sprout Social’s features page header before the redesign.

In the new design, most of the opening text has gone away, and the main tagline focus on the power of their product.

Product Features Page After

Sprout Social’s features page header after the redesign.

Before, there was again a heavy emphasis on text on the page, particularly bullet point lists. The top three features they focused on were the dashboard, monitoring, and analytics.

Product Features Page Highlights Before

Sprout Social’s feature highlights before the redesign.

After, the text has gone away and the top features highlighted are the ones that most people will be interested in: engagement, publishing, monitoring, and analytics. They also specify that all plans include the main features listed.

Product Features Page Highlights After

Sprout Social’s feature highlights after the redesign.

You can click through to each to learn more, just as you could on the previous design. Even the individual features pages now have a more streamlined look with less text and a larger image emphasis at the top.

Individual Features Page Before

Sprout Social’s individual features page after the redesign.

Pricing

Since the pricing page is where your main conversions happen, it’s especially important to anazlye the changes to it. In Sprout Social’s case, the before look included a darker theme and the pricing order was from highest to lowest.

Individual Features Page After

Sprout Social’s pricing page before the redesign.

In the new look, the pricing goes from lowest to highest and the text about the features in each level changed slightly. They also changed the wording of downgrade to change.

Pricing Page Before

Sprout Social’s pricing page after the redesign.

Beneath the pricing table, they previously listed the social networks they work with. In the new look, they instead note the fact that all plans include free personal accounts for paid team members and mobile apps.

Pricing Page After

Sprout Social’s pricing page additional info after the redesign.

They also modified the look of their FAQ below the pricing options. Before, the section felt a little more cluttered with the questions on the left, logos of brands they worked with on the right.

Pricing Page FAQ Before

Sprout Social’s FAQ before the redesign.

After, the look is cleaner and the testimonials are in place of the logos.

Pricing Page FAQ After

Sprout Social’s FAQ after the redesign.

Conversion Testing & Strategy

Chances are, Sprout Social did some heavy A/B testing to determine the best ways to design their call to action buttons to increase free trial signups. Overall, the reduced amount of text on the main pages make it easier to recognize the call to action buttons without the need to make them boldly colored, something you may have noticed on the homepage and throughout the site. Here is the homepage before.

Homepage Before

Sprout Social’s homepage before the redesign.

And here it is after with a more mute, yet still obvious call to action.

Homepage After

Sprout Social’s homepage after the redesign.

Another area you may note changes to are the navigation bar. Before, there was a steady log in and sign up button at the top right. After, the navigation bar changes from just showing to the log in button to showing a bold free trial button as you scroll down the page.

Navigation Bar with Call to Action

Sprout Social’s navigational bar after the redesign.

It’s a perfect change as people are more likely to want to sign up for a free trial as they scroll down the pages on the site to learn more. Having the button appear while the page is moving makes it more eye-catching.

Trust Factors

Trust factors are the elements that help a potential customer feel more confident in their decision to buy from your business. Before on the Sprout Social site, they were only found on the homepage.

Trust Factors on Homepage Onlin

Sprout Social’s certifications before the redesign.

It was missing on other key pages such as the pricing page and the product features page. In the new look, however, they implemented them into the footer to be displayed on all pages throughout the site.

Trust Factors on Footer Throughout Website

Sprout Social’s certifications after the redesign.

They also lessened the chance that people would click on the links to the Twitter and Facebook development centers in this change. While the links are still there in the new footer design, they are less obvious to click on than the badges in the previous design. This will prevent people from leaving the Sprout Social site and potentially discovering one of their competitor’s in the developers directories, especially on Twitter’s page where you are greeted with Adobe Social, HootSuite, and other products before you get to Sprout Social’s listing.

They also added more video testimonials from the brands they work with on their customer’s page. Before, you could only see the main video, followed by a call to action. After brand logos, you would then find additional testimonial videos.

Customers Page Before

Sprout Social’s customer page before the redesign.

After, you can see three videos, directly followed by logos of brands using their product.

Customers Page After

Sprout Social’s customer page after the redesign.

The testimonials also stand out more in the new look.

Customers Testimonials After

Sprout Social’s testimonials after the redesign.

Copy

The above points are just the things you can notice at a glance while going through a competitor’s website redesign. When you’re going through website changes manually, it can be difficult to note the more minute copy changes that have happened beyond headers and call to action buttons. This is where Rival IQ can make your life simpler by highlighting these changes.

Comparing Changes in Website Copy

Seeing copy changes on a page in Rival IQ.

With our tool, you can find out if your competitors are just making over their layout or if their copy has been modified as well. You can also find out if your competitors have made any changes under the hood. For example, Sprout Social did not change any of their search optimization tags like the page titles or meta descriptions. Another popular internet marketing tool, Raven Tools, did.

Comparing Changes in Meta Description Text

Seeing meta description changes in Rival IQ.

Considering the importance of the copy used on a homepage’s key on-site search optimization tags in relation to how a website appears in search, being able to see these changes when they happen can be vital in on-going competitor research.

Key Takeaways

So what have you learned from taking a walk through of this social media tool’s website change?

  • Less text can make your calls to action stand out.
  • Allow people to quickly see your product top features without having to read too many details.
  • Trust factors should be on every page you have a call to action.
  • Small changes in copy can make a large difference.
  • Remove options for people to leave your site as much as possible to increase conversions.

What did you learn about the redesign, and how can you see Rival IQ’s tool helping you monitor competitor’s website design changes? Please share in the comments! Also, be sure to sign up for Rival IQ to research your competitors – the first 30 days are free !

Is Your Meta Description Working As Hard As Your Tagline?

A well-crafted Meta Description can be as important to your brand as your tagline. Companies spend thousands of dollars developing phrases that help customers understand the essence of their brand. Nike’s “Just Do It” or General Electric’s “Imagination at Work” are excellent examples. For consumers using a search engine, your Meta Description helps them quickly grasp what you have to offer and invites them to enter your virtual front door.

Here’s a great example from Exact Target:

Their well-written Meta Description is:

ExactTarget is the preferred targeted email marketing provider for Fortune 500 enterprises and Small Businesses alike. Find out why.

And results in a SERP display like this:

The SERP pages for Exact Target in Google

A well-written Meta Description achieves its objective if the reviewers next step is to click and learn more

Google has pulled Exact Target’s Meta Description to display along with their search result. Although it no longer has any influence on SEO rankings, the thoughtfully-written Meta Description is still playing a valuable role in driving traffic to Exact Target’s website.

Today we’re going to delve deeper into Meta Descriptions – exploring what makes a good one, looking at usage, and discovering what competitive intelligence you can glean from a side-by-side comparison. Read on!

Is your Meta Description a friendly doorman or an angry bouncer?

doorman_combo

A thoughtfully-written Meta Description will crisply articulate what sets you apart from your competitors in a warm tone that welcomes visitors to come explore your website. Just like the doorman who offers a friendly greeting and holds open the door – your Meta Description can create a great first impression.

And if you aren’t proactive, the search engines will create a first impression for you, displaying seemingly random and definitely generic text to explain what their users might expect to find on your site. Like being greeted by an unfriendly bouncer, many visitors are moved along – clicking through to a competitor’s site instead.

Here’s a real-world example:

Unbounce, a leading landing page optimization company, has spent time perfecting a Meta Description that delivers results.

Unbounce's well written meta description prior to an accidental change

Unbounce’s well-written Meta Description prior to an accidental change

A few weeks ago, Rival IQ identified that Unbounce had released a beautiful new home page but had inadvertently wiped out their Meta Description.

Unbounce Changes scaled

Rival IQ tracks the change to the new Unbounce homepage and accidental deletion of their Meta Description

The impact on their SERP was immediate. Gone was any mention of who uses Unbounce and what makes their offer different from the competition. Instead, Google had put a bland face on their welcome.

Unbounce SERP no meta

The impact of a missing Meta Description is obvious on Unbounce’s new SERP

It didn’t take the on-the-ball marketers at Unbounce long to get their proven Meta Description restored, and in no-time, they were again starting the conversation with potential prospects with their best foot forward.

Writing Meta Descriptions that deliver clicks.

I find distilling a company’s value proposition down to 155’ish characters of goodness (the length SEOmoz recommends) a real challenge. Thankfully, there are some great resources to out there to help. Here are a few I found helpful:

You can’t win if you don’t play.

“80 percent of success is
just showing up”

Woody Allen

At Rival IQ, we track thousands of websites for our customers, and would you believe that 28% of the homepages don’t have a Meta Description? Another 30% have Meta Descriptions that are too long, abruptly cutting off after 155 characters. This means that a mere 41% of companies have a Meta Description that is the right length.  The result is that with just a little effort, you can be out-performing 50% of the market!

Meta Desc Usage Chart

Over 50% of companies do not have a Meta Description or have one that is too long

Positioning. Positioning. Positioning.

You can gain valuable insight into how your competitors are positioning themselves by doing a side-by-side comparison of their Meta Descriptions. (Assuming, of course, that they have them!)

This might sound daunting, but it’s easy to do with a spreadsheet and a tool that extracts the Meta Description, like the SEOmoz SEO Toolbar. [Begin Brief Product Plug] Our product, Rival IQ, makes it easy to build up a collection of companies and analyze their Meta Descriptions and many other examples of positioning language. If you are looking to quickly analyze Meta Descriptions for a set of companies, try our free Competitive Meta Description micro-app. [End Product Plug]

Learning from two example meta description comparisons

To demonstrate what we can learn from a side-by-side comparison of Meta Descriptions, I’m going to explore examples from two different industries. First, I’ll examine the dynamic, technology-oriented landing page optimization market, and then follow it with a look at the much more mature auto insurance market. In both cases, it is amazing to see the insights you gain from studying how companies describe themselves in relatively few words.

First, the landing page optimization market . . .

Meta description comparison for landing page optimization market

Key learning:

Missing Descriptions. Two companies have blank Meta Descriptions, including Visual Website Optimizer (another leader in this space).  Just to drive home my earlier point about random text getting displayed, here’s a look at their search result – it’s definitely in the “bouncer” camp:

Visualwebsiteoptimizer no meta

The impact of a missing Meta Description is clear in the SERP for VisualWebsiteOptimzer

Minimal Differentiation. Most of the landing optimization companies tout the same benefits – making more money, increasing conversions, and being easy to use. Only Unbounce gets specific about what they do and why it’s easy. Perhaps that’s enough to let them stand out.

Social Proof Stands Out. Ion Interactive is the only competitor to leverage social proof in their Meta Description, calling out Dell, DHL, and Western Union as customers.

As a marketer, I’d walk away from this analysis determined to get more specific about what I’m offering prospects (like Unbounce) and to possibly incorporate recognizable customer names (like Ion) into my Meta Description.

Let’s take a look at what we can learn from the auto insurance industry . . .

Meta description comparison for the auto insurance industry

Key learning:

It’s a mature market. There are no missing Meta Descriptions, and most of them are tightly honed.

Key messages. Some companies are building credibility and differentiation by emphasizing their longevity in the market. Others are specifying the type of insurance they offer. Very few of them tout benefits beyond price. (This might be a positioning opportunity.)

Free offer. Six of the eleven companies promote the offer of a free quote to discover how prospects can save. This is a great example of leveraging a Meta Description to perform advertising in organic search results. Clever.

As a marketer in this industry, I’d be weighing whether the offer of a free quote was differentiating and wondering if I should be emphasizing benefits other than price. (Allstate including their tag line, “You’re in Good Hands…” comes closest to doing this). And if I were GEICO, I’d be weighing whether the 35 characters I’m using spell out the acronym that is my known name (Government Employees Insurance Company) is worth the real estate.

Remember these three easy steps

  1. Spend the time to craft a Meta Description that welcomes customers with a concise articulation of your value proposition.
  2. More than 50% of businesses either don’t have a Meta Description or have one that is too long. Your first step to winning is to get in the game and follow the basic rules.
  3. You can gain key market-positioning insights by doing a side-by-side comparison with your competitors’ Meta Descriptions.

What is the best Meta Description that you’ve seen? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

One last time: Try Our Free Competitive Meta Description Report

Would like to see how your Meta Description stacks up against those of your competition? If so, we’ve created a Free Competitive Meta Description Report that will perform a side-by-side analysis similar to the examples in this post. To get started, click here, or look in the “Free Reports” section of our homepage, www.RivalIQ.com.

Are you accidentally exposing your keyword strategy?!

Search engines stopped considering the contents of your meta-keywords tag at least 4 years ago (and probably much longer than that).  If you are spending time populating your meta-keywords tag, you are wasting time (at best) and enunciating your keyword strategy to the interwebs (much worse).  In this modern time of SEO consultants and marketing automation tools, you might imagine that there are relatively few people who still follow the now 10-or-more-year-old advice to populate the meta-keywords tag in their web pages, but a quick look into our data reveals that more than 50% of companies populate their meta keywords.

What, you’re still updating your meta keywords and need the quick fix? Go remove your website meta-keywords tag from your site now!  Then come back here and read about how to gain insights about your less savvy competitors.

Google and Bing don’t use meta keywords as an input to their ranking algorithms

Few, if any, SEO experts advocate the use of meta keywords for SEO purposes.  Matt Cutts (from Google) explains Google’s take on the matter,  and many others point out that Bing uses it only as a negative signal that decreases your page relevance.  If that weren’t enough evidence for you, go read the consensus of opinion on SEOmoz’s community forum.

In addition to pointing out the lack of relevance to search, most bloggers on the topic go one step further and actively advocate that research your competitors’ sites to gain insight into their keyword strategy.  I couldn’t agree more, so let’s look at how to quickly gain that insight.

Explore your competitors’ meta-keywords tag for insights into their keyword strategy

Despite my rant about meta-keywords being a waste of time,  researching your competitors’ use of them can be a quick and fruitful exercise.  A few minutes of time invested may provide valuable inspiration for keywords you may want to optimize for during your own SEO or PPC activities, or clue you in to shifts your competitors may be planning.

To quickly examine meta tags as you browse the web, find one of the many browser add-ons that surface many of the non-visible details the page you’re viewing contains.  My favorite add-on at the moment is the SEOmoz SEO Toolbar, and it is definitely worth checking out.

For longer term monitoring or for a broader survey of many websites simultaneously, you can use a tool such as Rival IQ (our app) to assemble your competitors and track a variety of information including meta-keywords tags.  As an example, I used Rival IQ to review the meta keywords for an insurance industry competitive profile I am monitoring.  This is a mature industry with large marketing and IT budgets, and nearly all of the companies had meta-keywords but have not been actively modifying them.  Have a look:

Meta-keywords usage in the auto insurance industry

In the mature insurance industry most companies still have populated meta-keywords

Another competitive landscape I reviewed while writing this post was the gamification market, a technology-driven space where you might expect complete adherence to modern SEO best practices.  Yet, even in this tech-heavy marketplace, 5 out of 11 companies still populate their meta-keywords tag, and at least two of them have spent time changing them during the last 3 months.  And no, I’m not going to say who! You could go sign up for Rival IQ and figure it out though ;-).  Again, have a look at who’s doing what:

Meta-keywords usage in the gamification industry

Multiple companies in the tech-savvy gamification industry also still populate meta-keywords

Believe it: 50% of companies still populate their meta-keywords tag

At Rival IQ, our systems peruse thousands of websites every day on behalf of our customers.  Among the things we examine are meta-tag contents (including keywords) and how they change over time.  Looking at some recent data from our system, I realized that more than half of the companies we monitor still populate their meta-keywords tag (surprising, yes!).  You could potentially write off many of these instances as yet-to-be-discarded relics of a different time.  But seeing indications that, at least for many companies, meta-keyword editing is a commonplace activity makes me cringe.  Not only have you wasted your time, but you’ve given your competitors an insight as to your awareness of best practices (and your thoughts on important keywords, too).

Over 50% of companies still populate their meta-keywords tag

51% of companies populate their meta-keywords tag

Perhaps a more shocking  statistic is that 27% of companies with a keywords tag made changes in the last 90 days!  In other words, that’s about 1 in 8 companies we track.  Clearly, there is still plenty of room for improvement in the world of digital and online marketing.

Bar Chart showing that 27% of Companies still modify their meta-keywords

27% of meta-keywords tags changed in last 90 days

Now, to repeat my earlier call: if you still have a populated meta-keyword tag, go make it so that you don’t!

Think I’ve got it wrong?  Do you still use a meta-keywords tag at your company?  Tell me why?  I’d love to hear from you.

Did you keep up your social media efforts over Thanksgiving?

Putting aside all judgements about whether or not you took a “real” vacation over the Thanksgiving, did you keep up your social media efforts over the Thanksgiving break? To me, seeing a company sustain customer communication and outreach over a holiday is an indication of process maturity around social media. (Yes, you can use Buffer or one of the many other posting tools to keep up the work while you rest. That’s fair!)

During breakfast this morning, I found myself wondering how the companies we track kept up their tweeting over the holiday.  Using some of the data we track in Rival IQ, I computed the typical tweets per day we see across our companies for the five-week period prior to the Thanksgiving week and compared those averages to the tweets per day we observed during the holiday week.  What I found is that the tweet volumes for Monday through Wednesday of Thanksgiving week looked fairly typical, but that Thursday (Thanksgiving) and Friday showed a roughly 40% drop and Saturday showed a 30% drop.  Sunday (the last day of the Thanksgiving week) saw tweet volumes exactly at their typical levels.

Here is the full set of results.  Note the large drop in tweet volumes on Thanksgiving.

Now comes the real question.  Whether or not you kept up your efforts during the insanity that has become the Thanksgiving-Black-Friday-Small-Business-Saturday-When-Will-It-End Weekend, did your competitors?

You should go log in at Rival IQ and find the answer.

Big Moves at Gilt in Social and on TV

While looking at some competitive social metrics in our app yesterday, I noticed that Gilt’s Facebook “Talking About” and “Likes” metrics were through the roof this week.  It turns out that Gilt was getting ready to launch their first ever TV ads, which as you might guess, drew some attention.

Here’s what I saw in Rival IQ: Gilt’s Facebook Talking About numbers were up 210% in the last week.  Boom!

While they were at it, Gilt has also moved their social presences away from their “GiltGroup” handles on Facebook and Twitter to the “Gilt” handle.  Were all of these moves Gilt getting ready to launch their new ads?  I’d say yes, since cleaning house before drawing attention to yourself is usually a good idea.

If you want to know what big moves your competitors are making without having to obsess over them, head over to Rival IQ and get signed up.

Don’t nuke your SEO during a site migration!

New website rollouts are one of the things we monitor at Rival IQ because our users gain market insights from learning their competitors or peers just launched a large-scale online shift.  Rolling out a new website involves many moving parts — content, photography/art, look & feel, and technology changes.  Having been down this road many times before, I freely admit that updating an entire website can be a tedious and thankless job.  However tedious the process can be, it is important that you “do no harm” to your search performance by making your SEO strategy a first-class component of the upgrade process.

Keeping “do no harm” in mind, I’ll use today’s post to show you one example of a recent website upgrade and discuss how a forgotten SEO detail will negatively impact the search results for this site.  Certainly, web site migration is a much larger topic, and if you’re interested in reading more, I recommend you have a look at this great migration guide by Modesto Siotos that covers these topics in detail.

Take your existing site structure into account to avoid losing your SEO link juice.

Your existing site has been indexed repeatedly by the world’s search engines, and the external links that carry searcher to you have accumulated valuable link juice (ranking & relevance) over their history. If you are changing the link structure of your website during your migration, redirecting those old links to the new versions of their respective pages will pass the link juice from the old pages to the new ones.  As you may expect, failing to do will an eventual loss of the valuable link juice you had accumulated on those links.  DON’T BE THAT GUY (OR GAL)! Not sure how to redirect things?  Go read more over at SEOmoz!

Let’s explore this idea with an example.  While reviewing web change activity on Rival IQ last week, I noticed that Nextpoint had rolled out a new website (see fig 1).  They did a great job on the site as it both looks good and reads well.  However, I also saw they restructured the navigation and internal link structure of their website and failed to redirect links from old pages to the appropriate new pages (see fig 2).

Fig. 1 – How I noticed Nexpoint’s broken links via Rival IQ

Looking at before vs. after indicates broken links on the Nextpoint website during a site rollout.

Fig. 2 – Deeper exploration via Rival IQ and directly on Nextpoint’s website

Nextpoint Breaks Links on New Pricing Pages

In the process of rolling out a new site, Nextpoint broke the existing links to pages, costing them link juice from an SEO perspective.

At Rival IQ, we have learned from a number of examples how easy it is to accidentally break links, eliminate your meta tags, or make other changes that have unintended negative consequences.  Always remember to protect your SEO performance and link juice when making changes to your site by checking for broken links with a tool such as W3C Link Checker and validating all the key SEO elements with a tool such as the SEOmoz MozBar.  Also, you may want to consider monitoring website and other digital-presence changes for yourself and your competitors with Rival IQ.

How do you make sure you don’t accidentally damage your SEO efforts?  Let us know via a comment to this post.