On The Natural Progression of Semantic SEO – Hint: Robots! Stuffed Animals!

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Semantic SEO

Hummingbird SEO and You

My brain wildly leaps among tech topics and connects some pretty disparate concepts, I wholly cop to this. Some of the more recent things I’ve been thinking a lot about are the changes to Google search and the long, loooooong term implications of this.

The Hummingbird Basics

OK, so Hummingbird is a change to Google’s algorithm. The algorithm is a mathematical formula that takes into account a bunch of factors telling it what to show you when you search for something.

In my head, Google said, “Hey. We really should try to make this more natural and give people the ability to search  hands-free with spoken stuff.”

So, to get the most relevant results instead of typing in “pizza columbus ohio” you say to your phone, “where’s the best place to get pizza in Columbus, Ohio?” It’s a lot like Siri, really.

Here’s Where I Start Connecting Strange Dots

Making the finding of information hands-free a lot easier through your phone further cements an already very strong attachment to that sucker. Admit it, if your phone dies or gets lost you feel absolutely naked anymore.

I busted an old iPhone all to heck but was holding out to get a new one until Apple put NFC chips in there. (HAHAHAHA! I know, right?) I was leaning toward not holding out longer when my phone started to really, physically come apart at the seams. A friend of mine asked me if my duct taped phone was “some sort of hipster thing.”

When I couldn’t run the app for ExactTarget’s Connections conference, I knew it was for sure time to say goodbye.

The truth is, I anthropomorphized the crap outta that phone and had to admit to myself that I would miss it.

This Is Where I Talk About Stuffed Animalssemantic seo and anthropomorphizing things

I don’t think it’s uncommon at all for us to emotionally invest in all sorts of inanimate objects. Did you have a blankie? How about a favorite stuffed animal? I sure did. Robin, or Spit Kitty as she was known by many, is STILL with me today after having her since I was a wee baby. This little donkey belongs to my friend Matt. Pretty cute, huh?

Not too long ago, I cleaned my daughter’s room and hadn’t realized she’d moved my beloved lion cub. There were real tears of panic when I momentarily couldn’t find that adorable fuzzy face.

Monkeys and Mommies

I’m extrapolating from Harry Harlow that we humans like (even love) stuff that responds. Harlow’s the guy who (rather cruelly) took baby monkeys from their moms and gave them inanimate objects. One was a wireframe figure and one was a soft stuffed animal-like figure. Monkeys bonded with both their not-mommies, but by far preferred the soft not-mommy. I’m thinking here the response of giving softness could be construed as an interaction where the wireframe was a big, fat nothing.

Tactile Thang

It’s hard to form a relationship with your knucklebone, amiright? It’s sitting there under your skin, hanging out, working, but – meh. Setting aside the religious objections to chipping us, and the subsequent logistics of having to pepper our environments with readers and displays that spit out data and junk, I think we’re leaning more and more toward interacting with the world through our phones.

I’m not real bullish on the wearables trend because the give-and-take including tactile stuff  just isn’t there on the scale of our phones. You could have a watch or Google Glass that pulls up responses for you with the voice-activated search, but it’s just not the same experience as holding an object in your hand. Wearables are the wireframe not-mommies.

It’s not just me thinking wearables aren’t all that. It’s looking like they aren’t doing so well. According to the Guardian, a full one-third of those who get them aren’t keeping them.

Facetime – But Not What You Think

You might argue that if you put the smartphone functions into a realistic tiny human-like robot with a face, it would potentially bond you further with it. It maybe could carry a roll-up screen that would be able to display things a wearable might not be able to.
Don’t want a tiny robot in my pocket, thanks. That would be far too weird and you’d start running into uncanny valley issues if you got way too good at it being human-like.
Tres creepy.

What’s Next?

It could be our phones may begin to resemble creatures of a sort. Not human-like creatures, but something kind of cute with a haptic interface. A haptic interface isn’t the flat glass screen that you’re used to, it’s bumpy and provides tactile feedback when you touch it. You could pet your phone! Good girl! Thank you for finding that pizza joint for me.

Our phones will become not fake human, but fake sentient. Kinda like how semantic SEO fakes conversational question and answer.

It could be one day, they might even become sentient little creatures that our children will cherish like I cherish Spit Kitty?


Thinky-think Semantic Web And Images

Hummingbird’s Bringing Changes to Searchimage search, hummingbird and semantic web

This semantic Web post got me thinking, what happened to Facebook scanning cover photos for text when they were “enforcing” the 20 percent text rule? Remember all that hubub about penalizing those who don’t follow the rules? Is it because the ability to read text on images isn’t quite there yet?

None for You

I’ve always, always, always been a HUGE proponent of the alt image tag. It’s not only been a help with SEO, it’s the right thing to do. People with vision impairment need to have the images tagged to glean information those of us who can see get. Or, in my case, those of us who can see with their glasses. Is Google going to tell blind people to just lump it? That’s bull and goes against my idealistic ideas about digital information being a great equalizer.

Caption This

Facebook’s handling of images is just one of the reasons I don’t trust it to be a long-term marketing thing or a thing you should pin the center of your digital strategy on. A walled garden is stinky and a walled garden without a sincere effort to be inclusive of everyone is even stinkier. Social media in general are legs to prop up your body (your own site) and not vice-versa.

Just One More Thing

I haven’t seen authorship pop up in image searches. Doesn’t mean it’s not there. It could be I’m searching the wrong things or I’m doing it wrong somehow.

Columbus Social Media

Columbus Ohio – Social Media

Social media in Columbus basics right here.

Even Less Time for Social Media Columbus?

Try this:

social media columbus - don't get left behind


Digital Duds

Do you think it’s a bad thing to stick out like a poop in a punchbowl?
How do you know you aren’t the poop in the punchbowl?

There are uniforms in plain sight even if they don’t seem like the standard bill of fare. Like this: H&M’s newest line of clothes struck me as a reflection of our idea of a computer-savvy person’s clothes. The threads are based on the flick, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
I really, really like a lot of these pieces. But, do I like them because I fancy myself a part of digital culture and I’m buying into a “lifestyle?” (Which reminds me, I need to go and renew my subscription to Dork Fancy magazine.)

HM DRAGONOr, do I like them because I genuinely appreciate their style?
While I doubt women are going to walk around completely dressed in Lisbeth regalia, we may soon see elements of the look in our everyday lives. It’s just one of the most recent examples of television and movies simultaneously influencing and reflecting wired worker style.

Space 1999
One of my earliest memories of people banging out bits and bytes came from Space 1999.
NO SPACE IN MY CROTCHThese jumpsuit-esque outfits were pretty indicative of how people in the ‘70s predicted computer careerists would dress. So practical and yet so unbeleiveably unbecoming to either sex.
Yowsa. Continue reading

So, pretend I’m a little birdie…

Aiming to conquer Twitter? It’s not all that hard. But, it takes some learning and a time commitment. Here are some things to remember before leaping out of the nest:


  1. Use a current photo of yourself or updated logo.
  2. Don’t leave the background on a default setting.
  3. Fill out your bio and include as many links as you can within your comfort zone.
  4. Include your location.
  5. Tweet at least once a day and respond to each direct message (DM) and response (@message).
  6. Monitor Twitter for discussions about your business.


  1. Write well.
  2. Don’t be a jerk.
  3. Remember it’s interactive.


  1. Do not send an auto direct message, or DM, “Thank you for following” – especially with a ME link. This is kind of sacred ground for Twitter users. It’s used to communicate information that others wouldn’t be interested in or private information. If you feel the need to DM a thanks, then be darn sure it’s personalized. I’ve seen it done well, but I wouldn’t advise it because people may feel tricked.
  2. Do not use buzzwords of any kind and be as clear as humanly possible. You’ve only got 140 characters – less if you want a retweet. Why waste it on words that are like soap bubbles? They look pretty. They pop and then your reader has nothing of substance.
  3. It’s a myth that people don’t want to know what you had for lunch. If all you post are business-related or ME posts, people will suspect you are a bot. Or worse, they will suspect you are a jerk. At least every once in a while put something personal in there.
  4. Use bit.ly or other URL shortening services to minimize your links. A full URL is just too much for 140 characters. Plus, you can see how many people looked at your link.
  5. The bulk of your tweets should probably be text. But, if you are talking about something visual, you NEED to link to a pic. You can use services such as Twitpic and others to upload images and track views. For instance, “I just bought the most awesome shoes.” Well, so? Post a picture. The same holds true with video. You really need to link to a video if you are talking about movement and/or sound. For instance, “My dog can sing the alphabet while dancing.” Well, so? Post a video.
  6. Some cautions with video and photos. Don’t just post either unless they are called for. Video with sound cuts out a lot of your audience immediately. There are a good number of people who are at work and can’t listen to your dog’s rendition of the classic kids’ song. Worse yet, people who are hearing impaired are cut out whether at the office or at home. Same holds true with photos – people with vision impairment are cut out of the mix. The worst type of video to link to is the one of you just sitting at your desk talking about yourself. Second worst type of video is you interviewing someone with a static shot.
  7. People give you about five seconds FLAT to be interested in your video. If you must post  video of an interview or a ME view, then aim to include subtitles. Better yet, include a transcript. Still best, yet, just don’t link to the bad videos.
  8. This isn’t TV. This isn’t radio. This isn’t the newspaper. Don’t broadcast, but interact with people. There’s a reason why we named our company huber+co. INTERACTIVE. Listen to what others have to say and react to their posts.
  9. Don’t let the only interaction you have with followers be just on Twitter. Make a real effort to meet people in real life. A good way to do that locally would be to join http://www.cbusr.com/. If you’re not a joiner, aim to have a coffee, lunch or drink with someone at least once a month.
  10. Don’t drink and tweet. Some people can get away with this. Not you.
  11. Don’t use profanity. Some people can get away with this. Not you.
  12. If you use scheduled tweets, that’s fine. Just make absolutely sure you don’t use the same exact tweet EVERY SINGLE TIME. You are just mucking up the stream.  It also mucks up the stream if you just link to to your blog or any link without teasing the content. No one’s going to read it. And, you are annoying people.
  13. Follow back MOST of your followers. If you follow all of your followers, people who are not familiar with Twitter will be impressed with the thousands of people who are interested in you. People familiar with Twitter will think you are a social media jerk who is trying to look important with all those porn account followers and followers who say, “I’m a social media consultant and I’ll follow you if you follow me.”
  14. Aim to increase your following, but do it with quality followers. One of the best ways to do that is to follow targeted people. Since you can purchase followers, number is not always a great indicator of how successful someone is. If you really want thousands of followers, you can do it. Just get on there and follow as many people as you can. But, realize, it’s not going to do you that much good.
  15. Don’t schedule tweets with famous quotations unless they are industry-specific. If I wanted pithy quotes, I would go to the Hallmark site, thanks. It was clever by the first 100 people who did it. Now it’s just stream muck.
  16. You CAN use famous quotes to make yourself look well-read and borrow someone else’s articulate nature by responding to someone’s tweet. For example: “I’m beat.” Google “quotes about being tired.” “All parts of the human body get tired eventually except the tongue. – Konrad Adenauer.”
  17. Use lists if you want to focus your attention. For instance, you’ll see I’m on a lot of lists for C-bus. That’s one of my main focuses within my stream, so people can hit their C-bus stream and find me and others talking about happenings within Central Ohio.
  18. ALWAYS say thanks to people who retweet you or recommend you for Follow Friday or #FF. ALWAYS say thanks for ANYTHING, really. Karma is a biiig force on Twitter.
  19. #hashtags allow people to follow along in a conversation through Twitter. Groups or organizations, such as SMCC host discussions about given topics. You can follow the discussions and participate by typing the hashtag into the “search” field.
  20. You can broaden your reach if you include a hashtag in your tweet on a given topic. For instance: “I like to snowboard more than ski. #snowboarding” Your tweet will show up in a search and more people will read it. A special side note here: there’s been some speculation that Google will lower your rank for a given topic if you use a hashtag.
  21. #hashtags allow people to label feelings or happenings in a wry way. For instance: “I got home before I realized I left my daughter in the gym playroom. #mommyfail.”
  22. Follow Friday or #FF is a way to pass on some karma and let people know some good follows. It is NOT a way to just enumerate and list a bunch of friends. If you post a #FF you MUST post why. Otherwise, you are mucking up the stream again and annoying people.
  23. If you prefer to only hear what a certain list has to say – only keep that stream up.
  24. If you are feeling like a social media evil genius you can follow people you have no intention of interacting with. You can gain more followers by creating a private “ignore” list of people you don’t want to listen to that no one but you can see. Kind of defeats the purpose, though, unless you want to look like a “guru.”
  25. Sometimes a good way to gauge someone’s Twitter activity is the number of list appearances. Sometimes though, people will make up lists and add themselves to make them appear to be a big deal.
  26. Again, the evil genius social media person can create a private list that doesn’t show  you are following them. You can stealthily follow your competition’s stream, if you like.
  27. Klout is the current gold standard to gauge how successful you are at Twitter. If you follow the tips I’ve given you, your score should increase. People with tons of followers – including the purchased ones – tend to have high Klout scores. So, I’m not entirely convinced it’s that great just yet.
  28. Be conversational. If you tweet in stilted business language you run the risk of boring the Mars bars out of your followers and they will ignore you.
  29. Make sure you link all your marketing materials to your Twitter account. You can gain followers this way and harness the immediacy of it.
  30. You really should run your Twitter feed on the landing page of your site. Not everyone’s the best at updating sites regularly. Even people who aren’t on Twitter can see realtime updates from your site if you do this.
  31. Should you link your Twitter account to your Facebook account? It depends. If you think a lot of the same people are reading both, then, no. If you think you have two pretty distinct audiences, then yes. It may even be something you want to consider on a post-by-post basis.
  32. If you’d like a retweet, then ask. But, don’t ask too often or people will tune you out and you will annoy them.
  33. To track your individual tweets and see how far they’ve gone, you can run them through http://tweetreach.com/. You can also do some tracking by clicking on the owl in Hootsuite. It can tell you how much a link’s been hit. You can track a photo’s popularity by using Twitpic. Look at what’s taking off and tailor your content to match.
  34. You need to have a specific outcome with your Twitter strategy before you can track how much impact other than eyeballs you have. This is generally referred to as a call to action and is one of the paramount concepts in interactive. For instance, use an URL shortener and link to a coupon. You can track the coupons through barcodes if you are a larger company. Or, if you are a smaller company, you can assign specific numbers or codes and keep track of how much a customer spends as a correlation to the coupon. Voila – a VERY direct way to measure return on investment – especially if you use it as a loss-leader.
  35. If you are a company that offers services to other businesses, tweeting a link to a downloadable white paper or usable information can yield a measurable call to action. DO NOT make the white paper a long advertisement. MAKE SURE you are offering something of value to a potential customer or they’ll be goneski. Also, MAKE SURE the white paper is well-written for the love of Pete.
  36. Established chats are a pretty good way to up your follower numbers and make a splash within a given field. But, this isn’t going to work for all types of businesses.
  37. Constantly look at what’s doing well and what’s tanking. Be sure when a customer comes through your door you ask how it is he heard of you. Go back and change your approach based on what you find.
  38. For both business to business and business to consumer organizations, the power of monitoring all social media – including Twitter – is really important. You can do searches and start up conversations with people. That’s not going to be my topic today, though.


Quick and dirty tips for location-based holiday shopping

Ok bargain-loving not-so-techie friends, you CAN do this:

1. Download Facebook mobile onto your smartphone.

2. Enable Facebook Places on said phone.

3. Look for little pictures in store windows that say there are deals if you check-in.

4. Check-in and it’ll post to Facebook.

a. Just this past weekend I got discounts from H&M, Macy’s and American Eagle for checking-in.

b. Show your phone to the cashier. We’re talking 20 percent, here folks.

5. If you’re feeling REALLY ambitious, try downloading Shopkick and Stickybits as well.

a. Shopkick is a kind of check-in app that offers discounts.

b. Stickybits asks that you go to stores and scan product barcodes to get points that allow you to earn tangible prizes and discounts.

c. These both let you earn real stuff or discounts not silly badges like Foursquare.

5. Have a great holiday!

The location-based nose on your face

Look! Can’t you see it? It’s as plain as the nose on your face.
No? OK. Try this angle. Still no?
While many of my techie friends are going completely bat guano nutso about some current forms of location-based marketing, I remain skeptical for its near future. Give it five years or so, and maybe we’ll be there. Now, eh, not so much.
The current adoption rates are dismal at best, according to Forrester.
But, I see a potential inroad that’s just so simple. I have my sisters of Ohio State University Pi Beta Phi to thank for it.
While many of my sisters have the newest smartphones available, they don’t really use them for more than taking photos and videos and maybe playing games. Sometimes texting and calling, too.
And Twitter mobile app for these gals, let alone Gowalla or Foursquare? Um, no.
They are not so good with the Facebook mobile app either, frankly. So, that rules out Facebook’s places.
QR codes? Oh boy. I don’t think I could find a one that even knows what those are. Right now a lot of companies are using QR codes for a leap from the real world to digital information that could potentially check a customer in.
The codes are more easily read by a smartphone than a barcode because a barcode’s lines are too smooshed together for a phone to easily and accurately nab the information.
But, there’s that whole thing of checking in again. Not gonna happen for the bulk of people.
So, I thought, what about using an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip of some sort? After opting in, you walk into the store and it checks you in, pushing the information to Facebook and Twitter. Easy-peasy no smartphone even needed.
Pretty cost prohibitive given the outlay, according to Columbus entrepreneurial luminary T.W. Starr. Starr, one of the managing partners of the SBB, graciously agreed to indulge me in a discussion about location-based marketing. He along with my fellow TweetMyTime managing partners Bryan Huber and Matt Hornsby had lunch with me recently and I made them talk in exchange for food.
TweetMyTime uses RFID chips issued to runners to track their progress in realtime and hands-free. It pushes the information gathered from RFID readers along the race to social media channels.
It seems Starr looked into RFID as well. The chips themselves are relatively inexpensive at about 90 cents a pop, Starr said. His network of small businesses really can’t afford the roughly $1,000 RFID readers that would need to be installed, though. That and they can be intrusive and can’t be mounted on a ceiling and still read well, he said.
I foresee a day when smartphones will have these incorporated into them and the reader cost will go waaaay down. That day is not today.
Another dead end.
You know what all my sisters have? You know what YOU have? A rewards fob. Look at your key ring. If you’re like me, you have enough on your keychain that it’s really more of a “fobchain.”
It’s not just your local grocery store that has these anymore. It’s big retail chains that use these to track your purchases and push information to you.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
In addition to getting discounts with your rewards card, retailers could up the ante further and offer even more if people allow Twitter and Facebook to check them in each time they run the card.
Win-win for everybody. My Pi Phi buddies get a bigger discount and can share their shopping passion with their friends. The retailer gets a staunch brand advocate.
Hornsby was sitting around our offices one day and saw a picture of a marathon runner texting or Tweeting on his phone. “That’s crazy,” he said. And, the idea of TweetMyTime was born.
Similar vein here. I thought, wait, all the big retailers must be pushing to social media through reward cards. But, no. Kind of like TweetMyTime. It’s one of those, “Oh, of course” dealies.
Starr said right now the SBB rewards cards are used by his network of small businesses on a mostly sight-based system. In other words, you show your SBB card and the business offers a discount. Barcode readers and the programs to compile the information into a usable format are still somewhat out of reach cost-wise for the majority of small businesses in the SBB network.
But it’s not for a big company. Is there a big retail chain doing this? Let me know if you find one, because I sure couldn’t.
Why not? Is there something I’m not seeing?
UPDATE: Some recently-released studies are backing up my observations about this particular market. I agree with a lot of the results, but, I’m skeptical about a 30 percent mobile use:
UPDATE: Apple announced a near field communication chip (a type of RFID) will likely be incorporated into future phones: http://bit.ly/g0oY6h