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Posted by psharp

“It’s official, Google is broken and my career is over. Time to hide under my desk.”

A bit extreme? Yes. But, if you saw what I saw a month ago, your reaction would’ve been exactly the same. Let me explain.

It was 5:55 pm and I was getting ready to go home after a good day’s work at Practice Fusion. “Let’s just do a quick Google search for Practice Fusion so I can give myself a high five before I head home.” That’s when the panic started.

Here’s what my non-personalized search for Practice Fusion pulled up in position #1:

Do you see what I see?! Ranking #1 for the term Practice Fusion isn’t our high-converting, very helpful homepage….it’s our rarely looked at, poor converting Executive Team page! OMG to the extreme! Plus, where the heck did our Google+ page go?

First thought: “Breathe. Crawl out from under desk.”

Second thought: “Maybe this has something to do with the fact that Google knows I’m in San Francisco.”

“Let’s change that to ‘United States’ and see what happens.”

Aww, that’s more like it. Seeing these results is like being reunited with a best friend, or some really good hot chocolate – it’s warm and soothes the soul. PracticeFusion.com is back on top, and our Google+ profile is showing up. Nice.

Then I tried changing my city to Oakland, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and New York. Every time I got my good results. Why the heck was the location of San Francisco giving me such a hard time?

“Are you responsible for this Lou Seal?!”

“Okay. Good.”

Still in a bit of disbelief I wandered over to Google Analytics to check a few things. First, I wanted to see where natural search visitors to our Executive Team page were coming from. Were most of them from San Francisco?

Short answer: yup.

Next, I wanted to see if the natural search visitors to the Executive Team page were coming in from the Practice Fusion keyword. It turns out that ALL visitors to the Executive Team page came in by searching for Practice Fusion.

Clearly, something is happening. Or, as Martin Lawrence would say…

Normally I’m all for Google local results, but this just seems wrong. Why would someone in San Francisco want to see our Executive Team page over our home page? It seems like a really bad user experience, especially since the Executive Team page has less authority (by far) than our home page.

Executive Page

Home Page

Why was Google doing this? Was it something I said?

Apparently, Google thinks that the Executive Team page will be a good result for people in San Francisco. But, why do they think this? The answer to this question is the same as the answer to “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop?”

“The world may never know.”

However, after a lot of research, here’s my best guess. And, believe me, it’s a bit surprising.

Under certain conditions, Google will swap a sitelink for the main search result.

Yup, I said it.

Here’s how I tested it.

On February 7th I went into the “Sitelinks” section of Google Webmaster Tools and demoted the Executive Team page as a sitelink for our homepage URL. I was working a hunch.

After a few weeks went by, I looked at the results.

Visits to the Executive Team Page from San Francisco

As you can see, about a week and a half after demoting the Executive Team page from sitelinks, it no longer shows up as the first result (even if you’re in San Francisco) and the visits to that page go to zero.

This must mean that Google feels comfortable bumping a sitelink up to the main search result!

But why bump up the Executive Team Page? It’s only a guess, but it looks like it’s because of the sites linking to that page. Of the external sites with links pointing to the Executive Team page, 60% of them have “San Francisco” at least once on the page. Of the sites linking to our home page, only 29% of them mention “San Francisco”. Perhaps this is influencing Google.

Conclusions

  • Under certain conditions, Google will bump a sitelink up to the main search result. Potentially, and sneakily, costing you conversions.
  • One of those conditions might be the content of the sites linking to you and the location of the person searching.

Suggestion

Look in analytics to find the landing pages for your branded searches. If they’re not going to your home page, it might have something to do with your sitelinks. Check it out, you might just save yourself some conversions.

 

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At the end of last year, Apple revealed it had $97.6bn in cash. It expects to use $45bn over the next three years.

Posted by Carson Ward

SEO (and inbound marketing) consultants, agencies, and in-house professionals rely upon their creativity to solve problems every single day. Just compare an experienced SEO to an industry thought leader—or a failed piece of linkbait to a fantastic piece—to see the difference that creativity makes. Nowhere is creativity more important than in the creation of content.

 
“Content quality matters a lot. So a lot of time, in the SEO world, people will say, ‘Well, you have to have good, unique, useful content.’ Not enough. Sorry. It's just not enough. There are too many people making too much amazing stuff on the Internet for ‘good…’”
 
 
Content rarely attracts natural links by merely being useful, but by being unique and creative. Every good link-loved piece of content has a creative idea, and every creative idea comes from brainstorming. Whether spontaneous or planned, individual or group-based, brainstorming is nothing less than producing unique or novel solutions that help us fix problems and achieve our goals. 
 
So, how can we be more creative?
 
Science.
 
XKCD - Stand back, I'm going to try science!
Courtesy of XKCD
 

Enhancing Individual Creativity

 
Many of us have been brought up with the myth that creativity is something you either have or you don’t. Fortunately, that’s not entirely true. A “lack of creativity” may in fact have a lot more to do with bad habits your brain has gotten into – and can get out of. 
 

Love the Obstacles, Define Constraints

The best advice I can start with is also the most counter-intuitive: set constraints. Don’t think about everything – think about one thing. Research indicates that specific obstacles stimulate our brain and our creativity1  – probably because we are wired to overcome obstacles and solve problems.
 
Release from Deception Dan Webb - Shroud
Artists like Francesco Queirolo, Dan Webb, and William Shakespeare realize the constraints of their medium, perhaps allowing them to sculpt marble into net, wood into a flowing bag, and rigid iambic pentameter into Romeo and Juliet.
 
When you start thinking about it, putting constraints on brainstorming makes perfect sense. Brainstorming linkbait with a broad directive like, “brainstorm ideas about electronics” is extremely difficult. When you start with broad topics, your mind spends (or in this case, wastes) a lot of time trying to determine what information to filter out, while tending to bounce between topics that you think about often or have thought about recently. You’ll have much better results by starting with specific obstacles and questions, such as “how can we show people that (iPhones/Android phones) are the way to go?”
 
Set your linkbait constraints before you even try to brainstorm: budget, medium, tone, topic, etc. 
 

Get Motivated, Invest Personally

Unsurprisingly, people are more creative and come up with better ideas when motivated, especially when that motivation is intrinsic2. And that’s the tricky part: we can’t just flip a “care more” switch. There are certainly things that an organization can do to – and we’ll discuss some of them later – but my two suggestions revolve around the fact that anonymity breeds mediocre creativity.3
 
First, we are likely to be motivated working for people that we actually talk to. Building barriers between SEOs and clients might make calls less awkward, but it can also reduce the SEO’s intrinsic motivation. Next, consider how to get your name(s) on work and ideas. I recently noted here that my intrinsic motivation to create great content soars when my real name is attached to something. When I created anonymous content on an old site, the content was at best mediocre. With my name attached, I want to make it better and unique.
 

Learn and Try New Things

Yes, we should learn about marketing, design, and writing – but we should also learn more about the people involved and the industry they work in. It should come as no surprise that subject-matter expertise and knowledge lead to creativity.4
 
Don’t just learn about new things – do new things! People who are open to new experiences tend to perform better on creative tests and achievements in their lives.5 6 7 Get used to breaking out of your routine. Meet people from different cultures, learn new skills (Photoshop? Juggling?), and try that new brand of ketchup! The worst thing that could happen is that you could become more satisfied with your life.8
 

Take Care of Yourself

It’s always important to take care of yourself and stay healthy, but here are some things that you can do personally to make yourself better at coming up with ideas for linkbait (or anything else):
  • Get plenty of sleep at night: REM sleep, specifically, makes us more creative. Preventing interruptions to deep sleep is, therefore, just as important as getting enough sleep.9 10
  • Exercise: Exercise improves your health and mood, but it also independently enhances creativity.11;
  • Mood: For the type of tasks common to business and online marketing, being in a good mood can make us more creative. Never be apathetic.12 13 14 15
Companies who rely heavily on employee creativity may do well to encourage and/or fund employee visits to sleep clinics and gyms. Taking responsibility for our own creativity, however, sounds a lot like taking responsibility for our own happiness. 
 
When trying to brainstorm solutions to problems and useful content/linkbait strategies, the answer is rarely to “do more work.” The seemingly paradoxical, yet research-backed truth is this: taking the time to sleep and work out gives us more free time by making our minds more efficient all day.
 

Enhancing Group Creativity and Efficacy

When you make an individual more creative, you make the group that he/she is a part of more creative. Additionally, the group can have a strong positive effect on the individual’s creativity.16 One key to brainstorming creative linkbait (or anything else) is leveraging this powerful and mutually-reinforcing relationship between group and individual creativity.
 

Brainstorm Individually, Discuss Together

Brainstorming with others yields ideas that we may have never thought of on our own, but it can also slow us down from running with our own ideas. In fact, people tend to come up with more ideas on their own when compared with a traditional brainstorming group due to the “production blocking” effect of group work.17
 
The solution (and this is important) is to generate linkbait and strategy ideas by harnessing both individual and group creativity.
  1. Get everyone together and explain the problem or goal. Remember what we learned about constraints.
  2. Have individuals write down their own ideas, and then present their ideas one-by-one.
  3. After (and only after) everyone has presented their ideas, discuss them all as a group.
  4. If you need to choose or prioritize ideas, have each group member write or send their own rankings for each idea.
Groups following this process (called “nominal groups” in research) routinely out-perform even the best-run “traditional” brainstorming groups.18 19 20
 
It would probably be wise to plan brainstorming at least a day in advance and encourage team members to get plenty of sleep and learn a little bit about the topic, as we know that this makes the individual more creative.
 

Meet in Person, Use Large Groups

Groupthink is your enemy in group brainstorming, especially if your brainstorming group is large (and large groups do usually come up with more and better ideas21 22 23). Also, remote meetings are a bad idea. Those people calling in tend to add less to the group, probably because they are less engaged and more distant. Research also shows that electronic brainstorming (with anonymous or masked idea generation and voting) is less productive.24 25;
 
Where possible, group brainstorming should occur in person, with up to 12 participants for important brainstorming sessions. 
 

Create Diverse Groups

Imagine that you’ve just duplicated yourself, along with all of your memories and experiences. 
 
“I was just thinking the same thing…”
 
You would, no doubt, get along with your other self, but you would be unlikely to brainstorm ideas that you (or you #2) couldn’t have thought of separately. Perhaps this is why research indicates that groups that are diverse are more creative.26 27
 
When forming a group to brainstorm the next set of juicy linkbait ideas, we would be wise to include people of various ages from diverse backgrounds with different interests and experiences.
 

Build a Creative Company Culture

I’ve chosen to focus on things that everyone in an organization can do to enhance their own creativity and the creativity of their teams or brainstorming groups. In the future, I would like to write about what companies and their managers can do to make their companies more creative. A good start would be reading Teresa Amabile's How to Kill Creativity.
 
By working at Distilled, I have instantly become more creative. Not only am I intrinsically driven to work with the company long-term, but the company encourages and supports innovation. I remember staring at Will with a sense of confusion as he told us to “fail faster.” What he understands is that to be a creative and innovative company, you have to take (smart) risks. Icarus flew too close to the sun and fell hard and fast – but the Wright Brothers defied gravity in a way that seemed impossible.
 
Never underestimate the impact of company culture on creativity. Companies that encourage, support, and invest in innovation can prevent themselves from turning into slow, boring, and risk-averse corporations.
 
I am by no means claiming to be the world’s leading expert on creativity research, but I have taken experts’ research to uncover actionable ways to solve problems more efficiently and effectively. Creativity is so much more than artistic originality or idea generation – it’s a necessary element to solving problems and achieving defined goals. 
 
What do you do to enhance your or your teams’ creativity?
 

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2000

 




 

Google began its St Patrick’s celebrations in 2000 with a green logo sporting a jaunty leprechaun’s hat.

Click here to view this gallery.

Top of the morning to you! Today is Saint Patrick’s Day and here at Mashable we’re celebrating with a gallery of all the Doodles Google has ever posted on March 17.

There’s plenty of different shades of green, a good few shamrocks and yes, you guessed it, a leprechaun or two to be spotted in our ultimate Saint Patrick’s Day Google Doodle collection.

SEE ALSO: How to Animate Your Google+ Profile
So, don an oversized green hat, grab yourself a Guinness and take a look through our image gallery. Let us know in the comments below how you’ll be celebrating St. Paddy’s special day this year.

More About: dev and design, features, gallery, Google, google doodles, st patricks day, trending

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The third generation iPad is officially here, and fans all over the world braved the early morning today to wait in line and get their hands on the new tablet.

Line lengths varies around the world. More than 400 shoppers waited outside an Apple store in China, while more than 200 would-be owners stood in line outside an Apple store in Boston. Still others claimed to only have waited just 10 minutes, or not at all, for the clock to strike 8 am local time and the doors to open.

Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak waited in line to grab the new iPad. He didn’t have to, of course — the company habitually offers him any new device he wants. But as he explained to What’s Trending, he’s fond of the “real-world” experience that comes with owning a new device.

“More than anything else, it’s just sort of like it’s become a ritual, almost. Because I’ve done it so many times, I’m doing it again…I’d rather be in there and be genuine like the real people,” he said.

Clearly, both sleep and money were sacrificed in droves. But here’s the question: Is the third-generation iPad really worth the lines and the buzz?

Mashable‘s Christina Warren joined the crowds to survey the HD tablet herself. A “drool-worthy” display and an amazingly fast 4G LTE network are just some of the first impressions she noted for the new device.

The iPad’s sharp camera was another prominent feature. Comparing it side-by-side with the iPad 2, its superiority was undeniable.

So, what do you think of the new iPad? Was it worth the wait and the hype? Let us know in the comments.


BONUS: The View From the iPad Line [PICS]


The View From the iPad Line




Mashable reader Rafael Savino shows off the view from 2nd in line in Houston.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: apple, galleries, ipad, Video

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Mashable OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

There’s one thing you should know before we open up this can of worms: I have 795 pins on Pinterest. Probably by the end of writing this article, I’ll have 895. As you can see, my wish list of Pinterest features hasn’t caused me to slam down my laptop screen in disgust.

That being said, I would change a few things. And based on Pinterest’s new profile, the company already has.

Most of these 10 suggestions have to do with Pinterest.com’s design and the social network’s user experience. For instance, I’d love to be able to move pins between boards with the greatest of ease. I’d also like to create a private board or two — not because I want to build a digital shrine to Ryan Reynolds, but because I’d like to plan a future wedding without my boyfriend having a commitment freak-out.

Here are 10 features I’d like to see on Pinterest in the future. I’m sure all you pinners have even more dreams for Pinterest, so sound off in the comments below.

1. View the Individual Boards I Follow

At this point, you can only view users you follow, not the individual boards you follow. I’d like to be able to know both.

For instance, I’ll browse a user’s page to determine whether I want to follow that person. However, many times, I have no interest in particular boards, and therefore, don’t “follow all” boards.

But there’s no way to go back and determine just which individual boards I’ve followed in the past. What if I want to view them for future inspiration?

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: design, Opinion, pinterest, predictions, Social Media, user experience

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I was noticing that there are going to be some fantastically geeky movies on this Summer and I must say I am looking forward to the Summer in a big way. Here are some trailers of movies that are coming soon. Which movies will you see? The Avengers 2012 GI Joe 2 Spiderman 4 Batman […]

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It sounds like Google’s algorithm is going to change again, and while I don’t believe in chasing the algorithm, I do find the impacts on our industry interesting, but even more so the impact it has on user behavior.  The Wall Street Journal’s coverage of changes to Google to get people to stay on site […]

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If you haven’t already heard, Google’s Matt Cutts and Bing’s Duane Forrester recently did a SXSW session with Danny Sullivan where they addressed questions from the audience. About 1/3 of the way into the audio though, Matt let slip a comment about an upcoming rankings change designed to target “Over Optimization” in an attempt to […]

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