Westside firms with names like Omelet, Ignited and Blitz are pushing clients beyond TV and print ads and onto websites, smartphones and tablets.

Old notions of advertising are being scrambled on the Westside, inside boutique agencies with names like Blitz, Ignited and Omelet.The hot shops are pushing big-brand clients beyond the familiar confines of radio, television, magazines and newspapers and onto the Internet, smartphones, game consoles and tablets.

With more than 42% of the country’s TV homes equipped with digital video recorders, which allow users to fast-forward through commercials, and some younger viewers leaving TV altogether, advertisers are rushing to build Internet infrastructures, create Web videos and funnel content to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

It’s a boom-time business. Ten years ago, companies spent an estimated $6 billion advertising their products and services online, according to eMarketer, which tracks advertising dollars. This year, that number is expected to reach $39.5 billion. Within five years, it could top $60 billion.

It’s not that advertisers are abandoning TV. Last year they spent $68 billion on television commercials, and in two weeks last month they placed orders for $9.1 billion worth of prime-time network spots. But marketers recognize that affluent and younger consumers are as likely to be found glued to their cellphones or the Internet as the TV screen.

L.A. agencies have been in the vanguard of the ad evolution. The region already boasts such prominent creative shops as TBWA\Chiat\Day, RPA and Deutsch LA. Upstarts have taken root in the same narrow band west of the San Diego Freeway, drawn by the proximity to the beach and the nearness of major entertainment hubs, music labels, video game makers and an increasing number of Internet firms, includingGoogle Inc.andYahoo Inc., which have opened outposts in the newly minted Silicon Beach.

At the end of a crowded cul-de-sac in Culver City, more than a dozen young workers cluster around common tables in a warehouse. A makeshift sign on the door reads: Omelet.

“We were at this diner in the Marina, eating omelets, and thought why not?” company co-founder Ryan Fey said. “We didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously.”

“And you’ve got to break some eggs to make an omelet,” co-founder Steven Amato added.

Omelet’s founders met a decade ago while working at Los Angeles’ leading ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, just as the Internet was becoming a viable vehicle for advertising. Amato, 39, was a former playwright turned ad copywriter from Connecticut. Fey, 36, was an Ohio native who started his career as a page for “Late Night With David Letterman,” then worked as a music writer for Spin magazine before joining a large ad agency in New York.

Over months of breakfasts at Nichols diner in Marina del Rey, they plotted how to create their own “storytelling” firm built for the Internet age. The pair and a third co-founder, Shervin Samari, each chipped in $200, which covered one month of office rent.

The agency opened in 2004 and quickly made a splash with silly spoofs created for Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. “Mascot Roommate,” featuring a man in an oversized iced-coffee costume, notched more than 1 million views and spawned sequels, including one so effective that CNN’s Headline News aired it as the real thing and wondered on the air whether the coffee chain would fire the out-of-control mascot.

This year Omelet is on track to triple its 2011 revenue of $23 million. The firm, which has about 45 full-time employees — only two over the age of 40 — has created ads for AT&T Inc., Harley-Davidson Inc., HBO, Microsoft Corp.and NBCUniversal. It designed Internet advertising campaigns and television spots for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Earlier this year it won a large account withWal-Mart Stores Inc.’s corporate headquarters.

Omelet has company. El Segundo-based Ignited exploded onto the scene 13 years ago.

The digital agency now boasts 120 employees and has annual billings of nearly $140 million. The firm, which specializes in Internet display ads, occupies a 55,000-square-foot warehouse that previously hosted a short-lived Internet incubator set up by former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal. Its clients include NBCUniversal,Sony Corp.and Zico coconut water.

“The dollars are clearly shifting this way,” said Eric Johnson, Ignited’s founder and president.

A former top executive at the video game company Activision, Johnson recognized more than a decade ago that young people — particularly young male gamers — were consuming much of their media through nontraditional channels. He figured that eventually mainstream audiences would become heavy Internet users and that established ad agencies would be slow to respond. He was right.

“There has been a fundamental shift in behavior that is shaking the underpinnings of the whole media and marketing industry,” Johnson said. “Everything needs to be digitally connected.”

One of Ignited’s first clients was theU.S. Army, which needed a new way to inspire potential recruits. In 2001, Johnson’s firm helped create “America’s Army,” an Internet video game that turned the adrenaline rush of simulated combat into a recruitment tool.

The game was downloaded 12 million times, Johnson said. “It was a watershed marketing experience.”

Now the challenge is to stand out amid the clutter. Sixty years ago, consumers were exposed to about 100 brand impressions a day.

“Today, the average person sees between 1,500 and 2,000 brand impressions a day: company logos, commercials and billboards,” Johnson said.

The digital revolution has created a bounty of business for another Westside agency — Blitz Digital Studios, which sits above the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

Google,Nike Inc., Naked Juice Co., Microsoft,Walt Disney Co.andWarner Bros.Entertainment have commissioned Blitz to customize visually rich Internet campaigns full of motion and interactive elements. One campaign for Hilton Hotels attracted more than 1 million viewers and prompted more than 50,000 people to send Hilton e-cards.

Blitz also created an “augmented reality music video” to promote a new album from singer-songwriter John Mayer. The 3-D video resembled a children’s pop-up book, with Mayer morphing into a guitar-playing, computer-animated character in a video game world.

Blitz currently is working on a digital application for the Irish rock band U2.

“Digital today, in almost every way, is woven into the fabric of how we communicate with others,” said Ivan Todorov, chief executive of Blitz. “Brands and savvy marketers recognize that they need a digital presence.”

The 10-year-old Blitz has been on a hiring binge, snapping up prominent executives from established ad agencies to round out its roster of more than 100 online ad experts. Revenue last year exceeded $16 million.

Last fall, when Whole Foods Market Inc. wanted to find ways to engage customers by sharing stories of the artisans and farmers who supply food for the chain, it turned to the Gen-X crew at Omelet.

“They were cool, not all L.A. flashy,” said Andi Dowda, Whole Foods’ regional marketing coordinator. “They didn’t come in wearing suits telling me what I should do; they listened and tried hard to understand our business goals.”

The result was a series of mini-documentaries for Whole Foods’ in-store monitors, Facebook page and website. The Omelet team interviewed organic turkey growers in Sanger, Calif., and oyster farmers in Morro Bay, Calif.

“We haven’t put a lot of adverting dollars behind these, but they have real appeal,” Dowda said. “And younger people are much more drawn to these online stories than they would be for a TV commercial.”

Online video has become the fastest growing piece of the overall Internet advertising pie. Ten years ago, advertisers spent $48 million creating online videos, according to eMarketer. By 2009, the expenditure had swelled to $1 billion and is expected to top $3 billion this year.

Now Omelet is expanding beyond the Internet. This spring it launched Omelet to Go, which designs and stages live marketing events.

HBO hired the firm to generate a presidential-like motorcade, complete with actors posing as Secret Service agents, to promote the launch of the cable network’s new series”Veep.”

“These worlds are slamming together faster than anyone realized that they would and the shift is undeniable,” Omelet’s Fey said. “But convergence is done. Brands are online, they are in mobile. Now it’s all how you develop technology and apply it.”

meg.james@latimes.com

Originally published by Meg James, in Los Angeles Times, on July 8, 2012

Internet advertising will account for almost half of the UK ad market by the end of 2016, according to a report from Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

Online: internet advertising set to dominate market
Online: internet advertising set to dominate market

The report published today predicts internet advertising will be the only segment of the UK media and entertainment market that will grow by double figures in the next five years.

UK internet advertising was worth £4.96bn in 2011 and PwC predicts this will grow by 12% every year until 2016 to £8.75bn.

The entire UK ad market is estimated to have been worth £14.3bn in 2011 and according to the PwC forecasts it will grow by 4.7% each year until 2016 when it will be worth £18.0bn.

Internet advertising’s share of total UK ad spend will grow from 35.0% in 2011 to 48.6% in 2016 at the expense of a number of traditional media, especially newspapers.

PwC forecasts the TV ad market (including broadcast, online and mobile together) will grow by 2.2% every year from £3.7bn in 2011 to £4.1bn in 2016.

Despite the expected expansion of connected TV and on-demand services broadcast ad revenue will continue to dominate the TV advertising sector, although its share of total TV advertising will decline from 97.3% to 95.1%.

Newspaper advertising is estimated to have been worth £2.72bn in 2011 (of which £2.5bn was print and £217m was online). PwC estimates this will fall to £2.61bn in 2016 (of which £2.3bn will be print and £313m will be online).

To put the newspaper figures into context, PwC estimates newspaper advertising was worth £4.3bn in 2007.

Follow Maisie McCabe on Twitter @MaisieMcCabe

Originally published by Maisie McCabe, 12 June 2012, 8:39am in MediaWeek.

Evernote Buys Notebook App Penultimate

Posted: May 7, 2012 by FMstereo in Apple, iOS, iPad, iPhone, News, Tech

Evernote, the notetaking and archiving service, has acquirednotebook app Penultimate for an undisclosed sum, reports The Next Web. Evernote has been on something of a buying spree — in August of last year, Evernote bought image editing and sharing app Skitch.
More that simply bringing the app into the Evernote stable, the deal will see Penultimate (blessed with the accolade of 4th most downloaded iPad app of all time back in March this year) developed for a wider range of platforms and devices. Evernote also plans to use the acquisition of the app, developed by San Francisco-based Cocoa Box, to bring improved handwriting recognition to the Evernote service itself.

Evernote can already recognize handwritten text in scanned documents, while the company also licenses this technology to third parties via its Ritescript division. Today’s acquisition opens up the possibility of allowing you to write with your finger or a stylus directly into Evernote apps in the future. Penultimate already supports the saving of notes into your Evernote account.

Penultimate will continue on as a standalone app, with creator Ben Zotto continuing work on it at Evernote. Penultimate is the fourth most downloaded iPad app ever according to Apple. Evernote recently raised a $70 million funding round and is nearing 30 million users.

Penultimate for iPad is available on the App Store for $0.99. [Direct Link]

Originally published on Monday May 7, 2012 9:36 am PDT by Jordan Golson in MacRumors.

Google today announced its long-awaited Google Drive cloud storage service, providing users with 5GB of free storage integrated with Google Docs and other Google services.

Today, we’re introducing Google Drive—a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff. Whether you’re working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiancé or tracking a budget with roommates, you can do it in Drive. You can upload and access all of your files, including videos, photos, Google Docs, PDFs and beyond.

Beyond the free 5GB level, Google offers several levels of paid storage up to 16 TB, all accessible via Google Docs or through clients for PC, Mac, Android and iOS devices — though the iOS app has yet to be released, Google promises it is “coming soon”. One of the biggest features in Drive is the ability to open more than 30 different file types directly in the browser, allowing users without programs like Illustrator and Photoshop to open up files and see what’s inside. The service includes extensive sharing and collaboration features, as well.


The launch of Google Drive comes as several other cloud storage services have augmented their services in recent days. Microsoft’s SkyDrive, which offers users 7GB of free cloud storage, yesterday updated its offering with an updated iOS app [Direct Link] and a preview client for OS X Lion, which allows users to manage their SkyDrive accounts directly from the Finder. Finally, Dropbox extended its file storage service with the ability to quickly share files stored on Dropbox with anyone, simply by creating a link.

Originally published on Tuesday April 24, 2012 10:14 am PDT by Jordan Golson in MacRumors.

It’s not enough to call social media a “trend.” It’s a full-fledged cultural phenomenon, and more business owners are jumping on the bandwagon each and every day.

It’s not surprising, considering the fast-paced and often confusing nature of the industry, that myths and misinformation are prominent. Below are seven of the most common–and the most damaging:

1. “My customers are not active in social media.” Nielsen estimates that social media sites and blogs reach 80% of all active U.S. internet users. Social media isn’t limited to certain demographics. Your customers are out there–it’s up to you to figure out where.

2. “Facebook is the only social media site we need.” Facebook is an ideal platform for reaching consumers. LinkedIn, on the other hand, offers easy access to business owners and professionals. Twitter continues to explode in popularity, currently growing at a rate of 11 accounts per second. LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest all have a valuable role to play as well. Don’t limit yourself to a single social media channel.

3. “I can’t have a significant impact if I don’t have thousands of followers.” While a large audience is certainly desirable, pursue quality over quantity. A hundred Twitter followers or Facebook fans that belong to your target market are better than 10,000 who don’t. Seek to build relationships and provide value to your market; the numbers will take care of themselves.

4. “Pinterest is a passing fad… so I don’t need to establish a presence.” Actually, Pinterest is the fastest growing social network of all time–ignore it at your peril! (Here’s how to get started.)

5. “Social media is great for B2C sales… but not B2B.” LinkedIn is an incredible platform for selling to businesses. Create a profile, get involved in targeted groups and participate in discussions relevant to your industry.

6. “Our customers talk about us on social media without us–we don’t need to create conversation.” Customers who act as brand ambassadors are incredibly valuable, but if you fail to control the conversation, you are leaving the fate of your business in the hands of others. You need a presence in order to respond to criticism and consistently broadcast your brand.

7. “I don’t need a social media strategy.” Many business owners consider social media platforms to be fun and even engaging, but not worthy of a long-term strategy and a system for executing it. But in order to be effective on social media, you must be consistent. And without a systemized approach to social media, it’s impossible for a busy small busy owner to maintain a consistent presence.

[Image: Flickr user Gabe Gross]

Originally published by expert blogger JOHN SOUZA | 04-20-2012 in Fast Company

Here is why Facebook bought Instagram

Posted: April 11, 2012 by FMstereo in Android, Apple, General, iOS, Market Trends

You might have heard by now that Facebook has acquired Instagram for nearly a billion dollars in cash and stock. Incredible, isn’t it? I have received text messages of awe and shock from many people in the Valley, for no one saw this coming.

A few days ago it was rumored to be valued at $500 million. A few months ago it was $300 million. Its last round — just a year ago – valued the company at $100 million. The rising valuation of the company was reflective of the growing audience it has been garnering, despite being just on the iPhone. It had reached nearly 30 million registered users before it launched an Android app, a turbo-charging event for the company.

So the question is:  Why did Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s level-headed but mercenary founder, buy Instagram at twice the valuation that professional venture investors were putting on it? The answer is found in Zuckerberg’s own blog post:

This is an important milestone for Facebook because it’s the first time we’ve ever acquired a product and company with so many users. We don’t plan on doing many more of these, if any at all. But providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.

My translation: Facebook was scared shitless and knew that for first time in its life it arguably had a competitor that could not only eat its lunch, but also destroy its future prospects. Why? Because Facebook is essentially about photos, and Instagram had found and attacked Facebook’s achilles heel — mobile photo sharing.

Here is what I wrote when Instagram launched the Android app.

It is pretty clear that thanks to the turbocharge effect of Android, Instagram’s user base is going to blast past the 50 million mark in a couple of weeks. Just before the company launched its app in October, I had pointed out that there was going to be a mobile-only, photo-oriented social platform that will challenge the established social giants. It will be a summer to remember for this tiny company.

Here is another little bit from one of my Om Says newletters:

The company had announced an API in February, and since then a raft of new apps have come up to capitalize on it. While filters might have jumpstarted Instagram, the company, which already has over 4 million subscribers, has to focus on its core value proposition – community and the social interactions around unique visual experiences.

I hope Instagram allows more apps to export directly to its network. By opening itself up to other apps and services, it has the potential to slowly become the hub of our mobile photo experiences. And in the end, that’s what would make Instagram so much more valuable and in the process become the Flickr of mobile photos.

In other words, if there was any competitor that could give Zuckerberg heartburn, it was Systrom’s posse. They are growing like mad on mobile, and Facebook’s mobile platform (including its app) is mediocre at best. Why? Facebook is not a mobile-first company and they don’t think from the mobile-first perspective. Facebook’s internal ideology is that of a desktop-centric Internet company.

Instagram is the exact opposite. It has created a platform built on emotion. It created not a social network, but instead built a beautiful social platform of shared experiencesFacebook and Instagram are two distinct companies with two distinct personalities. Instagram has what Facebook craves – passionate community. People like Facebook. People use Facebook. People love Instagram. It is my single most-used app. I spend an hour a day on Instagram. I have made friends based on photos they share. I know how they feel, and how they see the world. Facebook lacks soul. Instagram is all soul and emotion.

It is one of the reasons I connected with the app even before it launched. It went deeper than just a photo app. Over the years, Kevin shared his grand ambition about Instagram and building a much larger platform, so from that perspective I guess I am a little surprised – though I thought Kevin and his team would go a lot further, for as Erica pointed out last week, the best is yet to come for mobile photos.

More importantly, it cracked the code where Facebook itself failed: viral growth on mobile. From that perspective I wonder if Kevin sold too soon, though I know it is easy for me to say. But then the road from product and a platform to a business is long, twisted and full of potholes. Perhaps that explains why the Instagram team decided to cash in their chips.

Originally published by  Apr. 9, 2012, on GigaOm.

Non-profit organisation the eCommerce Foundation has today launched a free e-commerce benchmarking tool that aims to help businesses compare activity with competitors anonymously – and for free. 

The benchmark’s website takes the shape of a straightforward questionnaire, intended for B2B or B2C merchants and retailers.

Created in collaboration with software company hybris and product information specialist Unic, this is the first global initiative of the eCommerce Foundation.

To take part, simply visit the website, answer some questions and you’ll be given direct feedback on over 100 e-commerce KPIs.

You’ll then be presented with a report that covers four key areas:

  • Website: this relates to website traffic and its sources, conversion ratios, page views, bounce rate and visit length.
  • Financial: average transaction costs, ICT costs, fulfilment costs per order and budget allocations.
  • Internal Organisation: takes into consideration the positioning of the e-commerce department within the organisation, number of fulltime equivalents (FTE) per position and such.
  • Innovation: focus points for innovation, innovation plans and innovation budget allocation.

The foundation says that this provides participants with instant access to detailed information that is relevant to decision making at a board level.

These results can then be used to create a more accurate roadmap with targets that should help businesses to improve overall online performance, including stronger results.

As participants are able to enter the required data via a non-company address to ensure entire anonymity, each benchmark that enters the system is manually checked to detect any false data that might have been submitted and to ensure the benchmark remains true as possible.

Professor Cor Molenaar from Erasmus University and one of the eCommerce Foundation’s key supporters explained that retailers are understandably reticent about disclosing business critical data.

This has acted as a barrier to entry of any previous industry benchmarking tools, but security of data is paramount.”

Though this project seems to be fairly US-focused, this could prove to be a useful benchmarking tool for e-commerce businesses, though will become more so as participants grow. The only trouble will be policing it, since even manual checks can’t catch every mistake – purposeful or otherwise.

 Originally published by Vikki Chowney - E-consultancy

… pioneering initiative paves the way for retail revolution …

hybris, a global leader in multichannel commerce solutions, has announced the development of a new plug-in for its B2C Commerce solution, in association with the world’s leading family leisure, baby care and toy megastore, Toys “R” Us. The plug-in enables the retailer to link directly to customers searching for products through the Google Local Shopping (GLS) service with the reassurance that its product information and availability is completely up to date.

Local Shopping is a service offered by Google that is designed to bring together local stores and people who are shopping online. Retailers submit the products in their bricks and mortar stores through to Google, enabling them to reach out to customers searching for specific items, and communicating the availability and location of the product at a store close to their own location.

The hybris plug-in has been developed for Toys “R” Us (www.toysrus.co.uk) in partnership with Neoworks, hybris’ specialist ecommerce solutions partner. Neoworks has been responsible for integrating the hybris B2C Commerce platform for the retailer as part of its multichannel strategy in the UK.

Toys “R” Us delivers its stock figures directly from the mainframe each morning, and Neoworks processes these through hybris B2C Commerce in order to deliver three feeds directly to GLS. The first provides up to date details on the locations of stores in the UK, opening times, and other store information. The second confirms the product catalogue available through GLS, and the third is an update of prices and availability of products.

Will White, Head of eCommerce at Toys “R” Us, said: “The hybris plug-in allows us to maximize the Google Local Shopping service by ensuring that information available to customers is always up to date. We are particularly targeting customers who use mobiles to research and locate products, offers and availability of stock. This is an enhancement to our Click & Collect service putting our online customers in touch with our stores to locate and purchase products quickly and easily.”

hybris and Neoworks have further developed the GLS plug-in feature as a built-in function of the new version of the hybris B2C Commerce stack, which is due to be launched in December 2011.

Ariel Luedi, CEO at hybris: “The Google Local Shopping plug-in is a fantastic example of how we can maximise the combined engineering and product development expertise of our own and the Neoworks team. The feature is delivering rich data that enables Toys “R” Us to connect with a broader range of customers and attract them into stores across the UK. Our next step is to roll-out this feature across other European countries.”

Originally published by Hybris

The Verge Year in Review

Posted: December 28, 2011 by FMstereo in Android, Apple, Gaming, General, Google, Market Trends, News, Tech

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2011 was a year of incredible highs and incredible lows. We say that every year, of course, but 2011 felt different: many staffers at The Verge would argue that it’s been the craziest, most drama-filled twelve months in their careers. Trying to neatly wrap up a full year of amazing products, blockbuster acquisitions (and would-be acquisitions), power shifts, and industry-changing announcements into a single article is an enormously challenging task, but let’s give it a shot — and let’s take a quick glance at some of the headlines we’re expecting in the year ahead.

Read the Full Article here!

Originally published by Verge Staff on December 28, 2011 01:31 pm on The Verge.

An SEO Playbook For 2012

Posted: December 9, 2011 by FMstereo in Market Trends, News, SEO
2012 SEO Playbook
Search Engine Optimization is growing up. I am not ready to say the Wild West SEO days are completely eradicated, but in 2011 good search engine optimization is less about trickery and more about engaging content and audience development than ever before.Over the years, quality optimizers have become more prone to avoid technical tricks like using CSS image replacement to inject keyword text or controlling the flow of PageRank by hiding links from search engines.

Search engines keep getting better at crawling and indexing. If you are unwilling to burn your website or risk your career, you follow the search engines’ terms of service.

During 2011 the conservative attitude toward code crossed chasm to apply to content. For years, websites churned-out poorly written, generic articles in the name of long-tail keyword optimization. It worked so well some people turned crappy content into startups.

Now, thanks to Panda, Google’s site-wide penalty for having too much low quality content, people are asking why anyone would put pages on a website that no one wants to read, share or link to? Without taking potshots at the past, most of those articles look juvenile and antiquated.

Made in Japan went from signifying cheap to marvelous. Made for the Web is growing-up too. It is this evolution which guides my SEO highlights for 2012. I separate things to keep in mind by code, design and content.

Code – Keep It Simple

While Google likes to tell us they are very good at crawling and understanding imperfect code, I prefer to assume search engines are dumb and help them every way I can. Simple code is honest code. It’s also easy to parse and analyze. Just because you can AJAX-up a page with accordions and fly-outs does not mean you should. The more code on a page, the more things that can go wrong from spider access to browser compatibility.

Follow standards and get as close to validated markup as reasonably possible. Make it easy for search engines to spider your site. Validating HTML and CSS does not automagically raise your rankings, but it will prevent crawl errors.

At the same time, don’t insist on validation since some perfectly good code will never validate. Follow search engine recommendations to Make AJAXXML  and Other Code Crawl able.

Make your CSS class and ID names obvious, especially for section div tags. Again, Google tells us they have gotten good at identifying headers, sidebars and footers. Part of that is almost assuredly knowing the most common div names.

  • Make it easy on Google and Bing by naming your header div header.
  • Name the CSS ID of your right sidebar div right-sidebar.

Why would you name a CSS Class xbr_001 when you can name it navigation? At the very least, it will make life a lot easier on your SEO team. They have enough work without the need to translate ambiguous naming structures.

Reserve h# tags for outlining principal content. I am amazed at the number of big brand websites that still use h# tags for font design. Tell your designers that h1, h2, h3, h4, h5 and h6 are off-limits and reserved for content writers and editors.

The only exception to this should be if your content management system uses h1 tags to create a proper headline. Embargo h# tags out of your headers, navigation, sidebars and footers too. They don’t belong there.

Web Design – Less Navigation Is More

Look at the Zen like efficiency of any Apple product. Steve Jobs was ruthless about eliminating the unnecessary and achieving clean Bauhaus efficiency.

By contrast, too many websites, especially enterprise sites, try to be all things to all people. Their administrators or managers fear they might miss out on a conversion for lack of a link.

Websites should have clean vertical internal linking. Every page should not link to every page. You do not need a site-wide menu three levels deep. As long as people feel that they are progressing toward their goal or the useful information they seek, they will click on two, three or four links to get there.

Look at your website analytics. Which pages receive the fewest visits? Are any in your navigation? If no one uses a link, why does it to be there?

A website’s most widely visited pages tend to be close to the homepage. Review your categories and sub-categories. Can you eliminate whole categories by merging or reassigning content? For example, does the management team need its own category or can you move it into the About section?

This is not just about eliminating distraction. It is a way to increase the internal flow of authority (PageRank, link juice, etc.) to SEO hub pages.

Content – Engagement & Agility

Emphasize Community and Conversation. If your business depends on the Internet and you have the budget to hire one more person, consider employing a community evangelist. High rankings require authority. Authority comes from off-site links and, to an extent, brand mentions.

Earning enough links to make a dent in your SEO requires a continuous stream of link worthy content combined with forging and fostering relationships with people who create links or influence lots of others through online conversation. This requires a large commitment of time to work with writers and designers and to network. Even when decentralized, this rarely works without a strong empowered leader.

Get out of the sales funnel. The people you want to buy your products or services are not going to blog about your company or mention it on Twitter. More likely, they are peers.

A good exercise to undertake is ask each employee, if they could pick one professional conference to attend, what would it be? Then look for the session speakers on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Find which ones are active online and gauge their influence. Are people in your company qualified to write authoritatively about these topics or speak at conferences?

This is how to find content topics for the post-Panda Web, things people want to converse about and link to. For example, if you have a cutting-edge API team, an API development blog could be the key to higher domain authority.

Understand Social Technographics. It will help you to find influencers and create content that people will want to link to and talk about.

Social Technographics

Embrace Agility

Realign your content generation and approval process so you can create near-daily web content and, if necessary, respond publically to something within an hour.

With Query Deserves Freshness, trending topics, news search  and simply because of how social media conversations come and go, agility is important for getting noticed and getting links.

Update Your Content

If your website has older articles that read like Wikipedia or a hardcover World Book Encyclopedia, swap out old content for new. In the future, Panda will not get leaner, it will get meaner. If you have reason to worry, start fixing it now. Do not wait and hope Panda will not see your low quality content. I want to be very clear here:

  • If you have decent quality content that provides real value, keep it whether it is SEO optimized or not. Yes, get to work optimizing older content doing things like selecting hub pages, optimizing text and cross-linking. But do not delete your old content.
  • If you have content that seems overtly advertorial, is cheesy or reads robotic because it is so stuffed with keywords, begin the process of writing one-for-one replacements and update your old content over time. For the old-time SEOs out there, this brings new meaning to a page a day.
  • If you have been hit by Panda already, I suggest removing your poor quality content, set-up 301 redirects to salvage the link authority, then begin rebuilding with high quality, link worthy content. Panda is a site-wide penalty. It is not going to go away until the offending content is removed or replaced.

Those are my 2012 SEO playbook highlights. In the past, content creation and link building were too separated. We had writers covering every long-tail key phrase possible while, in another room, link ninjas emailed and telephoned soliciting for individual links.

That model is becoming less and less sustainable. The Web is too big. Too many people contribute content. Social media offers an entirely new world of context. Today, SEO means finding an audience you can connect with, become a part of the community, give them insanely awesome content and reciprocate. This is the new SEO arms race.

Originally posted on Dec 8, 2011 at 1:24pm ET by  in Search Engine Land.