Google makes it easier for people to find and amplify trusted content

embedpost

Of two new Google+ features announced yesterday by Google – authorship attribution and embedding posts – the latter caught my imagination straightaway.

If you want to embed a post published publicly on Google+, you can now embed that content in your own blog or website by simply adding a few pieces of code.

Making it happen is quite easy:

[…] If you’re a site owner and you’d like to embed a post, simply find a public post on Google+, and select ‘Embed post’ from the drop-down menu. Copy the code, add it to your web page, and you’re all set!

And here’s what an embedded Google+ post looks like:

(If, for any reason, you don’t see the G+ post above, see it on Google+.)

It’s a great idea as the embedded post will also include all the conversational and sharing aspects you get from the post within Google+, so making it easier to connect content and the conversations that happen in various places across the social web.

The only slight hesitation I have is wondering what more proliferation of the same content in multiple locations may mean for SEO, Google page rank, etc; and whether content consumers may end up getting confused with all the different places they’ll find the same content, and the different looks and feels of that content.

Sign in with Google

As for author attribution, it’s a topic that is becoming increasingly important as we seek to find content we trust – often meaning written by authors we trust – in the ocean of stuff competing for our attention.

Says Google:

[…] We’re integrating Google+ Sign-In with Google’s Authorship program. So if you sign in to WordPress.com with Google, for instance, the articles you publish will now be associated with your Google+ profile automatically.

Not requiring you to take action to enable this is a perfect way of automatically rolling this out potentially to all 80 million blogs on the hosted WordPress service worldwide (and to the hosted TypePad service on which this is also enabled).

If you run a self-hosted WordPress blog, a plugin for this functionality will no doubt come soon.

Notwithstanding the slight hesitation I mentioned earlier, I see these as welcome moves to enable content (and its creator) to become more trusted, and to be more accessible (and so, more amplifiable).

Related posts:

Connecting content and the social conversations

Blog comments

A topic Shel and I discuss in this week’s FIR podcast episode 715 is commenting on blogs.

More specifically, about the conversation that can happen in response to a post someone writes and publishes on a blog, and where the conversation actually takes place.

Increasingly, it’s not on the blog itself – it’s on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, anywhere across the social web except in the comments section of the blog post that prompted someone to add their two pence-worth.

Here’s an example: as the screenshot above illustrates – from a post I wrote last week about The Sun’s new paywall – there are no comments to the post directly, but ten comments across Twitter and Facebook that reference the post.

You might be wondering how those external comments appear on the blog. They do thanks to a nifty WordPress plugin called Social from Crowd Favorite that automagically finds and connects comments to a particular post where they appear on the major social networks

Actually, that’s not strictly true as conspicuous by its absence is Google+ and any comments about the post anyone makes on that social network. So conversation on Google+ is disconnected from content elsewhere, eg, on blogs.

But now there is one way in which you can connect Google+ to posts on WordPress blogs – albeit not in as integrated a manner as you might wish – via Google+Comments, a WordPress plugin developed by Alex Moss.

What this does is add a Google+ comments area below your post that’s additional to the blog comment area of what shows from a plugin like the Social one I have installed. So it’s a separate area. It’s similar to what you can do with Facebook commenting via plugins.

You can also manually add Google+ comments anywhere to a post, such as within it like this:

Google+ Comments

Powered by Google+ Comments

Try it – leave a Google+ comment!

From what I can understand in how it works, it doesn’t behave like Crowd Favorite’s Social plugin – that brings in links to comments made elsewhere – but is a full-blown comment system, as it were, in which you write and post your comments to Google+ and see related comments others have made on Google+.

I think it’s a good concept and could be a credible complement to third-party commenting platforms like Disqus, Livefyre, IntenseDebate and others, as well as to native blog commenting.

Although I do have the Google+Comments plugin installed and activated, I haven’t enabled it for all posts. Not yet: I want to see how it works in practice, what others do with it and how people feel about it. Plus it look like it has some display/CSS styling issues with how content is presented in this blog.

Until knitting together the online conversation stream becomes more seamless – in essence, joining up all the dots that form online conversations centred on a blog post – and simpler and easier, and doesn’t require workarounds like plugins and other tools and services that perform the necessary connectivity, this at least enables Google+ to be part of the overall conversation.

The nature of commenting has shifted, too, along with the proliferation of places where you can add a quick opinion and the growth of short-form posts that almost resist anything longer than a quick tweet or a Facebook like.

Still, whatever the length of a post and a comment, Google+Comments will likely connect more of the dots. On WordPress blogs, at least.

(Via Debi Davis)

Can Google Hangouts replace press conferences?

The press conference

Faced with the problem of how to reconcile arranging a press conference for a VIP with the lack of a hard news story, independent communications consultancy Keene Communications adopted a different approach, one that might interest you. Guest writer Michael White explains.

This is a story of why we chose to replace a press conference with a Google Hangout On Air and invited bloggers to participate instead of journalists.

The results suggest that these types of events could offer a realistic alternative to press conferences and that bloggers could replace journalists as the primary audience that a PR has to engage with.

Fighting words? Then you decide.

Many PR agencies will recognise this challenge (probably some in house PROs too). The client informs you that a VIP is visiting and has made time to meet some journalists. He’s not intending to announce anything and has no hard news, but is expecting to see a full house!

The pressure’s now on to call in favours, twist arms and jump through hoops. Hours are spent and emotional heat is generated.  Despite all this, chances are that attendance is not as expected; nor is the press cuttings file. The VIP expresses his disappointment with the result that, although heads don’t roll, several cats get kicked.

Sound familiar? Probably because it’s a problem that’s been around as long as the PR industry. But it’s getting bigger. Shrinking editorial teams means journalists don’t have the time to attend content-free press conferences. And if there was content, they don’t have the time to leave their office. At the same time, their circulations are shrinking, so the PR questions whether they should attend anyway.

So our hearts sank when our long term client, Australia’s Tourism Northern Territory (the organisation charged with promoting and developing tourism in the Northern Territory) told us that their newly appointed  Minister for Tourism and Major Events, the Hon. Matt Conlan and Tourism NT’s  CEO, Tony Mayell, would be visiting London and had made time available to meet some journalists. What’s worse, they’d already hosted press events in Singapore and Germany and were looking to do the same in London.

Our problem was that, due to several events taking place at the same time, we knew attendance would be low. So we decided instead to try something new – a Google Hangout On Air event.

We planned for the event to be 100 percent digital with all information shared across NT’s UK social media channels. Invites were to be confirmed using Google Events and media packs were to be made available online only using Google Drive.

Travel bloggers, by definition, travel and Google Hangouts On Air meant bloggers could engage with the event from anywhere in the world – this was live television with a social media twist.

We invited writers and new media creators as well as travel bloggers and collaborated with Travel Bloggers Unite (TBU) so giving us access to its 420+ membership base.

Recognising the need for an experienced facilitator to manage the conversation we engaged Alastair McKenzie. Alastair is a top travel journalist and Webmaster & Vice Chairman of the British Guild of Travel Writers. He also hosts a weekly Google Hangout of his own; Travel Coffee Break.

We partnered with Beyond Content, an agency specialising in content creation, who hired a Central London studio and provided the expertise needed for the visual and sound mixing.

On the 11th March, our Google Hangout On Air was broadcast across YouTube and Google+. Bloggers watched a live video stream and posed questions directly to the Minister and the CEO across Twitter, Google Chat, Google+ and YouTube.

Google+ Hangout on Air
[Pictured, left to right: travel journalist and Webmaster and Vice Chairman of the British Guild of Travel Writers, Alastair McKenzie; Minister for Tourism and Major Events, the Hon. Matt Conlan; Tourism NT’s CEO, Tony Mayell.]
During the event, we received questions every 30 seconds and enjoyed a level of engagement with travel bloggers that would have been lacking had we arranged a press conference.

Results:

  • 33 bloggers participated; nine took part in the Google Hangout and a further 24 watched via Twitter.
  • Bloggers were based in five countries, the UK, US, Norway, Sweden and Ireland.
  • The event received 151 mentions on Twitter via the #NTLive hashtag.
  • During the Hangout, Twitter reached a total of 365,557 users (a circulation figure only slightly lower than The Times.
  • Seven bloggers asked to enrol in the NT’s media family programme (21% of the participants).
  • One influential blogger has incorporated the material into his own podcast.

The Hangout lasted for over ninety minutes, so Beyond Content created a ten minute video which we posted on NT’s own YouTube channel (and is embedded below).

We also had a stills photographer John Deehan take shots in the studio whilst the Hangout was taking place. We uploaded a selection to Flickr.

Importantly, the client was delighted and on his return to the Northern Territory, the Minister’s office issued a press release about the event. In it, he said, “We received a terrific response with the Hangout… which forms part of our new digital approach to marketing the Northern Territory 24/7 and was extremely exciting to participate in”.

In my view, the Google Hangout On Air worked better than a press conference for three reasons:

  1. It fulfilled Tourism NT’s Social Media Brief
    Our client ‘went social’ earlier this year, ditching traditional PR for social media. We needed to show the client that we got social media.
  2. We wanted to give back to the blogging community
    We wanted to engage with the blogosphere so bloggers could learn about the NT.
  3. Content is more than copy
    PR is more than written copy; it’s about photography and video. To keep content flowing across different mediums we needed rich content.

Would you agree? Check out the video:

(If you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

Michael White is a Consultant at Keene Communications, a business which has been providing Public Affairs, Public Relations and Representation services for over 25 years. He devises and executes digital and social marketing campaigns, using the latest technology available, providing measurable results. Connect with Michael on Twitter: @michaelwhite1.

Author rank a key element in content marketing

Author Rank is comingContent marketing” is a phrase to get accustomed to, if you’re not familiar with it already.

It elevates the humble-sounding crafts of copywriting, video-making, writing blog posts, email newsletters and other methods of content creation and marketing that we’re used to onto an entirely new level.

That level is where the new game of business is played, one that’s online, connected, Googled, measured, highly visible and eminently social.

Creating and publishing great content is an activity that is becoming central to the measurable business goals of many organizations. In the UK, for instance, an online survey last month said that 97 percent of those surveyed will increase or maintain the amount they spend on content marketing in 2013.

To understand why this is so important,  read guides on content marketing that are freely available on the social web, created by some smart minds who know their topic well.

A good place to start is Content Marketing: How to Build an Audience that Builds Your Business by Brian Clark at Copyblogger.

While you’re digesting that, add this topic to your immediate to-do list: hand in hand with content marketing is Google author rank. It’s a method by which Google’s search algorithms verify the author of a particular piece of content, link that author to their Google+ profile and show the author’s name and photo in search results.

There’s more to it than that, though, as Erin Griffith writing in PandoDaily explains:

[…] Google wants to prioritize content created by verified writers with authority in certain topics in its results. Credibility is what makes Google’s search results as efficient and useful as they are. Filtering out the spam was the goal of PageRank, and SEO spammer and linking schemes still found ways around that.

So now Google is verifying individual writers through its social network, Google+ with something called Author Rank. Now, if a website has connected its writer accounts with their Google+ accounts, search results show a writer’s headshot and byline next to the result for their article. Bylined stories rank higher, and they get more real estate. Most importantly, they return clickthrough rates that are 40 percent greater than normal […]

You can see why Google uses the word ‘rank.’ It’s something Google takes very seriously as evidenced by Ranking Authors in Social Media Systems, a patent application they filed in 2010. (It also illustrates one credible reason why critics who dismiss Google+ as inconsequential compared to Facebook are simply wrong.)

To be sure your content that you market is verifiably attributed to you as the author, it’s an easy matter to use Google’s author rank wizard to link yourself to your content.

Google+ author rank

Once you’ve followed all the steps in that wizard, you can use Google’s structured data testing tool to see a preview of how you will appear in Google search results when your content shows up there.

Structured data testing tool

There’s also some code that needs to be in the meta tags in the header section on your website.

If you write a blog, it’s easy to do – and easier still if you use a theme such as the Genesis Framework for WordPress that runs my blog. The latest update to Genesis incorporates an additional setting that does it for you.

Meta tag code for Google+ author rank

Now’s the time to take action to ensure that you are verifiably associated with the great content you create so that everything is connected when anyone searches on Google – and you get the clicks.

[Sean Bean image at top of page via SEOMoz. Read their post How to Prepare for AuthorRank and Get the Jump on Google.]

The Google neural network

googleongplus

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols explains how the new Google+ naming system will work, enabling business people and business brands to have custom URLs: short, easy-to-remember web addresses that should make it easier to find a business profile or page on Google+.

For instance, instead of going to https://plus.google.com/111717275116289870961 to get to the Ford Motor Company on Google+, you might instead see https://google.com/+ford.

That link doesn’t actually work as I write this, but this one does: https://google.com/+google.

It’s clearly a far better way to locate business content on Google+, and for a business to make it easier to be discovered.

But that’s not the big deal here, says Vaughan-Nichols:

[…] Look at those custom Google+ URLs closely. Notice something? They’re not Google+ URLs, they are Google URLs. Google CEO Larry Page recently said, “Google Plus is truly at the heart of our efforts to create our social spine. With over 120 Google Plus integrations to date, we’re on the right track. Your user experience on Google just gets better. You can see friends’ recommendations when you’re using Google play and you don’t think about that as Google Plus but it just comes from that infrastructure.”

This new name policy may be proof that Page meant what he said. In other words, Google+ is not Google’s answer to Facebook and Twitter. It’s the spine, the neural network of the next generation of Google. With this move Google is showing that it’s continuing to integrate the personal with the global into its search and other services.

[Update Aug 24] Ford’s says its new vanity URL is now working. And – you guessed it – it’s http://google.com/+Ford.

Google just disrupted the conference business with Hangouts On Air

If you organize conferences and similar events, your future in terms of how you organize and price your events just got really interesting.

If you’re a conference-goer, events that might be out of reach to you for reasons of distance and/or total cost including travel and accommodation, just got equally interesting.

It’s all down to Google+ Hangouts On Air, the new live-broadcast feature of the video chat service that’s a mainstay of the Google+ social network.

This morning, I took part in two sessions at the LeWeb conference currently taking place in London, via a Hangout On Air parachuted in, so to speak, with my computer webcam and broadband internet connection.

leweblondonhangout

From the comfort of my home office, I was actually part of the event, joining in discussion with people who were speakers at the event physically there in front of the crowd.

To give you an idea of that, check the photo above – taken by LeWeb attendee Raphaël Goumain – that shows LeWeb  host Loic Le Meur, on the right; next to him are, respectively, Bradley Horowitz, Vice President of Product Management, Google+ (meaning, Google+ is his baby); and two people from Cadbury’s and Kraft (I didn’t get their names, unfortunately, and can’t find them on the LeWeb programme). Bradley is the face on the huge screen on the left; I’m in the one on the right. Talk about scale!

So the HOA (get used to that abbreviation) was about joining Loic and Bradley and being part of their conversation. Each of us joining via the HOA – my fellow participants were Chris Dancy, Evgeny Tchebotarev and Guillaume Thomas, all of us expertly “minded” by Frederick Van Johnson – had no grand plan, no script or list of pre-agreed Q&A, just what we all brought to the party, what we might be able to add to the event overall.

Each of us had a chance to ask questions – I got one in about enterprise use of Google+ which Adam Tinworth expertly live blogged – and indeed enriched what otherwise might have been the usual kind of to-and-fro chat you typically see in any conference (good though it would undoubtedly have been).

And all this broadcast live as it was happening, over the web at YouTube, for anyone who could access the video site to view in real time. And that live broadcast was automatically recorded and published to the public web. You can see the recording, and many others videos, at LeWeb’s YouTube channel.

Wait a minute, you say – this isn’t new, you can already do video streaming from  conferences. Indeed, that’s true with companies like Ustream offering this (which they did at LeWeb in previous years). There’s also desktop tools like WebEx that will stream live video although I wouldn’t do that at a conference.

But, I would argue, these are fairly complex in comparison to Google’s offering and in some cases, cost quite a bit. Plus they’re rather rigid with logins and passwords to keep access tightly controlled whereas G+ HOA are open to all via just a browser and webcam and cost you nothing (although I imagine a pricing model will evolve, perhaps also supported by ads by some event organizers – new sponsorship opportunities – rather than paying money).

Apart from specifics like I’ve mentioned, what strikes me most about this is the evolutionary effect it will have on event management and event-going-to from now on.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that today’s use of Google+ Hangouts On Air at LeWeb in London is the first such use at a major public event.

HOA

In the future, I can see a conference with, say, 1,000 people physically at the venue, and 10,000 or more participating via watching the live video streams and the subsequent recordings, all the while adding their comments, questions and perspectives via Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Salesforce Chatter, whatever means are at hand that let you be part of the conversation and share your thoughts with others online.

And it doesn’t have to be on such a large scale – think of it for small-group events, too: a panel discussion, for example, or a breakfast meeting. Even internally within organizations (listen to what Bradley Horowitz had to say about that).

Welcome to the future. If you can imagine it, it looks terrific!