Meet The Suggested User List in Google Plus – And How I Jumped From 4K to 80K Followers in Just 4 Months

Suggested User Lists in Google Plus

I’m a big fan of Google+, and have been from the start. I joined the first week it launched, and have been extremely active there ever since.  Since joining, I have loved the engagement, the people, the smart conversations, the functionality, etc.  In addition, I have seen the impact it can have on exposure, SEO, traffic, and credibility.

And like many others who believe in Google+, I have defended it many times.  But, I haven’t defended it based on Google bias.  Instead, I base my opinion and recommendations on data, and my knowledge of how Google works.  To me, if you aren’t using Google+, and you are interested in boosting your social and SEO efforts, then you are missing a huge opportunity.

Growing My Presence on Google+ and Increasing Connections
Similar to what you need to do with any social network, you first need to build a following.  I’ve always believed the best way to do that is to add value and engage users.  And that’s what I tried to do on Google+ from the start.  And over time, I’ve met some incredible people, engaged in some great conversations, while also providing a steady stream of valuable, curated updates.  Those updates included articles, posts, and insights across a range of digital marketing topics like SEO, SEM, Social Media Marketing, Mobile, Web Analytics, etc.

And that approach has definitely worked for me.  I grew my following to about 4K people as of April, 2013.  And no, I really didn’t care about the number of followers.  I cared much more about the quality of people that had me in circles.  I found there were real people on the other end of my updates, with their own experiences, and their own points of view.  I found myself going to Twitter first, but Google+ was always a close second.  It became a natural part of my social media process.

Boom – Hockey Stick Growth
In early April, everything was chugging along as usual on Google+.  I was getting approximately 10-15 followers per day, and that was great.  But then April 12th came along, and I saw first-hand what hockey-stick growth looks like.  My followers began to jump, and jump fast.

I began seeing an increase of 400-600 followers per day.  Yes, you read that correctly.  And on some days, I saw over 1000 new followers.  Since April 12th, I have skyrocketed from 4K followers to over 80K.  You can see the hockey stick growth below in a chart from CircleCount.

Hockey Stick Growth in Google Plus

The Power of the Suggested User List
As you can imagine, I was heavily interested in finding out what was going on.  Was it my latest updates?  Was it my column on Search Engine Watch, combined with my writing elsewhere?  Were the new followers real people?  I had many questions.  So, I started contacting people that had recently circled me asking how they found me.  I figured they could shed some light on why so many people started following since April 12th.

And supporting one of the things I love about Google+ (that there are real people behind the profiles), my new connections got back to me pretty quickly.  The first response basically answered my question: “I saw you on a suggested user list for Technology”.   Then the second came in: “You were on a list suggested by Google”.

Ah, now I got it.  I was added to a suggested user list… now the growth made sense.

Suggested User List in Google Plus for Technology

OK, But Why Was I Added To The SUL?
As I said earlier, I have been continually sharing high quality, curated content on Google Plus (and other social networks).  I determined that my followers would benefit from the specific articles or posts that I read and marked as important.  That could be breaking news, tutorials, reviews of technology, or evergreen digital marketing content.  Never did I use a tool to automate that process.  I simply always tried to keep my connections up to speed on what’s breaking in SEO, SEM, Social, Mobile, Technology, etc.

And over time, Google+ algorithmically determined that the posts I was publishing were high quality, extremely relevant, drove engagement, etc.  At some point, I must have passed a threshold to be added to a suggested user list.  No magic. No gaming.  Just hard work and time.

The Growth of Google+, Seen First-Hand
There has been a lot of talk about Google+ not growing, and that it’s a ghost town.  I never believed that, just based on the people I saw there every day.  And when I was added to the suggested user list, I saw first-hand how many people were signing up.  You see, suggested user lists are presented when you first sign up.  Sure, you can see them any time, but they are prominently showcased when you sign up for Google+.  And if Google+ wasn’t growing, then I wouldn’t have seen a jump to 80K that fast…

What I’ve Changed Since The Jump
Absolutely nothing.
:)  Seriously, why in the world would I change anything now?  I keep doing what I’ve been doing, which is what my overall social strategy has been from the start.  Share valuable posts, engage users, and help others.  And I’ll keep doing that, even if Google+ removes me from the SUL.  It’s how my brain functions, which is also why I do so much blogging.  I love what I do, I love helping other people, and blogging and social media have been a natural fit.

The Impact of Google+ Growth:
OK, I know you’re wondering what the impact has been.  Like everything else in digital marketing, it’s important to look at the impact through a few different lenses.  I’ll touch on each one below.

Engagement and Connections
I have definitely seen an uptick in engagement since the surge began.  That includes people reaching out to me directly, in addition to engagement via posts on Google+.  It’s not 20X engagement, but I’m confident I’m getting in front of more targeted people on a regular basis.  And that’s a good thing social media-wise, and SEO-wise.  More about SEO soon.

Here is an example of a Google Plus Ripple for one of my recent blog posts:

Google Plus Ripple


Clicks From Google+
Based on the total number of updates I share via Google+, Twitter, Facebook, etc., I rarely end up sharing my own links.  My ratio of sharing non-G-Squared posts versus my own content is easily 100 to 1 (if not greater).  I don’t participate in social media to continually shove my own work in front of others.  I share important posts from around the web that relate to digital marketing.  Sure, if I write a post or need to reference one of my own articles, I will.  But that’s not what I do on a regular basis.

In addition, I use bitly pro to have a custom url shortener, which also enables me to track each url.  Using bitly pro, I can see a number of metrics for each url shortened, including total clicks from my shortened link, total clicks from all bitly links for that content, which referrers drove the most clicks on my link, geographic data, etc.  Note, I obviously can’t see impressions, so this is purely click data.

What I’ve seen recently is a jump in the percentage of clicks from Google+.  Now, I’m not Robert Scoble seeing hundreds or thousands of clicks per url.  But, I have seen the percentage climb for G+.  Again, it’s just another signal that more people are seeing my updates and engaging with the content.

For example, over the past 30 days, Google+ accounts for 26% of all clicks on my shortened urls.  Twitter is 24%, Facebook 7%, and “Other” accounts for 35%.  “Other” includes direct traffic, email, air clients, IM, etc.  So, Twitter is actually greater than 24%, based on third party apps.  But, Google Plus is not far behind, accounting for over one quarter of all links I share.

Percentage of Clicks for Google Plus Increases

Authorship and AuthorRank
There’s no doubt that authorship markup has a big impact in the SERPs.  The credibility that author details brings can impact click-through rate for sure.  But in addition to the increased real estate, the pure number of people following me can have an impact.  When users search for answers and solutions, view a search listing from my blog or column with author details, and see 80K+ people have circled me, that can mean a lot towards increased click-through rate.

Author Details in Google SERPs

And from an AuthorRank perspective (which doesn’t impact rankings just yet), the more people that have me in circles could potentially impact my AuthorRank score.  And that score can eventually impact rankings, and subsequent traffic.  Actually, AuthorRank could be impacting in-depth articles already…  So, the more weight my Google+ profile has, the more it could potentially impact AuthorRank (and natural search rankings).  Food for thought.   Note, I cover more about authorship and author stats soon.

With Search Plus Your World (SPYW), Google could increase the rankings of content published by people you are connected with on Google+.  That means my content could surface more often (and higher) for the 80K+ people that are following me.  And that includes both the urls I share from across the web, and the specific Google+ updates I publish.  For example, having{some-update-here} rank highly in the  SERPs for people that are connected with me on Google Plus.

Here’s a quick example.  I had some connections of mine perform various searches while logged in.  Here is a screenshot of a Google plus update ranking based on a search for the phantom update.  And this plus update does not rank highly when my connection is logged out.

Google Plus Posts Ranking via Search Plus Your World

Author Stats in Google Webmaster Tools
OK, I know after reading that last paragraph about Search Plus Your World, you’re wondering how you can actually see the impact of SPYW via reporting.  For example, is there a way to see how many of your posts show up in the personalized listings?  Google Analytics won’t show you that data, although that would be a great addition.  But, there is a roundabout way to see which plus updates are showing up.  And it’s buried in Google Webmaster Tools in a report titled “Author Stats”.  It can be found under the “Labs” link in the left-side navigation.

Author Stats in Google Webmaster Tools

While researching this post, I dug into my latest stats (which shows statistics for pages which are tied to me as an author).  These are pages that show up in the SERPs with author details (based on rel=author markup).  For me, there are many posts showing up from my Search Engine Watch column, Search Engine Journal Column, and my own blog posts from The Internet Marketing Driver.

But there are other posts listed there…  And as you can guess, they are Google Plus updates.  And those plus updates primarily show for people that are connected to me on Google+ (i.e. people that are seeing my plus updates based on Search Plus Your World when they search for answers).

Over the past 90 days, plus posts account for 15% of the pages showing author details (based on the author stats reporting in Google Webmaster Tools).  That’s a telling story when it comes to Search Plus Your World.  Most of those impressions do not occur for my connections when the personalized results are turned off (or for people that aren’t connected with me on Google+).  So, that’s a clear indicator of the power of SPYW and SEO.  And the more people I’m connected with, the more those plus posts show up in the SERPs.

Google Plus Updates Showing in Author Stats Reporting in Google Webmaster Tools:

Google Plus Posts in Author Stats Reporting in Google Webmaster Tools

And before you go crazy and start screaming that Google is driving more people to its own property (Google+), SPYW also impacts my other updates on Google+, which lead to external websites.  It’s just harder to understand how much they jump up in the SERPs based on Search Plus Your World (since it’s hard to uncover those stats via reporting tools).  The plus posts are easier to isolate, since I can view them in the author stats reporting in webmaster tools.

My Google+ Path Continues
So there you have it.  My story about surging from 4K to 80K followers on Google+ in four months.  Again, employing the right social strategy over the long-term can lead to great things.  You just need to fight through the black hole of social and keep providing value.  Most won’t make it through the black hole, but those that do could see a powerful impact.

My advice to anyone on the fence with Google+ is to start now.  The benefit can be felt on several levels, including increased connections, engagement, exposure, traffic, SEO, and credibility.  But you won’t see any of those benefits if you don’t get started.

I think I can sum up the core point of my post in the following way (and this applies to any social network).  Provide valuable updates, engage users, add value, and help others.  It’s a recipe for hockey stick growth. :)




Facebook Ads for eCommerce – How To Combine Custom Audiences, Lookalikes, and Unpublished Posts to Target Customers and Similar Users

How to use unpublished posts as Facebook Ads

I used to be extremely critical of Facebook Ads in the past.  But that’s before Facebook released a boatload of functionality for enhancing your campaigns.  Sure, marketplace ads, or ads running the right sidebar, have seen declining engagement over the years, but that’s just a fraction of what you can do now with Facebook Ads.  And I’m finding many advertisers don’t know about the powerful options available to them.

For example, there’s FBX (or retargeting on Facebook), news feed targeting, mobile-only targeting, promoted posts, custom audiences, lookalike audiences, unpublished posts, etc.  And with this enhanced functionality comes better targeting and performance.  Now, I still think paid search can reach someone who is searching for a specific solution at the exact time they need it, and social advertising can’t do that (yet).  But, using advanced targeting within Facebook can absolutely make an impact, and on multiple levels.

In this post, I’m going to explain one method of using three pieces of functionality in Facebook Ads that might change your view of social advertising.  It has for me, and I’ve been using this technique for some time now.  It leverages unpublished posts, custom audiences, and lookalike audiences to target your current customers, and users similar to your customers, when you are running a specific promotion or sale.  It’s a great way to make the most of your current assets, and at a relatively low cost.

Meet Unpublished Posts
I find many business owners have no idea what unpublished posts are.  If you fit into this category, then today is your lucky day.  Unpublished posts enable page owners to create page updates that don’t get shared with their entire fan base.  In addition, you can run ads based on the unpublished posts and use a wealth of ad targeting to reach the right audience (which can include current customers).  Interesting, right?

Unpublished posts in Facebook

The easiest way to create an unpublished post is to use Power Editor.  And if you’re running Facebook Ads and not using Power Editor, you should start today.  It offers a lot of functionality and targeting options not available in Ads Manager (which is what advertisers use on Facebook’s website).

By clicking “Manage Pages” in Power Editor, you can actually craft a page post.  But since we want an unpublished post, you can create the update and not publish it.  That’s ultra-important, since we want to use the post as an ad, and not an update that’s broadcast to your entire fan base.

Creating an unpublished post in Facebook using Power Editor.

So, if you’re an ecommerce provider running a specific sale, you could create an update focusing on that sale, with an understanding it will reach a very specific audience (and not every fan).  I’ll cover how to target specific parts of your customer list soon, including people that are similar to those users.  Once you create your post, you can click your account ID in the left pane to return to your ads dashboard (in Power Editor).

Now we’re ready to talk about custom audiences and lookalikes.

Meet Custom Audiences and Lookalikes
I wrote a post earlier in the year about custom audiences in Facebook.  You should read that post to learn how to set them up.  You’ll need a custom audience in order to use the method I’m covering in this post (since that’s the audience you will target, and it’s also the list you will use to create a lookalike audience).

Custom audiences enable you to upload a list of current customers, based on your in-house email list.  Then, Facebook will match up the list with users on the social network.  Yes, you read that correctly.  That means you can target your in-house email list (or parts of that list) via Facebook Ads.  Awesome, right?

Using Custom Audiences in Facebook

Once your custom audience is created, you can use that list to target current customers with specific promotions and sales.  And you can use unpublished posts to reach them.  Did you catch that?  I said unpublished posts.  That means getting your targeted promotion in front of your current customers (whether they are fans of your page or not).

Great, but what’s a lookalike?
Lookalike audiences enable you to base a new audience (set of Facebook users) on a custom audience (your current customers).  Facebook reviews a number of characteristics about your custom audience (your current customer base), and then finds people similar to your customers.  Yes, once again, eye-opening targeting opportunity ahead.

Imagine you had five custom audiences set up, all containing specific customers for specific categories of products.  Then you could use lookalikes to find similar people (which you can then target via Facebook Ads).  The old days of Facebook ads seem so caveman-like, right?  :)

How To Set Up Lookalikes
Once you have set up a custom audience (following my tutorial), then you can easily select that audience in Power Editor, and choose “Create Similar Audience”.  Choose “Similarity” in the dialog box and Facebook will find users that are similar to your in-house list (based on a number of criteria).  It could take up to 24 hours to create the list, but I’ve seen it take much less time than that (especially for smaller lists).

Using Lookalike Audiences in Facebook

Combining Unpublished Posts, Custom Audiences, and Lookalikes
OK, we have covered unpublished posts that contain targeted messages about new promotions or sales.  We have also covered custom audiences based on our in-house email list.  And, we have covered lookalike audiences, which enable us to target similar people to our own customers.  Now we are ready to tie them together.

1. Create a New Campaign
In Power Editor, you can create a new campaign and set the campaign parameters like name, budget, etc.

Creating a new Facebook campaign in Power Editor.

2. Create a New Ad
Click the “Ads” tab to create your ad.  Under “Type”, choose “Ad”, and then select the radio button labeled “For a Facebook Page Using a Page Post”.  That will enable you to choose an unpublished post for your ad.

Creating an unpublished post ad in Facebook.

3. Choose a Destination
For “Destination”, choose your Facebook Page.  Note, your page’s image and title will still link users to your page, but the post itself can drive users to the sale landing page on your website.  Your post itself is where you should place the link to your landing page (on your own site).  In addition, you should add tracking parameters to your destination urls for your unpublished post (so you can track each campaign via your analytics package).

Choosing an ad destination for unpublished post ad in Facebook.

4. Select An Unpublished Post
Now, choose your unpublished post to use that post as the actual ad.  Note, you can also create your unpublished post at this stage (using Power Editor).  That’s a nice feature that was recently added.

Selecting a page post for an unpublished post ad in Power Editor.

5. Choose your placement:
OK, how awesome is this?  You get to choose where your unpublished post shows up.  For example, in the News Feed (Desktop and Mobile).  This is the most powerful placement in my opinion.  Your ads will show up directly in someone’s news feed versus along the right side.

Choosing ad placement for unpublished post in Power Editor.

6. Choose Your Targeting
Under “Audience”, you can choose targeting, based on the goals of your campaign.  Note, this is not where you will choose your custom or lookalike audience, although the tab is titled “Audience”.  You can choose location, age, gender, etc. if you want more granular targeting than just the custom audiences we created earlier.

Choosing ad targeting for unpublished post in Power Editor.

7. Choose Your Audience (Yes, this is what we’ve been waiting for.)
Under “Advanced Options”, you’ll notice the first field is titled “Custom Audiences”.  If you start typing in that field, your custom audience should show up (based on what you named the audience when you created it).  Once selected, it should show up in the field.  You can leave the rest of the targeting options located below as-is.

Selecting a custom audience for an unpublished post ad in Power Editor.

Clarification Side Note:
To clarify what we’ve been doing, this ad will target your current customer list.  When you create a second campaign, you can choose your lookalike audience.  Then you can run both campaigns and target both your current customer list and people similar to your current customers.   And since they are in separate campaigns, with separate tracking parameters, you can track performance by audience.  Awesome.

8. Select Your Pricing and Status Options
For this example, let’s choose CPC and enter the desired cost per click.  Facebook will provide a suggested CPC to the right.  Once completed, you’re ready to rock.

How to set pricing for an unpublished post ad in Power Editor.

9. Upload Your Campaign
Click “Upload” in Power Editor and your ad will be uploaded to Facebook, where it will need to be approved.  Once approved, you’ll receive a notification that your unpublished post is live.

Uploading an unpublished post ad using Power Editor.

Why this approach works:

1. Exposure and Sharing
By using this approach, you can get your latest sale or promotion in front of your current customers as they browse Facebook, while also providing a great opportunity for that sale or promotion to get shared.  For example a current customer might like your update, and it could hit their friends’ news feeds, which can provide even more exposure and opportunities to land new customers.

2. Engagement
Even though the unpublished post is technically an ad, it still looks and works like a typical page post update.  That means users can like, share, and comment on the post.  And yes, users often do like and comment on unpublished post ads.  Remember, the unpublished post ad is hitting users’ news feeds (both desktop and mobile), so there is a strong chance they will be exposed to your ad.   And if it’s crafted well, then there’s a chance that a certain percentage of that audience will engage with the post. It’s a great way to engage your current customers, while also engaging similar people (via a lookalike audience).

3. Page Likes
Gaining more page likes is an added benefit to using this approach.  Sure, you want people to click through to your sale landing page and buy, but you probably also want more page likes (so you can reach more people with your organic status updates down the line).  I’ve seen unpublished post ads work extremely well for gaining more page likes (across industries).  For example, a recent campaign I launched increased page likes by 7% during a one week period.  Not bad, when you take into account the other benefits from running the campaign (like exposure, sharing, engagement, and sales – which I’ll cover next).

4. Sales (and other important conversions)
Using this approach can yield a low CPA, high ROAS method for increasing sales for specific promotions.  I’ve run campaigns where the CPC was under $0.40 per click, and depending on the specific campaign, return on ad spend (ROAS) can be extremely strong.  For example, 2000 clicks at $0.40 per click is $800.  A conversion rate of 2.0% and an average order value of $75 would yield $3000 in revenue and 275% ROAS.  That’s just a small and quick example, but unpublished page post ads could yield a shot in the arm pretty quickly.

And from a B2B standpoint, with average order values typically much higher than B2C, the ROAS could be even greater.  Even a handful of sales could generated thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars in revenue.  For example, a recent campaign I launched for a client focused on items starting at $1000 (and some were up to $5000 per item).  Even one sale at $5K based on the campaign I mentioned before would yield a strong ROAS.

And let’s not forget other important micro-conversions on your website.  For example, newsletter signups, which can be a great driver of revenue for any ecommerce provider, app downloads, requests for more information, etc. all fall under this category and can start forging a relationship between prospective customers and your business.

What’s the Downside?
OK, I love using this approach, but social advertising brings some unique challenges with it.  Since what we’ve covered is an actual page post, and not a straight ad, users can interact with it.  That means both positive and negative interaction can occur.  For example, you might have some unhappy customers post their negative feedback in the unpublished page post ad.  How you deal with that situation is for another post, but I always recommend addressing the problem directly (in the post).  But again, there are several situations that can arise, and I’ll try and address them in a future post.  Just keep in mind that users can comment, and those comments might not always be positive.

The Power of Unpublished Posts, Custom Audiences, and Lookalikes
After reading this post, I hope you better understand the power of using unpublished posts along with custom audiences and lookalike audiences.  Unfortunately, the features and functionality I covered in the post are not readily apparent to many Facebook advertisers.  And that’s a shame, since they can be extremely effective for businesses looking to engage current customers and new audiences, while also increasing sales.  I recommend testing this approach soon to see if it can be effective for your business.

You can start today. Create a custom audience, create a lookalike audience, and use Power Editor to create unpublished post ads.  You may never look back.  :)



Facebook Graph Search Update: Facebook Now Passing Keywords to Destination Websites, Can Track in Google Analytics

Facebook Graph Search Results and Not Provided

Facebook Graph Search launched in January, and I was fortunate to have early access.  Upon gaining access, I began heavily testing Facebook’s new social search capabilities.  That research led to my first post covering my initial thoughts about Graph Search, including its impact on local search, privacy, reputation management, etc.  You should check out that post out after reading through this one.

Graph Search and Not Provided
One (unfortunate) point I covered in my post was the apparent use of “not provided” in Graph Search.  If you’re not familiar with “not provided”, last year Google started encrypting searches for users that were logged into a Google account.  As a result, the keywords that users searched for would not be passed in the referrer when they visited your website.  Essentially, webmasters started seeing “not provided” show up in their analytics reporting versus the organic keywords that led to the site. Needless to say, this was a huge problem and the “not provided” numbers have been growing ever since.  For some websites, “not provided” accounts for over 60% of all organic searches.

Now back to Facebook Graph Search and how it handles searches.  When Graph Search launched, I quickly realized that Graph Search falls back to Bing results when it can’t answer your query.  You can read my post about Graph Search to learn about the autocomplete funnel that you get forced down.  So, if you aren’t searching for photos, people, places, or interests, then Facebook will display the “web results” for the query (which is basically the Bing results).

Facebook Graph Search Falls Back to Bing Results

During my testing, I quickly checked the referrer when clicking from the fallback results to websites and noticed that Facebook was not passing the keyword in the referrer!  It was basically Facebook’s version of “not provided”.  When you checked Google Analytics, the visit looked like a typical referring source (a “Social” visit from Facebook).  You couldn’t see the keyword that triggered the visit.  Needless to say, I thought Facebook was making a big mistake.  If Facebook passed the keywords along, business owners, advertisers, SEO’s, etc. would love them for doing so…  We could all start to track the impact of Graph Search (at least any searches that fall back to Bing).   I guess we were out of luck… or were we?

SES NY Session Research and the “Referrer” Moment
SES NY is this upcoming week, and my session covers Facebook Graph Search (based on the research I mentioned earlier).  While I was finalizing my presentation over the past week, I noticed something very interesting.  I started a slide on “not provided”, and then double-checked some searches leading from Facebook to external websites.  What I found surprised me!

I noticed that the keyword was now being passed along in the referrer!   Below is an example of a new referrer.  You can clearly see the q={keyword} being passed now.

Facebook Passing Keywords in the Referrer

That’s awesome, but now we need to track the keywords.  Read on.

Google Analytics and Graph Search
As you can guess, I jumped into Google Analytics to see how this was being picked up.  Since Facebook isn’t an official search engine in GA, it was still showing up as a referring site (without the keyword showing up).  But, since the q= querystring parameter was being passed in the referrer, I knew I could surface those keywords via advanced filters.  So, I quickly set up a new profile and added a filter that would capture graph searches from Facebook.  And it works.  I explain how to quickly set this up below.

How to Track Graph Searches in GA
I’m not going to explain the inner workings of advanced filters in this post (it could easily be a series of posts).  Instead, I’ll show you how to quickly set up an advanced filter that will capture graph search keywords, and then report them in Google Analytics.  Note, you can tackle this several ways, and this is just one solution.  Feel free to tailor your own GA setup as you see fit.

1. Launch Google Analytics and Access Your Website Profiles
You can access your profiles by clicking the “Admin” button in the upper right-hand corner of the GA interface.  The first tab should list all profiles for the website at hand (for the “property” in GA).

Profiles in Google Analytics


2. Create a New Profile
Click the “New Profile” button and give it a name.  Then choose your reporting time zone.  Then click the “Create Profile” button.

Create a new profile in Google Analytics.


3. Add an Advanced Filter
Once you create your profile, you should click the “Filters” tab so you can add an advanced filter.

Add a new filter in Google Analytics


4. Adding a New Filter
Click the “New Filter” button, and then make sure the settings match what is list below.  We will name the filter, create a custom filter, select advanced, and then enter patterns to match in order to capture graph search keywords (and then report them in GA).

How to add an advanced filter in Google Analytics


5. Save the Filter
Click “Save” at the bottom of the form and you should see your new filter listed for your profile.


6. Check Your Reporting
Now you need to wait for graph searches to come in.  Note, this filter will just pick up graph searches that fall back to Bing and that lead to your site.  If you have access to Graph Search, then you can quickly test it out by searching Facebook for a query that your site ranks for in Bing organic.  Then click through the Facebook Graph Search results and check your reporting later on (the standard GA reporting isn’t real-time, so the reports will lag slightly).

To find the new data, you can click the “Sources” Tab, and then click “All Traffic”.  Then find “” and click through.  Then you can add a secondary dimension for “User Defined Value” which will contain your graph search keywords.  When setting the secondary dimension in your reporting, click “Content” and then select “User Defined Value”.  Note, the new advanced filter will capture all q={keyword} combinations.  That’s why you need to drill into “” in the sources to isolate Graph Search results.

Adding a secondary dimension in Google Analytics


Your reporting will look something like this:

Viewing graph search keywords in Google Analytics

Once you start picking up graph searches, you can tie those searches to site activity, performance, conversion, etc.  In addition, we can start to see how many graph searches are being conducted that drive users off of (meaning those searches can’t be answered yet by Facebook Graph Search).

Summary – Capture Graph Search Keywords
Again, I’m glad to see that Facebook is passing keywords along in the referrer!  For a while, I thought we were going to be stuck with another “not provided” situation.  Although Facebook Graph Search has only been rolled out to a few hundred thousand users, it’s only a matter of time before the 1 billion+ active user base gains access.  And that will be across mobile devices too.  My recommendation is to set up this advanced filter today and start tracking graph searches.  You never know what you are going to find.  :)

Last, but not least, if you are attending SES NY this week, and are interested in learning more about Facebook Graph Search, you should definitely check out my session.  It’s at 2:15 on Thursday, March 28th.  I’ll be covering a range of important findings, based on my research.




Facebook Graph Search – My Initial Thoughts on Speed, Privacy, Reputation Management, Not Provided, and more

Facebook Graph Search

Last week, Facebook unveiled Facebook Graph Search, which is an important step forward for the social network.  Many in digital marketing, including myself, wondered why Facebook had never added a serious search feature to its platform.  It made no sense…  Until now, Facebook’s search functionality has been horrible.  I often joked that you couldn’t find yourself via Facebook search… :)

By the way, I also wrote a post in October titled “BeastRank”, after Mark Zuckerberg hinted at a Facebook Search Engine.  You should check out that post to find out the various ways that Facebook could rank its social search results (based on the enormous amount of data it knows about all of us).

Now that Graph Search has arrived, Facebook finally has the opportunity to better monetize its massive user-base (eventually).   Note, Graph search is only in an early form and will absolutely evolve over time.  And no, it is not being monetized yet.  But you better believe that’s in the works.

What I’m Going to Cover
Facebook Graph Search is definitely an interesting take on social search.  I’ve been testing it heavily over the past few days and will cover several of my findings in the post below.  You can currently search for people, places, photos, and interests, and I dug into those areas in detail over the past few days.

Note, I’m not going to cover Graph Search basic functionality, or a tutorial on how to use the new search features.  There are plenty of posts covering the basics.  Instead, I’m going to cover certain aspects of Graph Search that relate to privacy, adoption, SEO, speed, etc.  Let’s jump in.

Autocomplete and the Facebook Graph Search Funnel
Once you start using Graph Search, you’ll notice that there are autocomplete suggestions as you start to type.  These are essential for Facebook, since it’s not 100% intuitive how you are supposed to structure queries using Graph Search.  All of us are used to Google, where you can basically enter anything and have the search engine return results in seconds.  I found myself wanting to enter the exact triggers that would surface the right Facebook data.  That could be a challenge for Facebook.

Graph Search Functionality

If you perform a search that would trigger Graph Search results, then Facebook will offer its guidance.  For example  “Restaurants in {location}” will auto-populate with locations based on your profile, and will include the Graph Search icon for restaurants next to the suggestion.  If you search outside of Graph Search, Bing’s autocomplete takes over (since Bing provides backup for Graph Search).

Facebook Graph Search Icons

After performing hundreds of searches over the past few days, I found that Facebook definitely helps you out and starts to rework your searches to fit the Graph Search lingo.  For example, if you simply enter a location and restaurants, Graph Search changes that to the “Restaurants in {location}” format.  I think the average person might be confused with what they can search for, and how to best surface the information.  I know I found it a little confusing, and I’m neck deep in search… That makes me think my mom will have no idea what she is doing.  :)

Speed is Important, and Delays Matter
One thing I noticed is that the speed that Facebook returned the results lagged sometimes.  And when you are used to a fraction of a second with Google, a few seconds (or longer) felt like a lifetime.  I think it’s just another example of how we take Google for granted.  If you spend some time in front of Graph Search, I think you’ll appreciate the speed at which Google moves (and for extremely advanced queries).

There were several times that Facebook just hung after I conducted search… I literally viewed a blank screen for a while until the results were returned.  Again, this will kill the user experience for Facebook Search, who will undoubtedly leave for Google’s near-instant results.

Graph Search Performance

Local Graph Search – Places, Restaurants, etc.
I found place search pretty cool, but often ran into situations where Facebook didn’t have enough data to provide thorough results.  Just a straight search for “Restaurants near Princeton” returned some good results (along with social annotations).  I saw a lot of my favorites on the list, but I didn’t need Facebook to know them…  There’s a big difference right now between Graph Search and just using Yelp’s app on my phone.  Yelp has a ton of data, reviews, etc.  Graph Search seems lacking certain areas, and especially outside of the core categories like Restaurants.

Local Graph Search

If I searched for “restaurants liked by my friends”, I started to see some results that were interesting.  I just might want to take a closer look at several of those restaurants.  And that is the power of Graph Search, if it can consistently provide recommendations based on my friends’ data.  But, there needs to be enough data, and that information needs to be helpful.  That’s different than simply returning restaurants that my friends “liked”.

Local Graph Search with Friends' Likes

From the results page, I can like the restaurant, view it on a map, view photos taken by people, and also view visitors of the restaurant.  This is where some privacy concerns popped up…  Good segue.

Places and Privacy (Photos and Visitors)
When you click “photos in” from the local search results page, you will see all photos taken at the restaurant (or place).  By the way, almost all of those photos are from people I don’t know, I’m not friends with, etc.  Sure, the photos were shared publicly, but I couldn’t help but question if those people even knew the photos were shared publicly.  And now the photos are available to anyone searching Facebook (via Graph Search).

Finding Photos Connected to Facebook Places

For some restaurants, there were hundreds of photos of people and I could easily see their names, click through to their profiles, like their photo (creepy), view comments and likes, etc.  Again, I’m not sure all of those people understand this is happening.  Oh yeah, there were many photos of kids too…  Way to go parents.  You just posted public photos of your kids for the world to see.  Ugh.

Photos of Places in Graph Search

Visitors and Privacy
If I click “Visitors” when viewing a list of restaurants, Facebook will show me people that visited the restaurant (via check-ins).  On that page, I can add them as a friend, message them (creepy), or view their photos, friends, and interests.  There is also a faceted navigation that lets me drill into visitors by employer, city, school, hometown, etc.  Yes, even more concern over privacy here.

People Who Visited Places in Graph Search

Faceted Navigation, Graph Search-Style
When using Graph Search, you can often drill deeper into the search results via a faceted navigation.  For example, when you search for a place, the navigation is present by default and enables you to fine-tune your search.  When I searched for, “Restaurants near Princeton my friends like”, the faceted navigation enables me to choose other types of places like bars, hotels, gyms, parks, etc.

I can also choose which friends I want to focus on (if I know certain friends like similar things).  I can also change the location, select “visited by” and then choose a friend.

Faceted Navigation in Facebook Graph Search

Cool, But How Many Will Use The Faceted Navigation?
If you like shopping online and enjoy using a faceted navigation to refine your searches, then you’ll like this functionality.  I definitely found it useful and quickly began digging into more Facebook data.   That said, I’m not sure how many people will use it like I did… When you think of the average user (who is spoiled by Google doing everything for them), they might not want to refine their searches.  They might expect Graph Search to be smart enough to refine it for them.  Time will tell how many people use the faceted navigation in Graph Search.

Online Reputation Management (ORM) and Graph Search
I’ve worked on a lot of online reputation management projects over the years, so I started to dig into that aspect of Graph Search.  If you type someone’s name, autocomplete first tries to display your friends’ names.  But as you select a friends’ name or complete their name in the search bar, the autocomplete suggestions focus entirely on that person.  You’ll see “friends of”, “photos of”, etc.

Online Reputation Management and Graph Search

“See more”, and I mean more…
So, Graph Search provides autocomplete suggestions for specific people, but what happens when you click the “see more” link at the bottom of autocomplete?  Well, when you click the “see more” link, autocomplete suggestions prompt you to search for all sorts of interests from the person in question.  That includes music, sports, pages, books, groups, apps, etc.

That’s cool, but what’s that further down the list?  Oh, religious views and political views!  “Danger, Will Robinson!”  At some point in your life, you learn that politics and religion are extremely polarizing topics.  Well, how about if the world could easily drill into that data about you?  Using Graph Search, they potentially could…

Viewing more user data via Graph Search

So, if you don’t have your privacy settings set up correctly, the world can now view your political and religious affiliations.  If you’re cool with that, fine.  If you just fell out of your seat in horror, then go make changes now.  :)  And to make drilling into the data even easier, there’s a nice dropdown on the page that enables me to find out the religious and political affiliations of any of my friends.

Graph Search and “Not Provided” – Hiding the Referrer
As I mentioned earlier, Graph Search falls back to Bing’s search results when it can’t meet a certain query.  But how does that data get passed to the destination site?  Will we begin to see searches from Graph Search in our analytics packages, and can we view the keywords people are searching for?  That would be logical, right?  I mean what kind of search engine would hide keywords from webmasters?? :)

Well, you aren’t going to be happy with the answer.  I checked the referrer leading from Facebook Graph Search to websites, and it unfortunately looks like any other visit from Facebook.  So I guess we have our own version of “not provided” from Graph Search.  :)  Come on Facebook!  Pass the query along in the referrer… SEO’s will love you for it.  Until they change that, you will see a standard referral from Facebook even when that person used Graph Search.

Click the image below to see a larger version of the referrer:

The Hidden Referrer Problem and Graph Search

It’s worth noting that Facebook Graph Search almost always keeps you within Facebook.  It’s only when the results fall back to Bing that you get standard search results that take you off the site.  That’s when I think Facebook should send the referrer.

Summary – Pay Attention to the Details
Graph Search is big news, even if this beginning state isn’t perfect.  Sponsored results (advertising) can turn into a lot of revenue for Facebook, as long as the search experience is strong and the results are compelling.  But since it’s social in nature, and based on our data, Facebook has to be really careful with privacy.  Based on my research so far, I wouldn’t give Graph Search outstanding scores on that front.  In addition, the user experience needs to be faster, and improve, in order to meet the Google standard.  Sure, it’s a new twist on search, but Facebook can’t take a step back with performance.

Needless to say, I’m eager to see how Graph Search evolves.  And I’ll be closely watching adoption, user experience, privacy, the quality of the search results, etc.  I’ll be writing more posts on the subject in the coming months, so definitely check back often.  Now excuse me while I find a Chinese restaurant near Princeton that my friends like.  :)




Trackbacks in Google Analytics – How To Analyze Inbound Links in GA’s Social Reports

Trackbacks in Google Analytics

In May of 2012, Google Analytics introduced trackbacks in its social reporting.  If you’re not familiar with trackbacks, they enable you to understand when another website links to your content.  So, using Google Analytics, and the new trackbacks reporting, you could start to track inbound links you are building from across the web.

Note, if you want to perform advanced-level analysis of your links, you should still use more robust tools like Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO.  But, trackbacks reporting is a quick and easy way to identify backlinks, and right within Google Analytics.  It can definitely supplement your link analysis efforts.

If you’re in charge of content strategy for your company, or if you are publishing content on a regular basis, then checking trackbacks reporting in GA can quickly help you understand the fruits of your labor.  But since trackbacks reporting isn’t immediately visible, I’ve written this post to explain how you can find trackbacks, and then what you can do with the data once you access the reporting.

Social Reports and Trackbacks
First, if you’re not familiar with social reporting in Google Analytics, you should check out my post from March where I cover how to use the new social reports to analyze content.  Social reports are a great addition to GA, but I still find many marketers either don’t know about them, or don’t know how to use them.  And that’s a shame, since they provide some great insights about the traffic coming from social networks, and the conversations going on there (at least for data hub partners).

Below, I’m going to walk you step by step through the process of finding links to your content via trackbacks reporting.  Once we find them, I’ll explain what you can do with your newly-found link data.

How To Find Trackbacks (Step by Step)
1. Access your Google Analytics reporting, and click “Traffic Sources”, “Social”, and then “Network Referrals”.

Trackback Reporting in Google Analytics

2. Next, click a network referral in the list like Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Note, “Network Referral” is new language used by Google Analytics for “Social Network” or “Source”.

Network Referrals in Google Analytics

3. Once you click through a source, you should click the “Activity Stream” tab located near the top of the screen (right above the trending graph).

Activity Stream in Google Analytics Social Reports

4. Once you click the activity stream tab, you’ll need to click the dropdown arrow next to the “Social Network” label at the very top of the screen.  Once you do, you’ll see a link in that list for “Trackbacks”.  Click that link.

Finding Trackbacks in Google Analytics

5. Once you click the “Trackbacks” link, you will see the links to your content that Google Analytics picked up.

Viewing Trackbacks in Google Analytics Social Reports

Congratulations, you found the hidden treasure of trackbacks in Google Analytics!  Not the easiest report to find, is it?  Now let’s find out what you can do with the data.

What You Can Do Once You Find Trackbacks
First, I’ll quickly cover the data provided in the trackbacks reporting.  Google Analytics provides the following information for each trackback it picks up:

  • The date the trackback was picked up.
  • The title and URL of the page linking to your content.
  • The ability to launch and view your content that’s receiving the link.
  • And a quick way to isolate that content in your social reports (to view all social activity for that specific page).

Next, I’ll cover four ways you can benefit from analyzing trackbacks data in Google Analytics, including a bonus at the end.  Let’s jump in.

1. Understand the source of the trackback (Who is linking to you.)
Linkbuilding is hard.  So when your content builds links naturally, you definitely want to understand the source of those links.  Trackbacks in Google Analytics provides an easy and quick way to identify links to your content.  But once you build some links, you shouldn’t stop and have a tropical drink with a fancy umbrella as you admire your results.  You should analyze your newly-found inbound links.

For example, you should determine if the links are strong, relevant, and how much will those links help with your SEO efforts.  You should also determine which authors decided to link to you, what’s their background, and where else do they write?m

One of the first things you’ll see in trackbacks reporting is the title and URL of the page linking to your content.  At this point, you can click the small arrow icon next to the URL to open the referring page in a new window.  You can also click the “More” button on the right side of the page, and then click “View Activity” to be taken to the page linking to your content.

Viewing Trackbacks in Google Analytics

At this point, you can check out the article or post linking to you, understand who wrote the content, what they focus on, link to their social accounts, find their contact information, etc.  Building relationships with quality authors in your niche is a great way to earn links down the line.  Therefore, analyzing the people who already link to your content is low-hanging fruit.  Trackbacks in GA make it easy to find them.

2. Understand Your Content That’s Building Links
When I’m working with content teams, I always get the question, “what should we write about?”  I’m a big believer that a content generation plan should be based on data, and not intuition.  And trackbacks provide another piece of data to analyze.  Let’s face it, the proof is in the pudding from a linkbuilding standpoint.  Either your content builds links or it doesn’t.  If it does, you need to find out why that content built the links it did.  And if it didn’t build links, you need to document that and make sure you don’t make the same mistake again.

As I mentioned earlier, there are some outstanding link analysis tools on the market, like Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO, and I’m not saying that trackbacks in Google Analytics are the end-all.  But, you can definitely use the reporting to quickly understand which content is building links.

Once you find trackbacks and identify the content that built those links, you can start to analyze and understand what drove interest.  Was it breaking news, evergreen content, how-to’s, industry analysis, etc?  Which topics were hot from a linkbuilding standpoint, and were those the topics you expected to build links?  If you find a subject that worked well in the past, you can build a plan for expanding on that topic.  Also, are the pages linking to you providing ideas for new posts?  Do the comments on the page provide ideas, what did the author mention, etc?  Trackbacks provide a mechanism for supplementing your analysis.

3. Join the conversation, Engage Influencers
I explained above how you can find the people (and websites) linking to your content.  That’s great, but you shouldn’t stop there.  If there’s a conversation happening on that referring page, then you should join the conversation.  If someone went to the extent to mention and link to your content, the least you can do is thank them, and provide value to the conversation.

Adding value to the conversation and engaging a targeted audience can help you build more credibility and connect with targeted people in your niche.  And as I mentioned above, you can connect with the author of the post via email or via their social accounts.

4. Understand Linkbuilding Over Time
Using the trending graph in Google Analytics, you can visually understand linkbuilding over time.  The graph at the top of the screen will show you the number of trackbacks earned over the time period you have selected in GA.  I’m not saying that it’s better than using other, dedicated link analysis tools, but this is a quick way to find link data right within Google Analytics.

Trackbacks Trending in Google Analytics

In addition, if you click the “More” button for any specific trackback, and then click “Page Analytics”, you can isolate specific pieces of content receiving links.  Note, I’ve been seeing a test in Google Analytics where “Page Analytics” is replaced by “Filter on this Page”.  Personally, I like “Filter on this Page” since it’s more intuitive.  Regardless, after clicking the link you can trend linkbuilding over time for a specific piece of content.

Viewing Trackbacks for a Specific Page

In addition, you can always compare timeframe to see how links were built during one timeframe versus another.  You might find some interesting things, like a piece of content that built more inbound links months later versus when the content was first published.  Then you can dig into the links to find out why…

Bonus: Export The Data!
As with any report in Google Analytics, you can easily export trackbacks data.  If you are viewing any trackbacks report, you can click “Export” at the top of the screen, and then choose a format to quickly export the data for further analysis in Excel.  Then you can slice and dice the data, combine data from other reports, etc.  What you do with the data depends on your own Excel skills.  :)

Exporting Trackback Data in Google Analytics

Summary – Quick Link Analysis in Google Analytics
I hope after reading this post you’re ready to jump into Google Analytics to hunt down trackbacks.  Again, Google didn’t necessarily make it super-easy to find trackbacks, but they are there.  Once you do find them, you can analyze those links to glean important insights that can help your future content and linkbuilding efforts.  Although there are more robust link analysis solutions on the market, trackbacks reporting is a quick and easy way to identify and then analyze inbound links.  I recommend checking out the reporting today.  You never know what you’ll find.  :)