Google Hotpot Powers Local Recommendations

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With Marissa Mayer at the helm of geo and local services for just over a month now, Google launches Hotpot, a local recommendations engine where you rate your favorite places and see the places your friends like, too.

Log into your Google account and visit Hotpot–no, there’s no missing S in the name–to see a list of places you can rate. The grid of playing cards layout shows you restaurants, parks, hotels, schools, and other destinations near your current location as well as from your search history. (As someone who constantly Googles places on the go, I was shocked at how well Hotpot suggested places I’ve been or have been interested in.)

Click on one of six stars at the bottom of each card to rate it something from “Hated it” to “Best ever.” When you do, the card flips over and you can add more details to your review. Once you start reviewing places, Google will make recommendations in search results based on other places you’ve rated highly.

Lessons learned in the Buzz launch privacy kerfuffle are apparent in Hotpot: the app makes it clear at the start that your recommendations are public. You also set a custom image and profile name, which makes it easy to appear anonymous to others, even when you rate places using your regular Google account. Hotpot doesn’t automatically add your Gmail contacts to your friends list, either; it encourages you to add friends, but you must do so explicitly. That means in order to get the best part of Hotpot–the part where you see your friends liked the restaurant you’re considering going to for lunch–you’ve got to build yet another friends list.

Once you do, Google will display your friends’ recommendations for places as you find them, as shown here.

Apple Teams With Twitter, Gives Huge Boost to iTunes, Ping

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Today, Apple’s struggling social network on iTunes got a second-wind: Ping is teaming with Twitter to expand its music discovery engine. Now, users can easily link their Ping and Twitter accounts, to not only port followers from Twitter, but also include “Ping activity, song previews and links to purchase and download music from the iTunes Store right in their tweets on”

What does that mean?

After Apple failed to strike a deal with Facebook, Ping’s growth never really got off the ground (only 2000 artists have joined); this partnership gives Ping new life-blood, providing access to Twitter’s network of 160 million users. With linked accounts, now whenever you post or review or share downloaded music on Ping, the info can be ported to all your Twitter followers–complete with song previews and links to the iTunes store.

Thanks to Twitter’s recent redesign, the shared Ping activity will appear in Twitter’s new details panel on the right–literally transforming half of Twitter into the iTunes store.

All in all, it’s a huge get for Apple: not only does it provide a much-needed boost of potential users, but it will create a surge in advertising and access for iTunes. The benefits are not as apparent for Twitter. Certainly song previews will make the site more media rich.

One thing is for sure: Apple must’ve paid quite a lot for this partnership.

Original Post: Fast Company

Why You Need SEO, Even If You Hate It

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“Heresy alert,” writes Jason Amunwa at The Zest blog. “I’ve been struggling with a dark secret recently; you see, I realized that I reallydislike SEO.

“To me it’s like health insurance: I hate dealing with it, I intensely dislike paying for it, and its benefits are difficult for most people to understand.”

Amunwa isn’t shy about his disdain for SEO, and provides reasons like these:

  • It games the system, so “the most-linked, most-strategically keyworded” content takes precedence over “the truly best, most thoughtful, authentic” content.
  • It aims at a constantly moving target, subject to the whims of Google’s secretive, ever-changing algorithm.

You might share his frustration. But you might also agree with the reasons Amunwa still maintains a healthy respect for SEO:

  • It puts your content in front of the right eyes and delivers largely qualified traffic to your site. “You know they’re looking for whatever it is you’ve keyworded into your content,” he explains.
  • It has leveled the playing field for smaller companies, since a knowledge of algorithms and a commitment to optimization have mattered more than budgets.
  • It gives your content a long shelf life. “Even if your content doesn’t rank right now,” he notes, “you never know what algorithm changes could turn you into an overnight page 1 superstar.”

In other words, while dealing with SEO can be as frustrating as dealing with health insurance, it also can deliver the benefits you want when you need them.

You don’t have to love SEO. But don’t let its unlikable aspects keep you from exploiting its full—profitable—potential.

Original Source

How to Make the Hottest SEO Trend Work for You

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“What’s the hottest trend in search-engine optimization that you’ve never heard of (yet)?” asks Christopher S. Penn in a recent post at the Awaken Your Superhero blog. It’s LDA, he reports.

Penn cites a series of SEOmoz posts on Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA)—a context-based algorithm for determining search relevance. According to SEOmoz research, on-page content may play more of a role in your rankings than previously thought.

That’s because the LDA algorithm (which Google may be using, SEOmoz notes) “looks at the total picture of the content and its context,” Penn explains. A Web page about World of Warcraft, for example, needs to mention “paladins, death knights and fish feasts” to rank well with LDA, he notes.

So, how do you act on this knowledge? Penn offers three ways to optimize on-page content for LDA’s critical gaze:

Use the rel=canonical tag on all your original content. As contextual content becomes more important to search engines, the temptation to use someone else’s content (i.e., yours) will be much greater, Penn warns. To assign some level of ownership to your content, Penn advises applying the rel=canonical tag to your site pages.

Stay on topic. Your website content “needs to have lots of original, high-quality, on-topic content using semantically related words … that correlate to the search terms you’re going after,” Penn advises. You must “do the hard work of creating good stuff in order to leverage this algorithm effectively,” he explains.

Stop giving away so much. Don’t give away the keys to the kingdom—your fab content—to social-media sites, Penn advises. Though it’s fine to share excerpts, Penn draws the line at giving away large chunks of context-rich copy to sites you don’t control.

Original source

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