This site showcases the (mostly) digital work of Andrew DiFiore from both Virtual Arts Studios and answerYES Interactive as well as random thoughts and experimental projects too volatile to be contained anywhere else.

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    Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2012

    Bing pays tribute to the man of peace with this interactive image of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial at the National Mall (unveiled exactly 3 months ago today).

    Martin Luther King, Jr. remains one of the most indelible voices in American history not just for the American Civil Rights Movement but for all social injustice throughout the world. His words and his impact are worth remembering regardless of race. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change is an organization founded by Coretta Scott King after her husband’s assassination in 1968. The website was relaunched today after a significant overhauled by C&G Partners and Palantir which includes an extensive Digital Archive (nice work all around).

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    US Search Ranking Report

    Just a quick reminder post, comScore released April 2011 US Search Ranking Report. There were 16.2 billion core searches conducted last month with Google dominating with 65.4% market share, followed by Yahoo! with 15.9% and Microsoft (Bing) with 14.1%.

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    Reporting Search Engine Spam

    I was recently asked by a prospective client about Negative SEO, the tactic of convincing search engines to “think” a competitor’s site is in violation of that search engine’s spam policy. It is kind of like the SEO equivalent of slander but there is nothing illegal about it.

    For the uninitiated, in the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) there are many techniques for achieving top-ranking on search sites like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. These techniques are divvied up into three types: White Hat, Gray Hat, and Black Hat. I’m not going to go into the differences in this post but if you’re really interested, start here. It suffices to say, Negative SEO falls under Black Hat and if you’re caught, you’re guaranteed to be banned from appearing on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) ever again.

    Given the increasing importance of having web pages rank high on search results, the unethical practice of Black Hat SEO is definitely trending up. And it is not just the little guys, as evident by the recent New York Times article about J. C. Penney’s folly during the holiday season. Yes, J. C. Penney’s reportedly fired their SEO firm SearchDex but it is most likely that the retail giant didn’t mind “the how” until they were exposed (Kevin Ryan of Ad Age Digital does a nice follow up on this story). The fact that I was asked about Negative SEO by a prospect reveals people are becoming ever-more savvy of SEO as well as the best ways to cheat.

    For the record, we don’t practice nor endorse the use of Black Hat SEO (so don’t ask).

    In the end, the benefits of such tactics are temporary. But unlike email spam, Google and company have a vested interest in minimize search spam. Simply put, if the value of the search results are diminished, so is the value of the search engine itself. As good netizens, we all have an interest in making the search engines a more effective resource.

    Report Search Engine Spam:

    If you find yourself a victim of Negative SEO or other Black Hat tactics, there are many ways to combat them to regain your site’s proper place on search engines. I would be happy to help.

    There are many opportunities to market your business to Facebook’s massive membership (400 million and counting). One of the more insidious ways is to insert your brand right into an established “ecosystem” where people are already actively engaged. The immensely popular social game FarmVille is one such ecosystem. Not only does it engage millions of players for hours on end but it has marketing “hooks” built into the game play itself.

    FarmVille is a free, browser-based game played through your Facebook account where you harvest crops, feed chickens, and converse with other farmers. At the time of this post, there are over 73 million people playing FarmVille with 26 million playing everyday. It is, in fact, the most popular game online. More people play FarmVille than World of Warcraft so it comes as no surprise that Zynga (the company behind FarmVille) has a revenue run-rate of $600 million. Even in the current recession, the video game industry did nearly $20 billion last year in the US alone.

    One of the paradoxical reasons FarmVille is so successful for Zynga is that players can sidestep the tedious task of farming (e.g. clicking a hundred times to harvest crops or plow a field) by “buying” equipment with FarmVille Cash, effectively accelerating the process of advancing your player’s XP. This virtual cash can be acquired by leveling up (one FarmVille dollar per level) or spending actual real-world cash.

    To promote its “decision engine” Bing, Microsoft offered FarmVille players free FarmVille Cash if they became a fan of Bing on Facebook. As a result:

    • Over 72% of players who clicked on the promo became fans
    • Over 59,000 people published the promo to their news feed
    • Over 70,000 clicks were received on secondary feeds
    • Over 400,000 new fans within 24 hours

    Microsoft stated social media goals are to increase Bing’s user engagement in a positive, intimate, and scalable way and to do this by providing relevant value. The company’s experiment with FarmVille achieves this in spades without being intrusive or overbearing.

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