How Social Media and Search Engine Optimization Work Together

How does social media really impact search engine optimization? As with most areas of digital marketing, there are a lot of myths out there and not a lot of hard facts. Social media and search engine optimization are both incredibly important aspects of a digital marketing campaign, but that doesn’t mean that they necessarily have a lot of overlap. There are very few ways in which social media can be used for SEO, and a few of known strategies are either misleading or mythical.

facebookSocial Media Signals Do Not Affect Search Ranking

Matt Cutts has described exactly why Twitter and Facebook messaging aren’t generally considered any different from other crawled pages… and, further, why social media signals are not used in their ranking algorithm. While it would be easy to simply say it’s too difficult — and it would be very difficult — Cutts also points out that they can randomly lose access to the information on Twitter, Facebook or other platforms, and that it would be prohibitively time-consuming for their engineers to manage the signals from platforms that they may or may not continually have access to.

Some have theorized that sharing through social media will directly affect SEO, but Google states this isn’t true. Instead, it’s simply that popular pages are more likely to both be shared and to rank highly on the SERP — it is not that one is causing the other.

trafficSocial Media Traffic Doesn’t Have Significant Impact on SEO

Some marketers believe that social media traffic can make your site seem more popular, which will then boost your place in the SERP. But in actuality, that isn’t likely to be true — for a couple of reasons. Think about it from a technological point of view. If a person clicks a link on Facebook and gets sent to, Google is not going to track that traffic; Google is not some all-knowing, all-encompassing entity… at least, it’s still pretending that it’s not, until it takes over the world. What happens between a person, Facebook and stays inside of that transaction.

Second, there are some indications that Google pays more attention to authority than strict popularity, regardless. In particular, backlinks remain critical to Google’s algorithm; Google has experimented in searching without links in the past and found that the results were extremely poor. As Cutts himself has noted, if searches were run by popularity, every result returned would be pornography.

linksSocial Media Cannot, As a General Rule, Be Used for Link Building

Curiously, many marketers mention that social media is the “new link building.” It’s curious, because almost all social media links are marked “nofollow. They have absolutely no impact on search engine rankings. You can simply view the source on a Twitter page to see that all the links are marked nofollow — so it’s strange that this strategy gained traction. One notable exception — which we’ll get into a little more below — is Tumblr, due to it being a hybrid of social media network and blogging site.

Tweeting your links is an excellent way to build an audience and gain exposure, but there’s no reason to believe that a tweeted link is going to build any form of search engine traction. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ all create nofollow links.

likeThe Google+ Like Exception

Here’s a weird little thing that you might not have known… and, to be frank, I don’t know how anyone could reliably shoehorn it into any social media or SEO strategy. Google will mark links that your other friends have liked through Google+, provided you’re signed in at the time. So if a ton of your friends have liked a certain page, you’ll see it noted below the link. That’s not to say that it will be pushed up the SERP — it will just be more visible.

Now — is that useful? Well… eh. Maybe. It’s useful on a very niche level; if you have a campaign to get Google+ likes in place, you’ll be more visible to other people on Google+. But realistically, no one uses Google+ — so that’s already dead in the water.

tTumblr Inhabits a Unique Space

Tumblr is interesting. When we think of WordPress, we of course know that it is a content management system and that things published on WordPress will be crawled by search engines. But, one thing you may have noticed, is that items posted on Tumblr — which is primarily a social media site, but also a blogging site — tend to rank fairly high in search engine results. For whatever reason, Tumblr appears to have fairly high domain authority, and this is being pushed to (of course) everything on its domain.

When you deal with Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn updates, it’s not very likely that you will be returned in search engine results at all. When you post in WordPress, it really depends on your personal domain or site — and even if you’re on, you may see limited traffic. But Tumblr posts appear to have some inherent search engine traction, for a variety of reasons. What holds Tumblr back (or, for some, actually makes it better), is its rather niche demographic.

authorThe Google+ Authorship Debacle

Google+ pushed their “authorship” program hard. Through authorship, a profile photo and follower information was shown on Google’s search engine pages if the author of said page was registered with Google+ and the domain. Google authorship never affected search engine ranking directly. What it did was increase search engine visibility. People were often more likely to click on articles that had a trusted face beside them.

It’s understandable why Google would do this. Google has always had this overarching vision of linking everything together through people rather than through pages and posts, but they’ve been held back because they have little control over the other social media platforms. But it’s also understandable that they pulled the program. It put too much of an emphasis on their own property — Google+ — and provided too little in terms of value. Regardless, even if it had affected search engine ranking (which it didn’t), it’s gone now.

As with anything, testing is really necessary to confirm or deny any theories regarding social media and search engine optimization. There’s a lot of competing information, conspiracy theories and conflicting strategies that can alternately distract and damage. But overall, there should not be any direct connection from social media to search engine optimization; nothing that happens on social media should impact your search engine rankings.

That doesn’t mean that social media doesn’t aggressively grow traffic — we know that it does — it just doesn’t do so through the SERP.

Building a Pink Fairy: The “Double Tap” Theory of Customer Relationships

By Cliff [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Cliff [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsLet’s say that this morning you first discovered the existence of the pink fairy armadillo. And that’s fantastic, because everyone should know about the pink fairy armadillo. But now you have a problem — now you’re seeing the pink fairy armadillo everywhere. Science news sites, entertainment magazines, articles about digital marketing; the pink armadillo has, somehow, become universally ubiquitous within your media sphere.

You aren’t losing your mind, nor has the digital zeitgeist suddenly become enamored with pink armadillos — this is known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenonOnce you’ve just learned about something, you become predisposed towards noticing it again.

You might have very well heard about the majesty of chlamyphorus truncatus (also known as the pichiciego) many times before, but because it didn’t sink in at that point, you just don’t remember it. Now that it’s at the surface of your mind, some part of you is actively scanning for it. And every time you notice it subsequently, it will become even more firmly rooted in your mind.

flowers-599344_640Building Your Own Pink Fairies

The first interaction that a customer has with your brand is important. But it may not be as important as the second interaction they have with your brand. The dirty secret of conversion rates is that they are, with very few exceptions, incredibly low. The standard e-commerce conversion rate ranges between 1% and 3%, with most falling in the middle. So for every fifty people who have an experience with your brand — whatever that experience might be — only a single person will convert.

Brand building seeks to create customer relationships and customer associations that will last long-term, transcending each single interaction that the customer has with the business. It isn’t the first interaction — or even the second or third — that is going to stick into the customer’s mind, it’s the recognition the customer feels after being repeatedly exposed to your brand. That feeling of familiarity and recognition is what builds trust in a brand and what ultimately leads to better customer retention and higher customer lifetime values.

handshake-440959_640Customer Recognition Through The “Double Tap” Theory

Content marketing is essentially built on the importance of recognition: through repeated exposure with a brand, a customer will be more likely to engage with and convert to the product or service. Through content marketing, the emphasis of marketing becomes less on converting that initial customer interaction but rather on creating a memorable initial customer interaction. The goal is to give the customer something specific to remember about your brand, whether it is creating insightful, unique commentary or rambling about particularly small, colorful armadillos for the space of an entire article.

Once you have seeded the customer with your personal pink fairy, you can then initiate the double tap. When the customer next experiences your brand, they will feel that flare of recognition and familiarity and, more importantly, they will begin to trust you. Consistently high-quality content is critical to this strategy because you can’t control when and where the customer will experience their double tap. Brands must invest in creating a “voice” for their product that transcends marketing platform if they are to develop this form of trust.

bacteria-67659_640Epidemiology and the Brand Advocate

When pink fairies are seeded and the “double tap” theory has been successfully implemented, something remarkable can happen — you can create brand advocates. Brand advocates aren’t always customers. Some of them may never actually make a purchase from you. But through their trust and familiarity with your brand, they will begin marketing for you through word-of-mouth advertising. Word-of-mouth advertising is arguably the most powerful form of marketing and definitely the most cost-effective.

By reaching out to existing and potential brand advocates through social media campaigns, you can control the epidemiology and spread of your brand growth. You can increase the Baader-Meinhof quotient of your brand, by ensuring that you have a high saturation among certain circles. Every mention of your brand through any form of media is another chance at triggering that sense of familiarity and loyalty — which you will, by then, have rooted into your very own pink fairy.

Creating a lasting relationship with a customer is what content marketing is all about. But there is such an incredible volume of content that you need to be able to differentiate yourself in a unique and memorable way if you are to build customer trust and loyalty. Once you’ve created the appropriate branding, you can potentially capture customers through any of your future interactions.


The Holistic Approach to Digital Marketing

A man goes to his family physician and says, “Doctor, I can’t sleep at night.” The doctor says, “Take some Ambien.” Three sleepless nights later he consults with a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist says, “Take some Lexapro.” Now three sleepless weeks pass, and the man — going crazy — consults with a surgeon. The surgeon says what the man feared most: “You need back surgery.” But, you guessed it: three sleepless months pass. The man finally goes back to his physician. This time the physician asks, “How’s your mattress?”

The man says, “Mattress? I sleep in my Laz-Z-Boy chair.”

cobweb-4193_640Marketing in an Interconnected World

Digital marketing is not modular. That is to say, you can’t have a box and say “this is my social media box,” “this is my owned media box,” and “this is my paid media box.” Marketing is a web. Each campaign connects with the others — and can either strengthen or subvert them. If you aren’t considering the whole marketing campaign — the holistic view of the marketing campaign — you aren’t going to be getting the most out of any of the individual components. A single tear in the fabric of your campaign can bring the entire thing tumbling down.

chain-257492_640The “Weakest Link” Theory in Marketing

Take this very simple concept, an integrated social media campaign: your blog pushes readers towards your social media pages while your social media pages feed your followers back to your blog. New visitors enter in at either side, becoming part of this cycle, slowly building both readership and followers and creating a closed circuit loop of engagement and integration.

But what happens when one part of this cycle — one link in this chain — is weak?

If your blog isn’t reliably sending traffic to your social media audience, your social media followers may languish. This doesn’t just decrease social media engagement, it also reduces your blog traffic, which, in turn, even further reduces the amount of social media followers you gain. The system as a whole has become weaker because of a single issue.

If you’re looking at your marketing campaign from a modular perspective, you will see your traffic going down — but you might not realize that it has to do with your social media presence or your social media integration, because “traffic” and “social media” may be two separate boxes in your strategy. You might try to bolster your search engine optimization — which will help, but won’t address the real problem.


audienceIntegrated Marketing through Entry Points and Links

To better integrate your marketing, you need to concentrate both on entry points and links: where your audience is finding you and also how your audience is moving between your marketing. Followers are gained through search engine optimization, social media marketing and content marketing, but they also move between these platforms, which need to be appropriately integrated.

A common problem is integrating websites with email marketing campaigns. If the transition isn’t seamless, the audience can be lost even when they attempt to convert. Companies can also establish significant social media presence but be unable to drive traffic to their website; their social media reach ultimately has limited value as far as revenue generation is concerned, though it may still have a significant brand-building component.

cube-689619_640Succumbing to the Chaos

There’s some resistance to the term holistic. When your headache could be caused by anything from stress to high sodium, it can be easy to imagine connections, some of which are unlikely at best. You can find yourself chasing weird diets or making radical changes to your sleeping schedule. Marketing can be the same way. You see a jump in conversions or traffic and you look for any little thing that could have caused it… even if it might be something completely unrelated to your marketing campaign.

You roll the dice often enough, eventually you’re going to hit upon a winning combination.

The danger of a whole approach to marketing is that it’s overwhelming. It is always tempting to try to drill down to a few specific strategies or techniques and attribute all of your success to them. In other words, the holistic marketing approach can feel so complex that there is a tendency to become reductionist — which ultimately defeats the entire purpose. This is another reason why having a campaign strategy is of such vital importance. By approaching things in a controlled, systematic matter, even very intricate webs of data can become manageable.

Mobile Behaviors: What Customers Are Actually Doing Online

Despite the current emphasis of mobile marketing and optimization, there’s little data available to quantify the activities that mobile users actually complete online on a day-to-day basis. Statistics tend to be skewed towards optimistic promises, such as: “70% of mobile consumers shop online.” This says nothing about how often they shop online or what time period this shopping takes place in; it just means that seven out of every ten people have shopped online at some point. Let’s try to get a bit of a fuller picture of what consumers are actually doing when they pick up their smartphones and tablets.

phone2Mobile Behavior and the Online Consumer

91% of users access their email on a daily basis. Just looking at that statistic would seem to indicate that email is the most important mobile task, but that isn’t true. Digging a little deeper, we find that only 7.6% of the time that a user spends on their phone is spent on email. We can still see email has tremendous marketing reach — it just doesn’t have a significant volume of activity.

More importantly, a full 80% of consumer time is spent on the following five apps: Facebook, YouTube, Maps (‘search’), Pandora and Gmail (’email’). So when we say that consumers are spending more time on mobile devices than ever before, this is undoubtedly true — but the vast majority of time is being spent on social media, not on search queries or consumer activities.

Mobile consumers are more likely to encounter a company’s brand through social media rather than through an organic web search. Searching for local businesses through the ‘maps’ function is also undoubtedly skewing activity statistics.

And, at the same time, an app like Pandora or YouTube could be used for a more passive user experience. Users may simply have Pandora running in the background, or even be playing YouTube playlists for music rather than social media purposes. So we can see that consumers are using the Internet through their mobile devices very often, but how often they’re using it actively may be arguable.

phone3Reaching Out to the Mobile Consumer

Surveys would indicate that companies wanting to reach out to the mobile consumer would need to also focus on developing their social media campaigns, rather than strictly developing the mobile functionality and accessibility of their websites. It’s undoubtedly true that modern websites must be responsive, but the question here is whether the mobile consumer is looking for their website at all — or if they’re more likely to encounter the brand through another platform.

When mobile users do search online, their searches tend to be more local than desktop users — one in three rather than one in five. And virtually every study supports higher conversion rates through mobile devices, if only because the customer is already somewhat committed; mobile consumers appear to search for products when they already have a purchase in mind. A significant amount of searches involve reading product reviews and looking up specific products, services and companies, bolstering this theory.

Thus, we can see that mobile usage is very important to an e-commerce marketer; we just aren’t able to quantify exactly how important. We know that consumers convert more often, but we also know that they are usually already primed to buy and have an idea of what they want to purchase. And we know that brands are probably more likely to be interacted with by the mobile consumer through social media rather than their website.

mobile-616012_1280Search Engine Optimization and Mobile Design

Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room: Google is changing its search engine results page to promote mobile-friendly results when relevant. But this is less of a concern than it may at first seem to be. Though every Google algorithm change throws the marketing world into a frenzy, Google’s standards for a ‘mobile-friendly’ site are fairly straightforward.

In fact, they’re so straight-forward that you can test your website with Google’s simple tool. Google has been gauging mobile-friendliness through its AdSense portal for some time now; it’s not as nebulous a concept as, for instance, their “page quality” metrics or “site authority” scoring.

All of the above is not to say that a mobile website design isn’t important, nor that mobile website users should not be targeted. For e-commerce websites, the mobile user experience has to be streamlined, attractive and usable. For the purposes of improving user experience, a solid mobile platform is absolutely important.

But it is to say that, for the purposes of mobile user behavior, social media advertising may actually be more important to the average marketer and have more of an overall impact on the average consumer. The vast majority of mobile users are not looking for e-commerce sites or sorting through search engine results, but are instead flipping through their social media accounts and checking their email. It is there that the company needs to reach out to them.

Getting the Joke to Land: When Humor Goes Awry in Digital Marketing

Digital marketers tend to have a sort of love-hate relationship with humor. A little humor is necessary to any marketing campaign; people simply respond better to something that makes them laugh. That’s why State Farm had Jake wearing khakis and why Old Spice had I’m on a horse. But a sense of humor is highly subjective and it can quickly go the wrong way. Marketers who misinterpret their audience’s sense of humor often find themselves on the defensive, running damage control. Sometimes a brand never truly recovers.

The 3 Rules of Marketing-Friendly Humor

  • Always know your audience and demographics.
  • Stay on message and on brand.
  • When straddling a fence, keep a foot on the safer side.

pepsi voodooPepsi: The Voodoo Doll Incident

You can almost see what they were going for. People get excited about sports. They hate the opposing team. So why not post a bunch of pictures of a voodoo doll being beaten up and murdered? It almost seems like some ad executive, somewhere, didn’t quite understand why people enjoy sports. Maybe they didn’t understand that sports rivalries are – with some rare and notable exceptions – for the most part friendly. Or maybe they thought it was actually high praise; “Look, this player is so good that he should be killed.” The Voodoo Doll Campaign came across as brutal, mean-spirited and dark rather than humorous; there was no joke there except, “Hey, isn’t it funny that we want some terrible things to happen to this guy?”

hitman absHitman the… Cyber Bully?

Hitman is a popular video game franchise published by Square Enix. As a promotion for a recent title, the company launched a Facebook game called “Hire Hitman,” allowing users to ‘assassinate’ their friends. All in good fun, right? The problem was the game’s cruel sense of humor. Assassinations were sent with insults – such as “awful make-up” or “big ears” — which inevitably led to accusations of cyberbullying. They completely missed the mark with their audience; weirdly, few people actually wanted to insult and virtually kill their friends. The company later apologized, stating that it was “wide of the mark.” Of course, knowing the game industry, it’s likely that the app was simply outsourced to a third-party developer and never double-checked — which is yet another point of caution.

mac“I’m a Mac” … “And I’m a PC”

Absolutely everyone knows these commercials — so, at very least, they were memorable. Meant to be a satirical look at the different features and aesthetics of mac computers and PCs, it ultimately backfired. Why? In general, people tend to cheer for the underdog. The Mac vs PC commercials featured a casually dressed young man (the Mac) who repeatedly foiled the older gentleman in a business suit (the PC). No one really enjoys seeing competitors dig at each other; it’s like seeing mommy and daddy fight. And Mac also misidentified its audience; many Mac users found themselves identifying more with the PC side of things than the cool-looking Mac.

The Most Inoffensive Types of Marketing Humor

There are two types of humor that almost always win out: self-deprecating humor and absurdity. Consider all of the most popular, humorous advertising campaigns, such as the Geico Gecko. Most people do enjoy laughing at someone — but they don’t want to feel like a bully, they want to be both laughing at and laughing with at the same time. Absurdity, silliness and exaggeration is inoffensive because it’s so disassociated with reality that there is nothing that can be seen as untoward. Still, silliness can become problematic if it does hit too close to home or comes off too mean-spirited, as seen with Pepsi’s voodoo doll campaign.

damageDamage Control: Recovering Gracefully

Sometimes everything just goes wrong. You could catch the attention of the wrong person. Your joke could have implications that you never anticipated. Damage control isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it’s all about how you handle it. If you handle damage control gracefully, you may even be able to improve the standing of your brand when all is said and done. But if you handle it improperly, you could do irreparable harm.

  • Own it. Apologize and explain — but don’t make excuses and don’t snark.
  • Be proactive. React quickly and take direct action against any wronged parties.
  • Take it seriously. Don’t try to spin outrage into another joke; it can be misinterpreted.

An intuitive understanding of your audience is necessary to craft memorable, humorous copy without taking it a step too far. Marketers need to straddle the line between clichéd, forgettable jokes and offensive or obscure jokes, while still staying on message and furthering their company’s brand. Social media and other real-time communication portals have made it very easy for a marketer to stick their virtual foot in their mouth – but, by the same token, an audience is likely to forget issues of poor humor as long as the marketer handles it quickly and in the appropriate way.

Statistical Skepticism: Why Data Often Lies to Digital Marketers

I love statistics. I love data analysis. I love graphs. It’s a sickness, but it’s one shared by many marketers — analytic information is really the only information we have to determine whether our strategies are working. Unfortunately, digital marketing and social media statistics are not peer-reviewed or published in academic journals; most of the ‘studies’ we have come from small sample sizes delivered by who-knows-who. That doesn’t mean the data is worthless, it simply means that we need to be skeptical and avoid making any assumptions. Data doesn’t always tell the truth. Quite frequently, data lies.

Using Words to Recontextualize Ambiguous Data


Every marketer knows that words are powerful. Words are more powerful than numbers, even though numbers may be more honest. But unfortunately, words can also be used to mislead. Take, for example, the above infographic from KISSmetrics. One could easily surmise that unique views always go up by posts per day, because that’s exactly what they’re telling you. But that’s not what this graph is saying at all. In fact, without more data, this graph is essentially useless.

If it’s a graph of separate sites, plotted by how much they post and how much traffic they get, it only shows something very alarming: that posting between 23 to 30 posts a day could garner you only as much traffic as posting half as often. There’s also another possibility: that this is correlation, not causation. Without knowing which sites have been polled, it’s very possible that the more popular sites post more often because they are more popular — and can hence sustain the cost of their content — rather than being more popular because they post more often.

While there’s an upward trend, the data is extraordinarily erratic; any reasonable person would see this. Yet because the takeaway states the conclusion directly — that traffic always goes up by daily post quantity — the reader would assume this to be correct.

Not Including Control Values When Drawing Conclusions


In statistics, you’re often told that causation doesn’t equal correlation. It’s a fancy way of saying that just because two things happen at the same time, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re related. You could win the lottery and also trip and break your leg and it could then be said that 1% of all lottery winners this year broke their leg. But it could also be that 1% of everyone that year broke their leg.

In the above graph, we are shown that 88% of consumers have abandoned their shopping carts during a checkout process and 84% of consumers who abandon their shopping carts search online for cheaper prices. The implication is that most consumers who abandon their shopping cards are searching online for cheaper prices — and that could well be true, but not necessarily based on this data.

Why? Because the data doesn’t show a control value. For all we know, 84% of consumers who don’t abandon their shopping carts also search online for cheaper prices. In other words, the statistic may not mean anything at all; it may just be that almost everyone both abandons shopping carts occasionally and searches online for cheaper prices occasionally.

But this also shows something a little more insidious and dangerous. Using common sense, we know that savvy consumers are looking up prices online and that this is probably affecting conversion rates. So we look for data that supports our beliefs because that makes sense; we don’t care whether the data actually makes sense.

Working With Extremely Small Sample Sizes and Self-Reported Data


There’s a reason why demographic research is conducted over thousands if not tens of thousands of individuals. A margin of error can significantly skew results when data is taken from small sample sizes. Even a moderate sample size can be dangerous. Take this color study, which purports to show variations of least and most favorite colors by gender.

These results are crazy! Apparently, no man has ever had the color purple as his favorite color, even though over 20% of women listed it as their favorite color. Simply looking at this infographic would lead you to believe that the color purple is universally hated among men.

But it begins to make sense when you discover the context of this study. It only polled 223 individuals. Meanwhile, a study by a sociologist at the University of Maryland, which polled 1,974 individuals rather than 223, found vastly different results. Here, we see that 12% of men — not 0% — listed purple as a favorite color. It’s still not a popular color, but it’s also not universally reviled. In fact, it’s more popular than red, yellow, orange and pink.


Many marketing metrics have astonishingly low sample sizes and most of them are not culled from the best resources. An informal Internet poll is probably the worst way to collect data because it is all self-reported data; how can we ever know whether it’s true?

At this point, one might be inclined to have a minor crisis in faith. After all, almost everything we do and assume is based on data that we researched at some point or another on the web. But all of this doesn’t mean that data isn’t valuable, it just means that we need to engage our critical thinking skills, consider the source and really dig in before we take things to heart.

Digital Marketing Trends That Inspire Reader Fatigue

For a diverse and global community, the web can sometimes appear startlingly homogeneous. Design and marketing techniques proliferate quickly on the backs of those eager to get in on the next big thing, and once a trend builds momentum, it can become almost impossible to kill. Clients begin asking for the bells and whistles that they’ve seen elsewhere on the web and readers come to expect it. Eventually some trends overstay their welcome and simply have to go.


The Waste Your Time Infinite Scrolling Design

It may be time for us to call it quits on the parallax — at least, other than some very specific applications. Sure, parallax design looks fantastic, but now that it’s been scattered across half of the web, it’s lost much of its initial impact. Worse, it’s encouraging infinite scrolling and one page designs. One page site designs were at first promoted for allowing full control over the chronology of the company’s story, unfolding a tale in front of the eyes of the consumer. While it does achieve that, there are many technical problems holding it back from being a truly effective technique.

  • It obfuscates the UX. While a user can scroll down to slowly reveal the company’s messaging, it makes it very difficult for the user to actually browse through the site and control their own user experience. If the user simply has a direct question or needs specific information, they won’t be able to find it. This can leads to user frustration and site abandonment.
  • It makes analytics difficult to track. With a parallax, infinite scrolling design, you can’t determine where the user is bouncing off of your site or what content the user is revealing beforehand. You also can’t see which areas of your site are more popular because they are all on a single, slowly revealed page.
  • It’s bad for SEO. Having all of your relevant information on a single page is the last thing you want for the purposes of search engine optimization. Infinite scrolling websites also put a premium on concise copy, which is simultaneously more readable but less easily optimized.

Modal Madness: The Pop-Up Advertising of Today

I don’t think I’m alone in this: a modal window is very likely to get me to leave a site entirely. The rest of the website goes dark and a prompt appears at the center of the screen: Buy Our Product! Sign Up for Our Newsletter! Do Something, Anything, to Get Rid of This Ad! Modal windows are very popular today as an aggressive method of capturing leads. But the web already rejected pop-ups –what makes advertisers believe that today’s consumer will be any more forgiving?

  • It breaks the user experience. Whatever the user intended to do — whether it be find more information about your product or just read an article — has now been interrupted and there’s a good chance the user might just leave entirely. The fact that many modal windows can’t be easily closed only adds to this frustration.
  • When it fails, it fails spectacularly. Modal windows do two things: present you with an ad and black out the rest of the site. So when they malfunction — which happens a good 10% of the time — the site often remains blacked out and inaccessible. Sometimes the site may not even come back after the modal window has been closed.
  • It’s too aggressive. When you market things correctly, the consumer wants to get more information from you. A modal window is the sales equivalent of cornering a customer in a store. The dialog will be completely different than it would be if the customer themselves had come up with a question.

likesQuantity Over Quality Social Media Marketing

The inherent difficulty involved in measuring the effectiveness of social media marketing has led many digital marketers to adopt quantity-based metrics. In other words, the effectiveness of campaigns is often measured simply by the quantity of followers. While this is one important metric, it’s not always the best metric; depending on a content marketing campaign, additional traffic may not actually lead to any actual increase in revenue. Aggressively obtaining followers (such as, say, through modal windows) may lead to followers who were not initially invested in the company’s messaging and who will not become invested later on. Worse yet, it may alienate followers by appearing both desperate and pushy.

  • Traffic doesn’t mean conversions. Marketers learned this lesson years ago, but may need to relearn it in the social media context. A local business followed by a tremendous amount of global followers won’t necessarily make any more revenue than another business with a smaller amount of local followers.
  • People don’t take social media that seriously. They may follow you with no real intent to ever interact with your brand or make a purchase from you; being interested in what you have to say by no means guarantees a sale. While more exposure is still good, it shouldn’t be used as the only end goal.
  • Users that don’t engage can actually be harmful. Many online communities gauge the success of your posts based on how many of your followers actually engage with it. If you have a large amount of followers and none of them are paying attention to your posts, your posts won’t gain any traction.

Most digital marketing trends don’t last long; the industry simply moves too fast. New trends are constantly on the horizon and marketers need to remain agile and be willing to abandon old techniques should they become ineffective. Tactics such as infinite scrolling (jazzed up in all that lovely parallax) were effective and marketers were right to use them — but that doesn’t mean they will remain effective forever. Marketers have to be constantly in the process of analyzing and improving if they are to avoid played out and now ineffective conventions.

Ephemeral vs Eternal: Managing Your Content’s Lifetime Value

There’s a divide developing between search engine optimized content and shareworthy content. Marketers no longer need to merely consider their content’s intent; they also need to consider their content’s lifetime value. Shareworthy content tends to have a very short shelf life — sometimes as little as 24 hours. Search engine optimized content is aimed towards having a much longer shelf life — usually months, sometimes years. But neither content type is inherently better than the other, and a mix of the two may be appropriate for most.

shareworthyShareworthy Content: A Fusillade of Bits and Bytes

Entertainment news websites are the best example of primarily shareworthy content. They achieve traffic and engagement via a continuous fusillade of information. The content burns short and bright: each article may trend only for a matter of hours, but combined they create sustainable traffic. The raw quality of the content isn’t always a primary concern; quantity is more important. But quality is still a consideration.

Most companies cannot keep up a constant stream of content, nor should they. One failing of shareworthy content is that the bulk of the traffic will immediately begin to wane should there be any break in publishing. Shareworthy content is usually so highly specific that it is not usually aimed at bringing in any meaningful traffic from search engines. It can also be difficult to measure the effectiveness of shared content. But that does not mean that it is exclusive of search engine optimization; it only means that this isn’t the principle goal.

Increasing the shelf life of shareworthy content:

  • Share content on multiple platforms. Studies have shown that engagement lasts longer on LinkedIn and the shortest on Twitter, but each platform is a new audience.
  • Don’t forget your links. Internal linking between pages of your site, from new content to older content, can be used to drive users from current shareworthy articles to prior ones.
  • Promote internally. Random posts, top posts, trending posts and archived posts are all ways to drive traffic from current pages to previous pages.

seoSearch Engine Optimized Content: A Slow Build of Momentum

Even well-optimized content will take at least a day or two to gain traction — often much more. SEO content could peak weeks, months or even years after publishing. Through a constant publishing schedule, companies can create building momentum. This momentum will carry the content forward, allowing for more time between publishing. Each piece of content has more room to land and breathe — but by the same token, each piece of content also needs to be of very high quality.

Search engine optimized content is more stable than shareworthy content. Shareworthy content can be very fickle and even expert social marketers are not always able to anticipate the popularity of a content strategy. But search engine optimized content is also highly competitive due to the incredibly high quality of content required.

Increasing the shelf life of search engine optimized content:

  • Renew and revise. Your most popular posts and pages won’t stay accurate and timely forever. Update your best performing pages to ensure that they remain at the top.
  • Pay attention to the context. If your site’s overall quality goes down, the visibility of all your content will go down. Make sure you curate your content appropriately.
  • Get those deep links. Get high authority sites to link to your content from throughout the web by providing valuable, insightful and informative content.

shelf lifeHybridizing Your Content: Increasing Your Content’s Shelf Life

When investing in content, you may want to consider your content’s lifetime value. What will your content’s shelf life be? What are your content’s goals? How much your company will actually gain from the content once it has been created? There are many strategies for increasing content shelf life. Both shareworthy content and search engine optimized content can become obsolete.

Many content marketing strategies focus on the hybridizing of content; creating content that is both shareworthy and search engine friendly. But either way, the content needs a focus. Is it shareable content with search engine optimization or is it search engine optimized content that is also shareable?

You can do both, but you can’t do both equally. One of the trending articles on Buzzfeed right now is “Man Late To Work Because Of Chupacabra.” A totally shareworthy title — but probably not a top search engine query. Probably not even a long tail query. Naturally, the article is search engine optimized in other ways, but the title shows its primary objective.

Increasing the shelf life of hybridized content:

  • Identify the “well, it can’t hurt” areas. Rewriting a title? Probably harmful. Adding a few long tail keywords into the text? Probably inconsequential.
  • Play to the content’s strengths. Figure out whether the content works best shared or optimized and begin on that foundation.
  • Create complementary content. When one piece of content is doing well, consider creating another piece of related content from a different perspective.

focusA Question of Focus: When Multitasking Obscures Your Content’s Goals

Hybrid content isn’t always a good idea. After all, most people would study to become a doctor or a lawyer — not both. Doing one thing well is often better than doing two things poorly. Many content marketing strategies will benefit through the creation of focused content in both areas rather than creating individual pieces of content that can be seen both ways.

In the example above, trying to SEO a title can potentially damage its shareworthiness. Likewise, trying to shareworthy a title can damage its optimization. In this case it’s a bit of a peanut butter and jelly scenario: sure they go great together, but the market has spoken: no one wants to buy them in the same jar.

Increasing the shelf life of focused content:

  • Cross-integrate your content. Connect share-focused content with SEO-focused content for a more holistic marketing strategy.
  • Make sharing a priority. Optimize your website itself to encourage the sharing of all your content, not just shareworthy content.
  • Don’t neglect the quality. Low quality but shareworthy content can tank your site’s authority, taking your optimized content with it.

A perfectly search engine optimized, shareworthy piece of content is a marketer’s holy grail: it’s something that we should all pursue, but it just may not always be obtainable. Meanwhile, it may actually be detrimental to our content’s value to try to do too many things with the content at once. It’s often better to understand the goals of each piece of content and its place within your content strategy than to try to shoehorn each piece of content into a single rigorous set of metrics. By playing to your content’s strengths, you can increase its lifetime value and ultimately the value of your campaign as a whole.

Freelancers and the Constant Evolution of Professionalism

When social media moved from a passing fad to something that was certainly here to stay, many professionals regarded it with suspicion. The idea of potential clients or employers being able to see what you did last Friday night was terrifying to most, and many individuals struggled to lock down their accounts, create fake accounts or simply forego social media entirely. But today, the entire idea of a freelancer or employee as a professional is evolving. Professionalism is less about what silly stuff you do online — which, on some level, really cannot be avoided — and more about how you are seen as a person.

startupHow the Professional Landscape Has Changed

At some point, most people just stopped caring about what was out there about them. Employers can — and do — Facebook stalk prospective employees, but in the grand scope of things, it stopped mattering. After all, everyone else was equally as exposed. A social media presence just became one of many factors that could either impress or alarm an employer, ranking somewhere below in-person conduct and college transcripts.

At the same time, the freelance industry was becoming inundated by startups; quirky companies that tended to embrace individuality rather than ignore it. Is it unprofessional to have a doll collecting page on your professional website? Maybe not, anymore. Especially not if you’re looking for work with a doll company. Smaller businesses wanted individuals who were passionate about their interests, even if their interests weren’t necessarily aligned with their work.

riverKnowing the Difference Between Irrelevant and Irresponsible

No one cares that you ate an entire tub of Ben and Jerry’s last night — it’s just not going to come up during an interview process. But an interviewer does care if you got blackout drunk the prior night, lost your wallet and ended up falling into a local body of water. Ice cream isn’t going to stop you from coming to work the next day. Being at the bottom of the Mississippi River will.

Is it fair that you’re judged not only on professional merit but also on your conduct outside of the office? Perhaps not — but it’s always been true. It’s also not illegal, just to head that one off at the pass. Employers are free to discriminate regarding who they hire as long as they don’t discriminate on the basis of protected classes. An employer can absolutely refuse to hire you because you posted about cheating on your girlfriend. But they cannot refuse to hire you because you posted about being a girl with a girlfriend.

So it really isn’t rocket science. If you post about ordinary, even offbeat, things on your social media accounts, it’ll be fine; if you post about reckless or objectionable activities, it might not be. And you can’t always know what will offend someone. That’s life. We live some of our lives online and it’s unavoidable that some of it will leak through.

lockThe Question of Locking Down Your Social Media Accounts

In the old days — you know, those heady days of 2004 — people were often advised to simply lock down their social media accounts. But that isn’t always the best solution. There is a reason why many professionals today spend a lot of money on reputation management rather than just closing down their social accounts and disappearing from the web. Simply put, it’s not possible to eradicate information from the Internet any longer.

But what you can do is overwhelm it. Closing your social media accounts just means that you have less control over your web footprint than you did before. The other information is still out there and it’s likely that you have no control over it. By creating positive information through the social media accounts that you control, you can monitor your reputation and improve upon it. Don’t ask yourself whether an employer or client will find something — they will find something. It’s all about what they find.

fbRules to Live By for a Professional Social Media Presence

  • Never trash previous or current clients. It’s like talking negatively about an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend; no one wants to hear that.
  • In fact, don’t talk about your clients at all unless you have permission and it’s glowingly positive.
  • “I’m swamped today!” is fine; “I hate my job and everyone who works here!” is alarming.

To a certain extent, having some element of personality on parade is important. It’s memorable. It’s personable. It will get you to stick in a client’s mind. It will connect you to like-minded individuals. We’re no longer beholden to strict, homogeneous markets through our geography. We have virtually limitless contacts out there. Displaying some element of personality will lead you towards a working environment that you truly enjoy and working partners that you can really click with. But obviously, that doesn’t mean you can just put everything in your life out on display. It’s a good rule of thumb to consider carefully every piece of information you ever attach to your name. It will last forever.

Are You Getting Reputation Management Wrong?

It seems that you can’t go a week without reading about a public scandal related to a company’s online advertising, social media presence or customer service. These are not just small businesses; big names that include McDonalds, Starbucks, JP Morgan, Comcast and others are all on the list of those who have made massive flubs online. It is possible that the errors come down to not understanding the realities of the digital age, including:

1. Digital media is a conversation.

If your company is continually blaring out one-sided promotional messages, you will not get much traction. In your blogs, address what customers want. On social media, start conversations. Ask questions. Answer questions. Online, everybody has the ability to contribute, and customers will expect you to understand that.

2. Companies don’t get to choose how people respond.

Sterling customer service and quality products are more important than ever. If your customer service is poor, expect that fact to be shared on blogs, Yelp, Facebook and even, if you are very unlucky, documented with video that is uploaded and reposted all over Youtube. You are always in public now.

3. But, consumers do expect you to talk back to them.

70% of consumers expect brands to respond to complaints on Twitter within an hour. While this can be intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. If your product is good and your customer service is on-key, you can turn each of these individual interactions into power PR for your brand.