How the “Football Picks Scam” Is Used to Build Content Authority

Big game coming up? Get out a list of 80 names. Send 40 of them a “tip” that the game will go one way; tell the other 40 the opposite. Now it’s just wash, rinse, repeat. Next game, take the last 40 winners, and do it all over again with groups of 20. Eventually, you’ll find yourself with 5 people who think that you can predict any game.

At each stage of this process, you can charge the winners a little bit more, because they trust you more. And the losers? Well, it was just a bad tip. This is known as the “Football Picks Scam,” and the most clever aspect of it is that it requires very little actual effort. All the Football Picks Scam needs to succeed is sheer numbers. And when all a digital marketer has is traffic

dog-665159_1280Throwing Everything Against the Wall

Tim’s a newbie digital marketer. His first client is a pool servicing, maintenance and repairs company. Tim knows that he needs to put out valuable, informative content on a regular basis, or his client’s marketing strategy will fail. Unfortunately, what Tim doesn’t know a lot about is pools. So Tim can create content, but he’s just not very sure about that content. And eventually, he really finds himself struggling to come up with information. In the last week, Tim has posted:

  • Ridding Your Pool of Murky, Dirty Water With Natural Remedies
  • Fun and Safe Pool Games for Children and Teens
  • 6 Eco-Friendly Ways to Keep Your Pool Warm and Comfortable
  • The Benefits of Saltwater Pools Over Conventional Pools
  • Could Your Poorly Maintained Pool Kill Your Child When You’re Asleep?

Martha, reading these articles, rapidly loses interest. “Ridding Your Pool of Murky, Dirty Water With Natural Remedies” claims that arsenic is a natural remedy, which she’s pretty sure isn’t right. “6 Eco-Friendly Ways to Keep Your Pool Warm and Comfortable” suggests that you set the pool on fire, which she’s almost positive is neither a good idea nor actually possible. By the time she gets to “Could Your Poorly Maintained Pool Kill Your Child When You’re Asleep,” Martha’s been lost. She has absolutely no faith in the writer.

But Mike, on the other hand, only read “Fun and Safe Pool Games for Children and Teens” — which, he thought, had some great tips — and “The Benefits of Saltwater Pools Over Conventional Pools,” which he thoroughly agreed with, as the owner of a saltwater pool himself. By the time he gets to “Could Your Poorly Maintained Pool Kill Your Child When You’re Asleep,” he’s already primed and ready to go: he trusts Tim.

Though, really, he probably shouldn’t. Tim has managed to build authority by doing something that, let’s face it, most of us do at one time or another: creating articles that are nevertheless based on facts that were never properly researched. He knows that he isn’t going to convince everyone, but he’s going to convince enough people for the strategy to work.

cube-442544_1280And It Does Work: Why Rolling the Dice Can Be Effective

Two major principles drive this type of strategy: the tendency to quietly disregard items that you disagree with and the tendency to focus on and promote the things that you do. In content marketing, we actually have a benefit that “The Football Pick Scam” never did — our “winning guesses” get pushed to the top, and our “losing guesses” can be eradicated entirely. Even the “losers” in our scenario will likely just shrug and move on.

As Tim’s marketing strategy grows, people like Mike will link to and promote “Fun and Safe Pool Games for Children and Teens” and “The Benefits of Saltwater Pools Over Conventional Pools,” while people like Martha will generally just leave. The good articles will show up with higher prominence on Tim’s client’s site, if Tim has properly configured his “popular” and “related” categories. Fewer and fewer people will ever see the articles that are incorrect, as they will be pushed to the bottom. Ultimately, Tim can even cull these articles entirely, as though they never happened at all. No more Marthas.

Tim has managed to build his content authority simply by crowdsourcing his quality control. He had no idea which of his five articles were actually accurate or not: the crowd told him. It’s a principle that almost all of the big entertainment sites today are using: they publish and post anything and let the audience vote on its merit. They end up with a front page that has only the best content, but only because there was a lot of trash to comb through. And even better, they barely had to do anything at all.

waiting-410328_1280…But It’s Not Necessarily the Best Use of Your Time

It’s undeniably true that you can build content authority and a brand by just throwing everything at a wall and seeing what sticks. But really, this strategy is almost an act of desperation. Tim could have just written five great articles about pools, if he knew anything about pools. And those five great articles would likely have performed better than the two articles that he ended up getting right. Tim also might just want to find clients with services that he actually understands.

Obviously, there are some areas in which this strategy works and some areas in which it doesn’t, mostly down to how educated the consumer is in that particular market. Science popularization sites can get science wrong — peer-reviewed journals largely cannot. A B2B marketing campaign will often employ this strategy much less successfully than a B2C marketing campaign, simply because of familiarity within the industry. And it’s also important to remember that this strategy works based on sheer volume. Smaller sites and niche sites need to make the most out of every visitor, every Mike and every Martha, that they can.

We often use the “throw it at the wall” strategy even without thinking about it. We may have an idea kicking around in our head that we aren’t quite certain is right, and we may simply think — “Well, I’ll float it and see what happens.” But usually we can benefit from a more thoughtful approach. It’s not that the Football Picks Scam doesn’t work — it clearly does — but, at its core, it’s a lazy attempt, and often a waste of time. There are other strategies that can work better if we give ourselves the time to think it through.

Back to Basics: What Is Inbound Marketing?

New to inbound marketing? Or, have you been randomly creating content without quite knowing why it’s a requirement for inbound marketing?

Inbound and content marketing pull prospects toward you instead of having you and your firm relentlessly hunt them down. In this model, the customer is in control. They check out their options and only make contact with a seller when they are ready to buy. To ensure that your product is the one that they choose, you need to lead them through the buying phases with inbound methodology. The steps along the way:

Research

Before you write a single piece of content, know who you are writing to. Begin by identifying your best prospects. Learn demographic information like their age, income and other data. Study their online habits. It can help to create buyer personas, which are semi-fictional composite characters that represent people who may buy your brand.

Start developing a list of keywords your potential customers may search. This is a list of likely keywords that users search when they hit Google to look for products in your industry. It should be updated frequently. Include search popularity information as well as related keywords. Don’t necessarily worry about hitting every one. With Hummingbird’s semantic search, synonyms and near matches are likely to bring in traffic, as well.

SEO isn’t everything, but, search engines remain one of the best ways for your business to be found. By starting with the terms surfers use most, you can increase your chances of your content indexing high in the search results.

Creation

Over half of all purchases start with a search engine query. Ensure that your site comes up in the results by creating relevant, useful keyword-rich content.

Blogging is the quickest and most basic place to start. Create content that educates and answers prospects’ questions. You should also be posting to social networking platforms. This can include links to your content, as well as content designed specifically for your social media account.

As you branch out, your content should include a variety of types of media: blog posts, articles, infographics, photos, social media posts, ebooks and white papers are all potential examples. The right mix for your brand will depend on your product and your audience.

Engagement and Conversion

Once the prospect is on your site, it is important to capture some information to continue with the buyer’s journey. Put premium content behind forms so that you can capture contact information. The forms should be easy and painless to fill out; otherwise, impatient readers may bounce.

Entice visitors to sign up for email offers and updates. This makes it easy for you to keep in contact and nurture the lead. Email series and regular newsletters are both great options for keeping your business in prospects’ minds as they work toward a buying decision.

It frequently takes many touches to close a sale. Create content that addresses all stages of the buyers journey so that you can be there with them as they continue to research and narrow down their choices.

Closing

This is where your lead becomes a client. Create landing pages for offers that are clear, compelling and end with a precise call-to-action. Once a decision is made, make buying as friction-free and easy as possible.

Keep track of the details about your customers using good customer relationship management (CRM) software. This allows you to develop a better idea of who your buyers are, which allows you to make content that is more personalized and directly addresses their needs.

Delight

Do everything in your power to ensure that your customer is happy. Check in with customer satisfaction surveys. Monitor social media so that you can respond quickly when a customer posts there with an issue or a gripe. Delighting your customers doesn’t just bring them back. It makes them advocates on your behalf, bringing you new prospects you may not have encountered without them. By always delivering an excellent product and service, you turn happy customers into advocates and champions of your brand.

When Bad Press Turns Good: Negating the Negative through Social Media Campaigns

dolphin“No publicity is bad publicity” is a phrase residing firmly within the realm of non-marketers. Marketers are aware that some publicity is provably bad publicity. One need only look towards SeaWorld, which saw its stock plummet and never recover following the release of the chilling documentary Blackfish, Still, bad publicity only seems to affect companies for a long time if it kicks the proverbial (or, for that matter, literal) puppy. Consumers tend to be very forgiving should there be no direct element of harm. Some companies can even turn their bad press around through effective marketing — and social media is one of the best ways to do it.

ground meatThe Taco Bell 35% Beef

Taco Bell found itself on the wrong side of a lawsuit in 2011, when they were accused of serving “beef” that, in fact, contained only 35% beef. According to the suit, Taco Bell’s seasoned beef didn’t contain enough beef to even be called beef, so it was (again, allegedly) a case of false advertising. The suit further claimed that the rest of the product was made out of water, oats, soy and corn starch — and, to be fair, this wasn’t entirely unbelievable. The class-action lawsuit circulated quickly, calling for Taco Bell to change its marketing to “mixed meat” rather than “seasoned ground beef.”

Taco Bell responded quickly and transparently, producing a recipe of 88% beef. They followed up not only through the press but also by reaching out through social media; the response was overwhelmingly positive through both Facebook and YouTube, with an average of 90% of responses being positive. And, the thing was… well. Most people didn’t really care what went into their Taco Bell taco, they just cared about being lied to. In fact, many  were already gleefully eating Taco Bell imagining the worst: that it was composed dominantly of saw dust and grease.

By showing that it was, in fact, 88% beef, Taco Bell actually exceeded their expectations. Hell — most customers would have counted anything above 50% a win.

By Wasforgas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThe #SusanAlbumParty

Maybe this actually underscores the importance of properly formatting hashes. Regardless, most people wouldn’t have heard about Susan Boyle’s record, released in 2012, if her PR manager hadn’t completely glitched out that day. Seeking to promote the album through Twitter, @SusanBoyleHQ implored fans to tweet in questions to #susanalbumparty, apparently not thinking too much of it. Obviously, the Internet did think something of it, quickly noting the somewhat rude message hiding in the hash, and the tag was quickly trending over the world. The consequence? The album vastly exceeded expectations. It even went platinum in Australia and New Zealand, three years after the height of her popularity.

Obviously, they quite stumbled into this — or, did they? It could have been nothing more than an embarrassing side note if @SusanBoyleHQ had decided to delete and disavow the tweet. It could have even gone very poorly. The web has historically shown a dogged determination not to let such embarrassing mistakes slide quietly into the night. By rolling with it, not trying to hide it and not getting overly aggressive about it, they turned the tide positive with virtually no effort at all. By the end, no one was laughing at Susan Boyle, they were laughing with her — and buying her album. It could have been an entirely different situation had her marketing team not had somewhat of a sense of humor.

pomegranatePOM Wonderful’s Snake Oil

On Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, POM Wonderful was skewered for making unsubstantiated health claims about the benefits of pomegranate juice for prostate cancer, among other health issues. John Oliver gleefully referred to it as “snake oil,” and encouraged purchasers of the juice to add stickers to it suggesting that it contained dogs. False health claims can be incredibly damaging to a company’s brand — and, in fact, can cause harm. At the same time that John Oliver was making his quippy statements, news reports were lambasting the juice business — and the entire situation recently ended in a lawsuit,which POM Wonderful initially lost but appealed and won.

It seems like a nightmare for a brand, but POM Wonderful is still on shelves and the company is doing remarkably well. POM Wonderful responded very quickly to John Oliver by sending a humorous letter, which changed the tone of the entire debacle. By focusing on John Oliver’s humorous take down of their product — and by showing their own good humor — they made the entire issue less serious. The John Oliver segment ended up on YouTube, where it is currently sitting at 2,054,707 views, 18,408 likes and a mere 226 dislikes. Even better, this allowed POM Wonderful to hit John Oliver’s core demographic — males between 18 and 35.

Social media creates a personal relationship between the consumer and the company, making it extraordinarily effective at managing bad publicity issues. When bad press hits, companies need to respond quickly, transparently and in the appropriate tone if they are to keep their consumer base engaged and positive. Many businesses fail to achieve this: they react negatively to bad press, try to sweep it under the rug or simply don’t take it seriously. Above all, customers want to see as though their concerns have been listened to and valued.

orcaEven SeaWorld could have theoretically bounced back from its animal abuse controversy had it taken the concerns of its customers under serious advisement. Instead, the company seemingly ignored customer concerns, repeatedly insisting that there was nothing to worry about and attempting to continue moving forward without any major changes. The company spent large amounts of money on marketing campaigns directed towards bringing visitors in without appropriately assuring them that they had changed — leaving their customers adrift, wondering if they mattered to the business and wondering if the animal abuse issues had been addressed at all.

The Gettier Problem: Justified True Belief and the Digital Marketer

moonIn 1963, Edmund Gettier wrote a 3 page paper on philosophy questioning the concept of “knowledge.” Prior to Gettier, the Platonic definition of knowledge was commonly used — justified true belief. Justified true belief states that if P is true, and S believes that P is true, S is thus justified in believing that P is true. Essentially, S has knowledge of P. Simple example: The moon revolves around the earth. You believe the moon revolves around the earth because you have seen its orbit. You thus have the knowledge, also known as the justified true belief, that the moon revolves around the earth.

But Gettier pointed out a flaw in this argument: you can believe the right thing for the wrong reasons. And that’s a problem we need to struggle with in marketing every day.

theaterThe Gettier Problem: An Approach of Assumption

You see a friend at the movie theater, and thus conclude they were seeing a movie. In fact, that was just someone who looked like your friend. But your friend was also there at the movie; you just did not see them. You thus have the knowledge, which is correct, that they were at the theater — but you believed it for the wrong reasons. Still, your knowledge would have been no different if you had, in fact, viewed your friend instead of the look-a-like stranger.

There are some problems with Gettier’s approach as a philosophical statement. It always requires that at least one step of the process be a clear mistake, and thus incorrect.  When attempts are made to iron that issue out, it treads dangerously on “all life as a simulated lie” territory. But on a more practical level, The Gettier Problem can be rather directly applied to digital marketing.

For instance, what if you had called out to that look-a-like? The illusion would have been destroyed. What if you later ask your friend why they didn’t say “Hello” when they saw you? They would have been absolutely perplexed. Maybe there would even be an argument! The Gettier Problem is really a problem with assumptions.

mouseBelieving the Right Thing for the Wrong Reason

We make “Gettier Problem” assumptions all the time. We are constantly believing the right thing for the wrong reasons. And that seems fine, until you realize that this can adversely affect your performance in the future.

I once had the most charming, frenetic ball of energy as a supervisor. She constantly complained that her wireless mouse would kill batteries while she was at home but not in the office — even though she used the exact same mouse. We tried buying her new mice, it didn’t matter. We tried swapping the mice, it didn’t matter. She used the same computer — an old laptop — with an identical dock both at home and in the office. So we replaced her mouse at home with a wired mouse and we knew that a wireless mouse drained batteries ceaselessly at her home.

That is, until she switched desks at work… and we found that she had the same problem. Slowly we realized the weird, simple truth: the keyboard tray that she had at home, and that she installed in her new desk, was indirectly causing the wireless mouse drain the whole time! The keyboard tray made her more comfortable, so she held on to the mouse and jiggled it, constantly, the entire time she was seated. When she was on the phone. When she was on a teleconference. When she was reviewing materials. When she was in a meeting. The mouse never sat idle! We knew that it was happening, but not the correct reason why.

Well, obviously if we’d had better knowledge, we could have worked that one out much faster.

question-mark-463497_640The Value of the Skeptical Marketer

Marketers are encouraged to outline clear goals and methodology during their A/B testing process for a very simple reason: unless you isolate the actions that you take, it becomes impossible to tell whether the results you received were related to those actions. Unfortunately a digital marketing campaign is rarely a “clean” environment. There are hundreds if not thousands of factors that could be tracked; as hard as we try, some element of guesswork will exist. And that also means that we have to be both intuitive and highly skeptical as marketers.

Let’s say you change your call-to-action and receive a 2.8% increase in conversions. That’s fantastic. It’s very easy to assume that it’s the call-to-action that worked. But if you regularly see a +/- variance of 3% in your conversion rate, it could merely be random. And if you don’t compare it to prior year statistics — or don’t even have prior year statistics — you might not realize that the shift was actually seasonal.

But even more infuriatingly, your call-to-action change could have worked, in itself, but not for the reason you think it did. Say you punched up the copy and made it a lot edgier. The call-to-action worked. But maybe it wasn’t because you made it edgier. maybe it was because it also happened to be shorter, which moved the “call-to-action” button above the fold.

In other words, the change of button location is what increased conversion. If you take the obvious answer, you’ll go around making your call-to-actions edgier and you may not see the same results. Instead, you could be changing your button locations to a greater effect.

A great deal of marketing is about avoiding assumptions. This is what separates the marketers who are attempting by-the-numbers optimizations and marketers who can easily intuit relationships within the field. You can train yourself to be a skeptic simply by always taking the time to ask questions about what you believe to know to be true.

SEO Q&A: What Exactly is “Duplicate Content” and How Badly is a Site Penalized for It?

Question: I’m worried about duplicate content on my site. If I place a blog post on multiple sites, is that going to harm my search rankings? Will it be marked as spam?

 

Placing a piece of content on multiple sites isn’t always a good idea, but not necessarily for the reasons that you might think. There is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. Google does not penalize sites for having duplicate content. And Google does not consider duplicate content spam.

Google does take action against sites that seem solely scraped from another site; in effect, the entire site is a duplicate of another site. But that’s really another issue entirely, and not likely to be one that you will casually encounter.

I occasionally see marketers avoiding quotations out of a misguided fear that it will show as duplicated content. Google looks for pages that are identical in content, not paragraphs of quoted content — so this is unnecessary. There are many situations in which a quote can be used to add value to content, so this would be disingenuous on Google’s part.

So why is it bad to have duplicate content? Google will generally combine multiple copies of a page into a single entry, and the entry that has the greatest PageRank will be the only one shown. So it’s not really bad for SEO, it’s just kind of pointless. The other listings will only be shown if the user specifically asks to be shown all the listings, which really only happens when someone is desperately searching for an obscure tech support issue.

But it is bad for the overall user value of a site to have multiple pieces of entirely duplicated content, so that’s something that needs to be considered. For the most part, a carefully curated outbound link is probably more usable and useful.

 

Answer: Duplicate content being considered “spam” is actually a myth. Duplicate content does not lead to any site-wide penalties. Google will group together duplicate content in the search engine page, so it isn’t great for SEO on an individual basis, but it doesn’t hurt the domain.

What Is “Edgy” Marketing, Anyway, And Why Does It Disgust Us?

Companies have been trying and failing at “edgy marketing” since before 2009, and the concept itself peaked in popularity somewhere around 2013. If you run a search query on the very concept of edgy marketing, you’re returned twice as many failures as you are successes. So why is it that “edginess” still intrudes upon our marketing content? It would seem as though while creating edgy content died out, creating “content with edge” did not.

But it should. It really, really should.

dictionary-698538_1280A Matter of Definition: Let’s Define “Edgy”

What is edgy, anyway? Today, it’s considered some sort of “secret sauce” that you just layer onto something to make it punchier, brighter and more exciting. “Edgy” can mean almost anything to a client. Shorter. Bolder. Livelier. Funnier. Angrier.

Basically, just better. In fact, when most clients say they want their copy to be edgier, what they’re really saying is that it’s boring right now. And that could be for any number of things that have nothing to do with its Edge Factor.

But let’s define what edge really means to a marketer. Edge is a combination of things: silly, irreverent, blunt and direct. An edgy campaign doesn’t necessarily have to be an offensive campaign, but many are “mainstream” offensive: being a little rude to the customer, being blunt about profit goals or being overly obvious about a product’s marketing. Most of the problems with edgy marketing occur when the marketers cross too firmly over to “offensive.”

bubble-19329_1280Edgy is Easy — Facts are Hard

Edgy marketing is appealing because it’s usually easy. It appeals to our baser needs. Instead of creating a 6,000 word white paper about olfactory instincts and hormones, you can just create a splash page that says “You Smell! Buy Our Soap!”

But to backtrack on that, creating just any edgy marketing campaign is easy — creating a good one is very hard. And that’s why it fell out of favor almost as quickly as it came into it.

A trend with a rise and fall similar to clickbait, edgy marketing really only worked when it was unique and new. Once the market became absolutely inundated with edgy, bizarre and offensive ads, the consumer started turning away. The whole appeal of edgy advertising was that advertisers were saying things that advertisers weren’t supposed to say. Once everyone was doing it, what was the point?

It was no longer a small marketing rebellion; it was the status quo.

human-733478_1280A Generation That’s Out-of-Touch With Itself

You always run into problems when marketers try to appeal to a demographic that they can’t possibly relate to or understand. But what if they can’t understand their own demographic? Not much can really be said about “millennials” as a whole — this generation is a diverse group that’s mostly typified by its sheer terror of taking out loans and credit.

And for some reason when you’re wearing the marketing hat, everything just goes haywire. You can excuse it when it’s large advertising agencies; it’s people who are ten, twenty or thirty years older than the focus group. But when people are trying to advertise to their peers and wildly hitting off mark — what’s going on?

Well, that’s a case of client blindness: when you focus so much on what the client is thinking and feeling that you forget that the client may be very much like yourself. You’re thinking too much about “Well, these guys will find it funny,” and not asking yourself “Wait — do I find this funny?”

And that’s a real problem. The best content creators are often the ones who are able to really connect in an honest and open way to their clients. Not the ones who are just looking for a cheap emotional appeal.

accidental-slip-542551_1280But Let’s Get Back to the Epic Fails

You can and should cringe a little. In fact, you can also cringe at the word cringe, or worst yet, cringeworthy. We’ve explained why edgy marketing is still popular and why it fails, but not why it’s so absolutely disgusting when it does. In fact, it’s almost a little embarrassing.

You feel a little embarrassed for them.

An edgy campaign that fails has misunderstood the product’s role in your life so significantly that it’s just sad. They think that their service is so special that you would allow them to abuse you (“you’re dumb if you don’t drink this!”), or that you’re so stupid that you’ll buy into an obvious ploy (“drink this, it doesn’t totally suck”). They’ve completely misinterpreted you. 

And that’s like, the one job they had.

And sometimes it’s a little too spot on. Edgy advertising targets the immature. And we were all immature once. So, for those who have matured, it only reminds us of a time when we might have bought into that lazy advertising and been proud to do it. The last thing you want to do, as a marketer, is to trigger memories of awkward high school years. Unless you’re selling something to awkward high school people.

Most companies today don’t set out with the goal of creating an “edgy” campaign, they simply keep trying to add “edge” to their content to create something more compelling. But really, all that does is dumb the content down: it elevates base, emotional appeals, while reducing actual value. If balance is lost, the content loses its integrity.

Consider all of the companies that have tried and failed at “edgy marketing” a cautionary tale; trying to toe the line between memorable and offensive usually isn’t worth the trouble. That doesn’t mean that your content shouldn’t have personality, but that personality doesn’t have to come at the cost of respect for your audience.

SEO Q&A: How Does Geographically Targeted Content Actually Work?

Question: How do search engines connect content to geographic locations? Is it just based on keywords, or are there other indicators that the algorithms use?


 

There’s a lot that goes into geo-targeting; it’s not enough to simply stuff content full of location-based keywords. Search engines today look at a myriad of signals, including Google Place pages and Google Maps entries, which are linked to industries and services related to the query. On a purely content level, it’s often best to write about a place rather than just write a generic article and throw the place keywords in later on. Remember, you’re not just trying to hit keywords — you’re also trying to achieve relevancy for the reader.

Obviously, geo-targeted content is only used by the search engine if it’s relevant. If you search for something like “flower shops,” search engines are going to identify what you’re really looking for — regional flower shops — rather than trying to return to you basic information about the existence of flower shops. But if you search for something like “hip dysplasia in golden retrievers,” search engines aren’t going to try to give you local information because it’s not a locally relevant query.

There’s a broader geographic question, too — which websites are returned based on which country the user is in. For many search queries, Australians see vastly different search results from American citizens. In the past, a UK-based company might always want to use a .co.uk address, as this would be more likely to return to a UK user. Today, .com domains are being returned more often for virtually all nations, but there are still some situations in which .au, .co.uk, .ca and other country-based domain names are preferred.

In Webmaster Central, webmasters can specify which country their website is targeted at. But as Google Webmasters cautions, splitting your focus can actually be harmful to your website. If you list your website as relevant to the United States when it’s really an Australian-focused website, you may have the side effect of getting fewer Australian hits.


Answer: To ensure that your content has been properly geo-targeted, it msut be submitted to the appropriate directories in addition to having highly geographically specific content.

 

Spring Cleaning for the Digital Marketer

As we enter into May, it becomes time to dust off our shelves and take stock — both in our home lives and our digital lives. Everything can benefit from a little spring cleaning, even our digital marketing strategies. An springtime analysis can be the perfect way to refocus and refresh.

gardenBegin Your Gardening Early

Though they may seem like instantaneous magic to outsiders, digital marketing campaigns take some time to grow. By most accounts, it takes at least six months to reasonably develop a campaign and to start seeing results from changes in campaign strategies. Start seeding your future projects now, so that they’ll be ready when you need them. As with a garden, if you let the seeding window go by, you may not be able to catch up in time for the harvest. (Of course, you also need a very clear plan and schedule, or your garden most definitely won’t flourish.)

clutterClear Out the Clutter

Sometimes a little focus is necessary to really drive home your success. If something isn’t essential to your process, now might be a good time to streamline it. Consider ways that you could make your own life easier from an outside perspective. Is your laptop no longer holding a charge as well as it should? Is your Internet connection iffy at best? Are you transferring documents from one program to another, when you could really just be using a single solution? We can become numb and complacent to daily inconveniences, all of which cost us our valuable time.

trashTake Out the Trash

Don’t be afraid to give your projects time to grow — but if they fail to perform consistently, it’s probably already time to drop them and start over. Most digital marketers have their under-performing side projects, and every individual marketing campaign has tactics that are just not quite clicking. Your time is your money. Consider culling your worst performing projects and strategies on a regular basis to make room for new ideas. Don’t consider it a failure, just consider it a learning process. The worst thing you can do is succumb to the sunk cost fallacy.

decorBreak Out the New Decor

Everyone recognizes the bright spring palette: yellows, blues, pinks and all manner of pastels. As the seasons shift, it becomes necessary to shift your content strategy. Remember: vague, generic evergreen content is fading out of vogue. Today’s content needs to be specific, informative and, above all, timely. Comb the news for events and developments or simply dive into industry-related media; you’re certain to find something that you haven’t heard about or thought about yet.

recycleRepurpose or Upcycle Old Items

Just because a project failed doesn’t mean everything involved in that project is worthless. Go over your old content and digital media to find things that can be repurposed or “upcycled.” Are there infographics that you could be using in a current campaign? Do you have prior domains that you now have a better fit for? Or could you use some of your old websites to boost new content or could you take old content in an entirely new direction? That old industry blog that went nowhere could become free downloadable content for a new campaign. Everything has some value, it’s just waiting for an new opportunity.

organizeLabel and Organize Everything

There’s a saying: an successful marketer is a marketer who understands their own goals and metrics. Hey, so it isn’t a catchy saying. Or, even, really a saying at all. It’s still true. While we may all understand goals and metrics in relation to our campaigns, too often we forget to organize our own work and our own lives. Have we finished all our client billing? Are we still billing each client the appropriate hourly amount? Have we been connecting with our leads? Have we pinged any of our prior clients lately? Take some time for yourself to get your finances and client relationships in order.

Remember all of those optimistic New Years resolutions you made just four months ago? You were going to get motivated, stay focused and remain organized? Well, for most of us, May is when all of that has started crashing down. That also makes it a great time to revisit your plans and make sure that you’re still on target. You can get practically anywhere you want both in life and in business, you just need a detailed map in front of you.

SEO Q&A Does the Age of Your Domain Matter for SEO?

Question: How does the age of a domain name affect SEO? Is it better to purchase an older domain or a newer domain?


It’s a common myth that the older a domain name is, the better it will perform in search engine rankings. It’s very easy to see why this myth would become popular: the older a domain is, the more content it’s likely to have — and, thus, the better it will perform in terms of SEO. Even worse, some domain services themselves have touted the benefits of having an older, well-seasoned domain, especially services selling already registered domains.

According to Google, there’s really no difference between a site that is two years old, three years old or five years old. It’s all about the actual content on the site. Additionally, Google doesn’t use whois data to determine the age of a website — they use when the website was first crawled by them or when they first saw a link to the domain.

However, Google has stated that website age doesn’t matter “as long as the site is two months, three months” old. So that indicates that very new sites may see some form of penalty initially — though not a significant one. This could either be intentional or just a by-product of the algorithm not having enough information yet on how to place the site.

Finally, when considering the purchase of older domains, don’t forget that a domain can carry baggage. If the domain has had black hat SEO techniques used by a webmaster before, there might still be some harmful links out there just waiting to hurt your new site’s search engine rankings.


 

Answer: After the first few months, the age of a domain does not affect it significantly in terms of SEO. It’s better to worry about the quality of a domain than its age.

Does Your Domain Extension (.COM, .ORG, .NET) Really Matter?

No — but yes. If only the world of digital marketing was clearer. Your domain extension does matter to your search engine optimization, but perhaps not in the way that you think. Mechanically the differences are small; most of the key issues involve usability. After all, an organic web search runs based on user behavior; even Google can’t tell how relevant a website is without links, popularity and other behavior-driven data.

httpDispelling the Myths

Google, Yahoo and Bing do not take into account a domain extension when they promote a website, even if the search query happens to be government or education related. So whether you’re .net or .org, you’re probably safe in terms of Google’s matching algorithm. But that doesn’t mean that your domain extension has no effect on your organic search rankings, which is another common myth. There are still ways that your extension can affect your position on the SERP.

Consider this. Google most definitely uses links — and the quality of those links — to measure whether your site has prominence. Sites that have .gov, .edu or .org domains are generally considered to be more reputable in academic situations than .coms, so they are more likely to be referenced by high quality sites. Likewise, .coms are more often considered to be reputable than .nets. So it’s easy to see that having a specific domain extension can have a potential impact on your organic search ranking even if the search engine itself isn’t actively scanning for it.

computerThe Human Component

And it isn’t just a question of search engine results — you also need to consider the human component. Namely, people are used to .com addresses and they are very unlikely to remember more obscure extensions. If your website is AwesomeWidgets.net, you’ll find a lot of people getting lost when they try to type in AwesomeWidgets.com. One way that some sites have gotten away from this is by directly incorporating the domain into their site’s name somehow. Fish.Net, for instance, is memorable.

People are also conditioned to treat domains that are not .com, .gov, .edu or .org with some suspicion. In particular, .net domains have always been referred to as “Nuts! Everything’s Taken.” It’s considered a last result domain name that only occurs through poor planning or fly-by-night operations. No one wants a .net domain name, the rationale goes, so one should be suspicious of someone who has one. Of course, as the proliferation of .com addresses has continued, this poor reputation has been somewhat reduced.

bakerHere Come the gTLDs

OK, so what about all those entrancing new gTLDs that just popped up? .butcher, .baker, .candlestickmaker? These new domain names are so specific and so out there that they require some additional consideration. gTLDs, just like other TLDs, don’t affect search directly. Google doesn’t say “Oh, it says .baker, I’d better send all queries about cakes there.”

But what a gTLD does do is it inserts a major keyword into every single URL. If you have .baker, and you’re, well, a .baker, you’re going to have that keyword in your URL every time someone searchers for a “baker” in your area. And this had led many people to believe that a gTLD might actually be better for SEO than an ordinary domain.

And that might be true — a little. Still, if you’ve been properly optimizing your site, you should already have your major keywords in your site’s URL — as it does “help a little bit.” But it doesn’t help a lot —  remember, Google really mostly looks at the content of your site, not the URLs. And it may not help enough to alter some of the usability issues.

Mainly — users think it’s weird. Many users aren’t comfortable typing in losangeles.baker and having it actually go to a website. This also gives them one more thing to remember — they can’t just type in losangeles.com — and it makes them less likely to link to your site (because they can’t remember the URL). Obviously this isn’t true for all users, but it’s true for the majority of users. This might be different for a tech-oriented or youth-oriented website.

As developers and marketers, it can be easy for us to forget just how challenging small changes can be for a user base. When choosing a domain for your site, you should think largely about how that domain is going to be received by your audience. Google and other search engines really don’t care what your domain name is or what your domain extension is, but something that you think is charming, quirky or clever may actually be impossible to remember. Short, sweet and .COM is usually the best answer.