DON’T Automate Everything

Do not automate

We’ve all heard the mantra: automate everything! And, automation is awesome. Marketing automation allows you to send informative email drip campaigns to prospects with little extra effort. It makes it easy to keep up with client anniversaries, birthdays, and even things like local weather in your client’s part of the world.

But, there’s a lot that still requires a human touch. A few places automated tools are almost guaranteed to steer you wrong:

ticked-checkbox-1280927-mSpelling and Grammar Checks

Automated tools can do some interesting things. They can, of course, identify most misspellings. Many can help you spot passive text or other issues. But, they are no replacement for manual proofreading. They won’t catch homonyms. They’ll give false positives for grammar issues or miss them altogether. And, if you are writing in a niche that’s heavy in technical jargon, a lot of the words you use won’t be in most spell check dictionaries at all.

twitterDMsNew Follower Greetings

How many automated DMs do you get from people you follow on Twitter? How many do you open? And, even if you do open them, how many times do you take the sender up on the inevitable invitation to visit their Facebook or LinkedIn? I mean, you just started following them on Twitter. What makes anyone think that you automatically want to traipse all across the web listening to everything they have to say? Or, even worse, immediately go to trying to sell them a service?

Instead, how about a simple, personal hello? Take a look at a new follower’s profile and find something specific to note in your response.

If you do need to automate, at least offer something instead of asking something from this person who has already been kind enough to increase your number of Twitter followers by one. Offer a four or five word bio, then ask them something about themselves. This way, you’re starting a conversation instead of turning them off.

Ad Bids

There are plenty of tools to automate your PPC bids. But, left unchecked, you can find that campaigns either get little reach or take a hefty chunk out of your advertising budget. There are a ton of analytic tools available. Use them to test ads and tweak your parameters based on performance. Over time, you’ll find that you are getting much better qualified clicks and making your budget go much farther.

Ad Targeting

Many marketers consider it a slam dunk: the prospect posts about a kayak trip and all of the ads he sees are suddenly about outdoor water sports. But, a recent study suggests that, rather than finding this serendipitous, modern surfers merely find it creepy. And, some targeting is incredibly tone deaf. I’ve seen Facebook friends who’ve complained of ads for counseling after confiding in a friend about depression, or weight loss ads after they’ve made a joke about eating the whole pie after dinner. Not cool, marketers.

Automation’s awesome. But, it’s not everything. Good thing, too, since a totally automated internet would put people like us out of a job. So, while we’re still a viable part of the online economy, take some time to do more by hand and get selective with what you automate.

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 YourReallyCoolSite.com, 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 YourReallyCoolSite.com 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 WordPress.com, 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.

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.