Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Dream of Social Media

“The dream of social media is that in 10 years we will have no more crappy products.”

I heard that at a panel discussion on Social Media at the Search Engine Strategies (SES) conference in NYC. Like most profound things it was both simple and elegant.  And isn’t that the truth? Isn’t that what consumers and businesses dream of? A world with no complaints? There’s a real fear of social media/networking as well. It’s not: ‘What if they write that I suck?’ The real fear is: ‘What if I suck, then they write about it?’ Remember, what is written on the web is forever. Just ask ‘Cisco Fatty.’

But, the dream of social media is that problems get addressed – in real time.  Especially when you deal with health & safety issues (Healthcare, for example), when the worst case scenario is death. Death is the ultimate negative. It’s the nuclear option. You can’t, as they say, put a price on a human life.  People take that kind of stuff seriously. So when some blogger/tweeter/guerrilla-columnist-du-jour outs incompetence, true or not, the fear is that your gene pool, life source, cash flow, will dry up and come to an ignominious end.  This fear of online complaints is often an illusion preventing your business from delving into social media. Rather than hiding your head in the sand, it is best to simply address it as you would any complaint. Thinking that going to social media will open a can of worms is an illusion. Social Media already exists – your only concern is if you want to have a seat at the table. This fear of engaging in social media is an illusion. But fear of illusion is real.

Feel the fear, and do it anyway

This is the new paradigm, love it or hate it. Social networking is about radical transparency. Institutions and businesses need to act as if their clients have x-ray vision into the inner workings of their business – warts and all. The only remaining question is: how will your business deal with it?

Here’s the new paradigm:

  • Consumer crave information and power
  • If it can be known, it will be known by all (the web causes transparency)
  • If it can be rated, it will be rated
  • If it can be free, it will be free
  • Professionals who are active players in the new vertical marketplaces win
  • There can be no vertical marketplace without community
  • The digital media model rules (local is giant)

(from Rich Barton, of Zillow )

If you are not part of the dialogue that’s out there, the dialogue will go on without you. What are ways that businesses deal with this social networking phenomenon?

Here are the new rules of engagement:

  • Respond 
    But first you have to listen for the pin dropping. Do you have anyone monitoring Twitter? Blogs?
  • Create Brand equity and goodwill
    Do you know the answer about how to create brand equity through PR and Marketing?  One story at a time. Social Media allows you to put your side of the story out there.


A Corporate example

Comcast is known to be actively listening on Twitter, with several “listeners” with Comcast corporate Twitter accounts responding to Tweets with the keyword ‘Comcast.’ Comcast, once pilloried as having horrible customer service is now doing such a good job that there are reports that folks get better Comcast service on Twitter than they do with the phone reps.  Their dual goal is excellent customer service, but also putting the smoke out before it can become a forest fire.

Traditional Marketing is about top-down broadcasting. Social Media is about ‘bubble up’ word of mouth.  Traditional Marketing is about control: controlling the message, the image, the Brand. Social Media Marketing is less about control, and more about containment, response and vital change.

Remember the dream of social media? No more crappy products.  How is that dream realized? Through actively listening to the repeated gripes, complaints and insults, (and occasional praise), and responding in a way that is diplomatic, professional, and satisfying to the griper/praiser.

What if the problem is systemic, ingrown, “part of the system?” Well then, change the system.  I’m not being flippant here (not completely, anyway  ). Make the change that’s necessary so that your business will be seen as responsive and service oriented. If your business is not doing its best, the news will out itself anyway. In today’s socially connected world, that news just comes out faster. Social media is a whirlwind. Twitter is not just ‘what are you doing now.’ It is also: ‘Socially-proofed recommendations expressed in real time.’

Learn to ride the whirlwind.  Be at one with the quality you know your business can demonstrate, and become part of the dream of social media. Your customers will love you for it.

 

 

Non-SEO SEO: Establishing expertise

So, I was giving SEO advice to a friend who is thinking of hiring an SEO firm. Their advice seemed good, but I kept returning to the hard part – establishing expertise and an audience. He already had an audience, his website was already #3 for “Boulder sports psychologist“, did he really need an SEO firm behind him?

I told him that he already did the hard part. He is a bona-fide expert, a Ph.D., and a soon-to-be-published author. He doesn’t have to establish his credentials – he already has them. Some people start to write for the web in order to create “expertise”, because the perception is that once you publish you are, by default, an expert.

If that is the case, the barrier to entry to expertise is nearly non-existent. Think about that the next time you pick up a relationship book: what exactly is the author’s expertise in the subject? You’d be surprised how many so-called relationship experts are going through their third divorce.

For many, starting a blog is their way of establishing their expertise. It’s their road to financial rewards and the roar of the crowd. It’s not a bad way to do it. How does one establish expertise? Like anything else: one story at a time. In my friend’s case he’s already done so. Look, he works with the Olympic committee and, oh yeah, Apollo-freaking-Ohno! I’d say he already has his bona-fides in place. Blogging is just the icing on an already elaborately-constructed cake.

How about hiring an SEO firm to help him rank #1 in 60 days? (My first question: ‘Number one for what?’) As an SEO guy, I cringe at that a little. There’s truth in that, but also a little falsity. The answer in SEO-terms, is that it always depends. For this guy, an SEO firm can make a promise like that, because his site already ranks. He’s also somewhat known and has had his website for over 10 years. They can make that promise because he’s already done the hard work. To take someone from nothing and have them rank number one is not impossible, but can be difficult. Do I as an SEO analyst have tricks up my grey-sleeves to help a site rank higher faster?

Well…yes I do.

That’s what I do. But ranking a website when it is already ranking for competitive terms is on the easier side of the easy<—>f**king impossible paradigm.

My typical answer to the question ‘Why isn’t my site #1 for ‘insert-keyword-phrase-here?’:

Why should it?

Why should the answer to the question posed by the search query, in the face of thousands of other answers, be the absolute best answer? Are you an expert? If you are, how did you convey your expertise? An article? A blog? An Infographic? Oh, you don’t have content that responds to that query? Then how do you expect Google to find, index and rank it? How do you express your expertise without content?

Again, the question: how do you establish your expertise? The first step: be the expert. Second step: one story at a time.

My cringing comes from the reaction for many people that SEO is in some way ‘gaming the system.’ I am infamous for saying, on camera, something to the effect of ‘SEO is the art and science of ranking a website #1, whether they deserve it or not.’ There’s some truth to that, especially in the early days of SEO. But Google, for all it’s faults, has been a good steward of de-gaming the SEO system. JC Penney’s link scheme exposure, content farms (do we really need over 6,000 articles on ‘How to tie a shoe’?) and efforts to prevent those types of egregious SEOing with responses such as Panda, moves the pieces toward the signals that display true expertise. Does your site deserve to be number 1? Are you the expert?

Be the expert first. After that, SEO is easy.

 

Review: Jaron Lanier talks about the failure of Web 2.0 with Aleks Krotoski

Review: Jaron Lanier talks about the failure of Web2.0 with Aleks Krotoski.

Jaron’s brand of big-brained loftier-than-thou ideas are nothing of the sort. He’s as much a (technorati) mobster as the “mundane Masses” he vilifies. What he’s so blind to for web 2.0 is something he probably doesn’t engage much in – socializing. You know, shooting-the-shit? Everything has to be so wrapped up in cerebral pontification he mistakenly used super-glue instead of scotch tape – hard to break through that to the enlightenment within. Yeah, some people are mundane and like stupid cat photos and Jackass-dumbification. What he doesn’t see is any value in doing so. It’s like he was hoping for a Renaissance and all he got was the Dark Ages. Really? How about simply engaging with others without, you know, having a point? Sharing positive emotion (and the latest Gallifinakis ‘Between Two Ferns’ interview)?

I like how at the end he throws the overall internet a bone as he tramples over web 2.0. I think he misses the point. The best use of technology, in my opinion, is the way it brings people together – virtual, or real. Forget datings sites – think Meetups, Evites, Groupon – and, oh yeah, dating sites. I am more connected to my relatives in Guam than I’ve ever been.

What’s up with THAT Jaron? Maybe you are so enamored of your walled garden you don’t want the Visigoths at the gates to trample on your intellectual flowers ikibanaed so nicely next to your well-selected web 2.0 bon mots? Hmm Jaron, hmmm? Oh, here’s a really funny FML – don’t forward it to Jaron, he won’t get it.

If you still think SEO is still about Title and H1 tags…

…then you’ve got another ‘think’ coming. And just because you had this sudden revelation that in today’s digital world that optimizing for search engines isn’t the end-all be-all, could you just go away.

You’re stressing me out.

And just because you trash SEO as just being about changing tags, and start repeating the last thing you read, a.k.a. “SEO is dead!’ – please keep your so-called revelations to yourself. That is soooo 2005.

If this advances your agenda of getting some props for pushing the trendy topic du jour (can you say “Content Marketing”) can you do me a favor and go over to that corner? That’s where the kids toys are.

SEO has advanced far beyond title, H1 and keyword density (although that’s a start). It’s been my career for nearly a decade, and until you have increased a website’s traffic by 2,800%, I really think you should sit back down and STFU!

SEO now involves:

  • Analytics
  • Usability
  • Content
  • Code
  • ASO (AppStore Optimization)
  • Local Search

…and a billion other things. I love the look of surprise when the work I do comes to fruition, and the client/employer says ‘Wow, I guess SEO does work!’ I just look back with a knowing look, and nod my head. Of course, what did you expect when you hired an SEO specialist?

All I did was prove I am one.

 

Will cleaning up directories help you rank higher in Local search?

local

In short: maybe.

I think you have to approach it as a most effort <—-> most results sort of paradigm. Cleaning up the top 20 directories versus every single little podunk directory is probably not very different in terms of search engine local rank, but very different in terms of effort, as in: some effort versus gargantuan.

Which do you want to do? Given that you are charging by location (you are, aren’t you?) wouldn’t you rather be sipping mai tai’s on the beach on the client’s dime versus calling up Joe-Bob’s directory du jour to see if they have updated the address and phone number of your client? Or spend money with one of the several local search directory providers, with no proof from them that they accomplished…anything? Why not just do Yext and be done with it?

Well?

I’m probably pissing off the local SEO guys by saying this, but saying that you send the client’s correct contact information to 500 (or 5,000) directories is not the same as correcting 500 directories. You’re just the freaking middle man. Places like Yext actually deliver. BTW, I am not paid by Yext, I just have seen their results, and man, are they impressive. They have actual business relationships with top-tier directories, and the corrections they make are nearly immediate.

Sure, send your money to the directory submission companies and…and what? You didn’t actually expect reporting, did you? Actual proof that they did anything at all?  How about affecting rank of local terms? Nothing? Pay & pray, pay & pray.

Sure, if the company actually provided a service, like create local landing pages, with goodies that the SEs like, like maps and directions and schema correct addresses, then it might be worth something. But what? What is that value? And if you have more than, say 100 locations, why the heck are you paying someone to do that for you? Don’t you have the know how to be able to do this relatively simple task yourself? Why pay a company per location on a yearly basis for creating pages that do not get updated that often anyway?

Sheesh.

There’s a lot of mumbo jumbo in local search, a lot of, in my mind, irrelevant complexity that serves the function of separating the client from their money, but as far as providing actual value I think that is debatable.