AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Marketing

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    In the world of online marketing, there are plenty of scams and shoddy practices that propel business – and social media marketing is no exception.  Perhaps you have seen a recent example on your Facebook News Feed lately, as this practice has become commonplace.

    How does this happen and what can you do about it?  A further look can shed light on the situation.

    A Lot of Fans = Big Money

    You could pay several thousand dollars to own a popular Facebook page.  Becky Worley reports that owners can solicit paid ads, transforming a simple Facebook page into a lucrative business for some.

    She tells the story of a mother who noticed that her daughter’s picture, a child named Katie who has Down syndrome, was used without consent with the following text:

    This is my sister Mallory. She has Down syndrome and doesn’t think she’s beautiful. Please like this photo so I can show her later that she truly is beautiful.”

    The page received 3.5 million likes.

    Once the likes, comments, and shares come in from these types of posts, it can result in pages with staggering followings.  This can mean a hefty price tag for owners that want to cash in on the advertising exposure that they crave.

    Black Hat Social Media and SEO

    These types of stories define the essence of black hat marketing.  The “black hat” term is often associated with SEO, but it works with social media, as well as any marketing arena.

    Here’s what it looks like for social media and SEO – on two different levels:

          • Social Media: Katie’s exploitive story represents some of the worst practices on social media.  On a lower level, pages can ask for a like or a share depending on an answer to a question, or ask eye-catching questions simply for the comments (“I bet you can’t name a city in X that doesn’t contain the letter ‘E’”)
          • SEO: Some sites earn plenty of money by targeting popular search queries; they simply pile in the keyword phrases and ad spaces, which generate income based on the number of visitors.  On a lower level, companies can take keywords too far, such as if a dining establishment has “best Mexican restaurant in Chicago” in the last five titles of their blog.

    These practices can be illegal and/or unethical.

    What Happens?

    According to Worley, pages like this one on cuddling will go for sale for $7,000.  Some websites built around black hat SEO techniques could still make a profit.

    Yet, there is good news on the SEO front: Google is pushing less-than-respectable operations into oblivion, punishing them for spam, paid backlinks, and more.  It’s creating a lot of problems for those who don’t embrace the best practices of SEO.

    Social media is much more difficult to control.  Worley notes the “cat and mouse game” nature of regulating sold pages and fraudulent behavior.  But even if that occurs, it won’t stop unethical posts that deceive people.

    You can unlike pages and posts.  You can report spam to Google.  However, the best option is probably to take the high road – ignore the black hatters, spammers, and sources that may simply not know better.

    A site like Snopes can help you determine if a viral story is true or false.  Before you comment in outrage that baby carrots have chlorine, execute a quick search and read a few posts.

    And for those of you that are engaged in social media marketing, take the high road.  After all, just seven bad tweets or Facebook posts could ruin your business.

    A strong social media and website presence will translate into success.


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Marketing

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    Why should your business pay attention to local SEO and social media optimization?  Based on a recent search study’s glaring numbers, local establishments will need to up the ante to compete for local search results.

    Local Searches on Mobile Devices Soar

    Mobile searches are on the rise, according to a recent local search study from comScore, Nuestar/Localeze, and 15 Miles.  A few statistics tell the story:

    • Mobile search accounts for the number one function on mobile browsers
    • 56 percent of mobile users need local info on the go
    • Visitors to search sites saw a 26 percent increase in 10 months (mobile searches)
    • 87 percent increase in local searchers via mobile apps in the past two years

    Businesses should also know that mobile searchers are closer to making a purchase.  Greg Sterling notes from the study that 78 percent of mobile phone searches and 77 percent of tablet searches resulted in a purchase.  Only 59 percent of PC searches ended in a purchase.

    While mobile searches increase in numbers, the same can’t be said for PCs and laptops, which saw a 17-percent decrease in local searches, with a five-percent decrease in non-local searches.

    Is Facebook the Future of Local Searches?

    As local searches rise across the Internet, the study revealed impressive numbers regarding Facebook, the social media giant.  With the following results in mind, it seems like businesses will need to take local searches on Facebook seriously:

    • 92 percent of searchers looking for local business information on social networking sites use Facebook (second and third are Google+ and Twitter, respectively, at 23 and 21 percent)
    • Facebook is the second-most used app for local search, behind only Google Maps and ahead of the likes of Mapquest, Bing, and Apple Maps

    These are significant figures.  With Facebook beating out other apps in local searches, Nearby and Graph Search offer an interesting opportunity for businesses.  While there is no comparable number in this year’s study, last year’s study found that 49 percent of mobile owners used apps to find local information.

    Facebook is closely behind the leader, Google Maps (35 to 24 percent on mobile phones, 25 to 23 percent on tablets).  It could be poised to take over the mobile app world for local searches in due time.

    The Moral of the Story

    The takeaway point is clear: Local businesses need to optimize listings, especially on Facebook, to appeal to local searchers.  Mobile users will use local search tools to find a nearby business – those lagging will be left behind.

    Take to Facebook and make sure that you have a page for your business, as well as additional locations as needed.  All information, such as the address, phone number, photos, and website links should be present.  Branch out on Google+, Bing, and other sites to create a consistent presence that welcomes mobile users.

    Taking these steps will improve your local SEO, SEO, and social media presence.  It will, quite literally, put your business on the map.


    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Writing

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    The appropriate “Top 10” list is the mark of an amateur writer.  There are plenty of practical problems with such a list in itself.  Yet, with the right approach, this overdone piece of content can be rejuvenated.

    While our result certainly won’t be a “Top 10” list any longer, it still abides as a list.  Nevertheless, we proceed on to our list of criticisms of the traditional “Top 10” list, in no particular order:

    1. “Top 10”

    The title “Top 10” is a red light for those of us who are looking for original and inspirational content.  It’s simply overdone.

    A fresh title is essential to grab the reader’s attention, as based on the 80/20 rule of headlines (Copyblogger), eight out of 10 will read the headline but only two out of 10 will read the content.  You can easily fix the problem, though.

    In this case, aim for putting the number before the text.  Also, get right to your descriptive phrase.  “10 Creative Uses for X” is better than “Top 10 Creative Uses for X,” which will also afford you more room in the title (which is limited for good SEO).

    2. The Number “10”

    It doesn’t always have to be “10.”  In fact, for this generation of online readers – who scan, rather than read – 10 is too much.  It sounds funny, but there is a lot of truth to it.

    Besides, other numbers deserve some love too.  Apart from the number “7” being a quicker read, it is much more fresh than “10” in a list.  Many believe that there is something to be said for using odd numbers more often, which is relevant as well.

    3. Practicality

    We’re not done with the number “10.”

    Since some are so antiquated to “Top 10” lists, there needs to be 10 items in every such list.  What if there are only seven or eight logical choices?  It doesn’t matter, our old friend demands, because the piece has to be a “Top 10” piece.

    This, obviously, has problems.  The writer would be forced to make tougher-than-needed calls on what to include.  He or she shouldn’t have to reach for unwarranted items.  Before long, the writer is forced to extend to second- and third-tier ideas to get the magic number.

    4. Time Consuming

    Writers don’t like doing these lists.  Especially the infamous “Top 10” lists.

    For starters, 10 is a lot.  When you factor in an adequate amount of research to present one item in a nice way, multiply it by 10.  Then spend at least 10-15 minutes ordering them correctly.

    A 500- or 750-word article/list is one thing, but a “Top 10” list is much more involved.

    5. Subjectivity

    Do you remember our “Creative Uses” list?  There is another advantage to our proposed title, where the word “Top” was nowhere to be found.

    With this word, readers put the piece under a magnifying glass.  Viewers might wonder why one entry isn’t higher than another.  Debates could surface surrounding entries that should have made the list.  It all starts because the “Top” implies that the entries are ranked.

    For some sites that are only concerned with online traffic, such as sports blogs, they may enjoy some heated discussion.  Others can have their expertise and credibility undermined.

    6. Stop-and-Go Traffic

    Does the ride feel a little bumpy?  Don’t blame me: This is par for the course with our beloved “Top 10” list.

    Transitions are tough to accomplish with so many items on the list.  Unless an entry has a natural relationship to the previous item, it’s likely not going to happen.

    7. Relationships

    Since any “Top” list dictates a natural progression of entries, the writer in a “Top 10” list will have to compare and contrast on the fly.  Further problems are created.

    Why?  It leads to stop-and-go traffic.  It also takes time, leading us into the next issue.

    8. Word Count

    Why is HootSuite a top 10 social media tool, or 2Do a top 10 task manager app?

    Well, some background and pricing information would be nice.  We should also include advantages/disadvantages, the best target audience, and maybe some other items – again, because they’re ranked, not because it’s a list.  Everything is compared in a top 10 list (e.g., price).

    That takes time.  As we’re already well past 500 words – an average count for an article – keeping things to a reasonable word count is tough.

    Things can also get lopsided if an entry has more information than another.

    It looks really bad.

    9. A Narrow Road

    A normal list can be whatever it wants.  You can have “7 Entertaining Uses for X,” “9 Strategies to Revolutionize Y,” and so forth.  There is some freedom.

    But with “Top 10 Z?”  The creative freedom is lost.  The list must have the “top” or “best” entries.  There is no unique angle involved.


    Concluding Thoughts

    Lists are not bad.  In fact, they are some of the best-performing types of content out there.  However, “Top 10” lists are a bit out of date and frowned upon.

    Consider: If you drop both the “Top” and the “10” from the equation, arguably all of the preceding reasons can be fixed or alleviated.  It’s that simple.

    Use lists – a lot, in fact.  You just might want to leave our old friend, the “Top 10” list, alone.