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SEO Poison 2.0 – Revenge of the Linkfarmers

seo_poison_2It seems like it was a millenia ago that I wrote this article outlining the dangers to your web presence of purchasing sketchy backlinks -> SEO Poison: What you get when you hire a link farmer

In it, I wove a cautionary tale to marketers who are fed promises of ‘Page 1 on the Google!’ by less-than-reputable companies who claim to provide lots of backlinks to your site to help increase your rankings. However, these promises come with a heavy does of black-hat SEO practises that end up causing far more damage to your website than you’d expect.

You see, Google doesn’t like websites that try to game the system. Google really, really doesn’t like them. In fact, as you may be aware, Google releases regular updates to their algorithm, called ‘Penguin’ updates, in order to filter out sites that use shady backlinking to try and rise up in search results. If you give in to the glittery lure of cheap backlinks, prepare to have your site stomped in to the ground when Google releases a new Penguin update. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again, so be vigilant and follow with legit backlinking methods. In other words, if it sounds to good to be true, it most definitely is.

And yet, what of my original SEO Poison article? Well, I’m glad you asked! In true head-shaking, face-palming, rage-inducing fashion, ever since that post went live, those spammy linkfarmers decided that my article would be the absolute PERFECT place to try to jam in a bunch of garbage backlink comments. And it’s been happening a lot lately.

Behold, the latest batch of crap comments that have been banished to the depths of spam hell:

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Oh, and here’s a few more…

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And just for giggles, a few more…

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THIS is what you’re paying for when you hire those people. They’re so relentless and single-minded in purpose, they fail to even recognize that they are posting crap backlinks on an article specifically written to call them out on the very sleazy practise they are employing.

In the words of Kent Brockman, “There’s only one word for that, ladies and gentlemen: IDIOCY”

Don’t. Hire. Those. People.

Backlinks, just like any other aspect of your web presence, need to be built based on QUALITY and RELEVANCE. You don’t get those attributes by gaming the system. Put in the effort to find relevant locations on the web to place quality backlinks and you will reap the rewards.

3 Questions Great Websites Always Answer

website19Great websites that convert visitors to customers answer these three questions.

Creating a great website requires much more than the latest widgets or a shiny new set of graphics. Truly great websites are those that not only deliver an impressive user experience, but also clear and concise answers to the top questions your visitors will have. The ability for your visitors to clearly understand the answers to their key questions directly affects their impressions of your brand and their view of the value you provide. Clarity, as you will see, is a key element of a great website.

The specific needs that your visitors have will definitely vary significantly from person to person, as everyone will have a unique set of circumstances that drove them to find you. However, before you are able to deliver solutions for their unique situation, your website must deliver clear and direct answers to these three overarching questions:




WHO are you? – This is all about the identity of your brand. In essence, do they already know you? If they do, will they recognize you apart from your competitors? The importance of first impressions on your website cannot be emphasized enough. It can be something as simple as a unique and identifiable logo, tagline, or colour scheme. Whatever it is that makes your brand unique and identifiable, you must ensure that your website conveys this in a clear and effective way.

WHAT do you do? – This is all about what it is you actually do. Does your visitor know at a glance that you make product X, or deliver service Y? What’s the basic, core function of your brand? There are countless brands out there that have instantly recognizable logos or taglines, but are victim to the lack of clarity around what it is they actually do. Your website should answer this immediately, and with perfect clarity.

WHY should I care? – This is arguably the toughest of the three main questions you need to answer. Most brands have a clear idea of who they are, and what they do. All too often, however, they do not have the clarity they need to effectively convey WHY they do what they do, and WHY visitors should care. If your brand doesn’t have a definitive reason for being, a purpose, a mission, a core difference or driving passion, then to your visitors you might just be viewed as simply ‘another option’.

Go take a look at your website. Right now. Look at the home page and ask yourself those three main questions. Better yet, find someone else to do it and see what they say. Wanna bet their answers are different from yours? If they are, take a good long look at what the answers SHOULD be, and start tweaking.

list59Also, don’t forget to do the same kind of test to other pages that serve as entry points to your site. It’s crucial to always remember that search engines drive your traffic to the most relevant pages, and this is not always your home page. Check your Google Analytics to identify other top entry pages and work on refining those, too.

The name of the game is ‘optimization’, and that means continually tweaking and adjusting for best performance, so be sure to do this regularly. Your visitors, and your bottom line, will appreciate the effort!

Marketing Doubleshot Podcast – Ep. 4 – FCC vs Llamas and a Dress & Finding Good Content Resources

In this episode Jonathan Barrick and Josh Muirhead discuss how the net neutrality ruling by the FCC was completely dwarfed on social media by a pair of llamas and debate over the colour of a dress, and how the content resources we rely on evolve over time along with our own approaches to marketing.

Links & resources mentioned in this episode:

FCC Net Neutrality Ruling –

Llamas on the loose –

The Dress Debate –

Podcamp Toronto –

Stephanie Fusco, Community Manager at Tribal Toronto –

Marketing Doubleshot Podcast – Ep. 3 – Personal Branding & Mobile Customer Journey

In this episode, Josh Muirhead and Jonathan Barrick discuss how important it is to your personal brand to understand what your entire digital footprint looks like, and how mobile proliferation has drastically changed the customer journey.

Links & resources mentioned in this episode:

Altimeter Group Mobile Report:…ter-Group.pdf

Marketing Companion Podcast:…ng-companion/

Mark Schaefer:

Tom Webster:


Marketing Doubleshot Podcast – Ep. 2 – Creating Smarter Content & The New Approach to Blogging

In this episode, Josh Muirhead and Jonathan Barrick look back at 2014 and talk about what digitally savvy brands in 2015 will need to do in their content marketing strategies to truly achieve success, as well as how the world of blogging has evolved to a rich-media platform.

Links and resources mentioned in this episode:

Gary Vaynerchuk on the importance of Context –

gShift’s blog post series on Creating Smarter Content –…-conversations/

Kevin Spacey at CMWorld on Storytelling –

Mark Schaefer on Content Shock –

Chris McBrien – Mr. Fantasy Baseball Podcast –
Chris on Twitter –

Storehouse iPad app –

New podcast – Marketing Doubleshot – Ep.1!


I am very excited to announce the launch of the Marketing Doubleshot podcast! Hosted by myself and my cohort, Josh Muirhead, the Marketing Doubleshot is our new idea exchange forum where we discuss a pair of topics that we feel are important in the world of digital marketing. The format is simple and straightforward; two hosts, two topics, and each podcast will be an easily-digestable 20-minutes. We certainly hope you enjoy!

In this inaugural episode, Josh and I tackle the following topics:

Social Media – The ‘not-so-level’ playing field?

  • Pay-to-play, impact of Triberr & the strength of networks
  • Dollars for eyeballs in social and the rise of Ello
  • Authenticity and the stigma of the ‘big brand’

Higher Education & Social Media Training

  • Hands-on experience with social for business
  • Learning a channel vs. learning a communication style
  • Clear need for business communication skills training

5 Tips to Manage the Demands of Content Marketing

No time for content marketing? It might not be quite as demanding as you think.

5 tips to manage the demands of content marketing

Businesses of all sizes are jumping on content marketing with gusto, but unfortunately many are lacking a logical and sensible plan to manage the demands that it places on an organization. It’s extraordinarily common for brands to sprint right off the start and get as much content out there as fast as possible, and then burn out within months when they create a pace that they can’t possibly maintain.

Fortunately, there are many simple ways that brands can ease the pressure off their content marketing demands. Here are 5 things you can start to incorporate today to your content plan to make it more manageable, and more effective.

1) Break it down in to manageable pieces – One of the most daunting aspects of content marketing is the time it takes. Often, brands look to others who are doing well with content marketing and think “How do they do it?”. Well, the simple answer is that the savvy ones do it with a structured content schedule. They plan out how much content they are going to put out there according to a manageable timeline, factoring in what’s happening inside the company, out in the industry, and how they can spread out their content on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to get the most out of what they have, and not overreach their resources.

Simply Put: Plan out how much activity you can manage on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, and then actually throw it in to your calendar so you know what’s needed for each channel, and when.

2) Focus on the core platforms – Ah yes, the problem of trying to be everywhere. While it’s an admirable pursuit, it rarely works. Limited time and limited resources translate in to the need to pick the platforms and social networks that work best for your brand and your audience. Evaluate your social networks and content platforms based on the size of your audience (both existing and potential), where you’re achieving (or stand to achieve) the most engagement, and which ones are poised for the most significant growth.

Simply Put: Be where your audience is, and where you can deliver the most impact.

3) Curate from complementary sources – Competitors abound in the digital space, but so do allies. The fact that there IS so much content being produced by brands is often disheartening for those brands struggling to break through and gain traction, but it can also be a huge advantage if you approach it right. Look for complementary brands that are delivering great content. These are brands that aren’t competitors to your business, but are still relevant to your audience. These complementary brands are great sources of content that you can share, relieving some pressure off your resources to create original stuff, but still delivering solid value to your audiences.

Simply Put: Find smart companies that deliver solid content, and share it with your communities.

4) Revisit & Refresh – Struggling for blog post ideas? Go back to your archives. Look for those posts that talk about currently relevant topics, but are maybe a bit out of date. These can be the catalyst for new posts that highlight just how things have changed for your audience. Explaining why things are the way they are can be of great interest to engaged communities, and often can give insights in to where things are headed. Use past posts to talk about how much better things are now due to new tech, product features or services. How have concepts and ideas evolved over time? While these may not be of interest to your ENTIRE audience, don’t underestimate the power of delivering thoughtful retrospective posts to those that are interested.

Simply Put: Look back through your archives for content that can be updated and refreshed with a new perspective.

5) Get Help: You’re not alone. Every organization has hidden resources that can be unlocked to assist with the content marketing effort. Maybe they are part of the sales team, engineering, customer service, or the C-suite, but they are there, and they know stuff that matters to your audience. Engaging those resources to deliver the raw materials you can use to deliver new and valuable content to your audience can bolster your efforts in ways you didn’t see before. Also, don’t forget that guest bloggers are often used to great success. Put out a call to bloggers in your community, and start a discussion with them on what they might bring to the table. Set out some guidelines, and give it a try. User-generated content carries a lot of weight.

Simply Put: Content marketing doesn’t have to be isolated inside the marketing department. Recruit resources that deliver value.

So as you can see, these aren’t lofty or unrealistic options for most brands. It simply comes from a different way of looking at what you’re doing, where and when it is happening, and how you can get more impact and better results with whatever resources you’ve got. Content marketing is powerful, no doubt. But if you approach it with a plan, focus your efforts, and incorporate every advantage you can, it doesn’t have to be quite so demanding. Hope you find these tips useful!

What tips do you have for making content marketing more manageable and less demanding?

Onward, to Total Immersion!

My next challenge has arrived, and oh what a challenge it will be.

It’s certainly no secret that I have a passion for the digital space, and all it entails. I see digital (web, internet, online, or whatever you want to call it) as a marketing battleground of equal or greater importance to any other that exists. We humans spend a huge amount of time with our faces glued to screens of various sizes; consuming, sharing, interacting, engaging, ranting, raving, recommending, and questioning. For a business to deny this fact simply ensures its demise, be it fast or slow.

Beyond that, however, advancements in digital over the last several years have enabled us to forge relationships between businesses and customers that were at the very least highly improbable, if not impossible. What used to take place within the confines of a businesses walls, or in the isolation of a one-to-one phone call, now takes place online, across multiple social channels, in full view of the world. Now, you can interact with a business online as if they were an old friend, and businesses in turn can in turn take advantage of word-of-mouth on an unprecedented scale. Local businesses can have global impact, and global brands have the ability to relate to customers on a local level. Lines have blurred, and in my opinion, it’s better for everyone.

Over the last several years, my career in marketing for an industrial B2B equipment manufacturer has evolved dramatically. Way back in the distant year of 2003, we used to play almost entirely in traditional media. Print ads in trade mags, directories and guidebooks, trade shows, etc. The web was typically just a supporting piece. An online catalog, in essence. Over time though, we saw a huge shift over to digital as the main resource for anyone researching potential suppliers like us. Being findable online was no longer an option, even for well-established B2B brands. You had to be present, and your presence had to be awesome enough to hit page 1 of Google’s results.

Then social media came along, and things changed again. Your website is now just one touchpoint in the digital space. Your blog, YouTube channel, LinkedIn presence, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc, are all now weighed and measured against everyone else’s, and your relevance is calculated by factors out of your control. Namely, Google’s algorithm and the opinions of the people your customers talk to. Your brand isn’t what YOU say it is, it’s what THEY say it is.

While initially apprehensive on how an industrial manufacturer could really capitalize on these new channels, we made the decision to go for it in 2010, and the benefits of it became apparent almost immediately. The reasons were pretty obvious, even in the early stages of businesses using social media and content marketing. Who would read an ad when you could read a blog article that actually helps you solve a problem? Who pulls out a 2000 page directory when Google sorts the most relevant businesses for you? How would your business stack up if you’re the one who willingly helped a customer BEFORE they were ready to buy? Hmm…. I wonder.

We interwove social actions and content marketing in to our existing marketing efforts. We integrated social tools in to the website, published more content of a variety of types, expanded our presence at industry events, forged stronger relationships with customers, and connected with the community.

Fast forward to 2014. Content marketing, inbound marketing, and social marketing now play a huge role for almost every business, even industrial B2B niche brands. It doesn’t matter if you sell a $10 widget or a $1 million piece of machinery, customers want to know that you’re the most relevant. Period. Content marketing accomplishes this, but only if done right. The question each business now faces is this; What is our ‘right way’ to do content marketing?

Which brings me to the entire reason for this post; I’m moving on. I’m now going to be completely immersed in the world of content, social, and inbound marketing. I’ve accepted a gig as a marketing strategist and content architect at gShift, a company that has developed an incredible software tool that not only enables businesses to compile all their web presence stats in one powerful dashboard, but also enables them to overcome many of the obstacles currently plaguing marketers in the digital space. Struggling with the ‘not provided’ situation Google has thrust on you? gShift’s software can help. Under pressure to prove impact and ROI from your content marketing? gShift’s software can help. Want to know how your web presence stacks up against your mortal enemies? gShift’s software can help.

I’m pumped to begin this new challenge and be a member of the team that is at the forefront of developing the tools and techniques that businesses use to connect more effectively with their customers, become more findable online, and build a thriving brand. I believe that businesses who approach content marketing in the right way, and truly understand the impact that they can have in their industry by changing their mindset to deliver real value in their marketing, will be the ones that customers desire to do business with above all others. That’s the goal, and it’s an admirable one.

And now, onward! To total immersion!

Check out the awesomeness that is gShift -> 

5 Tips to Unleash the Power of Long-Tail SEO

long-tail seo

People ain’t searching the way they used to. It’s a fact. Google doesn’t arbitrarily change their algorithms just because they ‘feel like it’. They do it because they’ve got endless piles of data that tell them how you’re searching, and they constantly tweak their system to deliver the most relevant results.

The most recent update to Google’s world famous/infamous algorithm (Hummingbird, for those of you keeping track) is mostly about ‘semantic’ search (aka: conversational search). In it’s simplest terms, semantic search is more like asking an actual question instead of just plugging in keywords.

For example: “hotels Toronto” vs. “What are the best boutique hotels in downtown Toronto?”

Semantic search queries have additional qualifiers beyond the basic subject. Words like best, closest, cheapest, fastest, etc. get at the root of what KIND of products and services the searcher is actually hunting for. Adding qualifiers to the base keywords creates what is known as ‘long-tail’ searches. These long-tail searches are looking for much more targeted, refined results. This is where the real opportunity presents itself for businesses. Get found for long-tail searches, serve up quality content that solves the searchers problem, and you’ve immediately delivered real value to a potential customer.

How do you make this work for your business? It’s actually a pretty simple formula.

1) Start with a powerful question – Think of the questions your business gets asked every day. What are the frustrations your customers have when evaluating alternatives & choosing products? What knowledge or experience do you have that can alleviate these frustrations? Choose a clearly defined question that originates from the point-of-view of your customers. The key to long-tail search is being a problem solver, so solve THEIR problems, not yours.

2) Write in your customers language – Your company may make the coolest widgets complete with MegaWidget® technology now available in colours like Arctic White™ and Fierce Red™, but none of those proprietary or trademarked words are going to make their way in to your customers search vocabulary. Long-tail search can only be unlocked if the language matches up. Your content needs to be crafted to read in the same manner that your customers talk. Use their terms, not yours.

3) Optimize & maximize – Once you’ve picked a valid question, and written a solid answer in the language that your customers understand, you need to make the piece of content visually readable & optimized. This includes a lot of little things that add up to make a big difference. Break out key points in to bold sub headers or lists, add in supporting images & graphics, embed related content like videos or tweets, link to related content in the body through keywords or phrases, provide a few options at the end for additional content that might be useful. All of these things give your content more weight, and deliver more value to the reader.

4) Put it here, there, and everywhere – You’ve got your content ready to release in to the world, and the time has come. Hit publish and spread it out to all relevant channels. If your community consumes content in various places then make sure this shows up in each of them, but be sure to tailor the share/post to fit the style of the place it’s being shared. Cookie-cutter repetition usually doesn’t jive when you’re dealing with different platforms and formats.

5) Repeat – Great job! You’ve now published a solid piece of content that will reap the rewards of targeted long-tail searches. Now do it again, again, and again. Sorry, but this is how it works. Do it for each and every relevant long-tail search you can think of that you are able to produce and deliver valuable, helpful content. Each question you answer and each problem you solve builds up your brand as the industry expert, as a solution provider, and as the preferred choice.

It’s a long road to go down, but the benefits of being found not just for ‘keywords’, but for solutions to well-defined problems are massive. The most crucial factor of the long-tail search is that it hinges on your ability to deliver value at first sight. You need a legit solution to the question being asked. Solve the problem, and you’ve delivered the value. Search is getting smarter all the time, and so should your content. This is what long-tail is all about; smarter searches, smarter content.

Molson owns Canadian team pride with epically shareable social pics

Molson Canadian has always been an iconic brand up here north of the 49th. The now legendary “I AM CANADIAN” rant is ingrained in our national heritage as ‘much more than a commercial’. It was a rallying cry for Canucks around the world to raise a glass and toast to what a freakin’ awesome place Canada is.


True to form, Molson has produced a brilliant collection of inspiring ‘GO TEAM’ graphics during the 2014 Winter OIympic games in Sochi. They’ve been saturating my Twitter feed every day, and it makes me smile. Molson is doing a fantastic job of showcasing Canadian pride, and having a great time owning each and every stereotype that most Canadians are proud to admit are actually quite true.

Here’s some of the top pics they’ve sent out so far…

Their timing is perfect, their captions brilliant, their graphics spectacular. It’s no wonder these are easily some of the most-shared images from any brand participating in Olympic marketing. Nicely done, Molson Canadian. You’ve once again assured your place as one of the definitive Canadian brands. Kudos, and I can’t wait to see what you’ve got in the hopper for when Canada inevitably wins the last gold of the games!

Oh, and here’s my personal favourite … . so far. 🙂