From Digital Marketing

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

WHAT

WHY

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 – http://mashable.com/2015/02/26/net-neutrality-wins/

Llamas on the loose – http://mashable.com/2015/02/26/escaped-llamas-arizona/

The Dress Debate – http://mashable.com/2015/02/26/what-color-dress-blue-black-white-gold/

Podcamp Toronto – http://2015.podcamptoronto.com/

Stephanie Fusco, Community Manager at Tribal Toronto – http://twitter.com/stephaniefusco

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: www.altimetergroup.com/pdf/reports/M…ter-Group.pdf

Marketing Companion Podcast: www.businessesgrow.com/podcast-the-m…ng-companion/

Mark Schaefer: twitter.com/markwschaefer

Tom Webster: twitter.com/webby2001

Etsy: etsy.com

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 – www.youtube.com/watch?v=PT7hAh5hxkk

gShift’s blog post series on Creating Smarter Content –www.gshiftlabs.com/create-smarter-…-conversations/

Kevin Spacey at CMWorld on Storytelling – www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJnP2wsgnoA

Mark Schaefer on Content Shock –www.businessesgrow.com/2014/01/06/content-shock/

Chris McBrien – Mr. Fantasy Baseball Podcast –www.dmfantasybaseballpodcast.com/
Chris on Twitter – twitter.com/cmcbrien

Storehouse iPad app – www.storehouse.co/

New podcast – Marketing Doubleshot – Ep.1!

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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

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 -> http://gshiftlabs.com 

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.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMxGVfk09lU]

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. 🙂

You’re gonna have a bad time on social media in 2014

This post exists because of this Tweet…

Yes, I know it’s a dated meme that’s been driven in to the ground, and I’m ok with that. In fact, because this is a meme from ancient internet history, it makes it even more appropriate for this topic because this is something that should just not happen anymore, and yet it happens all the time.. So, here’s a post inspired by that all-too-true tweet from 20kGroup and Matthew Carberry, along with couple more things that still happen in social media that should have been wiped from existence ages ago.

It’s 2014, everyone. These things need to stop.

If you fight your customers on social media… (Thanks to @20kGroup & @matthewcarberry)

Don’t pick fights with your customers. Ever. Because you will lose more than you think. Yes, you’ll lose that customer, but you’ll also lose something much more important: RESPECT. Nobody wants to do business with someone who’s confrontational and too proud for their own good. Your brand can’t win here so take it offline, solve the problem, and move on.

If you still send Auto-DM’s… (Thanks to @erinbury)

Why does this still happen? Auto DM’s are the least-social way to say anything in social media. Proponents of Auto-DM’s say it’s simply the easiest way to show appreciation for a new follower. Well,  I’m sure your followers are truly grateful that you’ve put forth the absolute bare minimum of effort to thank them. If you really appreciate new followers, then take the time to thank them personally. And in the name of all that is good in this world, don’t tell me to follow you on Facebook too.

If you think your personal posts don’t impact your employers brand… (I came up with this one)

I’ve got news for you: If I see someone swearing a blue streak in the parking lot of a store, you better believe that it will change my opinion of that store if they walk in and stand behind the counter for their shift. Same thing applies in social media. On or off the clock, on your own account or on theirs, you are intertwined with your employers brand, not because your boss says so, but because the CUSTOMERS say so.

The Content War – Is your business poised for victory?

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by Jonathan Barrick

“Open war is upon you, whether you’d risk it or not.” – Aragorn to King Theoden, Lord of the Rings

I’m not going to tell you that a crucial shift is coming in business. I’m not going to tell you that, simply because it’s already happened. We’re already in the midst of the Content War, and if your business hasn’t taken steps to mobilize, you’re potentially losing ground to your competition already. Businesses of all kinds are producing content at an astonishing rate, and it’s making a difference for those who do it right. The good news? It’s not too late to take up arms.

I’m not going to get too in-depth on what qualifies as ‘content’, or more appropriately, ‘good content’. For the best resource on this, check out the awesome book “Content Rules” by C.C Chapman and Ann Handley. Suffice to say that whatever your content consists of, whether it be articles, images, videos, or a combination of all three, the overarching qualifier necessary to register as ‘good content’ is VALUE. Whatever you produce for your audience, it’s got to be valuable.

Nobody builds authority, expertise, or trust with garbage content. Delivering value to your audience is the only way to gain ground in the Content War.

Time to get deeper in to what factors impact the success of your team, and are necessary to actually deliver that value to your audience. How does one business gain an advantage over their competition in the Content War? By being superior across a variety of measures, none of which have anything to do with having the deepest pockets.

You’ll be the most effective in the Content War if you have:
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Superior Intel – Don’t confuse intelligence with data. Raw numbers are useless without context and interpretation. First, look where the action is happening and examine the types of content that are generating action and engagement. Understand what your audience craves for content, and then understand why they crave it. Ask yourself “What is it about that piece of content that delivers value for them?” Look, listen, and figure out what you can give that they want. This will give you a purpose for your content.
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Superior Supply Chain – How do you get the content from the idea stage to being in front of your audience in the best possible way? Who in your organization is the best person(s) to provide the raw materials you need to create your audience’s desired content? Who can take that raw material and turn it in to a usable product? Who is the best person to deliver the content in a timely manner in the right location? These all may be the same person, or all different people. Identify the best team to have in place to take content from concept to reality and deliver it.

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Superior Training – What tools will you use? What are the intricacies of navigating through the necessary networks to reach your audience? Squeezing the most from the tools you have available helps you maximize the impact of your content. Your team should be trained on the ins-and-outs of whatever platforms and tools you’re using to create, distribute, and monitor your content.

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Superior Tactics – You know what kinds of content to make. You know who the best people are to help make that content. And you know how and where to post it. The next question is WHEN to post it. The brilliant Gary Vaynerchuk once said that content is one thing, but CONTEXT is truly where the power comes from. Creating the greatest content the world has ever seen is all for naught if it has no context. This article might as well be called the “Relevance War”, because that’s really where we are headed. Posting the right stuff at the right time is how you become the most relevant. Be tactical about what you post, when you post it, and where.

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Superior Leadership – Leadership matters, not at just the level of the Generals and Admirals, but at the Squad Leader level. Bring everyone in the loop on what your objectives are in the Content War. Allow them to be flexible, to adapt to changing battle conditions. Never stop learning. Never stop pushing. Having superior leadership gives clarity of purpose across all levels.

Finally, be aware that involvement in the Content War is not optional. The magnificent quote at the beginning of this article sums it up quite nicely. “Open war is upon you, whether you’d risk it or not.” While a business may elect not to create, this does not exclude that business from being compared to all the others who do. In a world full of conquerors, as the world of business truly is, how long will a business last if they stand idly by? Good content is authority, expertise, trust, and visibility. Good content is value, not just for your customers, but for your business. Good content is relevance.

Time to take up arms, and join the battle.