Marketing Lessons from Cracked.com

You might have heard of a little site called Cracked.com. Or perhaps, you’ve spent countless hours being roped into reading article after article. Perhaps these articles can be considered a “waste of time” but some argue that the content is actually useful and educational. Regardless, you have to admit that it’s catchy. So, here are some marketing takeaways you can learn from Cracked.

Eye-catching headlines are click-worthy: Where else would you find articles like this? “6 Real People With Mind-Blowing Mutant Superpowers”, “6 Insane (But Convincing) Fan Theories About Kids’ Cartoons”, “6 Horrifying Implications of the Harry Potter Universe”. How could you not want to click these articles? Posts on the Huffington Post and celebrity tabloid magazines are also a good example of getting people to want to read.

Deliver what is actually promised: Sometimes, over-exaggerated headlines can seem like a scam because they don’t really deliver. This is especially true with spammy ads for weight loss or anti-aging solutions. However, Cracked gives readers exactly what they expect and be specific as possible. For example, with an article like “6 Lies About the Human Body You Learned in Kindergarten”, there shouldn’t be a surprise to what you expect.

Know what your readers want and offer them more: The best/worst part about Cracked are the recommended articles at the bottom. Even if you just came to the site to read 1 article, chances are that you’ll stay even longer when you get a glimpse of these other articles.
You can also do this by posting related videos are responses to each other on YouTube or listing related recommendations like Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”. In other words, give them a good reason to stay longer.

Be mobile friendly: By just looking at the desktop version of the site, you can tell that Cracked is mobile device friendly. There are well-organized categories and catchy pictures to go with every article. They have an iPad app that makes it easy to browse for articles. Some articles are actually optimized for mobile while others lead you directly to the main site.
This is something you can do with your mobile website. Make sure to read out related blog post: Mobile Web Design Tips for 2013.

So, check out Cracked and have some fun. But don’t forget to notice the details that keep readers coming back for more so that you can implement the ideas into your own site.

Online Marketing Lessons to Learn from 3 Scary Movies (Part 2)

Happy Halloween Eve! Get ready for some more lessons from scary movies:

4) Gremlins
Gremlins and links – what do they have in common? One is cute and cuddly (Gizmo/white hat) and the others are just plain nasty (Mogwai/black hat). In the movie, the bad gremlins multiply quickly and can cause havoc if left to their own devices. (If it were only so easy to kill bad links with bright light…)

As we know, there are different types of links and automated services might not be the best. Links should be earned a few at a time and not by the dozens or hundreds one day out of the month to catch up. Even Google recently said that website submission services can be harmful to your site. Proceed with caution and just like having your own Gizmo, some people just aren’t ready!

5) The Fly
In this cult classic by David Cronenberg, Dr. Brundle turns into a human fly in an experiment gone awry. His ultimate wish is to be fused with his wife and unborn child to become… you know, the ultimate fly-human-hybrid. After his plot is foiled, he begs his wife to put an end to his misery – which she does.

Does this sound familiar to your website? Some owners can go overboard with content, design, over-optimization, thin content, and questionable SEO tactics over the years. Pair that with an exact match domain and you’re bound to be buried by Google in the post Panda and Penguin world. There’s a time for it and some people just need to know when to end it all… and start over new. This means 301 redirecting your content or affected URLs to a new domain and starting fresh with new content. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it. Don’t let the monster consume your pride and work things out before things get any worse.

6) Friday the 13th
At the end of the film, just when you think the masked killer is dead, there he is! Not only does Jason live but he also survives 11 other sequels including trips to space, hell and an intense battle with Freddy Krueger. The same goes with SEO. Many people claim that SEO is “dead” but it has really taken a life form of its own and is constantly changing to adapt to the evolving search marketing landscape. You can go on and on about how search engine optimization is a dying art but at the end of the day it comes down to the truth – SEO lives (and so does Jason Voorhees)!

Read our previous post here and let us know what you think!

Are Your Business Blogs Too Boring?

boring contentBlogging is an important part of a content marketing strategy but sometimes, it’s hard to get around the fact that your business is “boring”. Whatever you do, don’t get into this train of thought! Remember, there’s always a way to give your content a boost. It just takes a little self-analysis and adjustment to see how you can make your blogs a little more interesting!

Things to Ditch

Information That’s Way Too General - Are your blogs just written to take up space? Content that’s too general isn’t very interesting or helpful to anyone. Spun content is also a red flag for spam, which can lead to penalties. Instead, you can focus a post on one specific topic or question. This gives you an example to showcase your expertise and will hold real staying power. This can lead to followup questions and related topics so you’ll never run out of things to write about.

Detailed, Jargo Filled Content – At the end of the spectrum, detailed content can be just too much for a reader to digest. It’s important for a business to remember to use terms and topics that are easy to understand. At the very list, make sure to explain confusing topics and not to assume that readers know as much as you do. Finding a balance between being too general and too detailed can be tricky, but this is what practice is for – and blogging is the best way to get there.

Long Blogs – Have you ever scrolled past a long blog post that failed to hold your attention? Some companies may feel that quantity means quality. Long content doesn’t necessarily mean that readers are taking something useful away from your blogs. Remember, you don’t have to cram content in a small post. Take some time to organize your thoughts in more concise bullet points. The goal of business blogging is to effectively and efficiently get your message across and length isn’t necessarily a requirement.

Cold, impersonal language – The appeal of blogs are that readers can find out more about the personality and culture behind a business. Every once in awhile, it helps to update about company news, employees, neighborhood events, to show the human side of your business. These blogs will stand out and your words won’t feel as clinical and emotionless.

These are just a few problems that business blogs can encounter. Feel free to share your pet peeves and make sure to stay tuned for our next post on what you can do to improve your business blogs.

Why Your Content Marketing Strategy Needs SEO

Google’s Penguin update may have left you feeling down and out, but now isn’t the time to completely give up on SEO.

Penguin Penalties
If you’ve been dabbling in black hat tactics, or even gray hat, that is obviously a big problem. But there are many marketers who have been “punished” by the algorithm updates, even if they have played it safe. Some sites have dropped a few spots, while others have felt  a full on penalty by dropping 10+ pages. What does that mean for the future of SEO? Regardless of what you’ve read, search engine optimization isn’t “dead” as much as it has drastically evolved. It’s a matter of which businesses can hang on during this ever changing environment.

The Big Problem with No SEO
While this may lead to a focus on cranking out content without any optimization, there is a huge problem with that. The main problem with thinking about online marketing without SEO is that your content needs to be found and seen by search engines in order to be indexed and eventually ranked. Just think of it as if you have the greatest thing to share BUT no one will ever come across it because you’ve done no marketing or planning to bring the content to the people. A failure to plan for effective SEO may also affect other aspects of online marketing like social media marketing… things that’ can’t be found cannot be shared!

Lessons Learned
The best advice is to stay up to date on upcoming updates and to see how they are affecting your peers and industry. Gone are the days of building hundreds of links, pages, articles for a quick fix. As Google puts it, the face of SEO today yearns to reward high-quality content without unnatural links or methods that may seem to be created solely for the purpose of manipulating search results. If these updates teach you anything, it should be that you should have a balance in optimization tactics: content creation, inbound/outbound links, on and off page optimization. In other words, simple is better and less is more.

Helpful articles:
Reconsideration Request Tips From Google
SEOs Share Google Penguin Recovery Tips
Google Penguin Update Recovery Tips & Advice
Whiteboard+ on Google’s Penguin Update

Looking at Google’s Evil Ways

While “Don’t Be Evil” is Google’s official motto, there are many recent arguments that can be made showing how the internet giant is slowing descending into the realm of being not-so-good.

Earlier this week, Google got caught utilizing SEO spam to promote its Chrome browser. They hired a video marketing company and bought sponsored blog posts on questionable sites, which bloggers caught onto very quickly. Not to mention that the articles and content that was pushed out wasn’t well-written or relevant to the sites they were being featured on!

This is the exact type of behavior that Google punishes, so what happens when they’re the ones violating this “golden rule”. As punishment, Google has penalized itself for its “mistake” so that Chrome doesn’t show up for browser-related terms (for the time being). Yeah, that will show them… but for how long? You have to admit that it is hypocritical for Google to get caught doing the same thing that they penalized J.C. Penney for doing early in 2011. And in some ways, this argument can be extended to the small scale – how Google is constantly adding more Panda updates to penalize content they deem as spammy or evil. These updates have greatly affected traffic for legitimate small business sites, so why do they just keep coming?

If the issue of spam weren’t so blatantly offensive to SEOs, it’s more frustrating to see that Google isn’t very transparent with their search algorithm and other ranking methods. As far as we can see, they change this as often as they please and leave reputable website marketing firms to guess what is going to happen next.

The more you look into it, the more you’ll discover of the dark side of Google and why so many people question their motives. Do you think Google made a honest mistake with this ad campaign are or they just sorry because they got caught in such a public manner? Maybe it’s time to retire that motto and think of a more fitting one…

Pinterest Piquing Your Interest?

If you love pictures, Pinterest is the new social networking/bookmarking/photosharing community for you! The site went live in March of 2010 but it’s gaining more attention for its potential for SEO.

Looking at it for the first time, the site reminds me of Tumblr and Chictopia. Think of it as a virtual pinboard where you can add pictures as well as links. For now, the links from the images are not nofollow, which means that your site can benefit from getting link juice here! Many people speculate that this tag could be added in the near future, so it’s best to take advantage of it now!

People post pictures of everything including: food, inspirational quotes, celebrity crushes, scenic shots and more. Check out this image I found of an iPad cover. Now to the SEO part that can benefit your online marketing campaign! With every picture you post, there are three links you can add: 1) the picture itself 2) the link on the top right 3) a link in the description.

Businesses can benefit from pinning pictures but the purpose is to not be so self-serving. Instead, the things you post should be interesting and shareable. E-commerce stores can post pictures of their products and local businesses can contribute to categories related to their city or local neighborhood. All of these things help with your online reputation, while gaining momentum from linked pictures at the same time.

If you’ve used Pinterest, let us know what you think. As for now, I’m eagerly awaiting my own Pinterest invite!

What are the Benefits of a SEO Friendly CMS?

Now more than ever, good content is a critical part of effective search engine optimization. Having a content management system (CMS) will help make this process easier – meaning that you can update your site more often with relevant content.

From a user standpoint, a CMS is very user-friendly and easy to use. But it’s time to look behind the scenes and see just how you can find the right SEO friendly CMS to help your search efforts.

Custom URLS – It’s important that you choose a CMS that gives you the option to create your own URL. SEO friendly URLs are tailored towards users and are more likely to have a higher click through rate. Sometimes, dynamic URLs can look spammy or relevant and lead to more problems in the future, especially if you are dealing with a website redesign.

Custom meta elements – An effective CMS should give you easy fields where you can fill out fields for title, description and keyword tags. Each page should have a unique Title tag that accurately reflects the content on that page. Did you know that aside from the content itself, page titles are (arguably) considered the most important element? Beware of a CMS that duplicates meta elements on each new page if you don’t customize it. I’ve come across sites that have hundreds of pages with of duplicate meta elements – not a good thing in Google’s eyes!

Speed and Usability – The main reason for using a CMS is that it is easy to use and that you can do it yourself if you need to. Older content management systems aren’t as user-friendly or practical to use. I recently had to use a CMS that took at least 5 minutes to save before you could view your edits. And of course, if you need to make more changes, that’s another 5 minutes just to preview! A CMS is meant to save you time and hassle, not make a bigger mess for you to deal with!

Affordability – When you have a website, there are multiple aspects that you have to consider including: web design, web copywriting, paid and organic search. Choosing the right CMS also means that you should see how it fits into your budget. If you “splurge” on a fancy/expensive CMS that you never have time to use, what’s the point? It could also take up the majority of your resources so that you don’t have anything left over to devote to a truly effective campaign.

A SEO CMS can help make website management an easier process and your organic search campaign more effective. Feel free to comment or give us a call (323) 340-4010 if you have any questions on a CMS for your small business.

7 Blog Topic Ideas for Your Small Business

How was everyone’s Labor Day weekend?

Getting back from a looong weekend can be hard, especially when it comes to thinking of new blog topics for your business. If you start to feel tired about blogging about your business, chances are that your readers will feel it too. There are only so many ways to keep content fresh, meaning blog topics and the format that you use. Don’t worry, your business has more to work with than you think!

  1. Use different media – Slideshows, podcasts, videos, and Twitter chat transcriptions can all serve as a great alternative to a “normal” blog post.
  2. Show your audience how a recent event is related to your industry. Discussing current news can help increase the social media shareability of your blog post.
  3. Case studies: Highlight a successful client and show the problems you helped them overcame.
  4. Linking out and name dropping too much is never a good thing. But you can always come up with a small list industry-specific blogs that you keep up with.
  5. Debunk a  widely believed and incorrect myth within your industry
  6. Showcase your staff or have an employee spotlight. You can also go on to explain how your business is different from competitors.
  7. Talk about what you love about your business. While you’re at it, you can also talk about things that you don’t like so much. The key is to tie it into a positive at the end. For example, sure the social media industry is always changing which can be confusing, but on the up side, you’re always learning new things.

Business blogging doesn’t always have to just focus on your products/services. No one likes a straight up sales pitch and blogging is not meant to be that way. Thinking of these other ideas will help bring more readers to your blog and website so that. If those topics don’t do it for you, feel free to brainstorm some more until you’ve found the right one that you can elaborate on.

Are You Using Link Bait to Attract Readers?

Sometimes, I think the term link bait has a connotation because you’re using it to “trick” others to link to your article. With that said, there are legitimate ways to link bait properly, especially if you have useful content to back it up. Link baiting is a great way to attract readers and bloggers who are willing to share your content. Here are some techniques you can apply to different content (blogs, articles, on site content and even social media posts)

The Shock Factor – Remember all those crazy Jerry Springer episodes? ” Something ridiculous like I Married a Horse” comes to mind. Having a shock factor can come from many ways: rants, critical reviews and debates are many ways you could bring people to your post. But remember, these extreme techniques can threaten your online reputation, so use with caution! There are also ways to use the shock factor without being over the top, such as building on surprising factor of interesting statistics that others can relate to.

Industry News – When there’s a breaking story, it’s crucial to post it and put your take on things as soon as possible. This way, you’re establishing yourself as being a reputable source by showing that you’re aware of the changing industry. For example in the legal industry, you’ll want to keep readers informed on the latest product recalls and dangerous products. In the fitness industry, you may want to comment on the latest diet and exercise trends.

Contests – Ideally, you won’t just give away a random product in order to have people link to your site or fan page. Instead, you can build customer loyalty by having customers participate in some way – even if it’s small. It can start with taking a photo or sharing a story or build to something big like having a logo contest. Have I mentioned that Facebook has changed things up for Pages? If fans don’t engage with your Page, your posts will no longer appear in their default News Feed! But that’s a topic for another time… The more fans invest into your contest, the more interested they will be in your brand in the long run.

Guides and How to Guides – Wiki, forums and Q&A sites are so popular because people always have a problem that they’re trying to solve. Creating step by step guides on a topic that you’re well-versed in will help establish your business as an authority figure. If you’re worried about giving too much away, you can start with a popular general topic. For example, if you look up a fettuccine alfredo recipe, there are SO many ways to make the same thing. It’s important to put your special take on the topic. You can do so by also adding helpful pictures, video and other forms of media content.

Creating quality link bait that’s also effective is NOT an easy thing. Not to mention that most successful methods require a creative spin. Every once in awhile, it doesn’t hurt to break out of the cycle and create something innovative within your SEO content. What’s your take on link bait and techniques that really work?

Is It Possible to Have Too Much Content?

Believe it or not, there IS such a thing as having too much content (and we’re talking about onsite content here). Effective SEO strategies are linked with quality content but people may often mistake that for just adding more content. Notice how quality gets left behind?

This is becoming more clear as Google Panda updates are rolling out. The goal is to weed out pages that are not helpful to consumers. So, how do you explain this to a client who wants 50 pages of content put up simultaneously?

Content, Search Engines and Customers

Dumping a ton of content in a single move looks suspicious to search engines because they are aware of many things: the quality of your content, the potential of its usefulness and in the end, it helps them uncover your motive (black hat or white hat SEO). I think that making this move gives off a hint that this is a one time thing and that your site won’t be updated frequently.

There’s only so much content that customers can digest without being completely bored or disinterested. As a consumer, when was the last time you sat down and made time to read more than a handful of pages on a website?

Consistency and Quality over Quantity

The next time someone urges you to add massive amounts of content at once, it’s important to let them know why it’s not a good idea. (And no, it’s not because you’re looking for an excuse to not do work!) SEO content strategy requires a consistent schedule and more does not mean that you will rank any better. If anything, posting too much content that is not useful to users can actually hurt your rankings nowadays.