Category Archives: Branding

Word Choices Matter in Campaigns

The candidate firmly grabbed the edges of the podium to present himself as a man who knows who he is and where he’s going. He stood tall, squinted at the camera, and clenched his jaw. Someone whispered, “I think he’s going to be president.”

Why?

“Because he looks like a president. He’s organized and seems to know what to do.”

It’s understandable. Like Homer Simpson, the candidate is funny. He makes headlines with raw rants and doesn’t apologize, which is something most of us can’t do without being fired.

Consider the case of Karen Fitzgibbons, an elementary school teacher who ranted on her Facebook page about the conflict between police and teenagers at a pool party. She offered an apology after her rant, but it was too late. She lost her job. It’s true. Many don’t want to be held to politically correct speak, but what is the impact of careless, personally insulting words?

Nick Kyrgios, a tennis player, made an off the cuff comment about another player’s girlfriend during a tennis match and was fined $10,000 in addition to being booed at subsequent matches.

In the case of the presidential candidate, the more journalists utter his name, the bigger his brand becomes. Case in point, we don’t have to mention his name, but you know who we’re referring to, right? If he wins the presidency, his companies win. If he loses the presidency, his companies win. It’s a smart strategy. Run for president to broaden your power and audience– earn high ratings by being outlandish. If the goal is “to eventually become bigger than Amway, now an $8.4 billion company and the giant in the field” and his product appeals to “those who own companies, which tend to do well in bad economic times, when people are broke, desperate, and angry at the system,” (NY Mag) jumping into politics pumps life into corporate holdings.

Can we excuse so many cringe-worthy slip-ups because of who the candidate is? He often limits the scope of his insults to one person or a smaller segment of certain groups. Then, he embraces and praises the remaining segment by promising to win their support. He dismisses legitimate concerns with creative spins. He ignores calls for apologies and avoids ownership for his offenses.

Advertising Age suggests that the candidate’s,

“eschewal of politically correct cant and plainspoken ways account for much of his mass appeal among a frustrated electorate, those same qualities may ultimately derail his bid for the nomination. And while it’s impossible to predict how long he can keep this up, it probably should go without saying that antagonizing the nation’s No. 1 cable news outlet isn’t a recipe for longevity.”

What else? It becomes difficult for parents to instruct their kids to stand up to bullies, when they’re justifying the actions of an adult version.

If bully speak wins, everyone loses. The door to strife or war swings wide open.

After Words Fail 
No one is perfect. How do you fix poor word choices after they occur? The public might embrace you– even with all your flaws, after an authentic apology. If you’ve made a career of embracing people, the public is probably more likely to forgive misspeak. Kelly Osbourne, who made a comment about Hispanics cleaning toilets, addressed her word choice faux pas with an immediate apology on Facebook. Then, the story disappeared.

Flood social media with new stories. Business 2 Community suggests putting “your writers in motion.”

While your legal team looks things over, gather together your writers for some old-fashioned SEO work. Use the keywords, phrases, product names and employee names in blog posts, social media posts and press releases. Make sure that you have the opportunity to really dominate Google’s results for those terms.

Everyone makes mistakes. Acknowledge yours and work on minimizing them as you move forward. And don’t think that just because you’re a candidate, you’re above it all. Your words and actions matter, too.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Audience, Branding, Business Strategy, Persuasive Essay, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media, Speeches

Are You a Social Snob? Rethink Your #Twitter Practices

Middle School Social BehaviorCFC78D87-5532-4290-BC86-D396199081FE
If given a choice to return to one’s middle school years, it’s doubtful many would say, “Sure, sign me up. I’d live in middle school forever!”

Do you remember those days? Kids who sat at the cool kid table during lunch felt obligated to demonstrate certain behaviors to remain at the table. Those who were not at the table observed what it took to sit there with that group. While some kids imitated and embraced the game, others avoided these kids all together.

If you’re not embracing your social media followers, you’re still in middle school sitting at what you think is the cool table (or trying to get there)—and you’re losing thousands of followers, views, and potential advocates because of this hold over attitude from childhood.

Reasons People Use Twitter
Let’s consider why people sign up for social media accounts.

1. I want to make money.
2. I want current information and opinions.
3. I want to be entertained.
4. I want interaction with others.
5. I want to influence.

There is a common thread through each of these motivations. That’s right. “I.” People on your Facebook, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, You Tube or Twitter accounts participate for self-gratification—even if that’s on behalf of a mission or charity. In your real life (the one you physically attend), ignoring the person who wants “two minutes of your time” or not responding to the secretary who says, “Good morning,” might be expected behaviors of you because of your perceived status in your world—however large or small that fish bowl may be.

But, in the big bowl of social media, anyone can be a celebrity and anyone can be a flop. The real gems of social media achieve the above five goals for themselves and others (and have more fun) with the following best Twitter practices:

Follow Back Real People.
Look at who’s following you. Go over to the other person’s page. Preview his or her bio and last ten tweets to decide if he or she is legit. Then, follow back. Remove the person if he or she annoys you, spams you, or plays the unfollow game.

Celebrities and celebrity social medians, search your name to find out what people are saying about you. Just by following them, you’ll build bridges with both fans and critics. Following others doesn’t mean you’re endorsing them. People know that if you follow a lot fans, you don’t know them all personally.

Respond to Mentions.
For some social media users, the online sense of community begins to parallel real life. Maybe you’ve met some of your followers at conventions or know them through business. Now, you have a face with a name. If you know the person and don’t care to associate with him or her, ignoring or blocking that person’s Twitter or G+ mentions is okay. However, remember that social media is its own world. You may do more harm to your goals than good by being a social media jerk. If you rarely see the person in real life, how much of a threat does it really pose to be polite? Are you sure you aren’t the problem?

If you don’t know the follower and don’t respond to his or her mention, you taint your brand. Absorb that statement.  Giving the cold shoulder makes companies, executives, and celebrities look bad. When fans take the time to participate in live tweeting sessions for their favorite TV shows, movies, conferences, or books and receive no response, it’s a turn off. Respond appropriately after someone takes time to comment on your blog post, tweet, meme, or picture. Better yet, maintain the relationship by revisiting the person’s page a few weeks down the road and commenting on one of their tweets. You’re doing a terrible job promoting if you ignore the people you’re trying to sell. Communicating demonstrates that you’re human and worth admiring. If you have people who perform social media tasks for you, make sure they know your parameters and Twitter’s best practices. Newbie Twitter user Kevan Lee puts it this way,

“When someone retweets you, mentions you in a tweet, or favorites one of your tweets, they are seeking a connection with you. From a certain perspective, this is a truly humbling event. Someone has valued you and your profile enough that they want to connect. It’s kind of an honor.”

Start Conversations.
Challenge yourself to interact by starting a conversation. You might make a friend or long term fan and learn something new. If you’re the social median for a business, find customers by searching for your products’ or services’ keywords. Then, start conversations about how fans are using the products or services. If a blogger writes about your brand, reach out to that person and thank them (or at least connect with them via social media.)

Do not play junior high cool kid as a celebrity or executive. Be a leader. If you’re asked a legitimate question or someone offers a compliment or interesting observation about your brand, unless you have legal reasons not to do so, take a moment and respond! You’re human and your fans want to see it. If you are not human, can’t afford a really good ghost tweeter, or hate being social, stay off the medium.

Unfollow Automated Accounts.
Unfortunately, after a social media account grows to a certain size, fake accounts will follow you for a period of time in hopes that your followers will follow the fake accounts, too. This helps fake accounts to build followership so the owners of those accounts can tweet out articles with links for SEO and promotional reasons and have armies to boost numbers. This industry is big business. Don’t waste your time on the game. Generously add real followers, but ignore the profiles asking you to buy followers. You can usually spot them by their numbers. Anyone who has say, 150K followers, but is following 5K, is probably a short term follower of your account. Within a couple weeks, they’ll drop you and then repeat the cycle later if you drop them.

Use Lists.
When you add fans, your stream fills up with content. It’s now time to create lists. Create categories based on the type of content you really want to read. You don’t have to follow someone to have him or her on a list. Create lists for your hobbies, passions, charities, news, industry associates, or hard core fans. Now you have the option to read everything in your stream or to visit certain lists.

Twitter for Celebrities
You have the potential to be a better celebrity or executive in the social media world than you are in the real one. Start minding details and tweeking habits to better connect with your fan base.

If you don’t consider yourself a VIP, remember that social media is a level playing field. Anyone can become a social media VIP, just by fulfilling the needs mentioned above, while being a courteous communicator. Don’t live in middle school forever. The world is so much bigger.  ~Jean

1 Comment

Filed under Branding, Google Plus, Instagram, Social Media, Twitter

#Marketing Tips from an Unsuspecting Italian Leather Shop Owner

The leather aroma emanating from Dante’s Leather Shop Sas in Florence– or Firenze, as the Italians call it, was hard to resist. There were many pop up tents on the cobblestone street with vendors displaying leather jackets, but this store seemed real—something requiring rent and a permit.  I wasn’t looking for a fake coat, but a reputable product as a birthday present for my husband.

Greet the Customer.Italian store

After two minutes eyeballing a multitude of coats, I spotted one I liked and a stocky, older gentleman approached me.  He asked in Italian if he could help me. When I asked in Spanish if he spoke English, he quickly obliged and began his pitch.

But, I wasn’t ready to buy. I just wanted to know if

  1. the leather was real,
  2. would the coat fit my husband,
  3. and how much the coat cost.

Demonstrate the Product.

He showed off this particular long jacket like it was a prop in a Penn and Teller act.

To answer my first question, he pulled out a lighter and held the flame against the outside of the coat. It did not ignite. “If it was a fake it would burn,” he said.

I don’t know if the lighter thing is true or not, but having grown up around saddles, I could smell the leather and trusted my nose. I was intrigued by his magic trick and felt comfortable moving from question one to question three.

Overcome Objections.

How much? (That would give me another indicator as to the validity of his answer to question one.)  He gave me a price and I put the coat back on a hanger. Holy cow. These are expensive.

He paused, stopped me, and walked to his counter, returning with an envelope.

“Let me show you how I’m going to save you 14%,” he said, as he detailed the duty free procedures he’d and I‘d follow, so that I’d receive a refund of Italy’s retail tax.  He pulled out past receipts and explained how it worked for other customers. (So, jump on the bandwagon.)

Since this was my first store and leather shopping experience in 2015, I wasn’t sure if his base price was legit.  I wasn’t ready to buy, but kept listening.

“This is a gentleman’s coat,” he said, brushing the length of the jacket with the back of his hand and straightening the collar. “A beautiful coat!  Notice the two tones. This is a popular style for men today.  What size is your husband?”

I had no idea. “He’s taller than you, but not as stocky in the shoulders,” I said.

Without missing a beat, the man put the coat on and said, “And he probably doesn’t have as big of a belly. I apologize. I enjoy our Italian pasta too much.” The ice was broken and I smiled.

The coat looked tight. Then, I remembered pictures I had on my phone and found them. Before holding my phone to look at the pictures, the salesman politely asked, “May I?” Just a small detail, but he knew enough to ask permission before he continued moving me through the sales funnel.

In the photo, I was standing next to my husband on the beach. The craftsman immediately put the coat back on the hanger and pulled out another size.  “This is the one,” he announced.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

He wasn’t insulted, but assured me after fitting so many men, that he knew his sizes.  He also gave me his card and said that if he was wrong, I could return the coat and he’d send the correct size.  This didn’t 100% comfort me, as I imagined shipping charges between countries and the uncertainty of dealing with issues from afar, but he was trying and answered with patience.

My final concern was the train travel ahead and the coat getting stolen during the journey. I once again put it back on the hanger and the man’s face fell. I’m sure he thought he’d never see me again because time and distance kills many sales. “I am coming back through the area in a couple days,” I said.  “I’ll swing by then.”

He nodded and I left.  Truthfully, I wasn’t sure if I’d be back.  I breathed easier after leaving. I was free of the pressure to buy, but over the next couple days, I looked online at leather coats and found most to be more expensive. I also browsed other leather shops in the area and found that Dante’s price was indeed reasonable.  The coat would be a good buy and a classy gift for my husband.  So, I went back and bought it.

Apply Interpersonal Salesmanship to Digital Marketing

We can learn from this Italian businessman.  He did not intend to teach anything, but we can connect these parallel digital applications.

Invest in a legitimate website.

Don’t skimp on a pop up tent that’s a few pages with thin offerings of products and content. Invest in a mobile-friendly site and plan your navigational flow to include each category offering you sell.  By now, you’ve heard that Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm goes live April 21, 2015. Pay the money to sell from a proper site and hire writers to produce relevant and convincing content. Shoppers want to shop where carts are secure, pages quickly render, and flawless images and words are helpful.

Offer your assistance before the customer leaves.

Give customers a few moments to look through your store, but do greet them.  Many online businesses provide chat services to help shoppers find products or ask questions.  These can annoy, so configure your settings appropriately to avoid chasing away potential customers with pushiness.

Anticipate shopper questions.

Shoppers ask the same questions and have the same concerns that other shoppers express. Overtime, you learn what customers will ask. Answering these repetitive questions can get tiring.  However, customers want to feel important. Thoroughly and patiently answer each question. Whether in person or through the Internet, you’ll improve sales with a one-on-one approach.

The Italian shop keeper answered questions in the order I asked them.  He didn’t jump ahead to other predictable topics. He answered what I wanted to know when I wanted to know it. Another customer might have asked the same questions, but in a different order.  He didn’t assume I was someone else.  He personalized his answers to my agenda.

Your website should thoroughly answer the questions that are asked every day in your store. Create videos or FAQ pages to explain common or complex information. Give customer traffic the flexibility to choose what they want to know when they want to know it. Offer product reviews on your site for the insight and comfort other customers provide.

Speak your customer’s language.

Later in my trip, I walked into a café where the cashier was not going to try to speak English or even meet me in the middle with Spanish. Ridiculous, right?

Not really.

It’s easy to forget that your website might be giving the same cold shoulder to potential leads from abroad. If you want more tourists to buy, communicate in the language and with the expressions they understand. The leather shop owner quickly adapted his initial greeting from Italian to English, overcoming my first sales hurdle—language inadequacy. You might consider offering an online chat service in multiple languages for customers who visit your site.  Thank goodness for Google Translate, but even so, can you make your site friendlier to foreign shoppers? Is your site’s reading level accurate for various ages and fluencies of your customers?

Know and love your product like a craftsman.

The Italian store owner knew his product and business. Your website should also demonstrate your breadth of expertise. Provide details and demonstrate passion for what you’re selling. Think of concrete word pictures, phrases, and examples to help customers visualize using your products. Offer images with close ups and 360 degree views. What might the product look like on a small, medium, or large person?

Know your competition and how well your products are priced, as compared to competitor’s products.  Some companies have in-house experts write their content and then hire content companies to edit for SEO-friendliness, grammar, and usage.

Be polite.

Your brand’s tone does make a difference.  Respect your customer’s intelligence and interest with the words you choose.

Offer a no hassle return policy.

If you offer a great product, then your return policy ought to be friendly to offset customer indecisiveness or concerns about your legitimacy. A no hassle return policy communicates that your business is for real.

Let your customer leave.

If you’ve accurately priced your product and you know that your product is of quality, then don’t sweat when a customer leaves.  Sometimes people need space to see that you offered a good deal.

But honestly, the Italian shop owner knew my leaving wasn’t ideal. You will lose a percentage of sales when potential customers leave, so address their concerns while in your store without being pushy. Some retailers provide competitor comparison charts on sub-category or product pages to demonstrate competitive price or product details. The Italian shop owner offered to directly ship the coat overseas so I wouldn’t have to carry it with me—an alternative that I determined was too expensive, but at least he was accomodating.

After the sale, invite customers to return.

It was a simple phrase the man said after the coat was in the bag and I was leaving the store…

“Thank you for shopping with us.  I hope next time you visit Florence, you will treat yourself to something, as well.”

Oh gosh. That was good.

He’s right. What about me?

Unknowingly, I wrestled with my pragmatic inner-voice. It scolded, “You got the trip. Your husband gets the birthday coat.” But, another inner-voice snapped back, “The salesman is right. You deserve this. You could be getting a good deal, too!”

What a smart phrase to zing customers with at the end.

Be an expert salesman online.

Whether you’re a shop keeper with one store and no online presence or a major retailer with thousands of SKUs and hundreds of global stores, finely tuned inter-personal skills applied to each and every transaction add up over time.  Bring those traditional business practices to today’s platforms and you’ll increase sales like a pro.

 

~Jean

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Algorithms, Audience, Branding, Capturing Audience, Customer Profile, E-Tail Category Content, Marketing, Merchandising, Personas, Product Descriptions, Reviews, Sales, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Words Which Sell

Tips to Makeover Your Profile Picture

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what are you saying with your profile pictures?

Photo courtesy of Hair Dresser’s Guide to Photo Shoots

With each photo you post, you choose to represent yourself and your company. A vital part of crafting an online presence, the profile picture can get lost in the shuffle of quality information and targeted content.

Consider your profile picture as the human connection piece to your organization. Whether you are choosing your personal profile picture on a social networking site or a picture that will rest on a “Meet the Staff” page, this is where your users will make their first judgments about you and the quality of your organization.

Even away from the company’s website, you are still a face that represents your business. Use these tips to make sure you draw people in with your confident, professional appearance.

Focus on You:

Since your face is the focus of a profile picture, make sure you are the focus of yours. There should be no one else in your photo, nor animals or distracting objects. Create an uncomplicated background. This does not mean that you have to stand in front of a blank wall, but make sure there isn’t anything to distract people behind you. Have your photographer frame the photo with you in the center. Insure that your head doesn’t look lopped off by leaving the top half or fourth of your torso in the shot.

Snap a great pic:

This may seem obvious, but make sure your profile photo is actually a quality image. That means it needs to be well-lit with your face in-focus and sharp. It also means that it needs to be a high-resolution image. Posting a second-rate photo is an easy tip off to a potential client that you are unprofessional and not detail oriented.

Be consistent:

Make sure that you have the same profile picture representing you on all of your social networking sites. If a client is trying to determine whether or not to follow you on Twitter and your profile picture appears different, they may not be able to tell if it’s actually you. Think about your personal profile as your brand. A consistent profile picture will become your logo. This does not mean, however, to keep the photo of you from twenty years ago. Use a recent photo. Update if you get a drastic new hairstyle or every three to five years so your photo represent the real you.

Be professional:

Dress in your picture the way you would go to a meeting with a client. Dress in your finely-tailored business professional look or embrace the business casual look. Make sure that you appear clean and are wearing professional makeup or jewelry. Try also to select your outfit’s colors based off what will complement your website’s coloring. Neither you nor your company will be represented well if your yellow outfit clashes with the brown of the website. Always, make sure your clothes are clean and not ill-fitting nor wrinkled.

Get the perfect angle:

Once you are dressed and ready for the perfect shot, look into the camera and try to be pleasant. Make sure to smile but do not attack the camera with your confidence. Sit up straight and upright, making sure you don’t tilt your head to the side.

If you find yourself questioning your choice of a profile picture, do not be afraid to ask for the opinions of others. Remember to be professional!

~Katelyn

1 Comment

Filed under Branding, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Reputation Management

CBS Films’ #theDuff Targets Teens in Marketing Campaign

Invite Student Reporters to a Free Pre-Screening

It’s a clever way of marketing, but especially, it’s an effective way to reach teens.  CBS Films began promoting their latest movie, The Duff, by contacting teachers in charge of their schools’ publications. Feeling like royalty, the teachers’ students received free tickets to private pre-screenings of the film. The final cut releases to theaters February 20, 2015.  Think of it, SEOs.  Those students will write free articles about the movie for CBS and much of that content will end up on educational sites- just the kind you want for digital back-linking power.  Wow.

Create Your Digital Keyword and its Definition to Dominate Searches

What is The Duff, you may ask? As the mother of a teen that received a free ticket to one of those private, pre-release screenings, I joined her for “girls’ night” on a school night and found out that it stands for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend.” Lovely. But, smart. The movie can now add its name to duff’s Wikipedia entry to dominate Google searches for the term’s origins and meanings.

The start of the movie did not make me happy.  “Great, that’s all these kids need,” I thought, “another label that makes everyone in the room self-conscious about their social standing and value.”  The movie did come around to join hands and say, “We’re all duffs to someone, so be yourself and embrace it,” but eh, what I’m most interested in is how the movie is being marketed.  I reached out to CBS Films for comment, but they did not respond.

Include Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook Handles to Promote Interaction

We are truly in the age of social media.  The hashtag, #theDuff, is on the big screen and on the movie’s website, while the ending credits give the Instagram or Twitter handles for each of the actors.  The call to action is clear. Teens, whip out your phones, start following, and tell your friends. The Duff is on a mission to build an audience and earn revenues.

Provide Attractive Content

As a side note, the actors get “As” for chemistry. Light-hearted joking between the characters make this film a movie night pick. Girls, I just want to point out that Robbie Amell, who plays Wes and looks like a young Tom Cruise (one way to pull in your Moms), was born in 1988, which would make him a very old, high school senior at age 27! The same is true for Mae Whitman, who portrays the funny and down-to-earth, Bianca.  However, Bella Thorne- mean girl, Madison, was born in October 1997, and is a real high school junior this year.

Ask Your Audience to Promote After They Consume

The story line includes moments when the main character endures cyber-bullying after a video that was created about her goes viral.  The marketing off-screen is all about harnessing the power of viral because after the teen reporters watched the movie, they were invited to submit questions the next day to interview the actors in real time.

My daughter thought the interview was going to involve just the students in her publications class and the actors themselves, which was not exactly accurate. Her class stayed after school to wait for the late start of a webinar experience that included about 300 schools throughout North America.  All of these students submitted their questions, but only a few of those questions were selected.  Students took notes and then wrote articles for their schools’ newspapers, magazines, and classes.  These stories should be hitting the presses between now and the movie’s release in February 2015.

Smart idea, isn’t it? Why pay for your content when you can give out some free tickets to kids who have the power to reach other kids with their words? The Duff will reach its teen and tween niche in no time.

Jack pot, CBS Films, you even captured a mother who writes content for a living.  You get a little publicity as a thank you for the great experience she had covering your story and I get mother-daughter time to point out how companies influence the choices we make about the goods and services we consume.

Leave a comment

Filed under Audience, Branding, Business Strategy, Capturing Audience, Content, Content Marketing, Marketing, Persuasive Essay, School Websites, Writing for Children

How to Build a Content Marketing Strategy across Paid, Earned and Owned Media

To effectively market your content, you must have a strategy that includes the use of paid, earned and owned media. Bombarding your target audience with only paid advertising or relying solely on your owned media such as your website or social media to spread the word creates major blind spots in your overall marketing plan. It also leaves a lot of missed opportunities on the table where you could have reached a broader audience if you had spread your efforts out into all three types of media.Promotion Plan

Before you can sit down and build content marketing strategies using paid, earned and owned media, you must first understand the differences among the three. Let’s take a closer look at what each type of media brings to your marketing strategy.

Paid Media

Most obviously, you can purchase advertising through almost every social media platform. Facebook provides the ability to create highly-targeted ads that appear either in users’ newsfeeds or on the sidebar. You can also promote your tweets or buy clicks on StumbleUpon or Reddit. Carefully consider your target audience and the type of social media that they are most likely to use.

Aside from social media, you might choose to use Google AdWords to boost your SEO or pay for placement on another website or blog. Using all of these tactics can be quite costly to implement. Determine your budget for this piece of your marketing strategy and do you research on what form of paid media will give you the highest ROI.

Earned Media

Out of the three categories, earned media can be the trickiest piece to implement successfully. The simplest reason for this is because you are really not in control. You are asking for other people to share your content because they find it to be of value, but you are not paying them to do so.

Some options for earned media include submitting your content as a guest contributor to a blog or website that’s relevant to your target audience. You should also share the content multiple times and in various ways on social media (sites like StumbleUpon, Reddit, Linkedin and Pinterest are especially effective) encouraging readers to share with their networks. You can also attempt to spark discussion (and sharing) in Linkedin groups. You can also pitch your article to a blogger or professional writer who may be interested in featuring a review or op-ed piece of the article.

Owned Media

Finally and most obviously is promoting your content on the media that you already own and control. This includes your social media, email lists, website and blog to name just a few common assets. This is low hanging fruit that you should always take advantage of as part of your ongoing marketing strategy.

For example, if you publish an article, create a home for this content on your website and publish it on your blog. Then promote these links on your social media accounts (for Linkedin you may consider publishing the entire article on your profile as well). Finally, incorporate some of the content of this article into an email blast to your lists to offer valuable and relevant information tailored to what is likely to interest them. By consistently marketing your content across owned media, you will maximize its impact and fuel your website and social media with fresh, high-quality content that will increase your SEO.

Now that you have a better understanding of the different ways you can promote your content across paid, earned and owned media, now is the time to get started creating your own diverse strategy that uses a little bit of each. Most importantly, remember that even the best marketing strategy still needs high quality content in order to be successful. Provide valuable information and give your readers every opportunity to find it!

How have you build an effective media campaign including paid, earned and owned media? Share your experience by commenting below!

1 Comment

Filed under Branding, Business Strategy, Marketing, Pinterest, PPC, Reddit, Sales, Search Engine Marketing, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media, Twitter

Google Wants High Quality Content, But What Does That Mean?

Okay writers and webmasters, you’re good, but you continually challenge yourself to better.  This post is ready to be a resource to you.  We’d like to explain the following:

  1. The crux about quality from the recently leaked, March 2014 Google rater’s guideline manual.
  2. What high quality means.
  3. The attributes of low quality content.
  4. What you can do to improve your website’s content.

The Rubric- Google’s 2014 Search Quality Manual

Behind the scenes, an army of quality raters double check the accuracy of Google’s algorithms before and after updates. These raters are issued guidelines, which steer their evaluations and reflect what the juices are in the current or upcoming algorithm changes. The latest handbook, version 5.0, was recently leaked. We wrote about the 2011 version, and gave an overview of the new version at Relevance. What’s important for you to know is that E-A-T, or Expertise, Authority, and Trust are now key factors when determining Google search engine rankings.  Most insiders have known that the reputation of one’s brand is an important ranking factor, but this manual gives a detailed look at the factors that determine site popularity- well, popularity isn’t even the right word.  It’s more about the culminating signals behind your site’s reputation.

If you’re the Director of Marketing, you’ll want to download your own copy of this handbook at scribd.com because it talks about design and functionality elements, too.  Since My Web Writers focuses on content creation, we’re going to drill down into that aspect of the handbook.

Definitions of Highest and High Quality Pages

I really like how Google defines quality and provides so many specific examples.  It says,

“Highest pages are very satisfying pages which achieve their purpose very well. The distinction between High and Highest is based on the quality of MC <each site’s main content> as well as the level of E-A-T and reputation of the website. What makes a page highest quality? We require at least one of the following: <1> Very high or highest quality MC, with demonstrated expertise, talent, and/or skill.  <2> Very high level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (page and website) on the topic of the page. <3> Very good reputation (website or author) on the topic of the page… We will consider the MC of the page to be very high or highest quality when it is created with a high degree of time and effort, and in particular, expertise, talent, and skill. Very high quality MC may be created by experts, hobbyists, or even people with everyday expertise. Our standards depend on the purpose of the page and the type of content. The Highest rating may be justified for pages with a satisfying or comprehensive amount of very high quality MC.”

This means that as a writer, if you are writing outside of your area expertise and don’t do your homework, your average content could sink a website. Conversely, if you’ve specialized in a certain area, interest, or hobby, you could see a surge in demand for your knowledge after people get familiar with this document.  Writers, don’t be deterred from tackling new subjects, but when you do, do your homework.  Talk to experts and include their testimonies in your articles and quotes. You also can’t slop through the writing process.  Check your spelling.  Get the subject and verb agreements right.  Go deeper than what the culmination of five articles say about the topic.  Nobody wants to read repurposed articles when they’re looking for new angles. Pick up the phone and dig up unique quotes or tidbits of information that no one knows.  Google tells raters that,

“Highest quality pages and websites have a very high level of expertise or are highly authoritative or highly trustworthy. Formal expertise is important for topics such as medical, financial, or legal advice. Expertise may be less formal for topics such as recipes or humor. An expert page on cooking may be a page on a professional chef’s website, or it may be a page on the blog of a home cooking enthusiast. Please value life experience and “everyday expertise.” For some topics, the most expert sources of information are ordinary people sharing their life experiences on personal blogs, forums, reviews, discussions, etc. Think about what expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness mean for the topic of the page. Who are the experts? What makes a source trustworthy for the topic? What makes a website highly authoritative for the topic?”

Google would also like to see secondary content on high ranking websites, if possible.  From videos to games to reviews, find ways to help users delve a little deeper and engage a little longer. Not every high ranking site has to have secondary content, but if it has good secondary content, that’s a plus.

The Attributes of Low and Lowest Quality Content

Compare what content needs to achieve top scores to what deserves low scores. First, it’s important to note, Google recognizes intent.

“We have very different standards for pages on large, professionally-produced business websites than we have for small amateur, hobbyist, or personal websites. The type of page design and level of professionalism we expect for a large online store is very different than what we might expect for a small local business website. All PQ rating should be done in the context of the purpose of the page and the type of website. The following sections discuss page characteristics which may be evidence of Low quality. Occasionally, these same characteristics may be present on smaller amateur or personal websites and are not a concern. Please use your judgment when deciding whether these characteristics are evidence of low quality on the page you are evaluating, or merely a sign of non-professional but acceptable small, amateur, or personal website design, for example, “Uncle Alex’s Family Photos” website (a hypothetical High quality example).”

Google lowers scores if main or secondary content is distracting or unhelpful.  For example, too many ads are distracting and appear to have the purpose of monetizing the site rather than helping users. If the site lacks supplementary content, this too can lower the site’s score. Poor page design or a lack of website maintenance (meaning broken links or slow load images) can hurt your site’s score.  As much contact information as possible should be added. Google tells raters that,

“We have different standards for small websites which exist to serve their communities versus large websites with a large volume of webpages and content. For some types of ‘webpages,’ such as PDFs and JPEG files, we expect no SC <secondary content> at all. Please use your judgment… Here is a checklist of types of pages or websites which should always receive the lowest rating:

• Harmful or malicious pages or websites.

• True lack of purpose pages or websites.

• Deceptive pages or websites.

• Pages or websites which are created to make money with little to no attempt to help users.

• Pages with extremely low or lowest quality MC <main content>.

• Pages on YMYL <Your Money or Your Life> websites with completely inadequate or no website information.

• Pages on abandoned, hacked, or defaced websites.

• Pages or websites created with no expertise or pages which are highly untrustworthy, unreliable, unauthoritative, inaccurate, or misleading.

• Websites which have extremely negative or malicious reputations.”

Image courtesy of Flat earth Society

Image courtesy of Flat earth Society

This list seems fairly straight-forward and yet, one could see where rater subjectivity could get the better of a site. Pages or websites that are “untrustworthy, unreliable, unauthoritative, inaccurate, or misleading” could tank a business or individual with rogue opinions or controversial views.  The overall checklist appears reasonable, however, if Christopher Columbus had a website back in his time, I wonder how he’d score? Taken in whole, the document is fairly clear that raters should look at how well you, as the content’s creator, did your homework and presented information or opinions; but, the “unreliable, unauthoritative, inaccurate, or misleading” phrase on its own should be considered a warning shot fired about appearing half-baked in the public arena.

Definitions of Lowest Quality Content

The writer who has the depth of a baby pool probably shouldn’t be assigned very heady topics.  As a manager, find each writer’s strengths and let each write about those topics. Google says that,

“The quality of the MC <main content> is one of the most important considerations in PQ <page quality> rating. In this guideline, we’ll judge the quality of the MC by thinking about the how much time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill was involved in content creation. If very little or no time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill has gone into creating the MC, use the lowest quality rating. All of the following should be considered either lowest quality MC or no MC:

• No helpful MC at all or so little MC that the page effectively has no MC.

• MC which consists almost entirely of “keyword stuffing.”

• Gibberish or meaningless MC.

• “Auto-generated” MC, created with little time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users.

• MC which consists almost entirely of content copied from another source with little time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users.

Finally, the distinction between low and lowest quality MC is often human effort and manual curation. If you are struggling between ‘low quality MC’ and ‘lowest quality MC,’ please consider how much human effort and attention the page has received.”

When writing this article, I struggled with how much content out of Google’s manual I should quote.  My reasoning to go ahead and use as much as I have is because to date, not much has been written about the manual and not everyone, who is in a position to change their website, will read the 160 page document (though they should) or if they do, they might want further insight about it.  Thus, I think the amount of quoted handbook content is justified, given the extra value added with insight around the quoted content.

However, this is different than copying and pasting half an article without attribution or even with attribution and not adding further value to what already exists on the web. Nothing is worse than paying a writer to create original content and discovering that it is backwash.

Google says,

“Important: We do not consider legitimately licensed or syndicated content to be ‘copied’ (see here for more on web syndication). Examples of syndicated content in the U.S. include news articles by AP or Reuters. The word ‘copied’ refers to the practice of ‘scraping’ content, or copying content from other non-affiliated websites without adding any original content or value to users (see here for more information on copied or scraped content). If all or most of the MC on the page is copied, think about the purpose of the page. Why does the page exist? What value does the page have for users? Why should users look at the page with copied content instead of the original source?”

What You Can Do to Improve Content

Deliver what you promise for each keyword query you target. If you want to rank for the term “Arabian Horses for Sale” your page ought to have pictures and descriptions of several Arabian horses. You’ll want other websites to have great reviews from customers about your previous transactions. You should be registered and a thriving member of Arabian horse registries. Don’t let your content get off topic, but do make it be so rich that users will want to return and will recommend it to others. Make sure you spell check your work and don’t stuff the content with too many keywords.

We recommend reading the raters’ guidelines to learn more about how to improve the content of your website. You’ll find additional insight about what it means to have high quality content. ~Jean

1 Comment

Filed under Algorithms, Branding, Business Strategy, Editors, Keywords, Reputation Management, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)