One of the biggest problems facing Content Marketers is how best to represent ‘The Brand’ when developing engaging content.
I’ve got a newsflash for you:
YOU DON’T HAVE TO!!!!
In fact, I’d go even further and say you should always try to move away from your brand when building content. The less ‘advertorial’ the content is, the more engaging and sharable it will be.
Far be it from me to tell you your brand is boring, but unless you own a company that makes Star Wars costumes for cats, the internet won’t care what you have to say.
The best content is the stuff that:
- Fills a knowledge gap,
- Answers an important question, or,
- Gets people worked up into a frenzy of commenting and sharing.
You need to ask yourself one important question when planning your content:
Who Will Find This Interesting?
The best answer to this question is ‘Everyone’. You need to ensure maximum appeal to encourage maximum sharability. You need to be getting your content in front of high authority websites and bloggers. If they see the value of the content, they’ll be more willing to use it and provide you with that all-important link. You will never, ever, ever be able to trick people into posting an advert for your website. That’s just not how it works. However, if you’re offering something entertaining or useful that they can reuse to their advantage, they’ll be much more willing to promote your brand.
Here’s a nice thought experiment to explain what I mean:
You’re at a festival with two stages. On one stage, a man is stood talking about the history of his company. On the other stage, a man is riding a lion and juggling swords while a penguin tries to shoot an apple off of his head with a revolver. Who do you think would draw the bigger crowd? Which will be filmed and go viral on the internet and which will be ignored?
The internet is the world’s biggest festival. There’s plenty of content out there, so make sure yours stands out.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘But, Joe! My brand is interesting. I’m offering something unique and my clients love it’. That may be true, and it’s a great system for driving sales. Unfortunately, web content for the most part isn’t about driving conversions – it’s about promoting the brand, building authority and increasing engagement.
I’ll agree your brand probably is very interesting, but I guarantee you’ll find your content more successful if you focus on using your unique industry position to inform your content, rather than define it. I’ll bet you’re sitting on a goldmine of insider information that would be perfect for filling knowledge gaps or creating a useful resource. Everyone has some information lying around – whether you’re a travel company with a great knowledge of the most beautiful places to visit in Europe or a rug manufacturing company with an insight into the psychology of rug design. Put a spin on your data and make it as interesting as possible.
Here’s a takeaway list of things to remember when planning content:
Interest: You need to make it interesting. Make sure nobody will be saying ‘So What?’
Emotion: Getting people worked up on a human level is a surefire way to increase engagement. Happiness and funny content are well shared, but (I’ll let you in on a secret…), making people angry is the best method. The more furious people get, the more active they become. That’s how the Daily Mail is so successful (See Matt’s post: ‘Why the Daily Mail became the world’s most read newspaper‘)
Topical: Try to tap into a current trend on Social Media or in the news. If you can give it a new slant, all the better.
Usable: Usability is a hugely beneficial trait of online content. If people think their friends might find it helpful, they’ll send it to them. Life Hacker is a fine example of this in practice.
In summary: sometimes it pays to step away from your brand a little in the name of creating good content. Especially on the internet.
Take a look through our Complete History of Viral Content and apply this criteria to see why things were successful.
October 10th, 2013.
Those of us interested in how search engines work have been talking this week about ‘Hummingbird’. Not the hollow-boned, nectar-loving tweetie-pies; rather Google’s newest and most revolutionary search engine algorithm in quite some time.
You’ll likely have heard of ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’. They were algorithmic updates which supposedly made the search results better. Unlike their counter-parts in the animal kingdom, they weren’t cute and they didn’t make for good YouTube videos; but they did improve the quality of websites and the practices of SEOs.
‘Hummingbird’ is a different beast entirely. Far from being an update to an existing algorithm, it’s an entirely new feature which shows Google’s desire to move searching away from ‘Keywords’ and towards ‘Semantic Searches’. They’re approaching what they call “conversational search”
In 2001, you may have searched for:
‘CINEMA + TIMES + LONDON + AVENGERS’
And you may have been presented with an article from The Times about a new movement of filmgoers in London who are avenging the demise of arthouse productions.
But search isn’t like that anymore. People search more or less how they talk, so searches are more like:
‘Cinema times in London for The Avengers’.
And the rise of voice search on mobile devices means people will try to search:
‘What time is The Avengers playing in London?’
Words like ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘when’ etc. now have a value in Google’s searches. They want to give the most accurate response to your request.
What does that mean for website owners?
As a website owner you’ll need to be improving the information content of your site. Undoubtedly keywords will still matter, but since Google is now holding keyword data to ransom, the best thing you can do is improve the quality of your on-site content. This also means you can stand out in your industry – if you’re the world’s authority on Playstation Game Artwork then make sure you can answer questions like ‘Who designed the GTA 5 artwork?’.
‘Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in the query, ensuring the whole query is taken into account – so if a resulting page is a bit less strong in general, but it’s the most relevant to your search terms, that’s the result you’ll get.’ – Google, as told to The Register.
People are asking questions. If you’re equipped to answer them then your site should reflect that.
Personally I think this is a step in the right direction. The internet is becoming more personal, so responding to the intricacies of language is more essential now than ever before. It makes far more sense to work out what people mean rather than just responding literally to the words they use.
June 25th, 2013.
All of the briefs we’ve received this year have included a request for a ‘mobile version’ of the proposed new site.
But what does this mean? And do I hear the creak of an overloaded bandwagon?
Just as 2011-12 was the year of the Social Strategy [with no specification as to what that actually means], 2013 is fast becoming the year of the Mobile Site.
Yes, it’s true that mobile use is increasing:
Source Monetate E-Commerce Quarterly.
But how should you respond?
People could be accessing your website from any number of devices (such as phones (of all shapes and sizes), tablets (of all shapes and sizes) and even smart TVs (of all shapes and sizes). So, as a website owner, you shouldn’t be asking whether you should be considering mobile options, you should be asking which mobile options to consider – or shock-horror, opting to do nothing.
So there are 4 main options available to you. Each has its pros and cons, so let’s get the run-down:
#1 Responsive Web Design
What is it?
In a nutshell, this is designing your site so that its layout responds to the device on which it is being displayed..
- Streamlined: The site is hosted on the same domain and uses the same URL so there are no SEO issues or redirecting issues.
- Consistent with Desktop Content: The same content is just presented in a different layout.
- Low Maintenance Cost: Although initial build costs may be slightly higher, the cost of maintenance and updating should be lower (as you are only maintaining one site).
- Slower Loading Times – If you are adapting an old site to a responsive site you may find that it is not fully optimised for mobile and is slow to load. However, if you are building a new site and taking a ‘Mobile First’ approach, this shouldn’t be a problem. But 3G and 4G coverage remains sporadic and unstable – so some content may take time to download.
- General Usability – Mobile users will generally have a goal in mind when accessing a website. Whether it’s buying, reading or checking-in, they may not want to go through the same process as a desktop user. They may expect a stripped down version of the site similar to an App.
- Lack of Mobile Features – You won’t be able to get the same level of integration from a responsive site – features such as camera, photos or calendars.
- Lack of Zoom - if you are used to pinching and zooming into websites on mobile in order to be able to read the tiny text then you will not be able to on a responsive website.
Whether or not to go responsive divides opinion. We’ve been experimenting on our own site with responsive design and generally prefer the regular layout, when viewing on an Iphone. But all sites and companies are different and user needs should be a chief consideration.
#2 Dedicated Mobile Site
What is it?
Dedicated mobile sites are purpose built versions of the original website which are hosted at a new domain address (usually by adding ‘m’ before or after the original address: m.tesco.com or www.argos.co.uk/m/.
The web server normally recognises which device is being used and serves (delivers) the appropriate site to display.
- Different Content – A site purpose-built for mobile will usually have features which can load more quickly on mobile platforms, and you can dispense with some of the superfluous elements found on the desktop version.
- Speedy Development – Compared with alternatives, a mobile site can be built relatively easily. This is less labour-intensive and subsequently less costly than other mobile options.
- Mobile-Focussed – Development for the mobile platform means that navigation and usability are friendlier for mobile users.
- Slower Service – Redirection from main sites to mobile sites takes time. It may only be seconds, but it still damages the overall user experience.
- Double Maintenance – Essentially two sites need to be managed; adding new functionality would need to be done twice.
- SEO Issues – Since the content (and therefore the traffic) is split across two URLs, there’s the chance that your overall SEO will suffer. However, there are ways around this which I’ll outline later in this article.
We built a mobile shop-page for an automotive client. The desktop site’s main focus is selling car parts, so we stripped it down to the essentials to make it easy for mobile users.
#3 Mobile Apps
What are they?
Apps are programs that are saved to the device. They’re relatively small (compared with full websites) and they tend to serve one function (reading articles, shopping, checking-in). They can be a useful way to allow mobile users to access one of your site’s main utilities, or to promote your brand (with a game or similar App).
- Completely Mobile Friendly - Apps have the distinction of being native to the device, so they can access and utilize any of the phone’s capabilities (Camera, Calendar, Maps etc).
- Offline Options – While some Apps require the internet to function fully (social platforms), many others can operate offline, or cache data when an internet connection is available ready for when one isn’t.
- Quicker Loading Times – Since the App is self-contained, loading times should be quicker. Of course this depends on (and is limited by) the device’s memory and processor power.
- Push Notifications - Apps have the ability to update you with the things you need to know. Such as when you receive a new friend request on Facebook, or when you’re near a public toilet.
- No Cross-Functionality – Apps are made for specific platforms. iOS Apps will work on iphone or ipad, but will not be usable by Windows devices – or any non-Apple devices for that matter. This means Apps must be developed for each platform, which is expensive.
- Updates – Apps need to be constantly updated and tweaked. This is in terms of both user-feedback and changes to the device. This can be time-consuming and costly.
- Downloading – Apps have to be downloaded for use. Success in the App world may require considerable marketing and promotion.
We’ve applied appropriate aptitude to developing an App for a company that focusses on standardised testing. The App allows mobile users to practice the tests wherever they are.
The 4th Option
So those are your three options regarding adapting to mobile. There is of course a fourth option and that is that of doing nothing. Most website operate perfectly satisfactorily on mobile and indeed users who know your site will welcome the fact they do not need to relearn where everything is on the page and the new navigation options. This is a strong argument for keeping the status-quo which is not receiving enough credence now that the dash for “mobile first” has been triggered in marketing departments.
So in conclusion beware of the bandwagon, think about the implications before you jump. If someone says “Mobile first” to you ask them what they actually mean and what they want to achieve.
If you would like any more information, please get in touch.
And as a special thank you for reading this far, I’ll now present a guide on how to optimise mobile sites for SEO in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet:
You’ve built two sites; one desktop, one mobile,
But now you’re concerned that your traffic’s split,
And now you’ve come to visit Datadial,
To fix your SEO a little bit.
There are two points that must be mentioned here,
Two tags to put in your HTML,
(On each version of the page – let’s be clear)
They are two tags, and they both start with ‘Rel’.
Rel=”alternate” on the desktop
Make sure it points to the mobile and all…
And pointing back, just so it doesn’t flop
On mobile: Rel=”canonical”
But other things cannot be avoided.
Like linking to mobile, just like I did:
So basically add some links in the HTML of each page that look like this:
Desktop: <link rel=”alternate” href=”http://m.example.com/page-example”>
Mobile: <link rel=”canonical” href=http://example.com/page-example>
If you like crime stories, you’ll love this. ‘True Crime: Hammersmith’ is the story of a deranged criminal organisation (Datadial) and the ensuing legal battle to stop it.
Chapter 1. The Best Intentions.
On August 17th, 2010; the world was rocked to its core when the Datadial blog posted an article titled ‘Increase Conversion rates – advanced techniques’. Of course, it all seemed fairly innocuous. A simple review of tools to help increase conversion rates on your website. The article named several companies and their websites and praised them for their techniques. Indeed, one man even thanked Datadial for the mention! Clearly Mr. Eames didn’t realise that he was just a pawn in one man’s cruel game; the likes of which the legal world has never seen. …until now.
Chapter 2. The Worst Intentions 17th April 2013. Almost three years later. An email is sent from Fox Williams LLP to the author of the article and owner of the website, Mr. Robert Faulkner. The email was sent on behalf of Fox Williams LLP’s client, Shopzilla.co.uk. You’ve probably heard of Shopzilla. According to their Trade mark List of Goods and Services (which was supplied in the email) they specialise in: ‘Promoting sale of goods and services of others; Internet consumer comparison shopping services; providing ratings and reviews of businesses and products and services for use by consumers; providing databases containing commercial information relating to products and merchants’. As it transpires, Shopzilla had been mentioned in Datadial’s article all those years ago. Right at the bottom. As an honourable mention, as recognition for their online service. Shopzilla had finally gotten wind of the article, after all that time; and they did the only thing any self-respecting company would do. They contacted their solicitors to have the link removed. Chapter 3. Motives Why did they want the link removed? Why indeed. Allow me to reprint the grounds of the legal action and analyse each point in-depth:
- Trade Mark infringement
- Causing detriment to the distinctive character of the Trade Mark;
- Causing detriment to the reputation of the Trade Mark by creating an undesirable association with the Infringing Website; and
- Taking unfair advantage of the goodwill attached to the Trade Mark.
Now… as I’ve mentioned, Shopzilla is legally defined as one that “provides ratings and reviews of businesses and products and services for use by consumers”. It sets itself up as one. That is the legal definition of Shopzilla. If acknowledging this definition is ‘detrimental to the distinctive character of the trademark’ and it creates an ‘undesirable association’ I daresay they might need to have a brand re-think. I wasn’t sure exactly what ‘Goodwill attached to the Trade Mark’ meant. Suing for a mention of your brand doesn’t seem like an act of goodwill to me. I have since looked up ‘Goodwill’ in legal terms and it pretty much means ‘the right to do business without direct competition’.
Basically not stealing other people’s business. (If anyone has a better definition, I’d welcome it in the comments). I’m not quite sure how praising a company prevents it making profits; but I’m fairly sure Datadial didn’t steal any of their market, or any other products that Shopzilla recommends on its site.
As requested, I’ll provide an account of the profits Datadial made through the use of Shopzilla’s name alone:
£0, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000
We’ll happily share in these profits with Shopzilla. It’s only fair.
2. Passing off [Fox William’s LLP’s] client’s goodwill Our client has invested significant time and money in developing the Shopzilla® brand making it instantly recognisable amongst the public as a trustworthy and reputable online comparison shopping engine. It is highly likely that the average consumer will be confused, believing that our client is in some manner connected with the Infringing Website, either through ownership and operation or through a commercial relationship or endorsement with the operator of the Infringing Website. Such connection is causing our client damage. As such, your use of Shopzilla® in this way constitutes passing off.
I had to open my legal dictionary again for this one. Basically ‘Passing off’ means creating an undue association between two parties, specifically one claiming undue association with the goods sold by another company. I’d like to state unequivocally that Datadial’s use of a link congratulating Shopzilla® on its use of product comparison is not an attempt to gain an association with Shopzilla® or any products sold or compared on Shopzilla®’s website. It would be interesting to see if Shopzilla® could provide proof that Datadial has stolen any of its business.
3. Copyright Infringement The use of the Infringing Website of text and graphics taken from our client’s websites is an infringement of our client’s copyright. You have copies and communicated the copyrighted work to the public through the Infringing Website. The use of the copyrighted work has occurred without the consent of our client, the copyright owner. We put you on notice that any continued use of our client’s text and/or graphics (in whole or in part) on the Infringing Website will constitute and infringement of our client’s copyright. This is without prejudice to our client’s position that you already have the requisite knowledge to establish such liability.
I was totally on-board until the last sentence. Even my module in Forensic Linguistics couldn’t have prepared me for that. I guess they’re suggesting that because Shopzilla® is a well-known website we should know that everything on their site belongs to them.
If Fox Williams LLP is reading this, I would recommend visiting The Plain English Campaign’s site. I’ve provided a link so you know what I’m talking about. . http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/ I hope they don’t sue me…
Legalese notwithstanding, Datadial hasn’t stolen any content from Shopzilla®. Neither text nor images have been used. Shopzilla®’s name wasn’t even used. It was a link via a URL, and you can’t copyright a URL. And even if you could (WHICH YOU CAN’T) it was a mention in a review so it’s fair use! What’s even more confusing is that Shopzilla appears to have sold out on Point 6 of its own philosophy:
‘Information is Empowering: Share it Wherever Possible’.
Chapter 4. Reasons. So far as I can tell there are no legal grounds for removing a hyperlink. We have been advised by Fox Williams to seek legal advice, so I am hoping the readers of this article can offer some help. Fox Williams have not mentioned that this is a link clean-up operation; and surely they would have gone down the normal route if that was the case. If they’d sent us a polite email asking for the link removal, we would have explained that since we have a reasonably high domain authority of 50+ the link in question would likely have little effect on their rankings and it’s 3 years old anyway so any effect would have been discounted anyway…etc As a precautionary measure we have taken down the link, as requested. If anyone has any thoughts on why Shopzilla wanted this link removed so badly, please share them here though keep it legal! Chapter 5. A riposte. Datadial is not a law-firm, but it is an internet marketing agency. We know how to use Google. Upon receiving the email, we took to the web to find out all we could about the legalities of Hyperlinking. Here are some insights into the subject as documented by Out-Law.com.
- “…hyperlinks do not transmit a work, (to which they link) they merely provide the viewer with information as to the location of a page that the user can choose to access or not. There is thus no communication of the work.” (source)
- “Just as an improved search-engine that improves the ability of users to locate material for which they are searching should not be required to obtain permission as a matter of copyright law, so providing links or access to material already publicly available should not be regarded as an act that requires any authorisation” (source)
- “every internet user enjoys access to the work simply by learning the uniform resource locator (URL) the court held. The hyperlink technique obviates the need to enter the URL manually and merely provides an easier and more convenient way to use the internet.” (source)
- “Kranten.com successfully argued that such deep linking to other sites is a widespread and commonly accepted practice on the internet and because, as in UK law, news articles can be copied for the purpose of reporting current events, provided there is sufficient acknowledgement.” (source)
The author of the original article has never been in trouble with the law. He’s an honest man who does business by the book. You can imagine his upset when he received the original letter. Faced with the fear that he would spend the rest of his life in prison, he considered transfering all of the company’s money to The Battersea Cat’s Home, and move to a Tibetan Monastery. However, he quickly rationalised the situation and sat down on his sofa with a glass of wine and a Twix. Since Shopzilla® and its lawyers are solely responsible for causing an undue amount of stress, it only seems fair that they reimburse him for the glass of wine and Twix. Twix: £0.80 Glass of wine: £2.40
Chapter 5. Prologue.
Shopzilla’s VP has come forward to apologise for the misunderstanding. The apology is in the comments below. They acknowledged that it was a mistake and said they were sorry it happened. I guess we’re not being sued anymore!
We just received a courier delivery…
I wonder what it is…
Well, how about that! A bottle of Red Wine and a box of Twixes. Thanks very much Shopzilla!
December 7th, 2012.
There are a million and a half blog posts about how Online Retailers keep their drop-off levels down; but what methods do they have in place to make you loosen up with your spending.
Charities have been doing it for years. Getting you to put your hand in your wallet is their speciality. Just when you thought you would ignore their pleadings something tugs at your heart strings. A little niggle that says “do it now, you know you want to”. Anyone who’s watched Jeremy Kyle knows what I’m talking about. Right after the Foxy Bingo guy announces the break, you’re confronted with 4 minutes of hunger-ravaged children reaching out from the Plasma Screen. It’s emotional Blackmail.
But it’s effective…
Online retailers are getting in on the action too. They haven’t quite gone down the guilt road yet (though I’m sure they would if they could) but they are playing with your mind to get you to ACT NOW and not go elsewhere.
…Pulling on the purse strings if not pulling on the heart strings.
It’s even more difficult to create that sense of urgency online, especially when it’s so easy to check prices and offers on other retail websites. Even a website has the right product at the price you’re willing to pay; you would more than likely check elsewhere. So the only weapon left in the web retailers’ arsenal is the notion that if you don’t buy something there and then, you’ll lose it forever.
So let’s see what online retailers do to keep us from doing a wider search, making a coffee, talking to the wife, walking the dog, looking up trivia from The Godfather, looking up how tall Andre the Giant was, looking up the longest recorded flight of a chicken, sitting on Reddit for 2 hours and then going to bed having forgotten we wanted to buy anything in the first place!
1) Act Now to Avoid Dismemberment. I mean Disappointment
You’ve probably seen this on concert ticket sites especially. “only 2 tickets available at this price – book now to avoid disappointment.” Is this really true? Can it really be the case that every time I search for an airline ticket, only 2 seats are available on the flight that I wanted to take? It’s the travel-ticket equivalent of a Saw trap.
‘All your life you’ve enjoyed a leisure of choice when buying things online, but now you have 30 seconds to decide, or lose… everything!’
It’s incredibly persuasive and a panacea for retailers who are faced with an audience of fence-sitters and flip-floppers.
2) Safety in numbers
‘17 others are looking at this item now’.
’29 people are watching this item’
‘143,343,123 people are scrambling for their card details so they can buy this item and you can’t!’
Talk about putting the frighteners up! Nothing invokes a reaction like a bit of competition. Regardless of whether it’s true or not, these stats make you feel two things:
a) This product is in high demand and might run out.
b) This product is popular, so it must be good.
Suddenly certain things like price comparisons seem less urgent. I was going to go and see if I could get it cheaper elsewhere but I can’t risk losing out to other shoppers. I might never see a Self-Stirring Mug at this price again!
The painful things about these methods is that you actually have no idea if it’s true of not. It could just be automated. But does the risk outweigh the reward? Probably not.
3) What’s in a Name?
‘Wayne in Manchester also bought this item’.
Although this isn’t one of the sweat-inducing panic-purchase inducers we’ve come across so far, it could be the push needed to get you to click ‘buy’. Chances are, ‘Wayne in Manchester’ isn’t your friend or financial advisor, so why does his opinion matter? It’s possible he’s not even real! But the fact that someone bought the item is enough of an endorsement to tip even the most frugal shopper over the edge.
If you don’t believe me; think of all those times you’ve been looking at an item on Amazon and thought ‘Nobody’s interested. There must be some hidden catch I’m not seeing.’ Or you’ve been browsing Ebay and seen an item with no bids: rather than thinking ‘wow. I must have stumbled on a bargain’, you think ‘I must be missing something here!’.
Maybe this says something about mob mentality, maybe we just like to follow the herd. It works well all the same, and ‘Wayne in Manchester’ is presented as the spokesman of wise purchasers and his presence on the page alone is enough to egg you on to buy something.
4) Is that a ‘Buy’ Button on Your Page, or Are You Happy to See Me?
Basic as the big [BUY NOW] button seems, it’s the dominant feature of the page.
For those of us who have gotten to grips with Traffic Signals, Green means GO! GO, GO, GO! So it’s no mistake that the only colour on the page is green, and subsequently the whole page screams ‘BUY BUY BUY’. Psychologically, we’re hopefully still capable of exercising some decorum; we are free-thinking people after all. But with structured, thought-out tricks like this, turning away has never been harder.
Even as I write this I want to click on the screenshot image, just to do as I’m told. It really sucks you in like a blackhole (or maybe a greenhole?). You have no chance.
5) And That’s Not All!
As well as all the mind games and emotional turmoil these companies make us go through to convince us to buy things; occasionally they’ll throw you a treat to sweeten the deal. Like when I recently bought 77 Antique Globes. The Price-Tag of £60,830.00 seemed a little steep and I must confess I was in two minds about whether to click ‘Buy’. But when I realised that the company offered Free Delivery, I couldn’t help but go ahead with the purchase.
Now I’ll never be lost again. But I will spend the rest of my life cursing myself for falling for the ‘free delivery’ option. Other sales incentives (also known as ‘close incentives’ or ‘things that are so cheap we can give them away for free without affecting our profits’) include ‘10% off your next order when you buy now’ and ‘Free warranty up to 30 days!’.
So now we’ve identified the ways in which online retailers fishhook us into a sale, we can go back to shopping online with a renewed sense of freedom. There’s no way any of us will ever fall for those tricks again.