Monday, February 16, 2015

How did you not see this coming? The end to link building.

I’ve been down on link building for many years now and I have not been the voice in the wilderness on the fringes of the SEO community. I’ve found plenty of SEOs who agree with me.

We’re talking about this again because Google’s John Mueller recommends not to focus on link building. My Twitter feed is now abuzz with chatter. When the SEO chat drowns out the general geeky chat then that’s a sure fire signal it is a big topic.

There are two levels to study.

Level One: The Semantics

The word “building” is sometimes significant. It implies a degree of process and emphasis. The emphasis is that the links were put there, built, by the SEO. I’d suggest that for a long time it would be fair to say that Google wants to discount any such link. If you built it, Google will discount it.

Even on Level One, since you can discount good links, you’re only left with harmful links.

Level Two: The Approach

Old school link building or even some form of “link earning” is a bottom up approach – and has limited chance of getting very far from the bottom.

I’ll use an article link as an example. If you write an old school article, plop a link in it, and get it published then nothing else will happen. The article will not generate any other quality signals and nor will it influence the editorial agenda in anyway. I’d argue the same is true if you persuade or hoodwink a magic middle blogger to write a generic blog post.

Once again, if the only link of significance you can expect from the approach is one that’s so negative that the search engines react accordingly – why would you do it?

So, what can the SEO community do about it?

A Wild Red Widget
Two years ago I wrote about The Link Singularity. That was the point where “achieving” a link cost more resources than the link was worth. What happens after that point is an unknown.

We need to avoid the Link Singularity.

I advocate a “top down” approach to SEO quality signals. To naturally earn the quality signals, like links, the search engines need to see, you need to influence the editorial agenda.

This is a big step change for some SEO and I’ll be the first to admit that not all client-side decision makers are ready for it. Hopefully that will change in time.

There are lots of examples of “top down” approaches, they’re not new, they’re just more familiar with other disciplines like social or PR. None of them involve asking for a link.

Rather than get a blogger to write about your red widgets consider one of the following. Build a statue out of red widgets and put it in the middle of a busy train station. Calculate the carbon footprint benefits of red widgets compared to blue widgets and pitch the story to green bloggers who would not normally write about widgets. Provide a nursing home with a month supply of red widgets and invite local press along to see the delivery. Pay film students to make a series of red widget prank videos. Newsjack a story about the Red Devils, a lorry spilling red paint, a company sliding into the red, the Red or Dead sequel, a controversial red card or a celebrity falling out of a red dress.

I don’t need to go on with the examples. SEOs are familiar with them all. That’s rather my point – how can anyone be surprised that Google officials are spelling out that a focus on the bottom up approach is likely to do more harm than good.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Google creates "Your YouTube subscriptions" Circle for you

This is new to me. I noticed that my Google+ Circles collection had been extended. This is significant because until today all my Circles had been created by me.

The new Circle is called "Your YouTube subscriptions". It does what it says on the tin; it's a collection of all my YouTube subscriptions.

I rather like Google+ and as it happens this Circle turns out to be pretty useful. Just select it from "More" across the top menu, just next to "Mentions", and you have a clutter free way to scroll through the latest videos from the channels you're watching. Fewer ads, even.

In theory I could even put on alerts for when there's a new video in the Circle. That might be an effective to notice new content before other bloggers and curators do.

Oddity: A Bing result with no "normal" results

This is an odd SERP from Bing. The chances are high that this is a glitch and not the result the engineers would want to show.

We see that there are results for the [Attack on Titan] search. None of the results are found on webpages, though. At least that's the interpretation of the categories applied here by the search. Matches are restricted to either images or videos.

We can safely conclude this is a glitch because the rich media results are good for the search. That's what I'd expect to see. Furthermore, Bing clearly knows a lot about the search as it provides related search terms which are pretty much appropriate too.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Missguided show how affiliate and native advertising can merge together

UK retailer Missguided have launched the “Missguided Active” sports range. To kick off the campaign they’ve emailed affiliates. This is a good start. When you’ve a new range; tell your affiliates.

What’s caught my eye is that Missguided have taken it a step further and are looking to marshal affiliates into the realm of content. This starts to become native advertising or perhaps even a form of Outreach & Engagement more commonly associated with SEO.

This is what the affiliate newsletter said;

We´re super excited to announce the launch of Missguided Active, and to celebrate we´re looking to team up with our top content partners to create amazing editorial to showcase the collection. We´d love to discuss any opportunities you may have available to promote Missguided Active to your readers.
With commission increases available, we´d be happy to discuss options to make this a successful collaboration.

We look forward to hearing from you soon!
The Missguided Affiliate Team

I like the approach but there are some pit traps the Missguided team will have to watch out for.

They’ve used the word “editorial”. That’s what brands want as editorial pieces have the credibility and coverage that advertorials don’t have. Advertorials are regulated as ads whereas editorials are not.

Right now the implicit default is that an editorial piece from a site that earns money from affiliate activities is still an editorial piece. In fact, it’s generally the case that a blog post can link through an affiliate tracker, straight to the brand or product in question, and still be considered editorial. I won’t be surprised when this starts to be challenged.

In contrast, when a blogger is paid a flat rate to review or write about a product or brand this needs to be disclosed

In this case Missguided are stepping deeper into the grey. They’re tempting affiliates with the possibility of affiliate increases.

So does this count as incentivising coverage?

I suppose it might but I’m still not sure whether regulators will get their heads around this space any time soon and, if they do, what their decisions as to whether these posts would become ads will be.

For now, I think projects like this need to be carefully managed but could work very well.

Disclaimer: This very post uses Skimlinks. This program turns some brand and product mentions into affiliate links.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dubsmash boom reminds me we're all publishers

I thought it was interesting that a two-month old video-messenger hybrid app called Dubsmash did amazingly well over Christmas. As highlighted by App Annie the app made it into the top 10 on iOS downloads for December and saw Google Play success as well.

Dubsmash lets users record a video selfie and mash it up with a popular song or quote from celebrities.

Otherwise the top 10 on iOS was dominated by the huge players; Apple, Facebook, Google, Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba, Microsoft, etc.

It reminds me that we're all publishers now. Not only is it easy to create content with apps like Dubsmash - it is more personal to do so. Christmas, I'm sure, played a roll in boosting Dubsmash over December as people had reason to message each other with something a little different.

Dubsmash allows sharing from the app to popular messaging apps like Facebook or WhatsApp. It had reach built in. All that it needed was publishers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Top European mind in affiliate marketing

GeoRiot is a service that copes with the complexities of mapping IP addresses (and other clues) to a geographic location. I first heard their name while talking about affiliate marketing. They've since moved into the industry more fully offering a free (pay in clicks) geolocation for Amazon affiliation.

The solution works by redirecting your Amazon links to Amazon US, UK or JP but claiming 15% of those clicks as their own - so they can get the affiliate commission. They've a similar deal for iTunes.

GeoRiot have been doing a bit of social media research; using Klout, PeerIndex and raw Twitter stats to work out who identifies themselves as affiliate marketers and who has reach. The exercise tells me affiliates are busy making money and not really promoting themselves as I've managed to rank 7 out of 25 in a global list. I'm the top European marketing mind for affiliates. Well. According to this flattering research!

You can read up on the research and get contact information for everyone listed here over at GeoRiot.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What do Scottish marketers think about the Independence Referendum?

This is a work post. This is a work overlapping with life post. Actually, it's mind boggling to think about the scale of interests involved in this post.

I work in Edinburgh. I spend much of my time working with clients who are not in Edinburgh. The Independence Referendum has me in a spin. I thought it interesting that only a relatively small percentage of Scottish digital marketers that I know where openly talking about #IndyRef. Some are, of course, some are talking loud and clear.

Work helped me out. We’ve run a survey to ask for anonymous thoughts on the #IndyRef. This wasn’t a Yes/No survey. That happens on the 18th. We wanted to know about issues like “Brand Scotland”, how important London is to the marketing industry and what our expert contacts made of the marketing campaigns ran by both sides.

The results are in. A better analysis may follow but for now I’m just sharing the required-by-tradition infographic.

I think there are some very interesting takeaway points.

Brand Scotland is rated more highly than Brand UK. It’s fairly close but Scotland has the clear lead. Is this Scottish hubris or is this real?

Equally, Scottish marketers are inclined to agree with the Business Secretary Vince Cable when it comes to London. 60% of respondents thought London had a negative effect on the rest of the country.

What do you think?

Monday, July 21, 2014

8 reasons why "performance marketing" makes no sense

I've never liked the term "performance marketing".

That dislike is in part due to the context I'd typically hear it in. This was usually as a dismissive term for work from someone more interested in winning a Cannes Lion than providing ROI.

The other reason why I dislike the term is because it makes no sense. Let me elaborate with a list.
  1. No one offers "non-performing" marketing service. All marketing is by nature “performance” based.
  2. Creative, content or storytelling without purpose, targets and measurement is better known as art.
  3. Strategy exists to help hit targets. Targets do not exists to validate strategy.
  4. The term is overloaded. Attend any "performance marketing awards" in the UK and you'll be sitting among affiliates, affiliate networks and agencies.
  5. Brand strength is directly related to the amount that can be changed for a good of service. Therefore brand building influences performance.
  6. Brand strength also directly assists with conversions. Therefore brand marketing is "performance marketing."
  7. Advertising and marketing are not the same thing. Therefore advertising isn’t and shouldn’t be a synonym for "performance marketing"
  8. Building relationships with publishers, large and small, is a vital part of SEO and affiliate success. Relationship building should never be described as performance marketing.