Thursday, July 28, 2016

Like Attracts Like: SEO and the Power of Emotions

Like attracts like. This is the mantra of the Law of Attraction, a theory that equates thoughts and feelings with real world results. According to the Law of Attraction, positive thoughts engender positive results and negative results engender negative results.

Or in the words of Henry Ford, "Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you are right."

If you Google "Law of Attraction," you will discover, beyond the Wikipedia pages, The Law of Attraction, which promotes tools and affirmations to help you "start living and thinking in a more optimistic way that is specifically designed to attract even more positive events and experiences."

You will also discover a wikiHow, "How to Use the Law of Attraction: 7 Steps (with Pictures)", which promotes the idea with watery pictures and simple instructions like "relax your mind" and "ask the universe for it."

Just below the wikiHow result, Oprah offers "The Law of Attraction - Real Life Stories," with reference to Louise Hay, the author, speaker, and soulful healer who offers optimistic quips like "It smooths your mind so the universe can work out the answer."

The way The Law of Attraction is presented--online and elsewhere; i.e. the film and book, The Secret--is bound to draw pessimism from science-minded folk.

The Wikipedia page offers a popular criticism: "Critics have asserted that the evidence provided is usually anecdotal and that, because of the self-selecting nature of the positive reports, as well as the subjective nature of any results, these reports are susceptible to confirmation bias and selection bias."

On the other hand, adherents suggest that the Law of Attraction can be explained with reference to quantum physics.

Whatever your view of The Law of Attraction, the real world effects of thinking, positive or negative, cannot be disputed. (Here's what The Mayo Clinic has to say about positive thinking). And we all know quite clearly from experience and science: emotion compels attraction.

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
- Shakespeare, Hamlet [Photo Source]
"Like attracts like" is also a good definition for organic SEO, which aims to attract a specific audience with specialized content aimed to ignite emotions.

This definition is contrary to the popular technocentric view of SEO, which too often regulates the practice to the realm of coding. Just yesterday, for example, Search Engine Watch published a post asking "How well do you know these 25 SEO abbreviations?"

"SEO, SEM, PPC, CTR, HTML, HTTP, IP… even for the most seasoned digital marketing professionals, the world of SEO can be a daunting, jargon-filled place," Christopher Ratcliff writes. "But all you need is a little time, some practice, a small amount of revising, and before you know it you’ll be firing off terms like CSS, SSL and CPC with absolute confidence."

Of course, an understanding of SEO terminology is invaluable for navigating the community and learning the best of what the community can offer. Yet for an online marketer understanding the jargon, and the practices behind the jargon, is secondary to the work of creating emotional connections to human beings.

Writing for The Harvard Business Review, Kelsey Libert and Kristin Tynski reviewed 30 of the top 100 images from imgur.com "to understand the best emotional drivers" of viral content:

  1. Negative emotions were less commonly found in highly viral content than positive emotions, but viral success was still possible when negative emotion also evoked anticipation and surprise.
  2. Certain specific emotions were extremely common in highly viral content: curiosity, amazement, interest, astonishment, uncertainty
  3. The emotion of admiration was very commonly found in highly shared content.
When thinking about your brand's SEO, then, follow the advice of Libert and Tynski: "Think carefully about how your company, product or service is related to a topic or topics that taps into deep-seated human emotions within your target demographic."

Ask yourself: Who am I trying to attract? What sort of emotion do I want my customers to feel when thinking about my brand? Likely, your answer will be, simply, "a positive emotion," though you could also shoot for curiosity, amazement, interest, or astonishment. The key is to make sure that your content embodies those emotions.

Make your target audience feel good--or amazed; or whatever--and your target audience will return the favor.

Content Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote emotionally powerful content, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Does Your Twitter Follower Count Matter?

Yesterday, the Stepmans PC Twitter account was followed by an account with 55.6k followers. The account, in turn, follows 47.5k--a roughly 8k "followers to following ratio"--if you care about such things.

Should you care about your followers to following ratio?

Tech Crunch nailed the prevailing sentiment about "Twitter's Golden Ratio" seven years ago:

"If a person has more followers than they are following, they’re probably a good person to at least consider following. If they are following more than they have...the opposite may be true. The greater the discrepancy between the two numbers, the more likely each of those is true — to a certain point, since celebrities like Oprah throw this system out of whack. But for regular, non-Hollywood celebrities, the system works remarkably well as a filter."

In truth, as a filter, the "golden ratio" may or may not be a reliable indicator of an account to "at least consider following." The reason for this should be obvious to anyone who has seen an "GET MORE TWITTER FOLLOWERS" advertisement: Any given account's followers may or may not be a hollow number.

A quick scroll through an accounts followers, then, should give a good view of the quality of the account. Writing for Social News Daily, Dan Evon performed an experiment in buying Twitter followers. Dan turned to the website Fiverr: "I paid five dollars for 600 followers in three days," he writes. "And wouldn’t you know it, three days later and my Twitter following jumped by more than 600 people."

Unfortunately, when Dan checked his followers he was disappointed to see a host of eggshells and obviously fake accounts:

Dan's "Followers" [Image Source]

In the end, Dan's assessment is obvious: You should not buy Twitter followers. Yet money isn't the only way to "fake" a good following.

The account mentioned above, with 55.6k followers, reveals surprisingly little engagement for so many followers. In this case, the golden ratio, which might seem like an indication of "a good person to at least consider following" is meaningless. More likely, the account is what the website, The Luxury Spot, calls an "impostor influencer":

"There’s an epidemic of ‘social media influencers’ who have built themselves on almost entirely fake followings," writes Bryce Gruber, "and yes, I’m coining the term ‘imposter influencers’ because they have just as much value as the cheap perfumes you saw at the drugstore in the 90s."

Read: "10k for an Instagram? Why ‘Imposter Influencers’ Need to Go."

Bryce is speaking specifically about Instagram, but much of her article could be applicable to Twitter, too:

"Engagement is everything, but it’s not as simple as likes and comments. There are ratios, quality, and a whole bunch of other jazz to consider. For example, if someone’s profile shows they have 50k followers, but their photos only get 20 likes? Or a couple comments? OMG– run, don’t walk."

Bryce's point here is that followers and ratios tend to obscure the more important work of actually engaging people. A far better "ratio" would be a followers to likes or retweets ratio, or, as Bryce writes (about Instagram):

"The comment to likes ratio should typically be at least 7%, but higher is better. If you have 100 likes on a photo, you should have at least 7 comments."

But even these numbers can obscure the true value of social media engagement, which is not always about quantity but quality.

In an attempt to increase followers, too many Twitter accounts play a cat and mouse game of follow/unfollow. This is often the case with accounts that have 40k followers yet, in turn, follow 40k. Like the account that followed Stepmans PC yesterday, these accounts show surprisingly little engagement.

Quality engagement is key, and the same is true for ordinary people and brands: The key to actually having a worthwhile Twitter experience is, well, actually having a worthwhile Twitter experience: making and sustaining relationships.

In a future blog, we will discuss how this might look for a brand.

In the meantime, check out Bryce's article for some insightful thoughts on "influencers."

If you're interested in learning more about how to use social media and email to engage and attract visitors, please read some of our most popular posts:

Why Twitter is the Social Media Choice for Today and Tomorrow

Facebook, Sociability, and Organic Reach 

Pinterest Refers 5X More Traffic Than Twitter

Three Simple Tips For Optimizing Consumer Emails

Social Media Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites on all social media channels, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective social media marketing campaigns.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Should You Build Your Own Website?

Our blog's sponsor, Stepmans PC, is currently building search engine friendly websites for $999. Some business owners balk at this price. After all, why pay $999 when you can build your own WordPress website for free? Our advice? Unless you have sufficient time and resources, do not build your own website.

What do we mean by "sufficient" time and resources?

Time

According to Alex Stepman, the owner of Stepmans PC, a simple five page website requires about 25 hours of skilled labor. (Obviously, this number varies for each project).

Do you have an extra 25 hours (or more) to build a website?

Resources: Website Design and Development

Beyond sufficient time, to build an effective, search engine friendly website, you will need the help of experienced professionals to perform the following tasks:

1. Website Design
2. Website Development

If you do not have a designer or developer in-house, you might feel obliged to hand design and development to your "IT" guy. Just remember: A knowledge of computers does not necessarily translate to a knowledge of website design and development. And you will rarely find a single person skilled in both design and development. As we've noted before:

"After your hire a professional website designer to create a visually-appealing website, you will need to hire a developer to make the website work for both users and search engines like Google. Unfortunately, since these tasks are so different, and require different parts of the brain, you will rarely find a professional who can perform both with the talent and energy you require."

Resources: Content Creation

The same is true for content creation: Writing for the web is a specialized skill. Too often, businesses attempt to hand this task to an administrative assistant--or the resident English major. Some of Stepmans PC's clients balk at the additional cost of content creation, and choose to perform the task in-house.

A typical complaint is that a web writer couldn't possibly know the business. So how could he write relevant copy?

A good writer does not need to know your business to write relevant content. A good writer will learn about your business through interviews and research, and he will use his expertise to craft content uniquely suited to your business.

"Hi, my name is James. I majored in English. I can write your copy!" [Photo Source]

A Bad Website

Without any of these resources, you risk wasting time (likely much more than 25 hours) building a bad website with bad content.

Of the many ways to define a bad website, one flaw is especially harmful: the website does not work for search engines. In some cases, the designer included unworkable elements. Web crawlers, for example, cannot index Flash technology. In other cases, the development missed essential website elements.

Alex Stepman told us he has seen this calamity too often to count. Poorly-developed websites can repel Google's crawlers. Without a presence on Google (or other search engines), a website serves no real purpose.

Website Costs

To build a simple, search engine friendly website for $999, Alex makes about $40/hour. By industry standards, this number is exceedingly low. The website design, development, and marketing agency, Executionists, for example, estimates the average cost for a "simple informational" site to be $7-$10 K. This is based on an hourly rate of $125.

Of course, the Executionists are working in a different market (L.A.) with a different client base: mid to major businesses. As they note: "Freelancers, one-person shops and website brokers can also be more competitive on price."

Whatever the market, the reality is the same: No website is "free."And most businesses do not have the time and resources to build a website.

Search Engine Friendly Websites with Stepmans PC

For a limited time, Stepmans PC will build your search engine-friendly website, developed with the latest search engine algorithm requirements, for only $999! If you want to speak to Alex about your project, call Stepmans PC today.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Five Questions for Your SEO Company

Is SEO "dirty"? This week Patrick Stox, writing for Search Engine Land, proclaimed "SEO is as dirty as ever."

Recently on this blog we reported on the dirty practices of a Dallas-based man, who had been charged with extorting a firm who had hired him to perform website optimization. Instead, he performed "negative SEO,"--or as the man admitted in his plea, "illegitimate SEO."

We also reported on the case of e-Ventures Worldwide, who filed a lawsuit against Google for de-indexing 213 sites--all "pure spam," according to Google.

So yes, dirty SEO exists.

As the Search Engine Land article reveals, some is intentional, even egregious: "I recently ran into a home page title that was over 800 characters long," Stox writes, "with almost every city in the area!"

Yet, Stox notes, a lot of so-called "dirty" SEO is honest mistakes: websites blocking Google's bots, JavaScript pages with no content, and site redesigns that fail to redirect.

Stox ends his article with a list of "shady" SEO practices, including ridiculous contracts, paid links, and duplicate content.

It's hard to believe these sort of practices still work. Google has done its best to limit deceptive and harmful practices. Yet clearly old dirty tricks can be effective. And for some, the risks of "dirty" SEO justify the short term rewards.

The rewards never last. If your website is engaging in dirty SEO, you will be penalized by Google. As Kissmetrics notes, the Penguin algorithm, introduced in 2012 to eliminate spammy practices, "wiped some sites out of search entirely, pushed poor quality content off the map and forced optimizers to think much more carefully about their content strategy."

Even then, a small business owner could easily be excused for fearing SEO and SEO firms. This fear speaks to our purpose in writing The Organic SEO Blog.

We demystify SEO to make the practice accessible to more people--especially small business owners. Most SEO blogs are full of technical jargon that confuses the average website owner. We've written this blog for those who don't need to know the difference between a canonical tag and and a 301.

You don't need to know the terms,
but you do need to choose the right SEO company.
[Source]


If you're currently searching for an Internet marketing agency to help promote your website, do not avoid SEO firms, out of hand. To find an ethical firm who practices sound SEO, learn to ask the right questions:

1. Do you have a plan for my website?

A good SEO firm should have a process that yields proven results. When meeting with an SEO firm, ask precisely how this process will work for your website. Like all marketing campaigns, an SEO campaign must proceed from logic--sound facts about your own business and the market.

2. Will you perform a website audit?

The first step to a successful online marketing campaign is a careful analysis of your website’s current performance. Most website owners simply do not understand how search engines view their sites. A good SEO firm will perform an audit before suggesting any serious changes.

3. How will you quantify your results?  

A good SEO company will send you detailed monthly reports about your website's performance. These reports should be thorough and honest.

To set a baseline, you can easily track your current performance on Google with any number of tools, or by simply following these steps:
  1. Make sure you are not signed into your Google account; if you are, sign out
  2. Delete your browser's cookies. 
  3. Close your browser and reopen it. 
  4. Perform the search. 
4. Do you practice "natural" website optimization?

Natural website optimization promotes an "organic" approach to SEO. This means building for users, not search engines.

5. Do you understand the latest algorithm changes?

When the algorithms change, the SEO game changes--sometimes ever so slightly; sometimes dramatically. Keeping pace with the changes is a core part of the job of and SEO company. Your potential SEO company should be able to talk legibly about Google's algorithm in all its iterations--from Penguin to Hummingbird.

Natural Website Optimization with Stepmans PC

It is important to understand the work your SEO firm performs for you. You want to hire a real professional who will not waste your time and money. If you want to speak to a reliable SEO professional, please consider the Organic SEO Blog's sponsor, Stepmans PC.

Just like this blog, the professional SEO specialists at Stepmans PC strive to educate you about what we do and how we do it. After all, you should know exactly what to expect from your SEO professional's work.