More Digital blog

7

Apr 2011

Catching up.

Posted in Blogging | 0 Comments

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, and this is primarily due to a lot of very big projects we’re working on here at MoreDigital, much to the benefit of our clients. We tend not to do something by halves, and are extremely, extremely fast when it comes to getting a client what they need, while maintaining high standards in terms of quality and research. If it means pizza delivery to the office front door and a constant hammering of keyboards and yelling into phones coming from my team’s desk, that’s not because we’re tweeting away instead of blogging, just holding down the fort.

While I’ve been away from the MoreDigital CMS, there’s been a lot of stuff floating around the web, none of it particularly important in the wake of what’s going on in Japan. The competition to win Jason a honeymoon didn’t go brilliantly, and the winners I’m sure are celebrating the viral prowess of their own media, but I’ve learnt a lot about what it takes to win big on the web, since then, and from what I’ve heard, he’s hard at work crafting the perfect wedding regardless; a graceful and admirable reaction.

There are a lot of different Twitter and Facebook accounts floating around the office, all of them used by either us, personally, or to just chat to people as a company, and it’s been interesting to watch people’s reactions to our various endeavours (such as the Jason-Stephanie campaign). In the next week there’ll be posts going up regularly again, and I’ll be back to covering a range of topics that centre around social media and technology that can help small businesses become big (or successful) businesses.

That’s the key, really – a great social media presence may help you to double your yearly revenue, but ultimately that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to upgrade, or get a dedicated tweeter. There are countless companies who’ve employed perhaps a couple more people since hitting the big time, but that’s it. If you can still do everything you want to do with the same amount of people, why splurge out on in-house consultants or social media experts?

For every in-house pro, there are a hundred agencies that can do exactly the same thing, minus the cost of a yearly salary, and if you’re working on a project with a window less than twelve months, don’t bother – save yourself the cash, even if it ends up going towards a team-building paintball session, though hopefully your employees don’t find the idea of shooting you more appealing than, say, going for drinks, but you never know.

It’s also spring, as evidenced by the weather getting ever-the-more wonderful as time slowly progresses, and of course the inset of looking forward to the various big media releases and second-quarter gadgets making an appearance, so there’s lots to talk about whether you’re into music, films, games, phones, computers and other bits and bobs. So there’s a lot to look forward to, and I’ll be behind the keyboard for most of it. Welcome back, readers.

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2

Feb 2011

Top 5 mistakes in SEO-optimised content made by small businesses.

Posted in Business tactics, Content creation | 0 Comments

It’s been a while since I’ve written a list here, probably close to a year, but I think it’s nice to summarise some tips in short-sharp form, whilst simultaneously granting yourself license to snap at those who keep making the same mistakes.

SEO-optimised content is what it says on the tin – web content that’s optimised for a search engine. However, many people assume that, rather than taking the SAS Commando route, they’d rather play at being James Bond and run in, guns blazing, painting everything a horrible shade of keyword with highlights of link. It’s horrendous, and you’re going to not only suffer the indignity of looking like a website designed by someone who’s usually hanging out in a padded cell rather than the local Starbucks, but you’re also going to put potential consumers off ever visiting your site again.

So, without further ado – here’s the top five biggest mistakes I see being made on small business websites.

1: Content saturated with keywords. Everyone loves a good article, and of course, over the course of an immersive bit of writing you’re going to cover a fair few topics to ensure you’re ranking highly enough in the ole’ SERPs. But when your content reads “John Doe loves SEO, social media, social networking, using social media websites, Facebook, Twitter, and tweeting,” instead of just “John Doe loves SEO and social media,” you’re going to look a little manic. Write naturally, but instead think about how to write concise sentences that use simple language that will turn up in Google searches more often rather than spamming your latest screed with every high-ranking word or phrase farted out by Google Analytics.

2: Links being overused. I run a couple of sites, and they both have pages with link-lists on them. I also have a few links in the sidebar of one, too. But what I don’t do is link to affiliate sites all over every single page. It’s fine to link to one or two sites within an article, or in your sidebar, but keep it to a minimum. Sites with more blue, underlined text than average-Joe-black is going to give people the worry that if you’re keen to show them every site but yours, yours can’t be that good at all.

3. Not hiding over-tagged posts. If you’re going to tag stuff to high heaven, rather than three or four times, you’re going to hide those, right? No? well, in that case, get ready for people to roll their eyes and not bother to comment. I tag like crazy when writing for certain sites, but those sites have tag clouds, rather than displaying the tags themselves. You don’t need to show people the fifty different international spellings of the niche product you’re selling – just categorise well and use a cloud – clouds will also eventually give both you and your readers a better idea of what your focus is.

4. Not quoting your sources. Seriously, I know it’s hard to sometimes link to a bigger, better site because they’ve got the skinny and you want to look like you have, but unless it’s widespread already, you must link to world exclusives. Not doing so implies one thing – that you’re a bad journalist. And, sadly, though you may not even realise it, blogging is simply a more modern form of journalism. The more you say “hey, this person said it first, but here’s what I think,” rather than “hey! I know something! No one told me, I just know! Isn’t that incredible?” is bad form and you’ll find yourself blacklisted in your own industry soon enough, whether you notice it or not. No point in people sending you press releases or news tips if you’re a plagiarist.

5. Failing to include any call to action. A call to action, in SEO terms, is simply a way of phrasing content titles or the final paragraphs of an article (or even using parts of your user interface design) to encourage people to get involved with your site’s content. Blog posts that use titles as a way of asking the site’s visitors a strong, opinion-dividing question cause debate, and even social drama. That’s fine – use it to your advantage. If you can provoke debate, then good! More traffic, more retweets, and more attention to the fact that you want people’s opinions as well, rather than endlessly spouting your own pseudo-neutral waffle.

So there you have it. Trust me, sites do tend to write that sort of stuff, and it drives me up the wall. If you’re trying not to be The Man, then don’t act like your only focus is traffic (I know it is, but the art of SEO is making it clear that that’s not really the case as far as the user’s concerned). Don’t let AdWords make you all stupid when it comes to putting fingers to keyboard (sorry, “pen to paper”), and focus on what makes your site the best possible experience for your visitors. Like Hemingway once said – “the first draft of anything is sh*t”. It’s never too late to edit old posts or revamp your content attitude. So go do so.

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10

Aug 2010

Can blogging make millions?

Posted in Blogging, Business tactics, Content creation, Online PR, Social Media | 0 Comments

It seems like such a ridiculous goal, doesn’t it? To make an incredible amount of money from something as simple as a blog about, say, writing white papers, or about social media. But there are a few who blog and rake in an impressive revenue each year, and one of those few is Michael Stelzner.

Reading the incredible account of his meteoric rise to internet fame and economical success via the blogging medium, it got me thinking. Why aren’t we all doing this? I’m a copy-writer, and I’ve written millions of words relating to every subject you can think of over the few years during and after university.

But it takes social media knowledge to drive traffic in. People aren’t going to bother visiting a site unless one or both of the following two conditions are met: a word-of-mouth recommendation, or a larger online social media campaign. But how do we achieve these two goals? Social media, social media and social media.

Firstly, if you’re aiming to grow your fan-base with a loyal cult following, then the foremost thing to consider when attempting to start it off in the first place is your network of colleagues and friends. Everyone knows that when a colleague or a friend makes a new website, you’ll all visit, have a poke around. Some will even return regularly, provided it’s interesting and updated often.

However, that’s only a few, and you’re going to have to work hard. No one enjoys having a friend push their blog at them purely for the sake of the site’s hit-counter. But people do like the odd nudge in the right online direction by someone who knows someone who’s writing some really funny, smart stuff on a daily basis.

However, if you’d like to take the more formal route, or you’re a solitary warrior writhing in existential agony and feeling like you’re one of the army of unread bloggers , then you’re going to have to consider social media as your best, and only option. In this day and age, newsletters are not read like they used to be, and we’re probably not going to visit another news site by seeing an advert for it on the one we’re already reading.

However, we might just have a quick peek if the site turns up on somebody’s Twitter account, or regularly forms a part of someone’s Facebook profile. Of course, when they visit and enjoy your content, there’s the small chance of the gold-dust re-tweet, and once that happens it tends to spread like wildfire through people with similar interests.

Take last week, for example – I had someone spontaneously find this article, read it, and tweet about it. I don’t know them personally, and two of their followers re-tweeted the link to this article. There was no prompting, no request at the end of my blog asking those who enjoyed my work to talk about it: it was free advertising for writing someone enjoyed.

These kinds of digital thumbs-ups are important, because eventually you’ll find your way onto the “must read” list of someone big, and that list often now finds its way onto the web. When I first started to write for a publication called Resolution Magazine, I wrote a long screed about the simulation of cultural identity. It was something I’m proud of to this day, but not half as proud of that as what happened to it.

Kieron Gillen, founder of New Games Journalism and arguably one of the best in his field, included it in his Sunday Papers post that listed his favourite bits of writing during the week. To be endorsed by such a major face had a serious impact on my confidence and the success of the article, and the fact that we got a fair amount of traffic simply by repeatedly turning up in his list.

It’s not impossible to become the blog to end all blogs – you’ve just got to utilise the same method that started political revolutions, the Renaissance, and Twitter – word of mouth. If one person says your site is fantastic to a room of ten people, and they in turn do the same, in a day’s time you’ll have 100 more unique visits. Things multiply if you keep the quality up, so do so, and thrive.

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27

Apr 2010

The power of blogging.

Posted in Blogging | 0 Comments

At some point, many people have slaved over a personal blog, filling it with gossip, musings, poetry, dreams and other elements of our day-to-day lives that we would wish to share with the world. However, when it comes to making sure your business and its products/services/brands are out there in the endless stream of digital information on the internet, a lot of people think the idea of an online diary is futile and a waste of time.

Allow me to assure you this is not the case.

A year ago, I wrote a commentary on a videogames developer in which I made many scathing remarks without crossing the line – simply pointing out contradictions and a failure to meet the company vision that had left me disenfranchised with their work. The quality of their products had fallen, and with every single one that was released, they became more and more commercial to the point where public opinion had absolutely zero impact on their vision, designs and re-visits to older franchises. They butchered their old brands to force them into new, uncomfortable shapes.

I did, however, make a mistake.

During this rant – and it did become a rant, as I had used this company’s products since my youth – I made an error when citing their location, having clearly not checked and assuming they had never moved offices. This was proved not to be the case. As the post, after being submitted to a news aggregate site, began to get hundreds of hits within the hour, and eventually, a fair few comments. One of them was the head of research and development at Microsoft, the company who now owned the developer I had blasted so vehemently. He pointed out my mistake, and we began speaking over email.

With one blog post, I’d gone from a relatively low-traffic source of commentary on journalism and the videogames industry to someone in contact with a very, very powerful individual in his field. Blogs are able to connect you with people in relatively incredible ways, and especially if you’re willing to take the plunge and have a few people discuss what you’re doing and what they think about your direction. Obviously, it’s desirable to have people within the company itself talk about these matters – otherwise, you might as well label them the press – but allow them some freedom. You’re allowed to comment on your industry and your competitors, and the brutal honesty of doing so to a potential audience will send shockwaves through critics who accuse big or small companies of never being bold enough to comment on their vision.

Social media is also a brilliant way of bringing these blog posts to people’s attention. Say you’ve just written about a new product range, and perhaps even blogged the entire process from inital design to production to sales, and your final post is ideally your biggest traffic hit. Go to Twitter, go to Facebook, and spread it around. Make use of TinyURL and their ability to let you offer people following you on social media networks to see what the people behind the scenes are up to. It’s enjoyable to read for the same reason we like watching the “behind the scenes” featurettes on DVDs after we’re done with the film itself. Blogging can make a company seem a lot more human, and conversational writing styles can exacerbate this further without making it seem like a forced smile at a press conference. Take to WordPress, embed the blog, design your own – and show everyone you’re more than just a logo; real people, with real thoughts, who want to discuss them with customers and industry contemporaries and learn from them as they learn from you. The traffic won’t hurt, either!

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