Archive for November, 2010

Can Bad Word Of Mouth Boost Your SEO?

Posted on November 29, 2010. Filed under: Search Engine Optimization | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Pitcher of lemonade with lemonsDo complaints registered online against your company actually boost your business’ search engine rank?

One retailer, who goes out of his way to rankle customers, swears this is true.

Business owner provokes customer complaints, on purpose

An article in the New York Times, penned by David Segal and titled “A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web,” reports that the owner of an online designer eyeglass purveyor is using the unconventional tactic of inciting bad word of mouth to increase his search engine rank.

This merchant is downright gleeful when disgruntled customers complain about his company on the web. He even gloated about it online, where he boldly proclaimed, “I just wanted to let you guys know that the more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get. My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement.”

Exploiting a SEO loophole

I’ll refrain from printing the name of the business owner, or the company — why play into his hand? The guy practically encourages customers to kvetch about his shoddy service on consumer advocacy and consumer review sites. He told the Times reporter, “I’ve exploited this opportunity because it works. No matter where they post their negative comments, it helps my return on investment. So I decided, why not use that negativity to my advantage?”

One factor that’s known to affect search engine rank is how many times your name is mentioned and linked to on the web. More mentions and more links, especially from sites that a search engine views as reputable, means you get more points in the SEO-meter. The bigger a reputable site is, all the better. Plenty of mentions about your business on a busy well-regarded consumer site garner lots of referral points from a search engine.

It does not seem to matter if the mentions are positive or negative.

Does Google factor in sentiment analysis?

Thumbs  Up and Thumbs DownThe Times reporter contacted the 800-pound search engine gorilla — Google — to ask if negative sentiment adversely affects its ranking system. Google doesn’t like to give away too many clues about how its algorithm works, and this instance proved no exception.

The reporter then contacted Danny Sullivan, who oversees the most excellent web site, Search Engine Land. Sullivan said he doesn’t think Google employs sentiment analysis, and he reckons that’s a good thing. Even so, Sullivan said he believes Google can do a better job of integrating consumer reviews of e-commerce sites, much like it already does with local business search results.

Until that happens this mischievous retailer benefits from angry customers venting their frustrations online.

Page one or bust

The notion of using negative sentiment to your advantage isn’t new. We’ve got that old saw: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Celebrities are often accused of doing bad things just to get their name in the press. The tactic may not always work as planned, but many times their stars do rise.

The art and science of search engines being able to serve up the most relevant results in the optimum order is improving, but in the scheme of things, it’s still got a ways to go. When researching topics, many is the time I wind up finding the most pertinent link on the second and third page results.

The vast majority of searchers don’t go beyond page one. If you can game the search engines your search rank rises, even if your lofty position is based on consumer complaints.

The situation may be outrageous, but apparently not egregious enough to get a business penalized by Goggle’s algorithm. FYI, Google does claim to punish your site if it catches you engaging in certain unscrupulous black-hat search engine tactics.

Turning lemons into lemonade

Meantime, that Times’ article that hardly paints a positive picture of the eyeglass enterprise? Well, the story mentions the owner’s name and that of his company numerous times. It includes lots of relevant keywords. That means more links and mentions from a leading reputable news source.

Talk about squeezing out search engine juice.

– Deni Kasrel

Should search engines factor in negative sentiment? Is this guy just playing by the rules? What do YOU think?

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How Long Does It Take To Tell Your Story?

Posted on November 23, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Hand holding stopwatchGood marketing is like good storytelling.

Truly effective marketing hits on emotional touchpoints that make us believe what you have to say, enough so that we’re persuaded to buy what you’ve got for sale. We need to see ourselves in your story.

It’s no accident we have the expression, “I don’t buy that story for one minute.”

How much story can you tell in 15-seconds?

How long should your brand story be?

This thought came to mind when I was chatting last week with Glenn Holsten. Glenn is an independent filmmaker who is well known for his documentaries, but he also does commercial work.  We were catching up prior to the world premier screening of his film Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists 1958-1968 and somehow got on the subject of social media. Glenn said he had a client who wanted a 15-second video to use for social media. “How can I tell in story in 15 seconds?” he asked.

I mentioned the tale, perhaps an urban legend but nonetheless oft-cited, about how Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing a story that was only six words long.  I’ll now share this story, in it’s entirely:

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

Glenn agreed that’s one heck of a short story, and he assured me he’ll whip up that 15-second spot his client wants for social media. Meanwhile, I’m intrigued by the fact that his client perceives the need to create a 15-second video, simply because it’s for social media.

Is there an ideal story length? Does the media matter?

I’ve seen two and half-hour movies that seem to fly by and watched three-minute videos that feel like they take forever.

TV commercials are usually 30 or 60 seconds long. Much of that’s due to the cost of buying time on television. There is no equivalent cost with social media.

Regardless of your expense, whatever the length of a marketing message, there’s a cost to your audience in terms of time and mindshare. Even 15 seconds of wasted time can be annoying.

YouTube is a social media channel and YouTube has in excess of 100 million videos, pretty much all of which are longer than 15 seconds. The fact that a video may also be a form of advertising doesn’t matter. If the content is worth watching, you can exceed the 30-60 second convention.

Screen shot from Blendtec Will It Blend, iPhone videoPrime examples here are the Will It Blend? spots featuring Tom Dickson, who rose to online stardom thanks to a series of videos where he proved the power of his Blendtec blender by using it to pulverize all sorts of objects, including an an iPhone, a Bic lighter, golf balls, a bag of marbles and a crowbar. Nearly all of the Will It Blend videos are between one to two minutes long and they’re super popular — the iPhone video has in excess of 9 million views. Blendtec also promotes its videos through a Facebook page , which has a more than 56,000 fans, and through Twitter.

The evolution of storytelling… to be continued

You might say your story should be as long as is required to tell what needs to be told while also holding the viewer’s interest. That’s true, and also highly subjective.

There’s no hard and fast rule here. Still, it’s interesting to consider how much social media, and the way in which we consume it – via mobile phone, desktop computer, computer tablet or TV –  influences the art of brand storytelling.

Open question: Is there a difference in our attention span toward marketing messages when we receive these messages via social media, as opposed to a company’s website?

Could be. I wouldn’t be surprised to see research down the line on this very topic. Time will tell.

What do YOU think? Is there an ideal length for a branded video that’s distributed through social media? Please share your thoughts.

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Why You Must Be The Master of Your Domain

Posted on November 10, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Golden Royal ThroneAll you have to do to own a web address is buy and register the domain name. There are plenty of sites that offer this service, including BuyDomains, Go Daddy, Network Solutions, and Register.com.

Most web domain names cost under $10 per year. Unless someone already owns the domain, in which case prices may vary — you‘ll need to work a deal out with the owner.

You must continue to renew your domain registration

Once you purchase a domain name, it’s yours to keep, as long as you renew it. There are exceptions — you might lose the domain if there’s some kind funky trademark dispute — but that’s a rare occurrence.

Domain registries send reminders when it’s time to renew, and you can set up an auto-renew, too. So the process is fairly foolproof.

Unless you happen to be distracted, as recently happened to the Dallas Cowboys football team, which fumbled the renewal of its website at http://www.dallascowboys.com.

Dallas Cowboys drop the ball on web domain registration

As noted in an article in The Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys neglected to renew their registration and their site went down on Sunday (as did the Cowboys, who lost to the Green Bay Packers).

On Sunday night, if you went to dallascowboys.com, you got a placeholder site that showed kids kicking a soccer ball, of all things:

Dallas Cowboys placeholder website

Once the mistake was discovered the Cowboys quickly renewed the registration; however, it took more than a day till their site was restored. In-between, sports fans and writers were quick to call a penalty on the team.

The Cowboys have reportedly put the domain registration on auto renew to avoid future interference of this kind.

If you fail to renew you can lose your domain

The parting tip here: If you own a website, pay attention to those emails from your domain registrar. Be sure to pay the renewal bill before the expiration date.

If you don’t renew by the cut off date, the site can be taken down, the domain can be put up for sale, and someone else may snatch it up. Keep on top of this seemingly small detail and you’ll always be the master of your domain.

FYI, according to ComScore, Dallascowboys.com is the second most popular NFL website; number one being  NFL.com.

Which goes to show, even in the world of web domains, there’s no such thing as being too big to fail.

Deni Kasrel

The field is now open for comments. What do YOU think of the Cowboy’s failing to renew their website domain registration?

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The ROI of Real-Time Marketing and Public Relations

Posted on November 1, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Photo of dollar bills growing out of flower potsPsst, want a hot stock tip?

Invest in businesses that engage in real-time marketing and PR.

This list includes:

  • Companies that adopt emerging communications trends – these days this includes social media and web analytics
  • Companies that respond to media and customer concerns promptly and courteously
  • Companies that respond to inquiries from A-list bloggers ASAP

New research measures real-time response of Fortune 100 companies

FYI, I am not offering this advice simply because I work in the field of marketing communications. There’s genuine research to back this tip up, and it’s hot off the e-press.

You can read all about in Real Time: How Marketing and PR at Speed Drives Measurable Success.

It’s the latest e-book by David Meerman Scott, A-list blogger, popular speaker and best selling author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, 2nd Edition.

In his new e-book, David recounts the results of research he conducted to measure the real-time marketing response of the top 100 U.S. corporations as ranked by Fortune magazine.

Ties that bind real-time response and stock market performance

David’s research method was simple: He sent an email to the media relations departments of each Fortune 100 company asking the following question:

“In the last year or two, has the structure of your corporate communications team and/or communications processes changed to embrace the real-time digital era? If so, how?”

David wanted to find out:

  • How easy is it to contact each company’s media relations department?
  • How long does it take each company to respond to his request?
  • What is the quality of the response?

The e-book explains what happened next. It’s entertaining stuff. I’ll let you read it for yourself, however, the upshot is, David determined that in a comparison of 2010 stock prices, on average, the publicly traded Fortune 100 companies that were the most highly engaged in real-time communications beat the S&P 500 stock index, while those that were asleep at the real-time wheel, on average, underperformed the index.

Here’s a bar graph from the e-book showing details of the data:

Graph showing how real-time marketing & PR affects corporate stock performance

Likewise, an analysis of 2010 stock prices shows, the majority of the publicly traded Fortune 100 companies that responded to David’s inquiry (again, those engaged in real-time communications) were up on the year stock-price-wise, while those who did not were down. Here’s how that stat divvied up:

Stock performance of companies that engage in real time marketing beat those that do not (chart)

The data clearly indicates there’s a measurable return on investment for companies that engage in real-time marketing and public relations. Those who are out of the real-time loop are, overall, losing ground in the marketplace.

Now granted, David has a vested interest in touting these results. He wants to spark interest in his brand new book, Real-Time Marketing and PR: How to Instantly Engage Your Market, Connect with Customers, and Create Products that Grow Your Business Now. Still, David does not have the power to manipulate a stock price to suit his own needs. The data is what it is.

It’s also further reinforcement of the public’s increasing use of the web, in particular the rising prominence of social media, as well as smartphones, which encourage a rapid response mindset for messaging.

And while surely lots of factors affect a company’s stock market success, real-time engagement looks to be a new item to add to the list.

Stay tuned for more on real-time marketing and public relations

There are, of course, a plenitude of benefits to be reaped from engaging in real-time. A company’s ability to act and react in a fast and flexible manner can have positive consequences for product development, customer service, branding, crises communications, sales and more.

Heads up, I’m currently reading the book Real-Time Marketing & PR, and will soon have more to say on this timely topic. Stay tuned.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the relationship between real-time marketing and PR and corporate stock market performance? Do you have stories of your own to tell on this topic? Comments welcome?

Related posts

Interview with David Meerman Scott, Author of the New Rules of Marketing & PR

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