Vine: Just what is it? 6 Vines here to explain...

Vine: Just what is it? 6 Vines here to explain...

The wonderful world of Vine has recently been occupying my time recently. It's a beautiful way to procrastinate. But although it's been going for well over a year so many people haven't heard of it, so here's a quick overview of what it's all about.

  • It's created by the folks who run Twitter
  • People upload 6 second videos which automatically restart when the 6 seconds are up.
  • You can add hashtags, follow viners and re-vines their videos
  • It's wonderfully creative, crude and everything in between.

From watching at least a couple of hundred vines you get the impression that the majority of viners are young Americans. It's ideal if that's your target audience, great. If it's not - not so good.

What it does demonstrate though is the truly amazing talent and humour that's out there. Sure, there is a whole lot of rubbish too, but what's good generally shines out a mile. It makes you think how much more creative you could make your marketing.

So here are 6 vines picked by me which can give you an overview of the sort of thing you can expect. So for the next 36 seconds, sit back, relax and if you want the sounds just click on the top left button on each vine:

1) Cute, Cute Creatures:

Added 27 April; 2014: Likes: 15.4k | Re-vines: 5,788 | Comments: 1,434

2) Awesome 6 second covers:

Added March 18 2014:  Likes: 196.2k | Re-vines: 131k | Comments: 4,692

3) Sporting Prowess

Added August 30 2013: Likes: 19.9k | Re-vines: 14.1k | Comments: 465

4) Things be like things:

Added January 12 2014: Likes: 468k | Re-vines: 325.7k | Comments: 17.6k

5) Nature in all its glory:

Added September 10 2013: Likes: 1million | Re-vines: 495.1k | Comments: 46.4k

6) People attempting (and succeeding) in being funny:

Added April 14 2014: Likes: 96.5k | Re-vines: 31.5k | Comments: 1,192

Bridging the Facebook gap: The problematic shift from free to paid advertising

Bridging the Facebook gap: The problematic shift from free to paid advertising

There's been a whole lot of opinion pieces floating about recently about Facebook and its recent changes. Here’s my thoughts to add to the fray:

The next two years are going to be the most crucial in Facebook’s history to see if it can flourish long term or whether it will slowly decline and join the social media graveyard.

The reason for this and the discussions doing the rounds on the internet is the changes Facebook is making to promote paid advertising options on the one hand whilst simultaneously further restricting organic reach for content on business pages. Facebook’s latest alteration to its Edgrank algorithm sees it, in certain tests, resulting in only a reach of 6% of your total audience. Shame if you're trying to attract the other 94%.

The options to work around this – massively improve your content or pay for advertising.

The site understandably must be having to play a very difficult game in balancing shareholder desires for profit against the millions of businesses who use the site as their main source (or in some cases their only source) of promotion. It is though a campaign that needs the utmost delicacy to avoid an exodus of businesses whilst trying to increase advertising revenue.

I'm not going to sit here and write about the ways to advertise or improve your page. Instead this post is going to take a look at how I think Facebook could actually achieve their goals of increasing revenue. After all Facebook is about connecting everyone and that should mean every business (and person), regardless of their budgets should be able to promote themselves, shouldn't they?

The hurdles which Facebook might face:

People still don’t know how Facebook Works

It’s always free and easy to get started on Facebook. In the heady days of 2009 before Edgreank took its toll, the magic formula was; update your status, add a link and hey! there’s some traffic through to your site.

Yet, still today in 2014 if you mention the word ‘Edgrank’ people look at you blankly. Some business owners I've met weren't aware Edgerank even existed, let alone what it is, or what to do about it. I’d be interested in seeing some data on this to see the general awareness of this, but I imagine most business haven’t the time to focus on the intricacies of algorithmic updates when they have an actual business to run.

Facebook then needs to have a massive educational push to both explain Edgerank, quality and how to avoid a diminished reach on their posts, before they then go on to explain the advantages of advertising; something which could be an uphill battle.

Advertising is considered low quality

When it comes to actual ads Facebook provides some fine examples of businesses which are using them well, but I'm sure most people have seen ads or which have absolutely zero relevancy to them.

This isn't Facebook’s fault, it’s the fault of the advertiser who weren't specific enough when choosing their advertising options. You can target an ad based demographics, age groups, locations, interests and other pages which people are following. It’s amazingly specific and can be used to great effect. But because people don’t seem to understand how this works, or won’t be specific enough, bad ads appear on the site, which in my opinion fundamentally wear down the sites as a network which displays quality advertising. The ads currently on my page are for used cars and the Army Cadet Force. What the advertisers have put in for me to be a relevant prospect I really have no idea. 

Because Facebook is pushing to improve overall quality of the network this should be site wide- including improving both pages and ads alike. Unfortunately most people have had years of seeing poor ads on Facebook, so even though they're an effective advertising tool, businesses completely new to the idea might already have a negative impression of it.

Ultimately though times are changing. If businesses have the funds available to invest in advertising or generating more engaging content then Facebook should prove to be as effective as it’s always been, just with a higher price tag.

But what about all the other pages, who can’t, don’t or won’t take on these increased responsibilities? Either they’ll continue to produce the same content in the same way, and see minimal or zero returns. Or they’ll give up on the site completely.

Coming back to my point before though, ultimately, Facebook is there to making the world more open and connected. Facebook might be cutting the wheat from the chaff by trying to increase 'quality' but I personally think the chaff still has an integral role in making Facebook what it is. Users should be able to easily engage with every sort of business from the humblest start up to the largest multinational regardless of the businesses budget to get around Edgerank.

The way to solve this? A massive educational push is needed from Facebook to persuade everyone with a page the benefits of advertising or how they can make their page better. Facebook seems to have started the ball rolling with a seires of 'Facebook Fit' bootcamps for the small businesses in the US. These look like a great start, especially for the price of $25.00, but doing this en masse? That's a massive challenge indeed, but if Facebook can attract a billion people into signing up I'm hopeful they can make it happen.

Resized and flipped image credit to Supermac1961 | CC

Leaving North Devon Behind

Leaving North Devon Behind

After a whole lot of deliberation I've decided that it's high time I move away from North Devon and head elsewhere to continue to gain more experience in the digital marketing scene. 

There has been a whole bunch of push and pull factors at work, but I want to develop my career, meet new people and work on some amazing projects. North Devon is an stunning part of the world with some of the best beaches and countryside I've ever seen. Yet, economically, there are a lot better opportunities elsewhere. 

So where in the world am I headed?

Map of Exeter, Bristol, Reading, London.

Working from west to east the potential contenders are Exeter, Bristol, Reading or London. The reasons for these four are:

1) Exeter. I love the city. It's got a quiet laid back vibe about it and there are some good business and industries at work here. Plus it's got some rather good travel links by rail, road and air to the rest of the country.

2) Bristol. It's just been named Britain's best city to live in. It's also nice and central. The city also has a fun creative side (demonstrated by its plans to install a 90m water slide to run down the main hill in the city centre). 

3) Reading. It's also been named as the top place to live and work. I know the area really well as I studied here for my degree. There's a lot going for it and the it's home the headquarters of a lot of national businesses.

4) London. The City. The Big Smoke. The capital certainly has an appeal especially as it could mean working with some of the biggest and best in digital marketing. There's definitely the added attraction of so much culture and innovation. 

I also wouldn't be adverse to working somewhere else if someone can persuade me otherwise, What's your favourite city? I've spoken to a lot of people so far about what they think, but I'm still undecided. Add your thoughts in the comments below.

Could we work together?

If you have a some work going and you'd like to involve me, or just want to have a chat about marketing, get in touch! The magic number to phone is 07720 880733.

Social Media and The Folly of Youth

Social Media and The Folly of Youth

I recently read a blog post from Paul Sutton last week entitled 'So You're a Social Media Junkie, are you?'

It basically lamented graduate level candidates lack of any practical knowledge of using social media for business. Sure they were passionate about using social, but in Paul's words it meant: "little more to them than spending insane amounts of time farting around on Facebook and Instagram".

It was a worthwhile read and discussed how many of the candidates fall into the Dunning-Kruger effect whereby inept people believe they're a lot more skilled than they actually are. 

How did this self-delusion start? 

Certainly the Dunning-Kruger effect can be applied to young people much more broadly than just in social media. Just watching any of the Saturday night talent shows will prove that. But beyond the wider cultural and societal influences of 2014 Britain, which I'm happy to say I'm not qualified to talk about, is that when it comes to social, could it be adults fuelling the misapprehension? 

Adults generally seem to have this false impression that young people just get social media.

In my own experience I've often overheard clients they're working with a online expert. What that seems to mean to them is that I'm good with computers and therefore all forms of electronics. Suddenly I've gone from online marketing to dealing with amongst other things: Smartphones, printers, scanners, power supplies, cameras, routers and an Xbox Live subscription. 

The fallacy that because I'm young and therefore have good at everything technical somehow remains no matter how many times I don't know how to fix the printer.

I'm not alone in this kind of example but it seems to me that adults and youngsters have this twisted relationship of adults thinking the young ones good, which makes the youngsters think they're good, which in turn reaffirms the adults belief in the young. 

Breaking the Cycle...

There needs to a growing awareness that just because you have thousands of Instagram followers because you're coffees, lunches and breakfasts are so amazing #tasty, does NOT make you qualified for paid work in social media. 

Young folk and graduates need to read about the industry. Social Media Examiner is a great start. Explore social campaigns, try your own, experiment just something to show you have demonstrable experience. 

Businesses - Get onto some training courses, many of which are free and break the spell of that the social media experts don't always have to be young. 

Note: This post isn't to tar all young people with the same brush - there are some cracking young social marketeers out there. But, just as driving a car doesn't make you a Formula 1 racing driver, don't expect your day-to-day activities socialising online to hold much sway when it comes to applying for social media jobs. 

Image credit to Edo Dijkgraaf | cc

Will Google ever use social signals as a reliable ranking method?

Will Google ever use social signals as a reliable ranking method?

Google's ranking algorithm is something that seems to occupy my thoughts more and more recently. It's like trying to work out the recipe for Coca Cola or the clues for Forrest Fenn's treasure.

Until the start of 2014 It was widely believed  that signals from social media sites played a part in helping a website to rank in Google's search results. A like on Facebook, a big following on Twitter; all this could influence rankings in SERP's.

Unfortunately the existence of this has been quashed, but in my mind it could still be a fantastic way of allowing people to influence what should take the top spot in a Google search result. 

But this got me thinking further? Will Google ever be able to use social signals as a tangible and reliable method for ranking websites? Although it might seem like a great idea it might be a fools errand. 

Lets start at the beginning...

What we do know is that the biggest part of Google's secret algorithm recipe is links, and that gaining links for a site is ultimately the goal for many online marketeers.

I say links, it's not gaining links directly but often persuading the people who have the authority to give links to provide one.

From the humblest blogs to the biggest news sites, there are around 180 million websites currently active on the world wide web (as of Jan 2014). But the number of people who have the ability to add a followed link is only a fraction of the total population of the web as there are somewhere in the region of 2.4 billion people are active online.

That's 2,400,000,000 people.

Now some websites are manned by a single person, and some huge websites have teams of hundreds. Trying to work out an average of how many people have the authority to give a link is a hard one, but putting those two numbers side by side means that people on the web far outweigh the people running websites with the authority to give a link.

What about the others?

So what about the others? All those people those that don't have the ability to provide a link? Shouldn't they be able to offer their opinion about what constitutes popular high quality content which could help to directly lift a page to the coveted Number 1 spot in Google? 

The way to do this...using social signals.

But if the entire population did have a say and not just the the link holders, then how Google go about doing this?

The easiest answer would be to use the human data that comes from the big social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. As mentioned at the start of this post, it was thought this was already the case and your actions on these sites provided a direct positive social signal which was then taken on board by Google in determining if a site should rank higher than something else.

That was until Google publicly announced that in a nutshell it doesn't do this and that these social networking sites don't directly influence the ranking algorithm. The original video is here for the reasons why is worth a watch:

The Social Signals Challenge

The easiest way to work around this to start reusing social signals would be to naturally use Google+, something which I would think that Google have complete direct access to which gets around the issues raised in the video above. 

Even if you did have access to this data though there's two big flaws:

  • It's not enough people
  • It's not representative of the wider population. 

If around 2.4 billion people have access to the internet and even if Google uses its entire Google+ audience as a dataset to influence ranking factors and then extrapolates the data would that make a valid audience to use as a way to determine the popularity of something? 

That's still a fraction, a minute fraction of the overall thoughts and feelings of the world. 

People also tend to cluster around certain sites. Millenials use Snapchat. Mothers use Mumsnet, that sort of thing, making the audience of Google+ pretty unrepresentative of the population as a whole. 

But what about the world outside of the web? 

Population Stats Pie Chart

Take the world population as whole. It's thought to be just over 7 billion people. meaning there's still 4.6 billion people who don't have access to the internet - yet. 

From a business perspective that's huge. As well as providing an amazing revenue opportunity it also means that twice as many minds who could out-opinionate any of the current thoughts and feelings of those currently using the web. Although 100% of the total population won't ever be all online it is a growing number as more people gain access to reliable internet access. It is something though which needs to be taken into account when planning for the future as these new voices will be making themselves heard online. 

Social Signals - Take 2. 

At the moment, I can't see a way of making social signals on any site, even in Google's control, a useful way of using the data as a positive tool for ranking factors. It's just in the hands of too few compared to the wider population of the web. 

Trying to develop a data source to plug into the algorithm which has a near universal appeal seems pretty impossible at this stage. The only way to do it would be to negotiate direct access to a huge number of different social sites from across the world. Aside from the legal and logistical challenges this would throw up, it would result in an absolutely colossal level of data to sift through.

Coming full circle though, Google does have an impressively complex algorithm which explores the link network. Although it's by no means perfect it is improving as time goes by.

How Google moves from here is anyone's' guess, but at the moment I can't see it being accurately done. Thoughts? Opinions? Add them onto the comments below.

Image credit: James Cridland | cc

Creating Relevant Content

Creating Relevant Content

One quick life lesson today when it comes to content marketing - specifically blogging. It’s all about relevancy.

  • Your content has to be relevant to your business goals

  • Your content has to be relevant to your intended audience

Quite a few businesses I've recently seen seem to be producing some mighty fine content, but it doesn't really provide for them any benefit. Whether its direct sales through your website, or general brand awareness you're after the content you produce has to a discernible value to your business goals. 

Don’t create content just for content’s sake.

Even though some of the content produced by some of the fantastic examples I mentioned in my last post are incredibly weird and random they still have at their core positive and promotional message about their business to generate sales and awareness.

A Content Marketing Case Study

Surfboard Logo

So, let’s make an example. Let's say you a run a fictional store which specialises in repairs for surfboards in Cornwall. We'll call it Surf Patch. Your main audiences are the local folk who love to surf and the tourists who visit each summer who’ll bring their boards. You've got a cool little store close to the coast where you do the repairs, and you have a website to help promote it. 

What’s the business goal? To bring in more sales to the store. 

So what content do you create? Well you could write a blog post on the top surfing beaches on the North Cornish coast.

Who would be looking to read a post about this? Tourists and local surfers.

Does that post help your business goals? Yes. Anyone who finds a post about the top beaches will hopefully also have a surf board which might need fixing up. 

The result – After writing the post it's get picked up in Google and some relevant traffic starts coming into the site. You get a few more sales in the shop from surfing tourists who find the post when looking for beaches for their holidays, and you maybe even get a link from nearby holiday cottage providers linking who link to it for their guests.

You need to generate a steady steam of this amazing content though. People are unlikely to see a single blog post and immediately buy from you. Over time though people will hopefully remember you and head to your store next time they're in the area.

What happens though when you change your intended audience without changing your business goals?

The slippery slope though is what happens next. Encouraged by the success of your last post, you start to create more content and broaden your horizons. You start posting videos of amazing swells that are happening off the coast of Mexico. You write a post about the early history of surfing and you tell everyone about the annual surfing competition for dogs at Huntington Beach (I kid you not).

The results - over the next year, your traffic goes through the roof, your Facebook likes double and double again. You get some additional links and your website and you do a little dance as your website is bringing in so much more traffic. 

Wait a second though, sales have only marginally improved. Why?

Who is the audience for that surf history blog post you wrote? Where is the traffic coming from for that? A small town in California where the local 4th Graders are writing a school report. That video of the surfing dogs at Huntington beach brings in comments and likes from all over the world, but how many of them are going to become tourists in Cornwall? Not many of them.

How much more business has all this work put in? A lot for not much return. 

Now don't get me wrong, the reason why that kind of content doesn't work is the fact that it's not aligned with the correct business goal. If you wanted to change this around and become THE authority for all things surfing, then sharing and producing content for this type of thing becomes ideal.

In the long term, it can also genuinely help to boost business back in Cornwall too. The content you add can attract links, which results in higher rankings, and so more traffic, more awareness and more business generally. But in the short term, if you're trying to bring in more direct business from the tourists it's not the best idea. All in all don't forget why you're producing content in the first place.

Image from Andrewcc

4 Content Marketing Examples that prove ‘boring’ industries can still amaze

4 Content Marketing Examples that prove ‘boring’ industries can still amaze

I’ve been reading a lot about content marketing recently, particularly what to do if you find yourself in a 'boring' industry. So here are 4 of the dullest of the dull industries who still manage to rock the content marketing world. So even when your industry might be considered boring - you don't have to be. 

1) Car Parks

Moz recently posted a case study on the wonderful world of car parks. Not just any car parks mind but just those in Leeds and Manchester. The driving force behind this super content is Parrallax who can show you a thing or two to make parking fun by creating a number of smart sleek and interactive websites. >Read the case study here.

2) Razor Blades

When you come to think of it razor blades really aren't the most exciting thing in the world, no matter how many times you feature sports superstars on the ads. However, the low cost but high quality razor blades from managed to truly shake up the system with their hilarious and downright impressive advert below. It's had over 13 million views on Youtube and you can read more about why it works here: >>Read more.

3) Utility Companies

Why is it utility companies always seem to have a bad image? I blame the poor returns they offered when you bought them in the annual Christmas game of Monopoly. Anyway, this article centres around the US General Electric company. It keeps people on side with their Pinterest boards which have amassed and impressive 21k followers and interactive tools to help people cut their carbon emissions. Nifty stuff. >>Read the full article.

4) Insurance

Car and home insurance really scrapes the bottom of the barrel when it comes to popularity, However, if you’re from outside of the UK then you've got to check out Compare the Meerkat.

Playing on the apparent confusion that the British have between the words Market and Meerkat, the insurance comparison site has managed to provide one of the greatest content plans that has been ingrained in the British consciousness since 2009.

Although most of the campaign centres around TV advertising, the firm created a genuine meerkat comparison website which was reported to have received over 2 million hits/month during 2010.

Their spin off Facebook and Twitter pages (numbering 814k and 66k likes and fans respectively) where you can interact with cheeky Aleksandr Orlov (The Founder of Compare the Meerkat) provides a whole plethora of pieces of content around the wonderful meerkat brand.

Still feeling uninspired?

Hopefully that little lot has got you thinking about some ideas for generating some content for your industry, no matter how boring you think you are. However, if you still feel as though you need a little more motivation then check out this booklet from Hubspot which features 16 other companies in boring industries which are creating great content. 

There are definitely many more awesome examples of great content out there from other boring industries, so if you'd like to recommend any more just add them onto the comments below.

Google’s Disavow Tool and my adventure in the USA

Google’s Disavow Tool and my adventure in the USA


A few weeks ago I had something pretty random happen to me and my website which is connected to a place which is represented by these 3 images.

The Liberty Bell, Crayola Pencils and the Great Dane. That's right, it's Pennsylvania, USA.

Truth be told I'm still not 100% sure what happened, but if you're curious then read on. All I can say is that I'm glad Google has a disavow tool….

Picture the scene..

It's a rainy January morning in Devon. Actually don't picture that scene, it;s far too grey. Unfortunately, I wish I could say that I was in the Bahamas, but you can dream eh?

So I was leafing through my Google Webmaster’s account and looked at the number of inbound links coming to my site.

That number was… 759. Now I know that my website should have a lot less links than that.

My curiosity piqued, I downloaded a spreadsheet of the links to see where exactly there were coming from. It turned out my website address was featured in the directory section of some of the major US newspapers in the east coast. The Washington Post, The Boston Herald and the East Valley Tribune to name a few, along with a dozen others.

My first overly ambitious thought was that I had cracked America.

On checking it over though it disappointingly appeared for some reason my website address had been incorrectly used in connection with a divorce attorney in Pennsylvania.

Divorce law is not one of my skills, so I have no idea why or how they even came across my website address. On digging around further It turned out that actually there’s a single company (which I won’t name) who provides the US newspapers with the data for their ad directories. Fill in your details incorrectly here and it spreads them through the network. I'd gone viral, just in the wrong way. 

However you looked at it from an SEO and business perspective it wasn't good. Although it seems to have been done in error, it needed fixing, so here’s what I did should you ever find yourself faced with something similar.

What I Did:

Locate the source. It might It takes some digging around but often you can track back who controls the site where your link appears on. If you're stuck try Whois lookup to find the details of the domain owner,

Check it's not you: Before you get really frustrated, make sure you're 100% certain it's not you, or your SEO company who might have added the link of your behalf. 

Contact them as soon as you can: Try and find the most relevant person to email. Provide some examples of the pages of where your link is appearing to show them some proof. Then if you don't get a response within 24-48 hours contact them to ask them what they're doing about it. You should always try to get the links manually removed, before moving onto the next step of - 

Look at using Google's Disavow tool: In essence, Google's disavow tool says to Google’ ‘hey these links to my site have absolutely nothing to do with me. Ignore them' so it's doesn't impact on your rankings. You can access it through Google Webmaster tools, and there's an article here for how to use it. You can upload the problem links into a txt. file that can exclude a single page or an entire domain. 

In this instance I was 100% sure that these links were nothing to do with me. Other business who might be worried about negative SEO tactics could also use the disavow tool, but it's important that you contact as many of the websites pointing links to you first to see if they can be manually removed.

What's happening now?

Thankfully after contacting them, the company in control of the ads responded saying that they were correcting the links with the divorce attorney, and slowly the number of inbound links to my site have been dropping to a more regular number. They’re by no means gone, but they are going away. In the meantime, disavowing the other links will keep any remaining links at bay. 

Image credit goes to fireflythegreat (great dane) lilivanili (crayola) Britt Reints (liberty bell) and resized. cropped image of USA flag to Lee Coursey | cc