This is a guest post from Sandipan Mukherjee. It is part of The 2nd annual “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.
Social media has become a necessary part of any kind of online marketing efforts. While there are many success stories of people using social media for personal and business reasons, there are also plenty of people who may feel their efforts are not paying off.
So are you feeling the same? Have you taken the time to create great content, but feel like you’re not getting the recognition you deserve? Here are some of the most common mistakes you must avoid when targeting social media for your traffic.
NOT ENGAGING WITH FOLLOWERS
Do you have conversations with your followers? Do you reply when they comment on your Facebook page or @reply to you on Twitter? If you don’t, then you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to build goodwill. The best professional and corporate social media users engage with their followers. They answer questions from their followers. They ask questions to their fans. Yes, it takes more time to have a two-way exchange online, but it also creates much bigger rewards. Take the time to reply to your followers and let them know you’re listening.
USING SAME STRATEGY
Facebook is not MySpace. Twitter is not LinkedIn. And they’re all different from Google+. Every social networking site is different and you need to create a different strategy for each site you decide to engage in. Trying to run a one-size-fits-all approach will limit your ability to be successful anywhere.
HAVE NO SOCIAL MEDIA PLAN
Research and planning is just as important on Social Media websites as it is in any other form of marketing and advertising. Every community is different and won’t respond in the same manner. Every successful campaign needs to have a set of goals. You should always do some research if you need to achieve these goals. Ask yourself what do you want to achieve with your social media content? Are you able to identify what type of impact you want to have?
It is inevitable that you will get negative comments as well as positive ones. Do not make the mistake of ignoring or dismissing your visitor’s criticisms. Sure, sometimes it’s frustrating to read negative feedback about your site – but criticism can also be beneficial. Obviously, not all things can be changed, or need to be changed, but try to respond politely to any criticism. There is no way to please everyone, but be diplomatic. Nothing damages your brand and website more than ignoring criticism or fighting fire with fire.
MISLEADING IMAGES, HEADLINES AND TAGS
Coming up with a great headline and intro are important for written content, but make sure your headline isn’t misleading. If your headline has no relation to your content then your visitors won’t stick around for very long. Similarly, don’t use misleading tags or images. You might get some initial clicks, but most people won’t ever come back to your site if it appears that you deliberately tried to deceive them.
TARGET ONLY ONE SOCIAL NETWORK
With so many social networks covering almost every available niche, why are you just targeting one? Most successful websites that target social media traffic will use different social networks.
One of the worse things you can do is to send out your content to completely the wrong people. Most social networks allow you to have friends and thus you can share links with them. Use the search bar to find people who have an interest in your topic. Sending every piece of your content with everyone on your friends list is a definite way to have your content voted down in the short run, and in the longer term, you’ll be labelled as a spammer. What you should do is to get to know who you have added as friends and find out what they are interested in. This way, you will be able to share relevant links and you will increase the chances of others voting your story up.
Hope this post will help you avoid the major mistakes you can make when targeting social media for your traffic. Feel free to add comments if I missed out some points.
Well, not literally but if I end up in the obituaries section of the newspaper, you know who to blame.
To give you a bit of background, I decided earlier this year to start a few new blogs. I also decided, having worked as a linkbuilder and copywriter for a number of years to allow guest blogging, thinking I was not only doing something nice for the community but maybe I could spare a few hours writing time and get some really good user-generated content instead.
iPhonebloggers.co.uk was the first of these ‘guest blogging friendly’ blogs and although it’s only been going a few months, I’ve already begun offering guest blogging on it. Although I’ve had a few good suggestions from bloggers, I’ve had a lot of complete and utter crap sent through as well.
I’m not talking about duplicated content, it’s not. It generally meets the basic guest blogging guidelines I’ve set; that’s not normally an issue. What I’m talking about is 400 word pieces of low-quality drivel with a link or two at the end. Probably put together by some freelancer who gets paid peanuts to re-write articles he or she is re-writing from some almost defunct article directory. (When I say unique content, I mean you’ve actually had a think about it and come up with a unique angle – passing copyscape is taken for granted).
I know how it works – I’ve worked as an inhouse and agency seo for a number of years. It worked fine when article directories (god bless their panda-whacked little souls) were all the rage but it won’t work with blogging as well. Sure, there are blogs out there that will take anything. Sometimes I even jump in for an easy link if it’s a slow news day. But, for the majority of blogs and bloggers, guest blogging is a way to build influence and subscribers not just backlinks.
Tell Me Something I Don’t Know
I appreciate that if you have something amazing to say, you probably want to write it on your own blog. That’s a natural instinct, but perhaps you’re just not understanding how guest blogging works.
When you write for another blogger, they’re essentially introducing you to all of their followers and friends. First impressions count. If you’re going to say something interesting, if you want to catch the attention of all these people and get them to follow you, link to you, whatever – now would be a really good time!
Guest blogging is a way to stand out, so put the time and effort into saying something worth saying not just repeating what’s already out there.
Don’t be Selfish about Social
Any serious blogger wants to build a readership, first and foremost. As a guest blogger you can help me do that by posting your blog post on Twitter and Facebook, you can stumble it and you can link to it when you write guest posts on other blogs. Ann Smarty is great for this. Guest blogging on Bloggingpro she links to another post she wrote on cleverdude.com. I’m sure she’ll get invited back. By the way Ann, with that attitude, you’re welcome to write a guest post for any of my blogs.
And linkbuilders don’t forget that pushing your guest posts out socially and linking back to them really strengthens the value of that link, as well as opening it up to more click-throughs and second hand pickup. It’s also plain old-fashioned good manners.
It’s Not A ‘Hit And Run’ Job
If you’re good, I want you back! Come pitch me another guest post and we’ll chat.
Advertisers understand that you often need to be exposed to a product a few times before you begin to notice it and ultimately buy it. The same goes for guest blogging. You might prick people’s attention the first time you write a guest post for me, but if you write two awesome guest posts in the space of a few months, people will sit up and pay attention. They’ll want to know more about you/your company/your blog and they won’t want to miss another post – AKA they’ll subscribe to your blog/follow you on Twitter/become a fan on Facebook – whatever.
I know you want in content links, but what I’m really looking for is in context links. What do I mean by that?
There’s nothing more spammy-looking than seeing a post with keywords forced in. You know the kind of post I mean? You’re reading through it and it’s all fine and then you come across a sentence that reads:
So book your flights to New York and jet off to a new adventure exploring the Big Apple. Or random car insurance links in the middle of an article. Just because you’re able to get the phrase into a sentence doesn’t mean it fits!
As long as you’re not linking to anything dodgy or totally out of context I’m actually cool with you having plenty of links to pages around your site. If you’re writing a post about the ‘Best iPhone Apps for Wannabe Hitmen’ and you’ve written a review of the Gunman iPhone app, well feel free to link to it if it adds value to the piece – that makes sense. Just don’t suddenly mention iPhone insurance or worse still car insurance, unless hitmen actually need and use it. Maybe they do, but it sure as hell sticks out like a sore thumb when you throw in a phrase like ‘cheap online car insurance deals’ with a link back to your site/client.
And while we’re on it, don’t just include your links your own site, Pagerank freaks! Co-citation is equally important in my opinion (and Jim Boykin’s), not just for seo but for actually writing a normal, natural-looking article that has some purpose other than to give you some exact match anchor text (which btw, matters less and less these days – SEOmoz agrees). Plus, you might just grab the attention of the people you’re linking to which could result in a retweet, stumble or more importantly a new relationship.
Look I know you or your client needs links (I do too!) and they’re getting harder and harder to get. The life of the seo and in particular linkbuilder is a hard knock one but don’t waste your time pushing out low-quality crap to my blog (at least). The fact that Google has whacked a ton of sites made up of this level of content should be an indication that it wants your copy to do more than just pass Copyscape – and blog owners like me do too! Put the time into writing something that I’ll not only read and publish, but that I’ll promote when I’m guest blogging as well.
Or Why Panda is the Marsha of the SEO World
Everyone talks about it. Constantly. “Oh, my rankings dropped because of Google Panda,” or like just recently, the SEO world is all a-twitter over the new algorithm roll-out of Panda. It’s perpetually on people’s minds and has their tongues wagging. And I want to shut them all up.
Honestly, I don’t see why everyone is so surprised. Technology is constantly evolving – just turn out your pockets and see what gadgets fall out – so why shouldn’t search engines and the internet evolve with them? Even the internet is evolving – and social media – the red-headed stepchild of SEM is going through pubescence at an alarming rate. Everything is growing up around (and because of) search engines – so growth in the capabilities of search engines is inevitable.
If it wasn’t already obvious, I’m a writer. So the main thrust of Google Panda – to weed out s$^* content in whatever form – doesn’t phase me. I’ve always been an advocate of having unique, informative and relevant content on your website. Sitting down for a few hours a day for a few weeks to write unique descriptions (even just one or two lines per product) makes a huge difference. And I’m not the only one saying so, so don’t take it from me.
But it seems like what is straightforward to me is not so straightforward to everyone else. Let me vent my frustrations about customers who don’t understand the value of content and educate you at the same time! Two (angry) birds, one stone. (Gee, look. I made a funny…)
Your Homepage is Not an Infographic
Yes, you heard me right. Your homepage is not the place to use just images. An image may be worth 1,000 words, but only if you can see it. While it may be pretty to have big, high quality images that dominate the above-the-fold of your website, frankly, it’s stupid. Especially if your developer doesn’t know CSS3 and the @font-face rule – any non-web-ready font that you use (unless you buy the license, and who does that…) will be cut and pasted into your site as images.
Thus, your website would look like basically a blank slate to search engines. Plus, the higher the quality, the bigger the file, the longer the load time. Not good.
And for customers, let alone search engines – having a massive block of images does not immediately inform them what your site is all about. You want to make sure you do that, too, or your bounce rate will go sky-high.
My rule of thumb is to have at least 150 words of text on your homepage – basically, a short paragraph. And to make sure any text is actually TEXT and not image blocks.
Picture People starts off well, but then they fail, because their very clean, modern-retro slider is all image. Fail.
And I would like to kiss the feet of whomever dev’d Loosecubes. Basically all of the textual elements that I ran across on the homepage were actually translated into text, and those that weren’t probably couldn’t be anyway. Follow their example (though unfortunately they don’t have my rule of thumb one paragraph of text – but rules are meant to be broken, right?).
Become A Resource
Have an e-commerce site selling yoga mats? Don’t just have unique product descriptions – but become a yoga resource for your clients. Have a page talking about different yoga styles. Have a page talking about the health benefits of yoga. Keep a blog and update it frequently with new and cutting-edge information on the industry (whether or not yoga can be “cutting edge” is another question…bad example choice?). And if you don’t want to write it – head over to MyBlogGuest and browse the topics there.
This should intrinsically make your website sticky – though keep your content length reasonable and break it up, of course. People are going to stay and read if you put the information out there, and engage with the community.
And a by-product of that stickiness is that you will be kept top-of-mind for clients – more and more research is showing now that not only is it long-tail keywords that make your conversion, but return visitors rather than initial visits. People shop around these days – a byproduct of the economy tanking.
Seriously, how do people not understand this?
Optimize Your Media…
Or goodness, have media! Make sure that your images aren’t too big and properly alt-tagged, offer product reviews, connect all your social profiles – badges and the whole shebang – for chrissakes, have a YouTube channel and make a few videos (and embed them on your site)…a big part of the content revolution in search engines is the push to really include not only social media metrics but also social media involvement. Just do it.
And Now I’m Running on Steam…
So that is the end of my rant. Do you see now why this all seems so straightforward to me? You want visitors to convert into customers, and the most obvious way – to me – to do that is to have the most interesting stuff to say.
If you want to strengthen your personal or business brand’s visibility, then one of the top things you will want is to have strong social media profiles that rank in the top results for your name along with your website and blog. Having a strong online reputation that is comprised of nothing but content that highlights the best about your personal or business brand will allow you to keep undesirable results at bay, such as bad online reviews or mentions.
You’ve probably read lots of posts talking about how to properly optimize your social media profiles for search, and they’ve probably all sounded a little like this.
- Be active – Yes, this is true. Just like Google loves regularly updated blogs and websites, they equally love regularly updated social profiles.
- Optimize photo filenames – This only works on some networks, which I will mention below. It doesn’t hurt to upload photos with your name or keywords in the filename, but networks like Facebook rename the photo filenames anyway, so for some networks, it’s useless.
- Engage with your followers, fans, and connections – This is a good thing to do regardless of the SEO value of it. Engaging with others will keep your profile updated often, and being helpful will also lead to other’s recommending you to their audience. Search #FollowFriday to see what I mean.
- Vanity URL – From what I can tell, the URL does not count for anything but branding except on specific networks. For example, my Facebook fan page name is Kikolani, and the username for the URL is artofblogging. The fan page does not rank for art of blogging, but does rank for Kikolani. But again, it all depends on the network.
While these are great tips for your overall social media strategy, they are not the end all of SEO for your social network profiles. Certain networks use specific elements of information that you supply in your profile to optimize each profile on their network. The following will guide you to the right fields to optimize for the best possible search optimization of your social networks. The best part is that all customizations noted are using each site’s free accounts – no need to upgrade to Pro if all you’re looking for is optimization!
Quick and Dirty Onsite SEO 101
Before we get started, here are some key things to keep in mind about the following mentioned SEO elements of your social profiles. The order of importance is generally SEO Title, Meta Description, header tags (H1, H2, H3), image ALT tags, image filenames, and bolded text. Also, when it comes to search results, the typical result will look like this with the SEO Title as the linked information and the Meta Description as the details beneath it:
But what if you don’t care about the SEO?
That’s ok – this post still has some great information for you! Usually the parts of your profile that are used for search optimization are also used for the network’s own search results. So if you don’t want to think of it as SEO work, think of it as simply social optimization!
Let’s start with the hottest new social media network of them all – Google’s own Google+. Whenever you are filling out your Google+ profile, be sure to note the following areas of information that will enhance the search optimization of your presence on this network.
SEO Title: Your Name – Google+
Google+ is all about the personal branding, and they insist that you use your real name for your profile. So don’t try to stick keywords or business names in your profiles – not yet at least!
Meta Description: Your Name – Your Headline + Your Occupation
The Meta Description for your Google+ profile is a combination of different pieces of profile information, starting with your name followed by your headline (the line below your name), your occupation, your first employer listed, and then your introduction text. So make sure that the first 160 characters count by writing a great headline and occupation title. Also make sure those areas are set to be seen by anyone on the web.
Extra Search Tidbits: Your Links
From what I can tell, the links within the introduction content as well as the ones under other profiles, contributor to, and recommended links are all dofollow. So don’t shy away from anchor text as this is a prime Google property!
Assuming that not much changes when Facebook decides to revamp the fan pages as they have recently with the personal profiles, the following areas of information contribute to your fan page SEO.
SEO Title: Your Page Name | Facebook
If you didn’t consider keyword optimization when you created it, and you have less than 100 fans, you’re in luck. You can still change your page’s name. What you will want to keep in mind is that your branding may be more important than your keyword rankings, especially if you want people to be able to find you if they are searching your brand.
Meta Description: Your Page Name + Your About Description | Facebook
To edit your About information to make a great Meta Description, go to your page and Edit Page > Basic Information, and fill in the About field with a 140 character description like you would with any website Meta Description.
Extra Search Tidbits: Your Fan Page Updates Have SEO Value
Did you know that each of your status updates on your Facebook fan page have a page of their own (click the timestamp of one to see). If you’re posting a standard status update, the SEO Title for the individual page of your updates will be pulled from the first 18 characters (though sometimes it is a bit less). If you’re posting a link to your fan page wall, you’ll have an option to “Say something about this link…” – the first 18 characters of what you enter in this field are going to be the SEO Title of that status update.
If you’re concerned about optimizing your updates while considering them as individual pages under the umbrella of your fan page, then you might want to consider sticking some keywords right at the beginning of your comment. So if you’re posting an update about keyword research, just start the update with keyword research. It is a simple, effective way to keyword optimize each update.
Twitter doesn’t have much in the way of traditional SEO elements for your public profile, but it has a few important things to keep in mind.
SEO Title: Your Name (username) on Twitter
On Twitter, your name under the Profile Settings and your username are the title tags for your profile. So keywords in your username might just be worthwhile if they are still available.
Profile Image: Filename and Your Name as ALT Tag
When it comes to your profile image, be sure to optimize it by using your name as the filename. Twitter will automatically use your name under the Profile Settings as the ALT tag for your profile image as well.
Extra Search Tidbits: Keywords in Your Bio
While they may not come up in the standard SEO elements for your profile, your bio information is key. Services like Klout pull your Twitter bio information as your Klout profile description. FollowerWonk, Formulists, and other Twitter search engines use keywords in your bio in search results when people are looking for similar tweeps to follow. You can also include a link or another Twitter handle if applicable.
LinkedIn Professional Profiles
LinkedIn, the leading professional social network, has the most user-controlled SEO elements out of any other network I’ve checked out. Here are the areas you can customize!
SEO Title: Your Name| LinkedIn
While some people suggest adding keywords to your name field, the LinkedIn terms of service discourages this practice. Be confident that your personal branding is strong enough not to need the extra keyword stuffing that you can do later in your profile.
Profile Image: Filename and Your Name as ALT Tag
Just like Twitter, you should make sure you use your name as the filename for your profile image. LinkedIn will use your name as the ALT tag for your image as well.
H3 Tags: Your Job Titles
Are you ready to get some keywords into your profile? Make sure your job titles for current and previous positions include some great keywords and those keywords will be in your profile page’s H3 tags. Mine include freelance writer, blog marketing expert, photographer, and guest blogging contributor.
Extra Search Tidbit: LinkedIn Search Optimization
According to the LinkedInfluence program by Lewis Howes, if you want to rank well for keywords searched within LinkedIn’s people search, you will want to include your targeted keywords in the following:
- Your Professional Headline
I also think that belonging to some industry appropriate groups that are publicly listed on your profile can add to extra keyword usage on your profile. So choose your groups wisely!
YouTube offers a lot of great SEO options, from the channel to the videos. Here is what you’ll want to make sure you include in your profile.
SEO Title: Your Username’s Channel – YouTube
This is one of the cases where your username which doubles as part of your URL counts in terms of the search optimization, so make it count – just be sure you do so with your branding in mind more so than keywords. It will be a lot harder for people to find you if they search SEO company vs. Your Uniquely-Named SEO Company.
Meta Description: Your Channel Description
Whenever you are setting up your channel, pay extra attention to the Channel Description which is under the Profile > Edit settings. This will be your channel’s Meta Description!
Extra SEO Tidbits: Your Website & Your Videos
Ever wanted a backlink from a PR 9 domain? Then your search is over – whenever you create your YouTube channel, be sure to fill in your website link. Granted it has no anchor text, but it’s a dofollow link sitting on a strong Google property.
When it comes to videos, the reason they do so well in search is because the video title doubles as the SEO Title and the video description doubles as the Meta Description. And even though Google doesn’t supposedly care about Meta Keywords, they do use the video’s tags in that space – just group multiple keywords in quotations. My search story uses the tags “kristi hines” “freelance writer” “online marketing consultant” scottsdale arizona. Keep these fields in mind to rank well in both the YouTube and Google results.
Also, be sure to get your video-specific keyword ideas using YouTube’s own keyword tool. It looks at what is searched the most on YouTube itself.
Biznik Professional Profiles
Biznik, another popular professional social network, has some areas that you can customize to optimize your profile for SEO.
SEO Title: Your Job – Your Location – Your Name
The SEO Title for your Biznik profile combines three important parts of your profile – your current job title, your city and state, and your name. It’s perfect for keyword optimization, local search optimization, and personal branding!
Meta Description: Your Google Summary
Unlike most profiles where you have to condense your About Me information into 140 characters, Biznik allows you to have a What You Do description for visitors and a separate, optimized Google Summary for your Meta Description.
H1: Your Name + Your Job
In case the SEO Title and Meta Description are not enough, Biznik also uses your name and job title as your profile’s main H1 Tag. Nothing like a little extra optimization!
Profile Image: Filename and Your Name as ALT Tag
Just like Twitter and LinkedIn, you should make sure you use your name as the filename for your profile image. Biznik will use your name as the ALT tag for your image as well.
Extra SEO Tidbits: Your Website
Your Biznik profile allows you to add one website link with your preferred anchor text (you can have two if you go Pro for $10 / month) . It’s dofollow, so don’t miss out on adding it for visitors and for search engines!
Quora, one of the hottest question and answer networks, offers a little SEO optimization for users who join their community.
SEO Title: Your Name – Quora
As is the trend for most networks, Quora uses your name in your profile’s SEO title.
Meta Property: Your Long Bio
Quora is a bit unusual in the sense that they use the Facebook Developer’s Meta Property=”og:description” instead of the traditional Meta Description for search results. For this, they pull the information that you include in your Long Bio which should be one to two sentences long. If you search your profile in Google, however, you will see that it pulls your name, your Short Bio, and then your Long Bio as the actual Meta Description snippet.
H1 Tag: Your Name + Your Short Bio
The H1 Tag for your Quora profile will be your name plus your Short Bio. It unfortunately cuts off your tag at 50 characters, so be sure to get your main keyword into your short bio first.
Extra SEO Tidbits: Including Your Websites in the Long Bio
Although the links are nofollow (and mashed up into some crazy looking code), one thing I have noticed about Quora is that you can generate a lot of views and followers fast by answering questions. So SEO value or not, be sure to include your main website links in your Long Bio box. Just type out the URL – it will automatically hyperlink.
About.me is one of my favorite online business card sites. It allows you to compile your social profile links, blog, and a short description all on one page. The nice part is that it is a well-optimized page!
SEO Title: Your Name (Your Username) on about.me
About.me is another network where both your name and your username count heavily in the optimization of your profile.
Meta Description: Your Biography
Although you can write as long of a biography as you want on your profile, remember that the first 160 characters count for your Meta Description. This also means if you use a link in your biography, it will be counted as part of the Meta Description, so try to save the links until after the first 160.
Extra SEO Tidbits: Website Links
There are two ways to add website links to your About.me profile. One is through the biography mentioned earlier. The other is through the Services as Flat URL’s. I prefer adding them in the biography because not only are they dofollow, but the coding within the biography is cleaner than the coding used for the Flat URL’s. It may not make much of a difference, but since every bit of link juice helps, it doesn’t hurt to use the most cleanly coded HTML possible.
Bonus: How to Check Your Profile’s SEO
Curious about more networks than the ones listed? Check out your social profile’s SEO by doing the following in Google Chrome using the SEO Site Tools extension.
- Logout of the network. You want to see your profile like a search engine sees it with whatever information you have made public and accessible to anyone, not just those logged into the network.
- Click on the SEO Site Tools magnifying lens button and look under Page Elements. Here you will see your SEO Title, Meta Description, and Meta Keywords.
- Scroll down through the Page Elements for additional information such as Img Tags, H1 Tags, H2 Tags, H3 Tags, and H4 Tags.
Chances are you will see elements in your social profiles that you can control in those tags – be sure to optimize your profile accordingly from there!
I hope you enjoyed this post! Please be sure to share it with others so they can also reap the benefits of a SEO optimized social media profile for better personal and professional branding! If you’re curious about the SEO optimization elements of other social networks, feel free to ask in the comments and I will check them out for you! And let us know what profiles rank the best for your name or brand!
Several years ago I started compiling a list of the best of the best review, social, and local sites on the web. If a website was out there that offered any sort of review, sharing, or local listing ability I surely tried to get our client’s listing on the site. Not only are these sites great for building local authority, they’re also a factor in how search engines determine your local listing placement. David Mihm’s page on local search ranking factors is pretty epic, if you want to learn more check it out.
Fast forward to today, and my list has grown to an unimaginable size. When I start to think about manually submitting to each of these sites my eyes start to cross. Thankfully business can use services like UBL or GetListed.org to ease the process of claiming and optimizing all these listings, but they don’t submit to every single site. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of 21 ‘little known’ sites that you should check out, just in case your service of choice hasn’t submitted to them yet. Some on the list you’ve probably heard of, and others you probably haven’t. I’ll also introduce a few niche sites that you might not be listed on.
This site was launched in 2006 and in February of 2009 integrated Facebook Connect onsite. The site boasts 4 million consumer reviews, over 27,000 local deals, and a domain authority of 78. Quantcast measures the traffic at an estimated 678,000 site visitors per month. Kudzu is a fairly well known site so it might already be on your radar, but if not it’s certainly worth a look.
Recently coming out of beta, LikeList.com is a “social-local referral service” with more than 510,000 business “like’s” in the system. LikeList has more than 2 million friend relationships on their current user base. NeatStat.com estimates their monthly traffic at about 20,000 visitors. Just recently the site launched Sharelists – “A collaborative list for groups of people with interests or tastes in common to share what they like and help each other”.
- List Your Business for Free Here
Touting itself as “your local guide”, OpenList.com was founded in 2003 in Seattle. Initially the site just focused on restaurants, hotels and attraction listings. Today it is open to all businesses. A domain authority of 44 and site traffic estimates from NeatState.com at 2.5 million a month, the site has seen incredible growth since 2003. To get on this site you’ll likely need to submit to Localeze and eventually will get added to the site. Or inquire on their site here.
Helping users find the right business, MatchPoint.com has been around since 2007. In Vertical Measures’ post “10 Good Citations You Can Get Right Now” we featured MatchPoint in 2009, and the sites value still holds true. Quantcast estimates monthly traffic at 12,000 visitors, which in comparison to other sites is quite small. MatchPoint, however, offers free business listings and additional advertising options like most of the sites on this list so they are worth a look.
Jayde isn’t so much a local search site per se, it’s more so a B2B and business search engine that’s been around for many years. You’ve probably heard about it; the site has been around since 1996. Quantcast estimates traffic at 13,600 visitors a month, and domain authority on the site is 76.
YellowBot lets you “do. tag. write. share.” since 2006. With an average of 744,000 visitors a month, the site stays active and is fairly authoritative with a domain authority score of 61. They also offer international versions of YellowBot for Canadians and users in Bermuda. Tip: Add a variety of tags to your listings for better optimization.
MacRae’s Blue Book is America’s original industrial directory since 1893. Today with more than 1 million active users monthly, the site can help users find the industrial and manufacturing products and services they’re looking for. They have a wide array of categories your listing can fit into, and they offer free listings.
Helping online users find coupons and local businesses is what Zidster is all about. With an estimated half a million visitors a month (according to NeatStat.com), the site has grown in popularity since launching in 2007-2008.
iBegin provides businesses in the US and Canada with listings for free, and helps users find your businesses through their incredibly easy to use local search site. The site has been around since 2006, and since then has grown to an estimated 1.5 million visitor per month site (according to NeatStat.com).
This popular site once talked about by many local search experts is still alive and kicking, allowing businesses to claim listings, respond to reviews, and create deals for their prospective customers. The site averages a whopping 5.8 million visitors a month. If you still haven’t found the time to claim your listing – do it today! Tip: Use the coupon functionality on MerchantCircle to get more traction with your weekly/monthly deals.
Get found online with Match Local. A fairly new site online, their parent company Matchbin has been around for quite awhile revolutionizing the traditional media industry. NeatStat.com estimates MatchLocal’s traffic at a few thousand visitors a month. While the site still has some growing to do, it’s yet another place to get a listing for your business.
Niche Local Search Sites
Do your due diligence when finding sites to add your business listing to. It might seem daunting, especially after you’ve added your listing to the hundreds of sites already out there. Tip: Set aside an hour or two hours a month to look for new sites to list your business on. Search for niche local search sites that are specific to your area.
Below I’ve listed a few that I’ve found that have a decent amount of traffic on a monthly basis and are fairly authoritative. Tip: Use advanced search commands like “local keyword directory” “city/state” “claim listing” or “local keyword” “city/state” “submit business listing” to find sites specific to your location. Or –try these search commands in Rand Fishkin’s post.
- Specific to New England area
- Estimated 3 Million visitors per month
- Find and edit your listing today!
- Specific to Walworth County Wisconsin
- Estimated 11,000 visitors per month
- Add your business for free today!
- Over 8,000 local marketplaces including ShopPaloAlto.com, ShopBuffalo.com, & ShopCorona.com.
- Over 35,00 estimated visitors per month
- Add your business for free today!
- Canadian specific
- Estimated 1.7 million visitors per month
- Signup today!
- UK specific
- 5 million UK visitors per month
- Add your business for free today!
- UK specific
- Signup today!
Industry Specific Local Search Sites
Additionally, business owners should look to place listings on sites that are specific to their industry. Whether you’re a local restaurant, doctor, hospital or even an accountant, there are industry specific sites your business should have a listing on. Tip: Use advanced search commands like “industry keyword directory” “city/state” “claim listing” or “industry keyword” “city/state” “submit business listing” to find sites specific to your industry.
- Physician and hospital local search site with reviews
- Estimated 8.3 million visitors per month
- Add your business for free today!
- Restaurant local search and review site
- Estimated 4 million visitors per month
- Add your restaurant for free today!
- Restaurant local search, review, and reservation site
- Estimated 20,000 visitors per month
- Add your restaurant for free today!
- Network of rating sites allowing users to review accountants, camps, child care, mechanics, therapists, and more.
- Explore the list of sites in the Ratingz Network today!
I’ve received quite a few great additional suggestions via the comments, Facebook, and Twitter too. Thanks for your suggestions! Below are a few more sites to add to the list of little known local search sites:
- A local search site dedicated to small businesses.
- Estimated 23 million visitors per month
- The site has over 30 million business listings!
- Add your listing for free today!
Have some great local sites that you’d like to share, or some tips I missed? Add your feedback to the comments below.
These days everyone keeps looking for guest bloggers to write guest posts for their blogs. Getting guest posts isn’t a hard task in fact it can be the easiest thing if you’ve have a high traffic blog.
If you look at my blog, you’ll see I get bunch of guest posts every day and many bloggers keeps asking me what I’m doing to get guest posts? Today I’m sharing 5 effective strategies that I’ve used to get guest posts on my blog.
1. Add Guest post Page
This is far one of the easiest way to get guest posts on your blog. All you need to do is to create a “write for us” page on your blog. If you never created a guest post page than here’s what you need to add:
So, you want to write for Blog Name? We love to publish your guest post. Now don’t ask for benefits, because we Blog Name is one of the fastest growing blog on the planet. The benefits are just much more then getting traffic or backlinks, you can gain exposure and introduce your blog to our fastest growing community.
Some simple Requirements
- Posts are at least 450+ words.
- Interacting and replying to comments is must.
- Posts have a basic structure and are at least broken down into paragraphs.
- Posts must be in good English.
- Please don’t add more than two links.
- The post you submit to us is unique.
How to guest post to Blog Name?
- Register an account here
- Add your Full name, second name and fill out a short profile Bio info, feel free to add a link or two to your blog/site (use HTML)
- Visit Gravatar.com, having an image is a must in your profile
- Write your post, save it and it will be reviewed and published asap!!
2. Invite Bloggers
You can contact bloggers with a good pitch and why you’d like to get the guest posts from them. This is very effective strategy and I’ve good success with it. You don’t have to contact high profile or A list bloggers, contact an average blogger.
You can use blogging communities to find bloggers, who may be interested in doing guest posting on your blog.
Blokube is one of those communities which can help you find great bloggers who can write guest posts for your blog.
3. Join Social Media Networks
This may not be very effective way but still a useful one. I did found few guest bloggers who wants to do guest posting for my blog through Social Media Networks like Facebook & Twitter. In order to get success from Facebook & Twitter, you need to be very active in those networks.
You can use free/paid tools to automate the process – Dlvr.it, Triberr, Bufferapp,Tweetdeck, etc.
I’m sure most of you already know about MyBlogGuest, most awesome marketplace for finding guest posts for your blog. It is a forum community where bloggers give info about their blogs and then ask for guest posts from other bloggers/users.
MyBlogGuest is a unique community that is based on one simple principle: if you provide quality, you don’t need to pay to be heard. It is not just about getting more guest posts, it has forum, marketplace, gallery, find blogs for guest posting and much more. It even has a Premium Feature & Ann did great work in branding it.
5. Run a Guest blogging contest
Last but not least – Run a guest blogging contest, like I’m doing on Blokube Blog. Give away cash/ebooks/tools as prizes to the contest winners who do most number of guest posts on your blog. This can be a very effective strategy but to be very successful with guest blogging contest, you need to market it properly. Here’s what you can do to make sure your contest is a success:
- Contact bloggers/marketers and ask them to write a post about the contest
- Get a banner designed and ask the participants to put it on their blogs.
- Promote the contest on Forums like DigitalPoint, Warrior Forums & Webmaster Forums.
- Use Buysellads to do some paid promotion.
Over To You
All the above factors contributed effectively my blog in getting quality guest posts and will work for any type of content in any niche, in case you find something to disagree with in this post or have an opinion on this topic, please do share it with us below. If you find this post useful than please share it on Twitter or Facebook!
It’s easy to get hung up on the words you write. As a top blogger, you’d be foolish to not at least consider them. After all, words, sentences and paragraphs are your bread and butter.
But once you’ve worked out what to say and the tone in which to say it, do you take the time to consider the format?
Because if the layout of your copy isn’t readable, nobody’s going to stick around to see what you’ve written. And that renders all your well-chosen words redundant.
So read on and learn the secrets that are going to ensure your target audience is going to read all the way to the end.
The Seven Secret Steps to Irresistible Blog Posts
Master the Art of the Paragraph
We all remember when we’re obliged to start a new paragraph. When you change topic, change time or change place. That’s what your teacher told you at school, so you just keep ploughing on with the same rambling paragraph until you’ve exhausted the topic, run out of time, or moved to sunny Tijuana.
You credulous buffoon. Why on earth did you think your teacher was right?
Here’s the one time you need to change paragraph. Doesn’t matter if time, topic and place are still the same, there’s one point when you need to hit that return key.
When dramatic effect demands it.
A quick, single sentence paragraph is visual shorthand for “this bit is important”. So make use of them when you’re sharing something groundbreaking. And watch as your reader starts to scroll down looking for the next one.
Or for something just as arresting…
Hit ‘em With a Hail of Bullet (Points)
What have great bloggers and successful gangsters got in common? Other than a penchant for whisky cocktails and jaunty hats?
That’s right – they both know how to fire bullet points with deadly accuracy.
Why are bullet points so effective?
- Visually arresting – a bullet point hits you like, well, a bullet between the eyes. You can’t ignore it. You stop and read.
- Clear and concise – it’s impossible to ramble on a bullet point. You’re throwing out pure, distilled information
- Breaks up blocks – people won’t read a wall of text. Liberally scatter your bullets, and your layout remains fresh and interesting.
Stop Skimmers by Sprinkling in Subheadings
Skim readers love subheadings. It’s pretty much all they’ll stop for.
And you want a skim reader to stop, because if they don’t, they’re scrolling all the way to the bottom, off the page and out of your life.
So unleash a few content speedbumps to slow them down. Enticing and enlightening subheadings help your readers to find the content they find most useful or interesting – so they’ll make a bee-line straight for it.
And then they’ll read it.
And if they’ve slowed down long enough to read a whole subsection, they’ve slowed down long enough to write a comment, hammer out a tweet, or buy your eBook.
Not bad for a bit of bolded text.
The Internet Can’t Say No to a Funny Picture
By now, the reader’s concentration is beginning to flag. All the typographical tricks are keeping them on the page, but you need to cut them some slack.
So throw in an illustration or two.
Preferably one that backs up your points – and don’t forget to add an amusing caption, just to re-enforce your message. Because long after they’ve forgotten the exact wording of your advice, they’ll remember that the funny monkey told them just how to keep people reading.
Beef Up Arguments With Block Quotes
By now, you’re coming around to my way of thinking. You’re plotting sublime subheaders, and coming up with cunning captions.
But something’s nagging at the back of your mind. Wouldn’t this post be truly, completely irresistible if you could just see a second opinion?
Block quotes are a great way of providing a second opinion. As they’re generally from another authority on your subject of choice, they carry weight.
And because they’re visually interesting, they fulfill the same role as bullets points and subheaders – they force the reader to slow down and pay attention!
Mr603 – Outspoken Member of the Twitterati
Yeah. That’ll just about cover it.
Think About Your Font
I can say with some certainty that you’re probably not going to have a clue. Which is frankly ridiculous if you want to create a truly irresistible post.
The art of font creation is a huge subject that I don’t have space to get into here. But prove the power of the font to yourself. Copy this post into a word processor.
Now set the font to Comic Sans or Vivaldi.
I think that proves my point. Don’t you?
Follow the six secret steps, and you’ll have framed your content in an absolutely irresistible way. But don’t rest on your laurels yet, dear blogger.
Because you’ve still got a final chance to throw it all away. By irritating your readers and driving them from your site, never to return.
Irritating blog quirks could fill a whole post to themselves, but there are two content killers that you’ll need to avoid at all costs:
- Pop Ups: I know you want your reader to sign up to your mailing list. But please don’t hurl a pop-up at them after they’ve just started to read. It’ll break their concentration and raise their hackles. Just don’t take the risk.
- Pagination: We’ve all got mouse wheels. So don’t split your post into seven chapters across seven pages. Because a blog reader will scroll for miles and miles to read your content. Just don’t expect them to click.
So there you have it. The seven secret steps to making your blog’s content truly irresistible. You don’t need to use all seven techniques in everything you post, but keep all of these techniques in your locker, and you’ll find your audience to be far more responsive.
And who can blame them? You’re totally irresistible.
If you’ve ever used Facebook, Twitter or any other social media outlet a single day in your life and done so with any rate of success, you’ve probably already heard the whines of other users who are mystified at how you did it, or been accused of making up the term “social media specialist.” In fact, some of the stuff people like to say is starting to sound positively rote by now:
“Look at you, little Ms. Popular! How did you ever manage to get all those Twitter followers?”
“I tweet stuff all the time, but no one ever retweets me.”
“I only have 100 friends on Facebook. No one cares what I think.”
The last sentence there is the most deadly — making a broad decision that isn’t yours to make, and giving up before you’ve even started to try. But many people do that, and it can be your death sentence in a digital world where your output can make or break your public persona. So here’s a handy list about what you can do to improve your social media standing and maybe get a few more people to notice you. Also, if you could stop whining about how unpopular you are, that would be super.
1. Decide What You Need to Say
One of the greatest dangers of social media is that it allows us to report information to the world stream-of-consciousness style, especially with Twitter. This is the reason that the service is crammed with photosofpeople’sfood and complaints about their ailments, which frankly is stuff that should be saved for your dining partner or the person you live with. Yes, I know you are excited about your food, but realize that no one else really is OTHER than you (unless you just so happen to be a master chef-turned-blogger tweeting pics of your newest mouthwatering creation.) We’ll delve into this more later in step two, but let’s keep a one-track mind here.
So if you can’t tweet/FB/blog about whatever you damn well please, then what can you write about? Well, that’s the first key — before you start blathering all willy-nilly on a platform where everyone can hear you, make a decision about what it is you want to talk about. If you’re coming up blank there, consider what you LIKE to talk about. Are you crazy about squirrels? Passionate about vintage computer collecting? Nuts about repurposed home decor? Whatever your favorite topic is, that classic and cliched old rule writers have been following for years still applies: Write what you know. However, there’s a new addendum for the modern world: Write what you love. Enthusiasm is catching, and if you communicate it with honesty, people will come. Except when it’s a picture of your lunch. But that’s all about consideration for others, and as long as we’re on that, let’s hit up step two. Read more >>
This is a guest post from Doug Thomas. It is part of The 2nd annual “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.
Last week, Facebook rolled a significant update live, introducing an amalgamated News Feed and a new feature: the Ticker. Taking on the role of Recent News stream, the Ticker is where Edge Rank and Graph Rank, a similar concept introduced in the f8 keynote speech later in the week. Also introduced was the Timeline, the new way to view your profile. While Timeline seems to be a purely design-based change, it is clear that it has lasting effects on the future of Facebook Display Ads.
Note the differences between the new (left) and old (right) sidebars.
- Where will the “You and Your Friend” box go? This gives Page owners and app creators a one-stop area to give users social proof for their product. Without it, especially in a prominent position in the sidebar, connections may be initially thought of as diminished. However, it’s likely that this information will go somewhere else that can’t be shown in the demo Facebook provided.
- Even more social proof has been removed in the ads by not displaying Likes in ads. This will likely drive down clickthrough rate, removing the value of “Social Clicks” in the Facebook Ads interface.
- White space hasn’t been diminished, but width of the ad space has by about one half. This might decrease attention by making it one of the smallest elements on the page.
- Most obviously, the number of ads on the main profile page have been cut in half to 2, dropping to one as you scroll down and the sidebar navigation expands. On the Activity Log page, there are three. The ads are persistent, scrolling with the page, but are limited. The removal of these ads may mark a major change in how Facebook views advertisers.
Before the new layout was announced, All Facebook argued that Facebook isn’t seeking to help advertisers in its News Feed design or algorithm. However, the opposite may be true when it comes to the two overlooked aspects of the update and announced change: the real-time Ticker and the expansion of Open Graph. While the original Open Graph was seen as a cataloging system, letting anything on the internet be given a face on Facebook, the new expansion of verbs allows users to chronicle their interactions — a theme pulled from the Timeline.
A New Mindset
Marketers already knew Facebook ads were a bit of a crapshoot — a .05% CTR is abysmal, two orders of magnitude lower than the 2% reported for Google Ads. This small redesign may have serious effects, though, and advertisers might be blindsided. The lack of social proof hinders ad reach, but it seems Facebook wants to alleviate this by showing ads to the user for a longer time, especially “quality” first-position ones. as browsing of Timelines likely would be a pursuit that takes longer than the current profile. This, however, could backfire, as targeted ads based on the visible content being interacted with on the profile at that moment may drive more qualified traffic.
It seems, then, that marketers and business owners need to change their mindset about Facebook. No longer is it a just another display ad network, performing well only when the stars align and demography lines up with expectations. Instead, marketers need to embrace the Open Graph, which allows actions to show in the Ticker, to provide natural advertising via the social network — working with the medium instead of alongside or against it.
Optimizing Your Campaign for the New Facebook
With the new mindset for advertising on Facebook, campaign strategy has to change. No longer can an advertiser scrape by on the bare minimum, dropping a display ad to a bare Facebook Fan Page or off-site page with no Open Graph interactivity. The first step is to optimize your Facebook presence by doing all the things marketers used to, but more consistently:
- Fan gating to incentivize Likes, providing an incentive to grow your fanbase and populating your business name and Facebook page to the feed.
- Deeper consideration about Facebook Page SEO, given the high traffic from search engines.
- Linking your site and any Facebook tab interactivity to the Open Graph, through meta tags and apps
While the first two are relatively widespread, using Open Graph, especially on outside sites, is still somewhat underused. The meta tags, in a sense returning to SEO circa 1996, allow you to control what is pushed to the Ticker or News Feed. However, creating interactivity on a site beyond a simple Like Button is new.
The first step is to create multiple actions for each page, based on what the business offers on its site. For a music streaming site, “Like” is a fine verb, but what about “Listened to” or “Commented on?” For an e-commerce site, to “Like” a product isn’t as clear as “Bought,” “Wants,” or “Reviewed.” Each action on a site can turn your users’ regular interaction on the site into its own mini-ad with social proof for the viewer, coming down the Ticker whenever the users’ friends are online.
The next step is to provide something for your users when they connect to your page, giving the visitor an incentive to let you advertise via their Facebook profile. For a blog, one idea would be to tailor your homepage content based on users’ likes and interests, showing the category that interests them most. Important to keep in mind, however, is that Facebook reports a 3% drop in conversion for each permission you ask for; therefore explaining what you do with the data will keep the more private folks Connecting.
Are Display Ads Dead?
Of course, the worry for the internet marketer is that the entire game has changed — up is down, left is right, PPC display ads aren’t effective. This isn’t true, and likely won’t ever be so long as Facebook doesn’t eliminate ads completely. In the new mindset, ads are a Like generator — get the visitor to a targeted fan page with gating or an off-site landing page, get the Like and offer a little cake as thanks. They will be useful when a company doesn’t have high brand recognition and is hurting for people to be their “Ticker Ads.” Furthermore, targeting people who already Like your page for events, blog giveaways, and contests will likely remain a powerful campaign strategy for Facebook Display ads.
When it comes to the new mindset, the concepts behind campaign choices build without necessarily breaking down the old maxims. The new mindset provides reciprocal benefit to the social universe using Facebook, instead of trying to solely draw revenue from the social aspects. While this seems like “Field of Dreams” advice, it’s time to rethink the display ad and think about what really will drive traffic and eyes and dollars to your site.
This is a guest post from Lewis Austin. It is part of The 2nd annual “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.
I don’t know about you, but I believe that all those one-time satisfied social networkers are FINALLY beginning to stem the hysteria that’s been surrounding the craze for a number of years now.
The original concept of social media is dropping dead, partly because more and more people are beginning to pick holes in its design and influence. Those who were quick to jump on the social bandwagon have found that the fast-growing phenomenon can only plod along for so long until it hits a big, brutal brick wall.
A lot of web users wouldn’t even have been interested in the launch of Google +, even though it is supposedly a revolutionary platform that will change the social media landscape irreversibly, because it’s automatically been compared to every other network of its kind (*coughFACEBOOKcough*). The reality of it all is that none of the features behind the best-loved social networks are new. Everything in the social media world has been done before and I’m clutching at straws trying to find anything that’s blown me away recently. If you look at the major networks and question what sets them apart from the rest, you really start to find more similarities than differences. And often the underlying reasons causing the introduction of each feature are much more flawed than you, being a fierce social networker, would care to admit.
The new features that have been released are simply expansions on what we already had. Take, for example, Facebook Places. Essentially, Facebook Places has just ripped off Foursquare and Gowalla. And for those who don’t know, Foursquare and Gowalla are location-based social networks that revolve around their ‘check-in’ feature. This means that if you’re meeting up with friends you can announce your new location to a select list of friends. Facebook decided to kill their app off, as they realised that only 6% of users had actually bothered trying it, so now the Places feature has been integrated into status updates. Which in itself is just irritating.
I’ve got a couple of burning problems with this system. Firstly, there is no need to dish out your latest physical location on a digital map for everyone to see. What purpose does it serve? Facebook makes all sorts of personal information available to others anyway, so essentially any nosy soul is set up to become your stalker; they can already look up your email address and phone number but now have the opportunity to track your current location too.
This feature is obviously raising concerns for safety of the younger generation of Facebook profilers. Despite the rules there are a lot of kids on Facebook who are clearly under 13 (a whole separate issue for a whole other blog!). Although some may argue that FB can’t be responsible for those who break FB law, these fledgling users have created a danger for themselves because their entire list of friends has full access to all of their information. It’s all too easy to imagine how less-than-scrupulous members of society would go about getting in touch with those who are slightly more impressionable.
You need to ask yourself if you want all of your Facebook friends to know exactly where you are 24/7. This isn’t a trust issue but more of a case of TMI. Quite frankly, being constantly bombarded with details about someone’s whereabouts is dull.
Anyway, the crux of the matter is, Facebook Places was not an original idea. Fact.
Now here’s one you may have spotted. Google Circles is just a developed version of Facebook’s Groups. This Google+ feature allows you to organise your contacts into particular groups, or Circles, and lets you choose how you share your data. Basically, this means you can separate dignified posts from slightly less savoury updates and distribute different types of information to different groups of people in your life. But, however well Circles took off initially, once I waited for all the Google+ hype to die down it became clearer to me that there was definitely a primitive version of Circles already available to app-starved socio-lites.
Facebook Groups were clearly the inspiration for the big G’s ‘pioneering’ feature. It must be said that Google has used this idea as a crucial building block for its platform and developed the initial idea significantly, which is highlighted in comparison to the lacklustre reception of Groups – in fact, it has to be said that many Facebook users did not really know about the feature and found no valid use for it. (…Myself included).
THE TWITTER-PATTER OF TIRED FEET
Twitter is the micro-blogging social network that has acquired 200 million users since its launch and it is safe to say that in terms of popularity, this site has literally exploded. The whole concept of Twitter is just a squished-down version of Facebook, taking all of the good qualities that Facebook offers to networkers, simplifying them and condensing them all together to create the hassle-free conversation platform that we all know and love. The process of befriending one of your peers consists of the click of a button and once you’re deemed a ‘follower’ you gain access to their status updates as and when they happen.
There is a bare minimum of information that is actually shared between users. All that’s required is a profile name, your general location and a paragraph about yourself. One of the most appealing things about Twitter is the simplicity of it all, I suppose. Updates are only 140 characters long, so all information that is shared is short and to the point (a concept that Facebook never really understood right from the beginning, with their fancy lists and whatnot). You don’t need to read through a novel of uninteresting information to find something useful. However, what is happening on Twitter is not new – the idea of ‘following’ others and checking out their updates is practically a simplified RSS Feed.
There is a mentioning feature which allows you to let someone know you are talking to/about them, but again this is a meeker version of the status tags on Facebook where you can tag someone in a post. The recent addition of the promoted Tweets feature leaves a lot to be desired, too. Allegedly set up to give businesses the opportunity to stick a short ad up alongside their relevant search terms, the idea is a spin-off of Facebook paid search advertising, which itself is an adaptation of Google’s highly successful Pay Per Click model. Despite its good intentions (for the profitability of businesses if nothing else), the feature seems to have slipped right under the radar and remained so unobtrusive to the point that many users have wondered whether its introduction was worthwhile.
THE MARRIAGE OF FACESPACE AND MYBOOK
Yet the classic case of feature-swapping is best explained by the rivalry between Myspace and Facebook. These networks were both possibly the biggest international social networks going at any time. I remember when Myspace was big. Myspace drew in the younger generation of networkers through its clear focus on custom pages and entertainment, but the novelty soon wore off as users began to migrate over to Facebook. I had a lot of fun on Myspace myself but when all of my friends began flocking to Facebook I had no choice but to join – after all, what is a social network without any friends? You’re just talking to yourself on a pretty little platform.
In an attempt to win back some users, Myspace introduced the same features that helped Facebook win users, such as photo tagging and of course the infamous like button.
We do need to remember, however, that this brutal method of prising users from the arms of the musclier, more exotic newcomer is not uncommon. Resorting to copycat tactics has always been a last ditch effort to win people back.
IT’S BUSINESS TIME
More and more businesses are flocking to social networks in the hope of building brand awareness and generating leads, but this trend isn’t a new one either. In the past, businesses simply had to go it alone. There was a distinct lack of professionalism and strategy behind social media management, with companies stabbing users in the dark with half-arsed promo campaigns, but now social media management has expanded into an actual occupation. Proof of this is that SEO companies and the like employ dedicated social media marketers (such as myself!) to manage the successful manipulation of platforms like Twitter and Facebook. We handle everything, from the basic layout to the select information we share with fans. Companies will invest in this service because, as long as their chosen social marketer knows their stuff, social networks are the equivalent to free advertising – it just takes some time to determine the methods that will work best. But despite starting every social campaign with the best intentions, we have to ask ourselves this simple question from time to time: have those very users we’re looking to influence cottoned on to our efforts? Are they so used to being ‘sold to’ that they simply shake off all our attempts to amaze them? Social networks weren’t set up to cater for big money-hungry brands.
LOCKING YOUR DOORS AND LEAVING NETWORKS THE KEY
Privacy is an issue that’s constantly niggling at the back of our minds. It’s simply human nature to want to keep our information safe and secure; hold our cards close to our chest. The on-going disputes about each user’s right to confidentiality are going to eventually determine the way in which we communicate. We need to understand that the net was made for sharing, yet still have some say in the way in which our personal information is used. Unfortunately, it’s a debate that’s not going to get resolved anytime soon, and here’s why.
Google caused uproar with its real names policy. Even though Plus was still in its beta stages, if Big G believed you were posing as someone else, you got promptly kicked off. Such was the case of Violet Blue, a renowned author and blogger who’s so highly regarded that she once appeared as a guest on Oprah. Violet was invited to the network by Big G itself, yet once the fake names policy was put in place, her account was suspended. Work that one out.
Teething problems, perhaps? I don’t think so. The Google+ team have stuck to their guns and are of the opinion that you need to pay for the privilege of joining their network by surrendering your identity. Using fake names makes it impossible for your closest friends to find you and therefore goes against the entire principle behind SOCIAL networking. But for many, the issue is this: if you’ve been using a make-believe persona throughout your entire cyber life, why should you need to disclose your true identity now? Many enjoy venting their frustrations or meeting other like-minded tech-heads completely anonymously. This ‘real name’ palaver caused problems for many and turned G+ from a convenient communications platform to a definite hassle within a matter of weeks. I reckon all the effort put into restricting usage should have been put into creating a safer, more secure environment for all networkers.
There are hugely popular conspiracy theories related to Facebook and its privacy policies. Many believe that the CIA use Facebook as a data mining system, which sees them flaunting the fact that many of us have become dependent on it and will happily choose convenience over security any day of the week.
The well-known ‘hacktivist’ group Anonymous have warned that they’re planning to take down Facebook sometime around November 5th. This group of free radicals is being targeted by the FBI and have already infiltrated many government run websites that they consider against their cause. Better back up your favourite pics just in case then, hey. Targeting Zuckerberg’s crowned jewels is no coincidence, though; group leaders were furious after sussing out that Facebook will desperately hold on to your personal information, no matter what you do. If you decide to throw in the towel and delete your profile, FB will ‘hold on’ to your info, just in case you decide to return with your tail between your legs. They won’t just cling to your name and email address; they’ll make sure they store all of your activity history. If I’d have known this when I first set my profile up, I would have avoided joining completely!
Surely, the only move that will truly ‘revolutionise’ social networks would be giving users full control over their own privacy settings. Not just the ability to decide who’s allowed to tag you in their album or who’ll be able to track down your late-night video-sharing – proper, true control of your online footprint. Finding a way to make it harder for close friends and complete strangers can dig through a past that they weren’t involved in. My personal opinion is that having that information available is practically advertising it to be read, so I guess the best way to fight FB’s policy is to be extra careful about what you release.
PROFIT ABOVE PRIVACY
So, keen to overturn this dismal perception of network privacy, Google+ launched with the admirable intention of making sure everyone was upfront and honest about their identity and used their profile for the right reasons. What they fail to tell you is that, once you’ve set up a Gmail account, the bots crawling their servers can pick out keywords from your messages and use what they find for targeted advertising. They’ll pick out frequent topics from your conversations and send you useful (*cough*) ads and tailor-made discounts from relevant companies. Now, if we received our post already hacked to pieces by an over-eager mail man, we wouldn’t be best pleased, would we? So in terms of the way your account is manipulated, is this purely a case of ‘what I don’t know about can’t hurt me’? One step forward, twenty gigantic strides back, big G.
Microsoft actually took a stab at Google’s prying eye and created the GmailMan video to promote their new, slightly more ethical email service. It’s an exaggerated stab, granted, but the root of the problem is clearly raised.
REALITY AND WEB-ALITY
There used to be a clear line drawn between reality and web-ality. In real life you pop off down the pub for a pint and a catch-up; in web-ality you connect with those you never would have met were it not for the internet. Yet it seems that as time goes on the web still strives to become as realistic as possible. It’s important to remember that once you’ve ‘friended’ someone on the web, they’ve generally got unlimited access to your online movements. This isn’t like real life. In real life, if you meet a new friend, you don’t tell them everything about you. Some things they just won’t want to know.
With each ‘convenient’ update released, with each development launched, we’re told that we become closer to the ‘ultimate’ social networking experience. These platforms were set up to make it easier to connect with people, but what if we’re just victims of a communication overload?
This could be said of the latest changes that have been proposed for the Facebook layout (which, by the way, haven’t been received particularly well). The design updates, which were revealed by founder Zuckerberg at the annual F8 convention, include plans to encourage each user to share as much media as possible, allowing each of your friends to watch your online life almost in real-time. To replace traditional profile interfaces, Zuckerberg wants to roll out a vis-audio timeline of your activity, replacing streams with a mish-mash of videos, photos, audio and statuses. Facebook has received criticism from the masses – many have protested by describing the new look ‘too cluttered’ and ‘too complicated’ and are of the opinion that the site has become ‘too difficult to use and enjoy’. There’s too much going on, quite frankly, and users have been put off by the inability to easily shut off particular aspects of their life from certain friends.
The Likely Aftermath
Trying to tie together all these issues in what was supposed to be an upbeat article has been a mammoth task. But at the end of the day, I feel that many of us are still blinded by networking’s glory days and refuse to accept that the networks’ foundations are crumbling. Unless we can break down the barriers that stop social media REALLY progressing, we’ll simply keep getting fed the same ideas over and over until we fall off the wagon completely.
Listen and learn, social networks. Your users don’t want real life, they want freedom, optional anonymity and, above all, choice – three aspects of social media that are quickly slipping out of their reach. Major turn off; major brick wall.
But what do you think? Are you still enjoying social networking as much as ever, or do you feel the concept has been exhausted too?