Tag Archives: designer

Risky Business: 4 Common Black Hat SEO Tactics You Have to Watch Out For

SEO tips

One of the more bizarre pieces of news I read this week, which is saying a lot given the current state of the world, is of something called abdominal etching. I don’t fully understand the procedure of abdominal etching but from what I can understand, it’s like plastic surgery but for your belly instead of for your face. I’m not exactly familiar with the kind of work required to have chiseled abs, my exercise routine is limited to 5k runs and a simple yoga routine, but I can’t help but see this procedure of abdominal etching as degrading, not to mention expensive.

Despite all of my personal faults, of which I can assure you there are many, I like to think of myself as having a proper sense of integrity. I prefer to always do things the right way if possible, and shortcuts like abdominal etching or one that’s more relevant to this discussion, black hat SEO, aren’t something that I approve of. Black hat SEO in particular is something that SEO services should always take note of as while they could be helpful in the short term, the penalty associated with them could be much more trouble than it’s worth.

When something sounds too good to be true, it probably is

The results gained from your search engine optimization efforts is directly proportional to the amount of time and effort you’ve put into them, as with almost everything in life. Amazon didn’t become the technological behemoth they currently are overnight and it took 10 years and more than a dozen films for Marvel to go from Downey Jr.’s debut in the first Iron Man film in 2008 to Endgame being the pop culture zeitgeist of the moment. Rome wasn’t built in a day so the promise of a quick result possible with black hat SEO is understandably alluring.

The idea of a viral hit is something that’s only ever been seen in the past few years. It took 75 years for the telephone and 38 years for the radio to reach 50 million users but it took merely 29 days for Pokemon Go to hit that same number. Viral videos are even more insane, the video for Taylor Swift’s newest single, ME!, reached more than 100 million viewers in a week. It’s these mind-boggling numbers that is promised by black hat SEO but the problem with black hat SEO is how it tries to reach for that number.

Pokemon was already a multi-billion dollar franchise before Pokemon Go came out and Swift is a household name in the entertainment industry so for them to reach that kind of numbers wasn’t exactly surprising. For a no-name business to reach even a tenth of that number would require one of these things, really great content, a miracle or some underhanded tactics. Those underhanded tactics come under the guise of black hat SEO and since partaking in them could lead to penalties from search engines, you’d want to watch out for some of the more common black hat SEO tactics that are still being used today.

The practice of keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the practice of including keywords at a frequency above the average for the purpose of ranking higher on search engines. If you feel like certain words keep popping up in places they shouldn’t be, that’s probably a sign of keyword stuffing. Search engines are now smart enough to determine how often should certain words appear naturally in a given text and they’re also smart enough to figure out what you’re talking about without you having to stuff down certain words down their throat so try not to go overboard with the keywords and that includes the page title and the meta tags.

Using unrelated keywords to take advantage of current trends

This practice is especially common on websites relying heavily on clickbait articles to gain traffic. For example, Prince William’s cheating scandal seems to be the trending topic in the past few days and to take advantage of this, some unruly websites would include words related to the scandal in the hopes of gaining more traffic. Say you’re running a fashion e-commerce store and to hop on this bandwagon, you put up a blog post with the following title; “Prince William would never cheat on you if you follow these fashion tips”.

It’s cheap and again, search engines are now smart enough to figure out the actual contents of your blog and would be able to easily determine that your content isn’t really about Prince William’s cheating scandal.

The bait-and-switch

Are you familiar with the term catfish in online dating? I first heard the term from the 2010 documentary Catfish in which someone put up a fake profile online in order to build up a relationship, usually for less-than-savory purposes but not always so. In the world of SEO, there’s a similar trick of bait-and-switch. The trick is to first have a unique and quality piece of content and once that content has been linked numerous times, switch that content with one that has a more commercial purpose in mind, even when the new content has no connection whatsoever to the older, higher quality content.

The practice of content spinning

Content plagiarism is bad and easily detectable but in the past few years, we’re seeing a rise in the trend of content spinning, in which an article is doctored through an online tool to make it seem like a new content even when it’s not. This is incredibly dumb and quite frankly, an insult to the art of writing. Besides, content freshness and originality is something that is highly prized by search engines and when they caught wind of what you’re doing, recycling old contents and passing them as new, they’re not going to think highly of your website.

More and More Features: 4 Tips to Avoid Scope Creep in your Web Development Project

web development tips

Keeping my thoughts on a straight line has always been a personal problem when it comes to writing. I once set out to write a simple piece on the latest album from American rock band Deerhunter before it evolves into a mammoth 3,000-word opinion piece on how gratifying it is to see proper representation of the disenfranchised in popular culture thanks to the likes of Adam Rippon and Crazy Rich Asians. I tend to write whatever comes into my mind and since my mind tends to jump from one train of thought to another even with the flimsiest of connections, trying to keep my writing contained to a single topic has always been a problem me.

This scope creep isn’t just a problem in writing; this is also an especially common issue in software and web development. You start off with a single goal but while in the process of working towards that goal, you keep finding new things that you think could improve the overall project and this is never going to end because there’s never going to be any shortage on things that you could improve. Left unchecked, scope creep could lead to wasted time and a ballooning of cost and/or resource spent in any kind of project, which is definitely something you’d want to avoid.

Contending with the price of ambition

For those of you who are familiar with the video game industry, the name Star Citizen, the poster child for scope (or feature) creep, should definitely ring a bell. Star Citizen is the brainchild of Chris Roberts, the man who was also responsible for the Wing Commander series of video games. In the current state of video game industry, video games matching the production quality of a blockbuster films are dime a dozen. The likes of Uncharted, God of War and Red Dead Redemption constantly pushes the bar on the quality of a video game and we have Wing Commander to thank for that.

Wing Commander was the first video game I’ve ever played that blew me away, with looks and sounds and a sheer attention to detail that I’ve never seen in a video game before and Star Citizen was meant to pick up that baton. Star Citizen was first announced in 2012 as the crowdfunding campaign for the video game began in Kickstarter, which was done to ensure creative freedom compared to Wing Commander which was made under the auspices of Electronic Arts (EA). The game was supposed to be released in 2014 but even now in 2019 and with over US$200 million pumped into the game; it’s still far from seeing the light of day thanks to scope creep and Chris Roberts’ ambitious and perfectionist nature.

Star Citizen employs a modular form of development so parts of the game are actually playable as I’m typing this but that’s like being able to sit in a car and play around with the controls without the ability to actually drive the car. The problem of scope creep has far-reaching implications and while Star Citizen and Chris Roberts is lucky to have passionate, and dare I say slightly delusional, fans in his team, most of us don’t have that kind of luxury. To help combat scope creep in your web development project, here are 4 things you could try.

Get a manager to directly oversees the project

Most creative and engineer types usually scoff at having a ‘suit’ (code for a business executive in a bureaucratic position that usually has little-to-no knowledge of what he’s managing) at the top but their presence can actually be necessary. Here’s a tidbit that you should find interesting. During the time when Chris Roberts was still working under EA, 4 Wing Commander games were released in a six-year timespan from 1990 to 1996 compared to the last seven years during which Star Citizen is still being worked on. Creative freedom can be a boon but even I know that sometimes, it’s important to have someone to say enough is enough.

The simplest way of avoiding scope creep is to not allow them to happen. By having a manager that directly oversees the project, any additional features would have to be cleared first and if the manager decides that those features are beyond the scope of the project and/or would take too long to implement, the manager could just say no. It’s important to have this manager to be someone that is unbiased however, which is why getting someone with a strictly management background might be preferable.

Have the scope of the project detailed in writing

Sometimes, it is possible that scope creep happens because clients keep asking for new things to be added to the project. In cases like these, it is important to hash out the details of the project before it starts so that later on, when the clients asks for things that aren’t covered, you could simply point to the contract and refuse to do them without a renegotiation of sorts. By asking for an extension of the deadline or additional compensation, the extent of the scope creep can at least be properly managed.

Consider using project management software

If you’re looking for a better way to keep track of how the project is going and how your team is doing, use project management software that are widely available online. This is especially useful in projects of a larger scale as the software can help you manage individual members of your team by dividing the project in several smaller tasks. By keeping the tasks smaller and more specific, scope creeps can be avoided as there would be less wiggle room with the project.

Use stretch goals

An alternative way would be to make scope creeps actually baked into the project itself. First, define the base requirement of the project but also add additional features that you or the client would like to have but isn’t actually necessary, which will be referred to as stretch goals, similar to the one in Kickstarter. This way, when your team managed to finish their part of the project way before the deadline, they can refer to these stretch goals instead of setting their own tasks and goals.

Don’t Push the Buzzer: The Real Example of Buzz Marketing, the Benefits and the Drawbacks

buzz marketing examples and tips

Maybe you have seen this a lot on social media, celebrities posting paid-promotion content or celebrities giving paid reviews on products, but do you know what this strategy is called? Yes, this is called buzz marketing strategy. Simply put, buzz marketing is a viral marketing strategy that leverages fresh and creative content, interactive events, and community influencers to generate word-of-mouth marketing and anticipation for the product or service the brand is about to launch. This is a very effective marketing strategy that although it may cost so much, but you can get ROI for that. However, as a person who works at a creative agency that provides SEO services, web design and web development services as well as social media services, I know for a fact buzz marketing strategy has both benefits and drawbacks. I’m not going to list all the benefits and the drawbacks one by one, but I’m going to depict the real-life good and bad examples of buzz marketing so you can get a better understanding of it. Keep reading to find out!

Bud Light x Game of Thrones

Who doesn’t know Game of Thrones? GoT smashed HBO’s record for the 17.4 million the moment the last season was released. Even those who never watch it acknowledge its popularity. I may not one of GoT’s fans, but I know that fact. However, most people have been waiting for GoT’s last season for 20 months, and no matter how famous GoT is, they still need a little bit of PR and marketing strategy. And so they went and collaborated with Bud Light. Two months before the final season of Game of Thrones, Bud Light aired one of their Bud Knight advertisements during Super Bowl 53. However, half way through the commercial, audience immediately realised that this wasn’t just another hilariously witty Bud Knight ad. It was actually an intensely dramatic Game of Thrones ad. Since almost every Game of Thrones fan recommends the show to all their friends, which generates a lot of word-of-mouth marketing, the series doesn’t really need any influencers to promote it. However, that’s not the interesting part. What caught my eyes is the fact that Bud Light is so eager to share one of their most-watched ads of the year with HBO and kill off the Bud Knight, one of their most popular mascots, to endorse Game of Thrones and this tells me how much the Beer company truly loves the show. Even someone who hasn’t watched the show like me is starting to consider watching it someday. Well, from this, we can tell that this is the example of successful buzz marketing. Now let’s get to…

The backfire of the Fyre Festival

Just like almost everything in the world that is not perfect, buzz marketing also has its drawbacks if you are not doing it the right way. Let me tell you in the example from the Fyre Festival incident. In 2017, entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule organised a music festival called Fyre Festival in the Bahamas. In order to generate as much buzz as possible for the event, they paid some of the most notable social media influencers, like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Emily Ratajkowski, to fly down to the Bahamas, act in their promo video, and post the video to their Instagram profiles. The event even promoted festival’s stellar acts, luxury villas, and gourmet meals, and soon after, the festival sold over 4,000 tickets.

Unfortunately for the attendees, when the festival took place, everything didn’t go as planned. Simply put, everything didn’t go as promised. The event was a total disaster. It was poorly managed and disorganised that it was considered as a complete scam a.k.a Fyre Fraud. Instead of providing luxury villas and gourmet meals paid for thousand dollars by the attendees, McFarland and Ja Rule gave them tents and cheese sandwiches. What’s even worse; there was no cell phone service, portable toilets, or even running water at the festival, so basically people were left stranded there. When the truth about what happened in the Fyre Festival started spreading on social media, all of the festival’s acts cancelled. Shortly after Fyre Festival’s epic failure, its parent company, Fyre Media, shut down and Billy McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison and forced to repay $26 million to his company’s investors. From this experience, we see that this is the real life failed buzz marketing strategy.

From the examples above, we can learn that buzz marketing can work as long as you are doing it properly. When applying this strategy, make sure you:

  • Prepare everything as detailed as possible
  • Do not announce something before it’s fully ready
  • Know that it’s better to take long to prepare until it’s perfect than to rush things
  • Make everyone involved get comfortable with the project
  • Consider a few things that may hinder the project
  • Know your budget
  • Have a plan B, C, D until F

No matter how effective a strategy is; if you are not well-prepared and well-educated, you might fail if you are not willing to take time to learn and make many plans. The examples above can be your source to learn how to manage your own buzz marketing strategy. Learn both the good and bad parts so that you understand better. Communication and plans are the most important elements when it comes to buzz marketing strategy; therefore, you have to be patient when you are doing this strategy for your own events too.