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Dealing with Alternative Facts: The Importance of Truth in your Brand Storytelling and Marketing

marketing tips

Looking back on 2016, the decision by Oxford’s Dictionary to name ‘post-truth’ as their word of the year feels remarkably prescient. I honestly thought that the fudging of the truth done by Brexit campaigners and Trump’s liberal use of facts were going to be an aberration, that ‘post-truth’ is just going to a word-of-the-moment thing that would quickly fall out of favor but it turns out I was wrong. We’re now about 6 months into 2019 and it’s been firmly established that we’re now living in a post-truth era.

The year 2016 opened up our eyes on how disruptively powerful fake news can be, especially when combined with the far-reaching power of social media. On a large scale, they can be used to effectively hijack a referendum and a presidential election while on a much smaller scale, these distortions of truths and facts can be used to create a brand narrative to bolster its standings. It’s the latter that is going to be the focus of our discussion and one that should be of particular interest to marketers and SEO services alike.

Brand storytelling in the age of alternative facts

Mere weeks after 2016 ended, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager and now counselor to the president, underscored the absurdity of the age we live in when she used the phrase ‘alternative facts’ in a discussion about the attendance numbers for Trump’s inauguration, which was notably smaller than the one for Obama’s. Last year, just as Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s administration was ramping up, the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, made waves by saying that ‘truth isn’t truth’ and that facts are essentially in the eyes of the beholder.

This depressing line of thinking isn’t just strictly limited to the political world; we’ve seen several marketing examples in the past few years that eerily resemble these talking points. First, we have the comically absurd case of Billy McFarland’s Fyre Festival, where a promise of a luxurious festival experience in the Bahamas turned out to be a real-life reenactment of The Hunger Games. There’s also the case of Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos where she went from holding the number one spot in a list of richest self-made women in Forbes in 2015 to being charged for defrauding investors in 2018.

In both of these cases, they both were pushing a certain kind of narrative that holds little to no basis on the truth and as expected, the backlash for both was as harsh as they were swift. Elizabeth Holmes in particular, with a black turtleneck and an eccentric personality that is not unlike Steve Jobs, was extensively covered in the mainstream media for a few years before her house of cards came tumbling down. Both McFarland and Holmes are now famous for all the wrong reasons and that’s the kind of future prepared for you once you start playing around with the facts.

Latching on to a truthful narrative

Finding a great pair of jeans is easy; you can easily find quality raw selvedge denim made by small, premium brands all over Australia but so far, the only denim brand I actually love is Sweden’s Nudie Jeans. Not because of the quality of their product but because their commitment to sustainability. Loving a brand’s product is different from loving a brand and this is what makes brand storytelling potentially powerful as they can inspire the kind of loyalty that quality products simply won’t be able to.

The key to this loyalty however is trust and the funny thing with trust is that once they’re broken, they’re not something that could easily be regained and the internet has a ridiculously long memory. From here on out, every single time you look up McFarland’s or Holmes’ name on Google, you’re going to be presented with a chronicle of their misdeeds. I don’t know if this is a case of Wikipedia vandalism but Billy McFarland’s occupation is now listed as fraudster, not entrepreneur as he originally claimed.

Finding your own truth

A brand’s narrative is their identity and if a brand doesn’t have an identity, what would make you stand out from an ocean of similar businesses. It would be like trying to connect to a machine that churns out one product after another. Sure, the product might be of a high quality but they would be sorely lacking in personality. Dig deep into your business (or yourself) and try to find out what makes you, you and try to use the same line of thinking into your company.

A life unexamined is not a life worth living and trust me when I say that a dash of existential crisis every now and then is actually good for your soul. Asking those big questions can be life-affirming and they might be just exactly what you need to discover your brand’s truth. If you’ve been asking those questions for a while now and you still find yourself without an answer, then you might have bigger problems than just your marketing. Your brand identity should serve as the core foundation of your business, including your marketing, and without a message to send, your marketing would just be pure fluff.

Avoid These Link Building Techniques that Failed in 2018

SEO tips

Having a business means that you have to think through risks and consequences that may come in the future; therefore, everything should be planned even before you launch your business. There are things that should be considered while building a business starting from financial management, employees, even to marketing. Many business owners nowadays know one more important part in establishing a business; SEO. Yes, they hire various SEO companies to do SEO services for their business, maybe including you. That being said, even though you have hired an SEO specialist to do their job for you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get involved with the process. In fact, you should be involved too. Not only can you be well aware of the situation, this can also help make things easier for your SEO specialist if you know some techniques that can boost the progress. One of the techniques is link building. Oftentimes, many business owners join their SEO specialist in building links for their website. However, due to having limited time to do it properly, many people still make mistakes in link building, thinking that Google won’t notice. Be careful, some mistakes are sometimes unforgivable. You may want to avoid some techniques in link building especially it’s 2018 at the moment. What should you avoid, then? Keep reading to find out!

Sending spammy blog commenting

Link building is basically putting our links to other websites in hope to get a link back to our website. Therefore, blog commenting is one of the ways we can do link building. However, many people are still doing it wrong. I don’t know if commenting for some people is a waste of time or they are really lazy to read through the blog articles to deliver relevant comments. Instead, they ended up customising the same comment for different blogs, making it look spammy. The right way to do blog commenting is when you read a little bit of their articles first (not just looking at the title and just go on with commenting), and understand what they are sharing in the articles, and comment on it accordingly and relevant to the topic. If you don’t have time, you can hire another person or one of your employees to help.

Spamming links through your forum profile signature

Joining a forum seems to be harmless, especially when your profile features a backlink as well. You can actually leave a lot of backlinks by frequently replying to forum threads. You might think that frequently replying to forum threads will make your SEO performance better, but the truth is that just like blog commenting, doing too much also has negative effects.

Submitting your content to low-quality content directories

Low-quality content directories may be cheaper in terms of price (and sometimes free) and easier to be approved, but low-quality directories can’t offer you effective results, and after Google pushed out their series of Penguin updates, the real benefits of content directories have faded away. Instead, it is better for you to write guest posts on more reputable websites. Although the editing is quite strict and sometimes you have to pay more, the results are more effective and reliable.

Redirecting domains (that’s so Black Hat)

This not-so-new trick has recently been used by SEO professionals, where there is 301 redirecting specific domains to funnel link juice right into their web proprieties. Just like many other black hat SEO techniques, it can work well as long as you execute it perfectly. However, once Google finds out, your rankings are gone and your entire time spent on building the juice flow will be in vain.

Getting significant results on SEO may take a long time, but it will be worth waiting for, instead of wanting fast results using black-hat SEO techniques that will damage your SEO process. When you are genuinely taking this SEO process seriously, you will do your best in maintaining and improving your business performance. Therefore, when big efforts may take long, better results will pay it off.

Domestic SEO: Getting the Best of Internal Linking in SEO

SEO tips

If you’re ever feeling masochistic, try to look up someone famous who is younger than you on Wikipedia and marvel at how much they’ve achieved compared to you. I did that when I was reading about the tennis prodigy Alexander ‘Sascha’ Zverev, who at the age of 21 and ranked fifth in the world is the youngest player in the top 10. Even at such a young age, his Wikipedia entry is longer than mine ever would, assuming that I would even have a Wikipedia entry of my own, which is not very likely.

To further cement the point, Sascha’s Wikipedia entry also has a link to a page containing the details of his career so far. If I’d like to, I could actually spend the entire day tracking his entire career from his Wikipedia page, made possible by the generous amount of links Wikipedia has kindly provided. This is what is referred to as internal linking, in which links to pages from the same website are spread throughout a certain page, enticing users to click through those various links to catch up on the whole story, so to speak. For marketers and SEO services, internal linking is an essential process in optimizing a website.

SEO and internal linking

Links, specifically backlinks, are an integral part of SEO. In fact, the first algorithm that Google use to evaluate pages for their search engine, PageRank, named after co-founder Larry Page, uses the number and quality of backlinks as a primary criteria. Now that the ubiquitous search engine has two decades of progress on its back, links are just one of many, yet still important, part of the equation.

By comparison, internal links don’t directly impact how certain websites might rank in a given search engine results page, which is why sometimes, they are overlooked in the whole SEO process. In reality, internal links do have a direct effect on SEO, but not in the same way that backlinks do. Rather, internal links are integral during the process of web crawling and indexing, in which search engines identify and evaluate websites to be included in their search results.

Determining how link values are distributed across your website

Link value is closely related to the issue of information architecture but they’re not completely interchangeable. When search engines crawl and index your website, they look to your website’s sitemap for information on how your site is organized, its topology for a lack of a better word. For the most part, this topology will closely correlate to the link of value of your website pages, the homepage sitting at the top and the various contents at the bottom.

This is partly because in most cases, links to your homepage will be almost always included in every single page of your website. By the same token, contents that are linked only within the category page will carry less link value and therefore ranked less prominently. This idea can be manipulated by having sections for most recent and/or popular contents within your main page to boost the link value of those contents.

Content structure and the relationships between content

By now, you should be aware of the use of ‘tags’ within various sections of the internet. These tags are what web admins use to categorize pages based on the type of contents. Navigate to the ‘Royal Family’ section on the Sydney Morning Herald for example and you’ll be taken to a page featuring a collection of stories from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’ ongoing visit to Australia. These section pages occupy the middle ground between the main page of your website and your main contents.

When search engine crawls through your website, these tags help them understand how pages within your website are related to each other. As with most things in life, few things are ever simply one thing, so a post about the dress the Duchess wore on a particular day would be tagged as both ‘Fashion’ and ‘Royal Family’. In each of the articles within the ‘Royal Family’ section, there would be a link to the section page itself, which acts as a signpost to web crawlers which pages that cover similar subject matter.

These tags could also be used to establish content structure by working hand in hand with the link values described above. Normally, websites operate under a pyramid-esque structure. At the top is the main page of the website itself, linked from every page of the website. Underneath that, we have the section pages, linked from every page of the related section. At the bottom sit the actual contents, linked from the section page and often other related contents but not as much as the section pages.

The recent trend is that websites are no longer using section pages simply as a collection of links, rather we’re now seeing more and more of what I like to call headlining contents or what the internet refers to as cornerstone contents. This type of content serves as a more-focused section page but with the added touch of a narrative. Instead of simply listing articles within that section, cornerstone contents attempt to create a narrative that binds those articles together.

For example, say you’re trying to do a piece on the history of electric car development from its infancy in the early 20th century to the now infamous General Motors EV1 and the burgeoning industry of electric cars in the current climate thanks to Tesla and the Nissan Leaf. Instead of presenting this as one article, you can divide this piece into several articles but with one overarching outline serving as the cornerstone content. As such, when search engines crawl and index your website, this cornerstone will be given more prominence above the other smaller articles.

The phenomenon of Wikipedia wormhole

Other than for the purpose of crawling and indexing, internal linking can also be used to the purpose of making your website more attractive to readers by this thing we call Wikipedia wormhole. For those unaware, Wikipedia wormhole is the phenomenon in which an unsuspecting reader begins his day reading about Nick Kyrgios only to end up on the page for Kosovo War solely through Wikipedia’s internal links.

By using internal links and recommendations on your contents, you can entice your visitors to an extended stay in your website. Always keep in mind that while SEO is for search engines, it’s your actual human visitors that should serve as the ultimate goal and proper use of internal linking works on both counts.