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31
Dec

2010: The Year of New Beginnings

Personal Lessons From 2010 to Take Into 2011Like Monica Wright, I started off this post with the intention of reviewing some the largest changes in search this year. The deeper I got into it, the more I realized the following: is there anything really meaningful in this? Isn’t this the same information that’s been reiterated several times already (i.e. Google Caffeine, SERP Changes, the MASSIVE local updates, etc.)? That post? That post is to remain forever in Drafts Purgatory, never to see the light of day.

And, so, because we’re all on the cusp of a new year, why should I feel bound to the same old-same old? Why continue to plod along the same worn out path when a new trail is just begging to be worn in? Just as the personal is political, so to the personal is business. A lot has happened this year; some of it great, some of it left scars, and some of it teachable moments.

Learning To Be Political

It’s not really a secret. I’m an opinionated person. I have strong views to match a strong intestinal fortitude. And, this year taught me how to lessen the juggernaut in me and learn to meet people halfway. (Well, about as halfway as I can stomach :-) ) But, don’t mistake this for a personality alteration. It’s not. It’s simply a matter of stepping outside the situation, outside of yourself, for a few moments getting the landscape.

It’s been the hardest thing to discover and adopt this year. But, in the end, it’s served me well. It’s helped with personal relationships and business relationships alike. It’s helped right the path of conversations and situations before they dove into an uncontrollable tailspin.

Doing What You Love is Still Work

You’ve heard it before, “When you’re doing something you love, it’s never work.” That’s nonsense. It’s work even if you love it. We just tolerate it more because we love it. When you really decided to get moving in a direction (i.e. start a business or get a business rolling) it takes a level of sweat equity that most people can’t even fathom.

You’ll work from sun-up to sun-down. It’ll cause new tensions and conflicts in your family that never existed before. There will be many moments when you think none of this is worth it. And, that’s where LOVE comes in; both from the personal and the work. When you love it, you bear it, because you couldn’t imagine doing anything else, nor would you want to. And, when the people around you love you, they understand and make allowances for work-a-holic behavior. And, when you love them, you know when you need to ease of the throttle and just be a Dad, a husband, a friend.

Making Connections and Being Social

Right. That sounds odd even to me, but it’s a kind of social that exists outside Facebook and Twitter. It’s a social that never came easy to me. And still doesn’t. Actually networking, actually talking to another human being. I can say that push, and my continual pushing, to break my “comfort zone” has made me a better person. It helps in making and creating new business opportunities.

It was really something to take these Twitter relationships and have a few of them turn into friendships and opportunities.

Learning to Take Care of Me

For those that know me, they know I’ll contort myself into a pretzel to help someone. No matter the situation, no matter the cost. This year I learned to take care of me. I learned how to say, “No”. It’s saved me insanity and hurt feelings. It’s one of those life lessons that was hard to learn but necessary to learn. It doesn’t mean I was a curmudgeon or a scrooge, it just means being judicious and not allowing others to monopolize or take advantage or me. I’d urge everyone to learn this one thing going into 2011.

On a personal note, I just want to thank everyone in search marketing community for a wonderful 2010. Without question this year is has been one hell of a roller coaster ride and I expect that it will be only that much more fun in coming year. Everyone have a safe, fun-filled, wine/beer-soaked New Year! See you in 2011!

15
Dec

Social Media Profiles for Quality or Rank?

Creating Social Media Profiles for Quality or RankIf you work in search marketing, then chances are good that you’ve read the great journalistic effort from Danny Sullivan on Search Engine Land “Social Signals Google and Bing Really Count?” Since the story is now 13 days old in linear, real-time (translating to roughly 6 months old in Search Marketing time), you might be wondering why I’m choosing to talk about this now?

There’s been plenty of talk about the details of how Bing and Google credit profiles and what they key off of to assess that profile’s authority. But, what I haven’t heard from anyone, is the quintessential problem this reporting of this data brings with it: do you build a profile for quality or a profile for ranking purposes.

Caveat Emptor:

This post is solely going to focus on Twitter profiles. While Facebook does have relevance to the conversation, it’s not being used by more than one of the major search engines in full (via Search Engine Land’s Article) and even at that it appears Bing is back-referring to Twitter to surmise authority. Ultimately, this is going to more introspective about how I’ve used Twitter in last two years, than empirical facts.

It All Starts With Quality

We all start building our profiles with the aim of quality in mind, because, after all, our first profiles are usually personal. We follow influential people in our business spaces, friends, or people who provide amusing or great information. As your time in a given space grows, your own influence builds. Whether it takes months or years, every active profile arrives at this point where they must choose the direction of the profile.

Follower counts grow, following counts grow. The opportunities to spread your meme farther and farther is alluring. At some point you stop focusing on the quality of followers and focus on the number. Bigger is better. And Google and Bing seem to agree with that logic. What Danny was calling the SocialRank and as Bing articulated:

We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results

Nowhere in that statement does it mention quality. And, you might feel free to apply that to this statement, but I’d be careful about that. It seems to be focused on straight quantity. Followers to Following.  The measurement, it would seem to Bing, is to see a well-defined gap between Followers and Following.

Social Media Can Be Cold-Hearted

It Ends With Rank

I’ll be the first to admit, being on twitter for almost 2 years now, that I’m as interested in attaining rank, being as “influential” in the space as possible. At some point Twitter transformed itself for me into being a tool for getting messages out, highlighting great content, building relationships (i.e. Superstar mentality) and less about the quality of followers.

For the first year on Twitter, I didn’t care about counts in the least. I built a profile fashioned out the industry’s best, whether they followed back or not, because they brought great information and conversation to the table. I was of the mindset that I would rather have a succinct core of idea and information exchange, than be a Jim Morrison wanna-be. I subscribed, and still do subscribe, to Edward Lewis’ Twitter paradigm that you kill off spam profiles/accounts from followers. Because it was/is all about quality in your stream and getting the maximum from the space/tool. Then it happened:

At some point, I started caring about how my profile ranked and how much influence my profile carried. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, but is was a progression over time. And, truthfully, it makes me a bit sad. I love the community of SEMs/SEOs/Marketers that I listen to and communicate with daily. I really do believe we are as tight-knit a community as there is on the web, but at some level we all see each other as a means to an end. Spreading the meme, good SERP position for queries where social has influence, and standing on one another’s shoulders to shout for authority/thought-leader status.

Just tonight I looked over my profile and found a huge surplus of spam hanging around. And, because I’m so careful to keep an acceptable Friend/Follower ratio, I explain it away. I prune obvious leaving the ones I know are spam but fake human well enough.

The Tools Reinforce This Behavior

Don’t get me wrong, I think Klout, Peer Index, and the like are innovative and genius. But they reinforce the mentality about Rank over Quality. And, yes, I use these tools to not only keep tabs on my own influence, but when I’m engineering a social attack strategy, these are first places I go to start organizing and architecting that attack.

These tools assess influence, reach, amplification. I don’t know the accounts personally, whether they’re small and have a solid following; I just know that I’m going to place Person X here and Person Z here because their influence and amplification dictate those terms. Because these are the right moments to set off the meme-explosions with the right profiles. It’s impersonal and cold-hearted.

Google and Bing Reinforced This Behavior

I’m not blaming the messenger for this. Danny did a bang-up job on that post. I’m blaming the engines for encouraging people to be more mindful of their counts than the quality of their profiles. It’s clear the engines think that these two ideas overlap, that one can’t be had without the other. In some respects, they’re right. Quality attracts quality. However, quality also attracts a boat-load of spam.

To be honest, one the hand I’m glad the engines finally admitted what most of have known for some time: influence, friend/follower ratios matter. On the other hand, it disturbs me that this information will only encourage more spam profiles to be created, and that people will not label as such because of the influence factor. I know that’s asserting a lot about the Twitter community in general, but I see this as an inevitable outcome. When ratios matter, when authoritative meme-spreading matters, spam gets a break because they lend itself to bolstering stats and occasionally helping a meme along.

What’s the Solution

I wish I had one. And, there are some of you out there saying, “And? No problem here. It is what it is.” I’d love to tell you that Tweeple will reverse course and solely focus on building quality, but I know that’s not realistic, or feasible. We’re marketers, it’s about leveraging advantages.

The solution is to let this take its course. That’s the best I’ve got folks. I think since there’s still some mystery around how engines are viewing what’s authoritative and influential and what’s not, there’s no reason to get jittery. Yet. But, if “links” have taught us anything, it’s only a matter of time before exploitation of the system becomes a premium. And it is my sincere hope that the engines have enough sense to adjust fire when it becomes saturated into their SERPs.

Overall, I’d like to see our community eliminate the spam profiles following them now. I know that you kill off one, three more takes its place, but if we remain steadfast on eliminating these profiles, eventually we’ll be left with quality. I can hope can’t I? (Starting with me)

3
Dec

Type A SEOs: Lapdog Heroes

Type A SEOsThe reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him. The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself; therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

- George Bernard Shaw

It’s a rarity that I lead anything off with a quote; it’s cliche and uninspired most times. But today is the exception because that quote address the situation perfectly. We know that SEOs come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. But, today, I’m going to focus on one particular brand of SEO: The Lapdog Hero.

What’s The SEO Lapdog Hero?

It’s a special breed of Type A SEO. First let’s look at some of the common Type A personality traits:

  • Competitive (more toward the hyper-competitive end of things)
  • Strong Achievement-Orientation
  • Blunt (i.e. pulls no punches)
  • Aggressive and impatient
  • Rude or sarcastic
  • Likely to be a “Work-a-holic”
  • Perfectionist
  • Realist (usually cast as pessimistic attitudes)

Are You a Tremendous Asset or PITA?

The Lapdog Hero is at once the most tremendous asset a company has, and is also the biggest pain in the ass a company can have. I know because I am one. And, without a doubt, I align with a majority of the characteristics in the trait list above. Chances are pretty good that if you’re an SEO, you’re Type A personality. Because, let’s be honest, we live in an industry that never sleeps. And, if you aren’t a Type A, it’s a difficult task to do what we do and be great at it.

Clearly, to suggest that extraneous social factors or specific nurture factors don’t play a role in shaping the adjacent traits would be short-sighted. It does. Many times our adjacent traits, at least in my case, are leaned on more heavily in a work environment in order to be tolerated by others. But it’s akin to a coping mechanism; they don’t last and cracks in your armor come through.

Why I am Telling You All This?

Certainly, it’s less for us (we know who we are and have accepted that about ourselves), but those around us. Most SEOs are I know are brilliant, generous, Salt-of-the-Earth types, but competitive, driven machines. Nothing is ever tackled in a half-assed, half-measured way. Ever. You get 100% of us: bullshit and brilliance together. The hard-charging, driven machine that has a very sharp “my way or the highway” mentality.

It is the Type A personality traits that corporations/bosses love. We are the ultimate soldiers of fortune. Ask yourself this question: when something has to get done, has to get done to perfection, and has to get done quickly, who do they call on? Yep, you guessed it. You. Because they know you’ll eat whatever they’ve given you alive, and ask for seconds. Because you are clutch; because, like it or not, you are the Alpha. Things gets done, and done well. You are the Lapdog Hero. Called upon when needed to fill a massive void and winning out.

There is a reason only a few industries are jam-packed with Alphas (i.e. search marketing, medical doctors, lawyers, etc), because that’s what it takes to be successful. Anything cut of another cloth withers and dies.

Hiding Your PersonalityWhen the Job is Done?

This is where the PITA part comes into play. You are not supposed to be you all the time, just one of those unwritten codes in the corporate play book that most of learn the hard way. You are supposed to revert your entire being to something other than the Alpha you are. The bottom-line: go back to be being a submissive until your are called upon again.

Then the trouble starts. Mediocrity exists everywhere and Alphas/Type A’s love nothing more than to fix, correct, and abolish mediocrity. If it doesn’t work right now, then there’s no reason, in our minds, that it can’t work right. Then moment you get feisty and/or refuse to accept the status quo, is the moment everyone that’s not like you tells you to sit down, shut up, and do as you are told. Don’t rock the boat and just deal with it.

Therein lies the problem. We can’t just shut it off. We can’t just sit by, be lackadaisical, settle for half-assed, and be content puppies. We are the harbingers of change, and change is always a violent endeavor. That’s where we thrive: high stress, high pressure, constraints. When it seems insurmountable, that’s where we shine. And that’s we are tolerated in the workplace; we do what no one else will do or touch. And, we kick its ass. Hence the phrase: Lapdog Hero.

A Dying Breed and Dealing With Us

We’re still around, we “unreasonable” people as Shaw calls us. But we’re far an few between. I don’t want to say that people enjoy being mushy, gooey, and are just satisfied with “good enough”, but the older I get the more prevalent it becomes. It only serves to make me more unreasonable.

Dealing with us isn’t easy, I’ll be the first to admit that. And, we do try hard to keep our most intolerable, ferocious instincts at bay in order to “play nice” in the corporate sandbox. But, the rest of the world has to give us a break and cut us some slack. We’re honest with everyone because we know there’s enough greasiness in world. It’s refreshing. We drive hard in everything we do because we only have two gears: 100 MPH and Off. We want to be the best at everything we do because not being the best is just a waste of time (that doesn’t mean we don’t fail. We do A LOT of that. We just drive harder the next time.)

So the next time you’re annoyed with us, just come back to this post. Take a deep breath and cut us a break on our “over-bearing” attitudes, our outlandish snark, our brutal honesty, our what-have-you.

In Memory of Steven William Verre. I love you. I miss you.

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