With the end of the 2012 and the New Year beginning blogs around the Inter-webs have writing about how this year will be drastically different from previous ones. I myself wrote a predictions blog in the past. But this year something is different.
Maybe its me but I think we are seeing a lot of the same things that we saw many years ago, tags are important again (Schema tags, not meta tags), Google and the web has focused on broad keywords once more with the Venice update. For many years long tail was and is the rage because of the sheer amount of long terms people were using and the difficulty of breaking into a broad term. It seemed like spending time on broad keywords was a waste of time. Now with the Venice update, broad tail keywords which would only rank About and Wikipedia are now serving up useful, local, previously long tailing sites.
Another interesting shift is that content is king again! Okay, okay, so maybe content never really went away but for most people it was all about the links and content was on the back burner. For years it was link-mania with everyone buying, selling and making crappy links on obscure auto-generated blogs. You could get a handful of keyword stuffed links from the gutters of the web and your site would rank well. Today, not so much. With Negative SEO coming to light, the Google zoo going ape (pun, intended) and link disavow tools from Bing and Google links aren’t what they use to be. Now everyone is in love with content again.
And what about Social Media? It had to back peddle a little bit. Some very harsh articles and case studies came out in 2012 showing that a good following on Social Media doesn’t equate with a successful business and conversely pathetic (or no) social marketing doesn’t mean your business is going to fail even in competitive markets! Case studies are often anecdotal so we can’t make sweeping statements about SMM but it’s important to know what Facebooking will and will not do for your business. So the buzz over Social Media has died down a lot.
SEO is the leading form of Internet Marketing again… sort of. Some people still think of Search Engine Optimization is about throwing keywords all over your site. Yes, on-page optimization is still important, like it or not, but any strategy that helps to make your site prominent in search is SEO. Today with PPC getting more difficult and expensive, Social Media showing it’s sales power is less than stellar and business blogging is so common it barely gives you an edge, creating a quality, crawlable site and supporting web properties is still the best way to go.
Citations and reviews for local businesses; a living, connected web entity for large businesses; and a spider-friendly, current, linkable site for middle-sized businesses. Believe it or not these are central SEO strategies and they are not new.
The biggest change that I have seen is that people are now shying away from the term “SEO”. SEO has become synonymous with Black-hat SEO who are the used car salesman of web professionals. “Inbound Marketer”, “Internet Marketer” and “Digital Marketer” as titles are on the rise as us good guys try to distinguish ourselves from the comment spammers everyone. But regardless of what we call ourselves the intentions are still the same.
So in conclusion companies may merge, a new tool may come out, Google may change in new ways that’ll make marketers mad, but many things are going back to the way they were. Time isn’t always linear. Sometimes its cyclical.
Two things have really effected me in the last 30 days. One was Hurricane Sandy hitting the North East Coast of the US and the second was the U.S. Presidential Election. I think I experienced both of the historical events in a way no other generation has before because of how plugged in I am to technology.
Hurricane Sandy and the Age of Information
Hurricane Sandy was something that I actively followed because I live in New York. At first I was dismissive of the danger since hurricanes don’t hit the North East but a few days before it was suppose to hit I realized that this storm could have done real damage. I saw satellite pictures of it’s size, I heard projections of damage by meteorologist and when it hit The Caribbean I thought there was no harm in getting ready.
As the Hurricane got closer I saw tweet after tweet of stats, satellite images and official statements and locals sharing how they were getting ready. All of this real time information told me to be prepared for a real disaster, so I prepared. I followed storm trackers, viewed my friends pictures and read New York Times articles on damage to the city. After the storm I streamed live news conferences from Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo. Luckily for me I never lost power so even though my building lost telephone and cable service I was already up to speed on what was happening to my world. Since their was enough information out there ahead of time and a constant stream of new information I knew where to be and what to do and I left lucky that I didn’t have guess what was going to happen to me.
While Hurricane Sandy was something that I actively tracked in the 2012 Election however was almost forced upon me. I am a voter and interested in politics but this event was far more involving than anything I’ve seen before.
The 2012 Election and the Age of Irritation
While us tech savvy people know the rules to Social Media Engagement the rest of the world does not. Two of the things you aren’t suppose to talk about are your religious and political affiliations because no one will completely agree with you and you’ll mak more enemies than friends. I tell businesses and professionally networked people to avoid these topics at all cost. Not only does it offend people who disagree with you but it can even annoy those that do.
My Twitter feed was tolerable since most of the people that I follow are SEOs, digital marketers and developers and we know to keep that stuff to ourselves, for the most part. Although I did read up on general topics I didn’t watch the debates or any of their press conferences . Regardless of my desire to avoid some of the coverage I got play by play stats on Facebook and Twitter. From the funny gaffes to the inflammatory comments made by the candidates.
Three months away from the election my feeds almost 100% Ronmey and Obama. Friends posted only about why their candidate was awesome and why the other one was evil, why a candidate’s soundbite proved they are dumb but their candidate was smart. Everyone was posting basically the same joke over and over again, only getting meaner and nastier as November 6 rolled near. There were even memes about unfriending people until the election was over. I was really tempted but I thought it was rude and I’m sure I was annoying too.
It got to the point that any post on Facebook whether it was about the election or not turned Red or Blue within 3 comments. Even after the president was re-elected Obama supporters regularly posted their joy and Romney supporters posts their rage, even now I see comments about the election.
This election has exhausted me and annoyed me beyond understanding.
Hurricane Sandy made me truly appreciate the technology we have available to us, and the Election made me daydream about being Amish.
A few weeks ago I hired a developer I know to build me a Whois tool. The reasoning for this was simple enough to me. I use Whois a lot and I don’t really have any favorites sites that provides me with one. Some sites require that you become a member or pay fees for doing domain research so I thought I should just hire a developer so that I can add extra value to my site and have some handy tools available. I’m looking to add a few simple tools and web apps to my internet marketing site and I thought Whois would probably be a good place to start.
I find myself looking up domain info more and more recently and it is a pretty neat thing to have around. When we started working on the Whois functionality I didn’t realized that it’s not as simple as building a regular old API.
A lil More on Whois
It turns out that only one company, Verisign that controls and operates the Whois database. When someone does a Whois query it goes to Verisign which goes through it’s database, finds the domain registrar, contacts them whether it’s Godaddy, Tu Cows, Network Solutions…ect, the registrar goes through it’s database and the delivers the goods to us.
Another thing to think about is that there isn’t a standardized format for serving up Whois data. Godaddy’s whois results may be formatted completely differently than Network Solution’s so writing a API isn’t that simple.
Also, there is a limit to the number of Whois queries that you can do before you get blocked. Verisign won’t tell you the number but if you reach it your IP Address or your IP Block can be temporarily banned. Even though all of the obstacles came up I decided to still go through with it. I hope to have an arsenal of tools on this site someday although I realize that some may be easier to build than others.
I think everyone by now as heard of Gotye and his hit “Somebody that I Use to know”. If you haven’t, where have you been?!?! It’s been all over Twitter, Facebook, Mashable and Youtube. Because of all the attention that this song got Gotye has broken into the American Music scene, which very few foreign musicians can (do he’s Belgium-Australian). Hell, even my Boxee has suggested that I watch his music videos. When his name flashed up on my scene this morning I felt that I should cover his rise to fame in a case study, even though this is the tail end of it. I first heard Somebody That I Use to Know when a developer friend sent me a link to an “amazing video”. I don’t always open links to amazing videos when they are sent to me because it usually isn’t worth my time. I’m either getting Rick Rolled, watching bizzarre suppose-to-be-funny clips or I’m just not impressed and have to lie to about how I awesome I thought it was. I didn’t open it because I just didn’t want to. A couple of days later the same friend sent me the same link, telling me to watch it this time ”you gotta see it”. The link took me to a youtube page a five people playing the same guitar and singing acoustically. I was blown away not just by their ability to sing but by the ability for all of them to play the same instrument so well.
I watched it again and told my friend that it was awesome and I appreciated the link. I read some video comments, and I noticed the title of video said it was a ‘Gotye Cover’ but didn’t pay any more attention to the credits beyond that. I shared it on Facebook and Twitter talking about how awesome these guys were. By the end of the end of the week most of my close friends have commented on the video or shared it themselves. Comments were about the talent of the band, not the song. This 5 man band had a great way of getting attention and no one including myself seemed interested in the original artist at that time but the song grew on me. These People were awesome and the cover song was just a means of displaying talent. A month later I still liked the cover so I would regularly go to Youtube and watch/listen to the video. I looked over and Gotye’s original version was one of the related videos on the left hand side.
I clicked on it. This is a damn good song. The Cover version grabbed me because of it’s novelty but once the novelty wore off I realized that I really liked the song. When I listened to the original version I became a fan of the song and of the artist who made it.
I shared this version on Facebook and created a Pandora station around him. Months and months go down and people are still sharing and commenting on Gotye’s Somebody that I use to Know video, not the Cover. Mashable, the biggest Social Media news site, covers Gotye’s success and subsequent articles about parody videos (an Obama parody below).
This is no longer about the 5 man band, this is about Gotye and his song. Some people may think parody videos aren’t good for the artist but remember these other videos are still keeping the artist fresh in our minds. It’s free publicity for Gotye and all these extra videos continue to spread his fame long after we are tired of the the original. I turn on the radio in my car, which I rarely do, and I hear a club edit version of Somebody That I Use to Know. I’m shocked. It’s rare that mainstream media embraces web hits but since so many people love this song the radio had to keep up with the Internet or lose all it’s clout. For several weeks now I hear Gotye on the radio, in bars, in clubs or blasting out someone else’s headphones. I am getting tired of this song but I still listen to his station on Pandora, because his other songs are pretty good. One day I turn on Boxee and the home screen suggests that I watch a a new Gotye song, ‘State of the Art” intrigued I play the video and unsurprisingly I like this song and I think to myself that if it’s being suggested on my home screen that this new video must have gotten a lot of views. It check it and it does.
A couple weeks later Mashable covers a new Gotye single, but when I read the article it was about a different song! In a few months I heard 3 different songs from this artist who would never have crossed my path if it wasn’t for the web. And even though Somebody That I Use to Know gets played to the point of irritation parodies and covers are still coming out whether it’s talking about how great the song is or annoying the song is.
Finally this morning, around eight months after 5 man band cover was made I saw another video suggestion on my Boxee homescreen. It was for a mashup of all the covers that were made of this viral hit with a link to Gotye’s official site, more promotion for the artist.
Even thought I’ve chronicled my personal experiences with this viral phenomenon here are some key things we all can learn from studying the success of this video.
Gotye Wouldn’t have Become Viral Without the First Cover
This doesn’t mean that the Gotye isn’t talented or his song wasn’t good. But that’s all that it had. In order for video to go viral it has to be incredible. Incredibly hilarious, incredibly inspiring or incredibly shocking for it to spread like wildfire. The original song didn’t have what it took to get that kind of attention but the 5 man band cover did. After the amazement from this band went away only then to people start to Google who the original artist was and we appreciated him for his talent.
Traditional Media Seals the deal in Viral Success.
Radio and TV are very slow to pick up on web success and a campaign can live and die on the web without ever getting touched by mainstream outlets. Having a million plays on youtube is great for publicity but it doesn’t necessarily equate monetary success. Radio stations pay artist for each play a song gets so when the song finally got picked up on Radios they played the original and remixes allowing a melancholy song to reach an audience that would never find it, paying Gotye every time they played it. The sneezing Panda got plenty of views on Youtube too, but Gotye made money from his hit because of Radio.
Most Viral Songs Come from the Talentless, This is the Exception.
Think of every dumb viral song that you’ve ever heard; now think about why they became so popular. Chances are they became popular because they were really funny. Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ is a song written by a 15 year who sings and writes … like a 15 year old. The song is funny because it’s simple. It’s so bad it’s good. Another mega hit ‘Bedtime Intruder’ is an angry rant about attempted rape that was put to music. It became a hit because we couldn’t help but laugh at the mannerisms of the speaker and the melody was pretty damn catchy. Think about Chocolate Rain and any other viral song! These people aren’t blowing us away with skills; we like these songs because they make us laugh. “Somebody That I Use to Know” is different, we like this song because it’s really good. Gotye has a legitimate career as a singer and he became world famous because he became web famous.
Viral Success is Impossible to Repeat.
This isn’t just for Gotye but for most viral videos. His other songs are good but they won’t get the same amount of attention on the web because they are just good songs. There will be no naked presidential impersonators for “State of the Art” so it will have the same power of a regular music video online. Fans will share it, some will buy his album and he’ll still have success stemming from his original hit but I’m willing to bet that he won’t receive the amount of attention he got before he’s not a viral video maker, he’s an artist who got a lucky break.
404 pages are the errors pages that a website serves up when you tried to reach a non existent webpage. Even though 404s are reached by accident there are also a great opportunity for redirect traffic and keep visitors attention. In the blog post I’ll be talking about some of my favorite 404 pages and how they make their sites better.
One of my favorite 404 pages happens to be an automatically generated one.
Houston Fertility Center
Houston Fertility Center uses as CMS that create a spider friendly 404 that allows visitors to find what they were looking for. It’s not the prettiest page around for for usability it Search Engine friendly it’s pretty awesome.
Github’s 404 page has pros and cons in regards to SEO. On one hand it’s doesn’t help visitors one bit with finding their content so if you’re looking for a page your journey kinds almost as soon as it starts. One good thing about Github’s error page it that it’s very creative and funny so even though you didn’t find what you’re looking for you at least got a laugh outta it. Creative, unique pieces of content can be link bait attracting a lot of visits, links, shares and other things bringing your site from obscurity to virility in just a few days, depending on who finds it.
Opus does something similar with their 404 page. It’s completely unhelpful to finding what you need but entertaining enough to make you forget your worries. With large websites providing a stemap in your 404 can be daunting and impractical so it makes sense to offer something humorous to wayward searchers.