Do you ever find yourself using extra words in a blog just to get to your word count? Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the content we create and what exactly makes it valuable. It seems like as marketers, we throw these arbitrary numbers out there – all blogs should be at least 500 words or Google likes content that’s closer to 1,000 words or briefer blogs are better because people have shorter attention spans these days. But what about… write until you’ve made your point and then stop? Stop creating content just to create content.
Stop Creating Content Just to Create Content – Four Things to Consider
Who is your audience?
In order to stop creating content just to create content, first, consider who your audience is. Once you have a topic selected, how much background do you need to include for your readers? Do they prefer technical writing or a fluffier piece? What questions do they have, and how do you plan to answer them in your content? With your audience in mind, you can better decide what information to include, what to cut and how to construct your copy.
What is the purpose of your content?
Next, you need to ask yourself what is the purpose of your content? Although you know the basics – to write SEO content for your website that Google can crawl but that also engages readers – what else are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to get your audience to perform an action once they read your content? If you put yourself in their shoes, what could you say to compel them to do what you want them to?
Did you get your point across?
Next, ask yourself – did you get your point across? Often times I find myself at the end of writing a blog thinking – I believe I said everything I can say about this subject. However, sometimes I’m still not on my word count. So, I go back through the blog and I add extra words or fluff sentences to make my content longer so that I don’t get in trouble. I’m guessing I’m not the only one…
This is a terrible idea.
I know I need to stop creating content just to create content, and so do you. If you can justify a shorter or longer piece than what you are required, be confident in that decision and just go with it. Even if your manager disagrees, chances are, your readers will thank you.
Is your copy compelling?
The last question I think is critical – is your copy compelling? Or another way to word this… is your content boring? If you were bored writing it, chances are people won’t want to read it. Not only do you have to get your point across and include a call-to-action, you also need to be creative. Don’t be the person who has a catchy headline and then puts people to sleep with a boring, long blog that basically says, “I’m writing this so that I get paid.” How can you engage your reader as much as possible every step of the way?
In a previous life, before I entered the colorful world of marketing, I was a journalist. Perhaps it is that old-school journalism training that has me brainwashed into thinking you should get your point across as fast and creatively as possible. Or maybe that’s just fake news. Either way, I hope I gave all you fellow marketers out there something to think about next time you sit down to write. With that said, I’m going to stop creating content just to create content now. You’re welcome.
Whether you’re a freelance content writer or find yourself as part of a marketing team, guest blogging is one of the most common link building tactics out there. What’s link building you ask? You may want to check out this blog first… Otherwise, we’ll talk about how basic guest blogging strategies can help you generate higher traffic and better SERP rankings for your websites! It’s not always a fool-proof method, but if you know where to start you can only make “helpful” mistakes along the way:
As many startups or digital marketers will tell you, good content along with strategically placed links are essential to building domain authority. Along with organic links, directory links, and specifically requested backlinks, guest blogging is one of the strongest strategies for several reasons. First off, most websites (especially those with smaller marketing teams) are always looking for fresh content to keep their audience and Google happy. When new blogs on hot topics get crawled, there’s a greater chance they’ll be seen in SERPs. That ultimately means more traffic or sales.
Since backlinks are (essentially) free, many influential blogs would rather link to your website than compensate you monetarily. Honestly, for many up-and-coming bloggers and companies, hefty backlinks from high ranking websites are worth their weight in gold! So what basic guest blogging strategies should you know?
5 Essential, Yet Basic Guest Blogging Strategies:
1. Ensure Your Own Blog is Loveable
Before you can pitch your content writing skills, you’ve got to have plenty of examples to pull from. Whether it’s a company or personal blog, make sure your posts are worthy of the types of sites you’ll be targeting with your outreach. Whether you’re using common blogging sites like Medium or WordPress, it’s important to design your posts to be both visually appealing and SEO friendly.
One great tool we use to guide our efforts is the Yoast SEO plugin. This free plugin can tell you all sorts of useful information when writing a blog to ensure it’s up to modern SEO standards. Adding elements like heading tags, alt-text in your images, and previewing your meta description are essential to helping your own blog be successful. Then, once you’ve got great examples of your own SEO-friendly work you’ll be able to pitch similar content!
2. Prepare Content to Pitch
Sure, having great ideas for content isn’t a bad thing but most of your guest blogging targets will want something concrete. Before writing anything, be sure to analyze the style and voice of the top outlets in your field to understand how your piece should sound and feel. What makes their content appealing? How do they engage readers? At the same time, get a handle on what keywords they are ranking for and how you can incorporate these metrics into your pitch as well.
Tools like Moz’s Keyword Explorer or Answer the Public are great starting places for understanding the types of terms and phrases to include in your guest blog. In addition to writing great, engaging content including information about how well a piece can rank for certain keywords is an incredible selling point. To really make each pitch worth your time, we recommend having at least three pre-written guest blogs on hand.
3. Find Your Guest Blogging Targets
Now that your own blog is looking great and your guest pieces are available, it’s time to choose your targets. An easy way to start is with specific Google searches:
Search for ‘inurl:write-for-us + keyword/industry’
This second example uses what’s called a search operator and these provide lots of advantages depending on what you need to turn up in a SERP.
In addition to making sure a website will accept your content, you must also be acutely aware of things like Page Authority and Domain Authority. One way to judge this is with the Moz’s Open Site Explorer. Pages with high PA and DA are generally better sites to target, as long as they have low span scores. There’s a bit more to this, but this is plenty for those just starting out. For now, just focus on finding blogs or sites with a DA around 20-40 with an estimated traffic of 10K+ per month. As long as you find quality websites to accept your posts, these basic guest blogging strategies will hold true!
4. Pitch Your Blog or Article
Now that you’ve done all of the proper legwork, it’s time to make that leap! Contacting editors can be a bit overwhelming, but it shouldn’t be impossible if you include all of the necessary information in your email:
Introduce Yourself and Company
Try noting something positive about their blog or company
Suggest several blog topics or potential posts
Include clean, clickable links to your previous work
Include an email signature with your contact info, a photo, and full name
After your initial email, it’s usually standard to check back in a few days. A simple, friendly reminder is usually enough to get the ball rolling. Just be sure to avoid annoying people — you can always try again in the future until you land something great!
5. It’s Time for Publishing!
After someone has agreed to post your blog it’s important to meet all of their specifications. They may request author photos of a certain size, a bio, and that you share the piece a certain way on social media. Nonetheless, this is all part of closing the deal so be sure to follow their considerations closely.
Another huge aspect is ensuring that the links you provided are ‘follow links’ rather than ‘no follow links.’ These links are what will pass authority to your own site in order to help you build your own ranking. Of course, this is something to agree upon beforehand, but it doesn’t hurt to follow up after a blog is live.
Overall, following these basic guest blogging strategies allow you to make great connections and strengthen your blog, content writing skills, and SEO acumen! Have any suggestions for aspiring content writers? Let us know in the comments below!
Oh yeah, it’s Friday! But wait- you still have one last blog post to write before the weekend! You’ve written several already this week and it seems like you’ve exhausted all possible topics. How do you generate great blog post ideas so that you can still produce stellar content? This isn’t just about writer’s block, you don’t even have an idea that’s blocked yet. In case you were wondering, this blog is definitely unrelated to my feeling when I saw I had one more post due today… Anyway, you know you need to get writing, but where do you start?
Blog Post Ideas 101
Define Your Goals
There are plenty of goals that you could have for any given blog post. Some of them may even overlap with one another. While some of the more tangible goals for a blog post may include encouraging conversions, others can just be about attracting a certain audience. Between these two extremes, you could be writing your blog for any number of reasons. Whether that is to inspire trust from your readers or compile the perspectives of some influencers, there is no bad game plan for writing a blog. That is unless you have no game plan. Coming up with great blog post ideas will be infinitely easier if you know why you are writing. Once you do, you’re ready to think about what you’re writing.
Ask Yourself Questions
Of course, the question you’ve already been struggling with is, “what do I write about?” This certainly qualifies as a question, but not the type of question that can help you generate an original blog post idea. As you consider different topics, ask yourself more specific questions. For example, “what do I want to learn more about?” This can be especially helpful when writing about a specific industry. Any industry you could be writing for certainly has its fair share of intricacies that can be difficult to keep up with. However, if you are able to identify a specific trend or theme within that industry that interests you, it will be much easier to find that perfect blog post idea. Another great question to ask yourself is, “what do people ask me?” If your site offers a frequently asked questions page, this can be a great place to start. After all, this can tell you exactly what your audience wants to know!
Now that you have a general direction (hopefully!) it’s time to start reading! Keep in mind, if you still don’t have an idea for a theme, it may be a good idea to ask yourself a few more questions. While reading can certainly help inspire ideas regardless of whether or not you already have a theme, having some direction can help you identify sources to check out. Assuming you have that direction, search several unique queries that relate to your theme. For example, if you want to write an article about SEO, search queries like “SEO trends” or “guide to SEO.” Identify reputable sources and read on! You’ll likely learn a lot and very well may find a specific topic that you want to write about.
Hopefully, this article has helped give you some insight for creating blog post ideas. Of course, these recommendations are not all-inclusive. There are plenty of other ways to think of topics. However, the tips given above are a great place to start and are usually how I come up with my blog post ideas. At this point, the hard part should be over! Now it’s time to start writing. Need some help with this next step? Look no further than these awesome blog writing tips! As always, write on! After all, content marketing is alive and well.
Let’s face it. When you are pumping out content all day every day for websites and blogs, sometimes you get off track. Sure, you’re still creating decent content, but it could probably be better. For example, did you slack a bit when researching your keyword? Or did you go back and add a little extra fluff just to hit your word count, instead of adding another paragraph based on research? As a blog writer, it is important to pause sometimes and take a little refresher course on the basics of blog writing tips to get yourself back on track. This week at Track5Media, the marketing team did just that. We took about an hour to sit down together and review basic blog writing tips and best practices for selecting SEO keywords. Although it’s stuff we’ve heard a thousand times, it always helps to hear it again and again. Here are the three biggest take-a-ways from our marketing meeting this week!
Blog Writing Tips 101
Clickbait vs. Conversion
Of course, you want to write creative content that people are going to click on. Yet, the content can’t only be catchy and interesting – it also has to compel people to click further into your site and hopefully convince them to buy into your brand. For example, consumers might see an article with a title that convinces them to click on it, but if the content isn’t as interesting as the title suggests, the reader is lost. They will likely click right back out of the website, instead of remaining there and reading further. The trick is finding topics that are fascinating, targeted to your specific audience and have enough substance to convert clicks into sales. This is one of the most important blog writing tips, but often the hardest goal to reach every single time.
Keyword research. This is the one tip that resonated with me the most. When you are picking a keyword for your blog, it is not enough to find a keyword that’s being searched often. You also have to think about who is searching for it and why? What is their end goal when they type that keyword into the search engine? Will your blog post answer their question, and most importantly, is the keyword targeting your specific audience? Sometimes we come up with great topic ideas. We find a keyword related to our topic without considering that it might be attracting many people to our page who will not convert to customers.
The audience. This brings us to number three of the blog writing tips we reviewed this week. The audience is really the first thing you should consider before you decide on a topic; before you select a keyword. Who are you writing for, and what are you trying to tell them? At Track5Media, we have six brands to market for. Our audience varies between all of our brands, from healthcare professionals like registered nurses and physicians to truck drivers. Our newest brand, Senior Caring, is a brand targeting elderly people and their caretakers. The goal with all of our brands is to connect the audience to a service, such as connecting them to an independent living community or a nursing home to care for them. Thinking about each individual audience, the questions they might have, and the topics they care about is key to creating great content.
So there you sit — staring at a glowing screen, a blank word document stealing the oxygen out of the room. You have just a thousand more words before the end of the day and it’s already an hour to closing time. Maybe the week got away from you or the ideas just haven’t leapt to the page as usual. Whatever the case, writer’s block is something that can be as enigmatic as it is obvious to cure!
Smashing Your Writer’s Block
Whether you’re in marketing, journalism, or you just write for fun, we all have those moments (or maybe many excruciating series of moments) when capturing the right words and ideas is as easy as holding smoke in your hands. It doesn’t help when there are a series of other assignments ready to present a similar struggle — writer’s block is never fun…Or maybe it is?
“Creativity is a soft, winged cicada.”
Over time, you’ll have hopefully divined a way to break out of your itchy uninspiring exoskeleton and expose your fleshy creativity to the rush of writing — if that’s a viable metaphor. Nonetheless, that leads me to my first technique for eliminating writer’s block:
1. Indulge in Nonsense
Sure, you’re not going to want this to transfer into the ultimate execution of your work, but sometimes it helps to simply write the first thing that comes to mind. It may not (and will likely not) be related to the serious topic you’ve been tasked to cover, although it may unfurl your subconscious mind enough to expose your real ideas.
Words are hard, but nonsense is simple!
Whether it’s just a matter of clearing away unwanted mental baggage or generating a false sense of accomplishment, writing nonsense is something that can be a quick solution to shifting your thoughts into the right gear. While I can see this working for the more nebulously minded of us, maybe you’re the type of person who just goes deeper into the self-doubt writer’s block produces.
2. Get Up and Move
Sometimes it just takes a bit of physical movement to redistribute the blood and really get those mental facilities up and running. If you have the ability, go for a brief walk, run, or do some light cardiovascular exercise to convince your body that things are different now and the masterpiece can ensue.
Believe me, staring forcefully into your computer monitor until words appear is rarely the best way to produce something you’ll be happy with. You may want to just get a little sunlight and breathe deeply into the void of existence before sitting down to write your problematic piece of work. Hopefully, that’s enough to let you reach the fruit of your creativity-orchard, but if not you may need a more directed approach.
3. Find an Uncanny Influence
If you’re inspired by music, find something you’ve never heard before. Into the visual arts? Go glimpse interesting imagery just until the point where your mind’s eye is ready to see those words hitting the page! The point is this — find something to help you break out of your regular thought-patterns and stir up new ideas. Writer’s block may feel like you’re turning to stone at the bottom of the ocean, but if it never left anyone then humanity would have exhausted just about every great thought available. So far so good!
Waste time with the Magic iPod at your own risk…
While it’s important not to waste time being a whimsical dandy just floating about, finding things you wouldn’t normally draw inspiration from can inform what you’d like to create, in addition to what you’ll want to avoid. The answers are out there, regardless of how elusive they are at this very moment. More or less, just take to mediums which aren’t your usual cup of tea and swallow them whole or smash the mug entirely — whichever is a more applicable metaphor.
4. What Would You Want to Read?
So up until this point, my advice has probably been pretty subjective — perhaps you’re looking for that actionable, completely obvious way to destroy your writer’s block the “just say it already” takeaway point. And really that’s just it! Write exactly what it is you’d like to read yourself. People can take entirely boring subjects, and through some alchemical wizardry, produce a relatively engaging piece because they’re genuinely interested in the content.
You are your most critical audience member, and simultaneously the performer!
This can also translate to the fact that sometimes you’ll need a jump start on figuring out the exact content you’ll be writing. For this, I’d essentially recommend finding similar pieces and writing your own take on the matter, taking care not to lift anything directly. Plagiarism is still alive and well in our digital age! Think about who your ideal reader is and write for them — the worst case scenario is that you write too narrowly, but that’s fine if it gets the job done!
5. Time is Your Friend!
Sometimes you can use your deadlines to leverage your creative mind! I know what you’re thinking “that’s what has gotten us here in the first place,” but maybe setting small incremental goals is just what you need to break down a larger task at hand. Give yourself an hour to get the topic or focus of your piece, another to develop the outline, and before you know it you’re adding that final punctuation mark and punching out for the day! (Side note: Time is an illusion of consciousness designed to present order in a relatively chaotic universe.)
The most difficult part for many with writer’s block is taking that first step into the unknown — that swirling semantic tornado of uncertainty devouring the trailer parks and open prairies of your mind until inspiration is pulled from the rubble! Hopefully, this blog has been your mental vacation needed to erupt with that next great piece of content! If not, you’re on your own — but I’m glad I temporarily convinced you otherwise!
Last week it was reported by media outlet The Ringer that the social media app Snapchat was actually taking content for their “filters” from other artists without permission.
The article cites Argenis Pinal, who, like most of us, went to add an interesting filter to his selfie. You know, the dog-ears and tongue that have every college-aged girl invading social media with dogged selfies. The filter in question was that of the DC Comic villain The Joker. Pinal went to instagram to show an eerily similar filter that snapchat had unveiled.
The article goes on to highlight a few other times that Snapchat’s filters have looked eerily similar to other artists’ work.
So what can we take away from Snapchat’s possible mistake? Will there be consequences? Does this happen often? And, how we prevent our own company or social media campaign from plagiarism?
A Longer History of Plagiarism
In response to last week’s article the company said it has “already implemented additional layers of review for all designs,” and that it is “taking appropriate action internally with those involved.”
Okay, no harm no foul, Snapchat fessed up and everything is back to normal, right?
Well, not exactly. Angela Perez, a freelancer for Snapchat’s design team eventually told The Ringer that she was “encouraged to trace sample images from famous YouTubers.” Yes, you read that correctly, they were encouraged to use content created by someone else, without asking for permission.
While Perez was not explicitly told to steal content from other artists, it can be interpreted that that’s what Snapchat’s design team has been doing.
One of the biggest social media apps has now been accused (pretty much caught) using content from other artists without their permission. We can expect them to be fined, persecuted, and maybe have their ghost emoji locked up behind bars, right?
Well, most likely not. When it comes down to it, it’s just too hard to prove the theft of an artistic concept, especially when that concept is shared via social media.
The Ghostface Chillah will continue to own the selfie game, and we can expect filters to churn out on a regular basis. There are, however, a few things we can learn from Snapchat’s sticky situation.
Original Content Creates Credibility
To be successful in marketing via social media, it’s important to have credibility. Creating original content that will drive viewers toward your site will grow a loyal following. Anyone can post on social media or host a website and use previously created content. Carving out a niche with original ideas will build a credibility that can turn your campaign into a legitimate entity.
Communicate and Be Observant
Snapchat would later say in a statement “The creative process sometimes involves inspiration, but it should never result in copying. We have already implemented additional layers of review for all designs. Copying other artists isn’t something we will tolerate, and we’re taking appropriate action internally with those involved.”
We won’t know for sure whether or not Snapchat’s higher-ups were aware of what was going on, but it’s important to communicate with everyone in your company. You’re responsible for overseeing every aspect of the company, so communication is key. If you’re not the boss, make sure to communicate with your superiors if you’re unsure about an ethical decision.
This is the first installment of a series we’d like to call Track5Takes. Throughout the week, we come across a variety of interesting subjects dealing with marketing, social media, and technology among other things. Our staff often discusses these articles or videos, with each of us forming our own opinions. We’d like to not only inform you about what’s going on in the web-marketing and technological world, but we want to show a little personality by giving our own “takes” on various issues.
The first issue we decided to look at was “Will we work less or more in the future?” After recently stumbling across a Forbes article by David Carr that discussed the future and just how it would change our working habits. Our staff had a variety of unique opinions on the matter.
Connor Smith, Marketing Specialist – When you think about it, having computers take over our menial tasks is essentially the reason we started building them in the first place. I mean who really wanted to sit at a typewriter for hours, just to hit a few wrong keys and have to throw out the entire copy? I, for one, welcome the AI-utopia promised to us by futurists like Ray Kurzweil – unless such a technology interprets mankind as the greatest danger unto itself, thereby “protecting” us with total extinction. Bummer.
So maybe we’ll be working more, but I think it’s likely we’ll be more focused on tasks that only humans can perform (at least for the time being).
But whether or not we’ll be happier about this is the real question – and just who is this “we” expected to benefit from such technological advancements?
Who knows how this blend of technology and humanism could turn out (Hopefully not like Terminator or I, Robot)
I can’t help but wonder how technology will affect blue-collar jobs and the traditional “backbone” of the American economy. Maybe we’ll just have more robotic construction vehicles or completely automated factories (if they’re not already outsourced), but what then? It seems that this whole “work more passionately” concept is geared toward those lofty jobs where a work/life balance is seen more as a condition for employment rather than a luxury.
If anything, I might be concerned that more automation in the office would lead to higher demands for expert workers at a lesser volume. Why pay someone to file expense reports when you can do so at the press of the button? At the same time, I can see how a company might reach greater heights simply because they aren’t focusing on distracting, passion-leeching tasks.
Honestly though, it’s hard to believe that certain industries will ever opt for a robotic creative director or CEO – these streamlining technologies may just allow people to focus more on the meat of a respective business.
That being said, I don’t think it’s too far out to conceive of electing one AI platform over another in 2052’s presidential election.
Troy Diffenderfer, Marketing Intern – I thought long and hard about this one, and I decided to look at it from two different angles. First, I looked at it from the hardworking, eager beaver, looking to maximize efficiency to complete as many tasks as possible. Then, I looked at myself. Sadly, throughout my school years I was adept in the fine art of procrastination and cutting corners. Some throw around those vulgar words like “lazy” and “minimalist,” while I counter with words like “efficient” and “ingenious.” To each there own I suppose.
I believe initially we will in fact, work not only less, but more efficiently as well. With technology rapidly growing, more and more menial tasks will be taken care for us. Self-driving cars will populate highways, drones will deliver food and mail at the touch of a button, and many blue-collar jobs will cease to exist.
I also think many companies, especially tech and marketing companies, will opt to have many employees work from home. With increasing communication technology, estimates suggest that almost half of all professionals have a job that they can do from home. Not only will this cut down on expenses for the company, employee morale will rise as they spend more time with their family.
I think it’s the Internet, and networking, not robotics, that will allow us to work less and more efficient. Whether or not we use that spare time to become productive, I’m not sure.
“We will be working more for ourselves – working on things we are passionate about,” said Kate Kendall, CEO and founder of CloudPeeps.
I guess it really depends on the passion. Hopefully, these passion projects will produce even better technology that will help us work smarter, not harder.
Ekom Enyong, Marketing Specialist – The future of work depends on the definition of work. I predict that the way we work will drastically change; meaning the definition of work will have to change too. Work will not continue to be this nine to five model. The two largest factors that will determine the future of work will be technological advances and the work-life balance.
Developers will continue to create software that makes getting through the workday easier. I think that companies continuing to use dated technologies and inefficient processes will see their top talent leave for competitors or other industries.
New business organization models
In the marketing, communications, and tech industries, in the future, I would expect to see businesses start to follow one of two organization models: e-lancing and live-in work. There are companies that currently operate like each of these models, but I think we will see many more companies follow suit.
Technological innovations will spur growth of the e-lance model. New software will lead to more efficient workdays and the elimination of administrative task and some entire positions. I imagine receptionists being replaced by kiosks (see iPad Receptionist app). The most skilled workers will still be able to find work.
E-lance companies will operate with a small “core” group of salaried employees, but for the most part, will hire contract workers that will live elsewhere and will rarely, if ever, see company headquarters.
Live-in Work Model
For employers and employees who are unable to separate their work from home life, a live-in work model will emerge. These companies will provide many onsite amenities for their employers.
These may include cafeterias, child day care, health clinics, maybe a grocery store and of course recreational activities. Employers that choose this method will fully value the benefits that come with creating a sense of community with your employees.
In terms of hours or days, I don’t think that we will work more, but the technological innovations will help employees to get more done in a day and work more efficiently. Perhaps we will work more, but it will feel like less.
I think people will be happier working because they will have the choice of how to work as an individual contributor, or as part of a collaborative team.
Most marketers know the benefits of successful search engine optimization strategies, but every now and then, you’ll come across an individual that that claims “SEO is dead”. While not dead, staying up to date with the newest ways to build website rankings can be a difficult feat. Nonetheless, those that claim that this process is dead are probably referring to the old, spammy, and essentially aggressive SEO strategies.
These strategies are called Black Hat SEO. Back in the day (like five or so years ago), what we now refer to as black hat SEO was the quickest and easiest way to boost your website rankings. In 2012, Google threw everyone through a loop and starting penalizing a lot of websites that were using these strategies. Shockingly enough, many people are still using some of them today.
Here’s a list of SEO strategies that are probably killing your website rankings:
Spam Comments: Do you ever drop your link into the comment section of blogs, news articles or anything else with an area for comments?
Key Word Overload: We understand that you’re trying to rank for a specific word or words, but throwing that word into every sentence multiple times looks and sounds incredibly awkward.
Bulk Directory Linking: Submitting your site to hundreds of irrelevant link directories, and depending on the directory, your website rankings can be negatively affected.
Exact Match Domain: While this doesn’t negatively impact your website’s rankings, it’s really no longer deemed important that your key word is located in your site’s domain name.
Invisible Key Words: Let’s say your website background is white, so you throw your key word up there hundreds of times in white, so that Google sees it, but those visiting your website don’t. Google was not happy about this one, and penalized most sites that were using this practice.
Link Networks: This is a domain or multiple domains and their only purpose is to provide a different domain with backlinks. These are typically owned by the same individual or company.
Buying Links: Some sites will offer to provide links for an amount of money, but this is pretty risky business. More often than not, these are sketchy sites that will actually hurt your SEO.
Use of Irrelevant Key Words: Don’t publish irrelevant content on your site. If you’re trying to rank for words like “hotels”, don’t be post things that don’t have anything to do with hotels or the hospitality industry.
Cloaking: This is presenting the website user with completely different content that is shown to the search engines that are crawling the site, and is considered a “deceptive SEO strategy”.
So when, Google caught on, most of us became aware that these strategies could be the death of our website rankings. But, if you’ve been in a cave the past four years, and are still posting invisible key words all over your site, please STOP – your website rankings will thank you.
This is part 2 of a 3-part blog series regarding the ad tech industry and the fight that has ensued between two sides: consumer, and publisher/advertiser. If you haven’t already, you shouldread part 1first. We are all affected by the amount of ads we see on the web, so whether you are a consumer, publisher, or advertiser, please feel free to join the discussion, share your online ad experiences, and offer insight as to how you think the ad blocking war can end with a win for both sides.
The first part of this blog series set the scene of the digital ad war, looked at the rise of online ad blocking, and the financial implications for publishers. This second installment focuses solely on the arguments of online content consumers.
Consumers are fed up It’s true, and the nearly 200 million people using ad block plugins on their desktop browsers are evidence of that. Shouldn’t consumers have the right to choose what their web experience is like? Ben Williams, communications and operation manager at Eyeo, the company responsible for Adblock Plus, seems to think so. At the Ad Age Digital conference earlier this month, he made an excellent point on consumer choice stating, “The Internet is less like a newspaper, magazine or TV. It’s more like a car. You can customize your car any way you want to.”
Consumers are tired of annoying, intrusive ads. In fact, to find out why people are employing ad blockers, Teads.tv did a global study sampling 9 global markets with over 9,000 respondents who use, or are aware of ad blockers. They found that intrusive ad formats encourage ad blocker usage with 69 percent of respondents motivated to use ad blockers due to annoying or interruptive ads. Not only do consumers not like ads interrupting their content, 66 percent of respondents use ad blockers because of the negative impact on site performance, and 60 percent use them because they feel that ads are too excessive.
Malvertisements In a survey taken in Q1 2016, globalwebindex.net asked over 22,400 ad blocker users aged 16-64 to tell them the main reason for blocking ads. A stunning 50 percent of blockers said that ads were annoying or irrelevant. Around 30 percent of people were concerned about online ads compromising their online privacy—and they should be. According to a malvertising report by Cyphort Labs, during 2014, there was a staggering 325 percent rise in malvertising.
Like other content providers, Forbes decided they were going to block the ad-blockers from viewing any content on their site. The site forced users to disable the ad blocker in order to view the content, however when they did, users were served malware. What you are reading is correct: Forbes forced readers to disable their ad blocking software to access content, and then when the users complied, they were immediately served a malvertisement in the form of a new tab that seemed to be a Java update. Users who clicked ‘OK’ to the “recommended update” found themselves and their computer systems vulnerable to malware.
While the malware itself wasn’t necessarily the fault of Forbes, it greatly exemplified the reason that users are unwilling to turn off their ad blockers and willing to go find content from somewhere else. If publishers cannot be trusted to fully vet their third-party advertisers, then why should users disable ad blockers for them?
This isn’t the only time we have seen large companies that publish content subject to attack, and the computers of their millions of users, endangered. In 2015, we saw the following large companies affected by malvertisements:
Yahoo network (6.9 billion monthly visitors)
Google’s AdSense platform (responsible for about a quarter of Google’s revenue)
DoubleClick (another ad network owned by Google)
Far reaching UK tabloid, The Daily Mail (156 million monthly users)
The Huffington Post (79 million monthly visitors)
And these certainly aren’t the only sites that were subject to attacks, but with networks like Yahoo and data giant Google affected, how are users to trust any other content publishing source?
In 2015, University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab found that about half of the world’s top 100 news sites do not deliver their ads using encrypted HTTPS (secure) connections, which help prevent these attacks from happening. Nearly half. Since many publishers are not willing to encrypt and authenticate all traffic between the site’s server and visitors, including the third-party ads, they either choose to eliminate ads or transmit all traffic unencrypted.
Unfortunately, we know what a significant number of ad publishers are choosing to do.
Conserving data usage More than just their security, users are protecting their mobile data plans. Users with mobile ad blockers see significant data savings on their mobile plans. What some users may not realize (until they find they have gone over on their monthly mobile data allotment), is that the process of loading advertisements uses a significant amount of data. When ad blockers stop ads from showing, they also eliminate using the extra data to load them.
These are the reasons that publishers are now offering different options to share content that give the user a better “bloat-free” experience while still generating revenue. Google AMP, Apple News, and Facebook Instant Articles are examples of these types of content publishing platforms.
More than just numbers The thing that publishers need to think about when they look at numbers like this is that these are loyal consumers that want to view your content. Even after employing ad blockers, they are still returning to your sites, though eventually, this might not be the case with 71 percent of mobile ad blocker users less likely to return to a site with intrusive ads. That number is slightly higher for desktop users at 75 percent.
The industry is talking about data and analytics constantly, but what they need to remember that on the other side of those KPIs, impressions, and conversions, there are actual people, and those people want to have a positive user experience while they’re on the web.
What are your thoughts on the use of ad blockers? If you are an ad block user, what are your personal reasons for using them? What would it take for you to reconsider using your ad blocker? Check back soon so you don’t miss part 3, which will explore how the digital ad industry has gotten to this juncture, and what steps it will take to fix it.
This is the first of a 3-part blog series regarding the ad tech industry and the fight that has ensued between two sides: consumer, and publisher/advertiser. We are all affected by the amount of ads we see on the web, so whether you are a consumer, publisher, or advertiser, please feel free to join the discussion, share your online ad experiences, and offer insight as to how you think the ad blocking war can end with a win for both sides.
The face you make when you can’t skip the ad
We’ve all been there: you’re trying to view web content, usually an article, and after what seems to be a lifetime, the page finally loads. You think you’ve lucked out because there’s not a pop up in sight. You smile slyly, thinking you have defeated the ads until you attempt to scroll past the catchy headline that caught your attention in the first place and BOOM. It’s an ads-travaganza! What looked to be your average static banner ad at the top of the page has morphed into a full-page, irrelevant, floating video ad that you must watch to gain access to your content.
After that ad finally goes away, you continue to scroll to the beginning of your content, only to be caught by a mouse-over land mine ad. You have no idea how you got into this ad-minesweeper encounter, but you are now in an ad battle, fervently trying to click that ‘x’ button as quickly as possible so you can get back to your content.
You finally get to read your content, and besides an auto-play video, one of those old school, flashing, “reduce your mortgage” pop-ups, and a couple of expanding ads smack dab in the middle of the content you’re reading, you come out of your digital content battle, unscathed for the most part. But you’re tired and you don’t know if you can fight anymore. So you decide to implement something so sinister, publishers’ and advertisers’ heads will roll. It’s your secret weapon: an ad blocker.
With the rise of annoying, intrusive, malware-filled ads laying the groundwork for ad blocking software, consumers and publishers alike, find themselves victims of a digital ad war. Wake up people! This is NOT a drill! We are in an ad tech arms race, and it seems more and more, that if nothing is done to correct the problem, there will be no victors of this war, but rather the decline of an entire industry as we know it.
With desktop ad block usage more than doubling (124 percent increase) between January 2013 and January 2014, and increasing another 49.5 percent increase between January 2014 and January 2015, this leaves the question of why?
Why has our digital landscape become a war zone where a growing number of internet users are employing ad-blocking software and publishers are now blocking users using blockers? Not only is that a mouthful, but it almost seems silly considering the actual problem is not really advertisements themselves, but rather the users’ experience on a publisher’s site trying to access content.
Publisher woes But to publishers, there’s nothing silly about it. Especially because in 2014, internet advertising revenues experienced a 16% increase over 2013 to reach a record-breaking $49.5 billion. Also, for publishers, ad blocking is an expensive business. The report from PageFair and Adobe estimated that in 2014, ad blockage resulted in $5.8 billion in blocked revenue in the United State alone. Globally, that figure is a staggering $21 billion, or 14 percent of global ad spend.
This lost ad revenue is especially daunting for publishers that can’t afford to produce free content without ad revenue, and this jeopardizes the relationship between these publishers and their readers. In this ad blocking war, publishers feel they are fighting for not only their careers but for the future of the entire industry.
Rob Haralson, executive director of TrustInAds.org and partner at Franklin Square group, recently wrote a post for The Huffington Post about ad blocking programs in which he says that “ad blocking programs discriminate against good content publishers and legitimate advertisers.”
And he isn’t wrong.
While that is certainly true, the fact remains that ads should never overpower the user experience on the site. Yes, consumers need to understand that advertisers pay for their “free” access to this content, but does that mean consumers should have to come to terms with a frustrating experience every time they want to simply read an article?
What are your thoughts? Should consumers just get used to a life online filled with annoying advertisements? Does the act of publishers “blocking the blockers” fix the problem? What are the reasons users are using ad blockers? Check back soon so you don’t miss part 2, which will focus on why consumers are over intrusive ads!