Who Wears a Black Hat on the Wild Wild Web?

Posted in Tips on 22 July 2014



If you have been working the Web for any length of time, then you know the search engines frown on what is known as “black hat” techniques.   This technology has been used to exploit search engine algorithms since the first search engines appeared. The reason black hatting used to be so popular was because it could move your website onto Page 1 in a hurry.

Before the turn of the century, black hatting was practically a requirement since the practice was so prevalent.  However, during the past few years, search engine operators have designed their spiders to search and destroy anyone employing black hat techniques.  In fact, the past half dozen updates on Google have been designed specifically to crack down on sites that are still employing these techniques.

While tricking the search engines into giving your site a higher ranking than it deserves may work in the short-term, once the other shoe drops and the search engine spiders catch on, there most definitely will be repercussions.  Many times it results in a site being either downgraded or even delisted.

The problem today is that most people still don’t know where the line in the sand has been drawn when it comes to black hatting. And the line keeps getting moved.  So to make it easy to understand what is considered black hat SEO, I have compiled the list below. (By “hidden text” I am referring to a technique of writing the text in the same color as the background so that no one with the exception of the spiders is able to read them.)

Keyword Stuffing relies on inserting repeated keywords within the text, hidden text, title or meta tags in order to generate increased relevance for a pate.

Spamdexing, like keyword stuffing, involves repeating unrelated phrases, to manipulate the relevance or prominence of resources indexed in a manner inconsistent with the purpose of the indexing system.

Doorway Pages are Web pages created specifically for spamdexing.  Also known as bridge pages or jump pages, their purpose is to redirect those who click on the page onto another website.  If you have ever clicked on a search engine listing only to be redirected to a porn site or a spam site then you have hit a doorway page.  Doorway pages are relatively easy to identify becausee they are designed for search engines and not for people.  They redirect the reader so quickly that it is virtually impossible for a human being to even see the original page.

Link Farming doesn’t involve the swine industry, although the search engines tend to treat perpetrators of the technique as swine.  What link farming does is create numerous backlinks for a site by generating an increasing number of fake sites that link to your own.  Back in the late ’90s and into the first few years of this century, paid link farms proliferated like weeds online.  Since links indicate popularity to the search engines, these businesses did quite well until the search engine spiders became savvy enough to determine real links from the farmed kind.  Today relying on fake links is one of the quickest ways to get delisted.

Cloaking does not have anything to do with the series Star Trek, although it works for websites much the same way it worked for Klingon Birds of Prey.  Cloaking involves hiding the presence of Flash animations, by displaying a text-only version for the express purpose of getting the search engine spiders to ignore the fact that you are employing Flash (which Google hates).

Duplicate Content on Multiple Sites is an SEO no-no.  Many people try to game the system by creating clones of sites with different URLs to generate top ranking.  The problem is that once the search engines catch onto to this tactic (and they always do), all of these sites will wind up delisted. Better to create unique content for each landing page (which is not a carbon copy) to go after the SEO high ground.  They can have a similar skin, provided that the guts are different.  (This is called a landing page and is a legitimate way to work the Web.

Automated Content Generation is becoming ever more popular with website owners.  Everything from page generation to autoblogging has become all the rage.  The problem is the fact that automated systems are still not sophisticated enough to take the place of a human being and the spiders can tell the difference.  In fact they regard the use of automated content generation for the most part as cheating.  So if you ever hope to win the war for keyword dominance, this is not a technique I would recommend.

What happens if you get caught black hatting?

If you or anyone in your employ is caught using black hat SEO, the penalties can be severe.  Not only will your websites start disappearing from Page 1, depending upon the infraction, you may never be able to get back on top of the heap again.  Google especially has a long memory.

Case in point: We were hired by a client with two physical locations and corresponding websites to help them conquer the search engines.  What the client failed to mention was the fact that they had previously hired an SEO pro to promote one of their two sites.  This pro had then used black hat technology to get them onto Page 1 of Google.  This worked for about a month, then they disappeared from the world’s most popular search engine altogether.

They hired us a few months later and failed to disclose this fact.  After about four months we had worked their sister site onto Page 1 of Google, Bing and Yahoo.  However their site worked only on Bing and Yahoo.  After questioning the partners they admitted that they had indeed hired someone whom they knew used black hat SEO on this site.  So poisoned had the well become that not only did it affect their main website, but it also put the brakes on any other landing page attached to their physical address.  This is due to the fact that Google Maps and Google Local linked any landing page connected to their address with their previous black hat infraction.  As a result, the only ways for them to generate page one results were either to move their office or resort to pay-per-click ads on Google.

The bottom line is that you don’t need to cheat them to beat them.

The reason that I point out the previous case is to remind all of you that if you really want to start working the Web to win, then you have to stop looking for the easy out.  Instead of trying to cheat your way to the top, simply make a long-term commitment to produce quality content on a regular basis.  Sure it can take a few months to see the results, but it is worth it.  As an added inducement when the search engines alter their algorithms you won’t be whipped around and forced to start from scratch.  Plus you will never run the risk of being either delisted or blackballed by the search engines.  Remember, the good guys always wear the white hats.



4 ways PR success is like getting fit

Posted in Tips on 22 July 2014
For the last several months, my husband and I have been focusing on getting fit. With an increased focus on a healthy lifestyle, I’ve realized that there are several public relations lessons professionals can glean from an intense workout regimen. 
Whether your marketing plan focuses on blogging, media pitches or both, here are four tips that came to mind.
1. Measure your progress. It’s easy to get discouraged or lose track of your progress, which is why it’s important to keep up with what you're doing. I have a couple of apps I use to log what I’m eating and my workouts so I can see how I’m doing throughout the day. 
When it comes to public relations and marketing, it’s important to monitor where you are on a regular basis so you can see progress and keep yourself on track. Take the time to look at your Google Analytics and Facebook Insights. Ask customers how they heard about you and keep track of the results. Set a few goals for your business and then, in six to 12 months, see if you achieve them. 
2. Give yourself some time. Cutting down on the sugar intake and going out for a run more regularly helps me feel better—sometimes even fairly quickly. But to see measurable results (such as my clothes fitting better), progress is slow and steady. The same is true for public relations. Remember that, even though you may think about marketing on a daily basis, it’s going to take more than a few days to see results. 
3. Lap everyone on the couch. There’s a fitness meme that says, “No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch.”
I’m not a fast runner, but there are benefits to even running at a slow pace. When it comes to public relations and marketing, it’s better to do a little bit to promote your business than nothing at all. Don’t have time to manage Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram? Start by just focusing on Facebook and Google Plus. Does the thought of going after editorial media coverage stress you out? Take it one step at a time as you research appropriate contacts, write your pitches and follow up. 
4. Change it up. Getting fit can be monotonous. Eating the same food and running the same route every day can be tough, which is why it’s good to look for new recipes or paths to explore. In public relations and marketing, you can change things up by trying something new. Add videos to your blog posts, mix some fun quotes into your Facebook posts or trying reaching out to your local newspaper reporter with completely fresh pitches. Get creative and have fun! 


10 things clients get wrong about the media

Posted in Tips on 22 July 2014
I’ve been infuriated lately. 
I’m sick and tired of all the bad ideas and strategies I’ve heard from some of my clients and the clients of fellow publicists. I figured I would redirect my frustration by sharing with you the top 10 things anyone working with a publicist needs to understand. 
Yes, I’m being blunt, but I’m doing it with the best intentions to keep you from making stupid mistakes that will cost you interviews or, worse, your credibility. 
1. No, we can’t ask for the questions ahead of time. 
I will never, ever, ever ask a reporter or TV producer for the questions they plan on asking in your interview ahead of time. So don’t ask me. It will make you and me both look like idiots. If you want to completely undermine your expert status and credibility, go ahead and ask for the questions yourself. You’re supposed to be the authority on your topic, and that’s why the media is talking to you. They expect you to be able to handle anything they throw at you. Asking for the questions tells them otherwise. While we’re at it, no, I also won’t annoy the busy reporter by asking when the story will run. Of course I’ll be happy to check in with him or her after some time has passed. 
2. You’re probably not going to get on the “Today” show, so stop asking. 
It’s still laughable to me whenever a client asks, “When will you get me on the ‘Today’ show?” The reality: If you and your topic are a good fit for “Today,” know that I am pitching “Today” and other similar shows. Also realize that just because I have put other people on “Today” and similar national TV shows, that doesn’t mean I can automatically place you there. Yes, my relationships and credibility with producers will help somewhat, but only to a point. The competition is extremely fierce at that level, and although breaking in is possible, it won’t happen for some people. 
3. Stop telling me you don’t care about local TV. 
If you don’t care about local TV and are interested only in national TV, you’re an idiot. If I hook a national TV producer on the idea of having you as a guest, the first question he or she will ask me is, “Does this person have any other television experience?” Local TV helps lead to national TV, plus it’s still major credibility in its own right. When someone looks you up on the Internet, what do you want them to see: only things you’ve written or produced about yourself, or credible TV interviews with you, even if they are on local TV? 
4. You’re probably not going to sell a lot of books. 
Unless you name is John Grisham or James Patterson, don’t expect to sell a lot of books from appearing in the media, and don’t ask me how many books you’re going to sell. You might sell millions. You might sell none. The one thing I’ve learned about forecasting book sales is that there is no good way to forecast book sales. Being in the media is about building credibility through a third-party implied endorsement, not about selling books. It’s about leveraging your media coverage to help build multiple income streams. Your book might turn out to be one of those streams, but it is more likely to help you earn other income than to be a major profit center in its own right. 
5. This isn’t a short-term strategy. 
People call my office and say, “Can I hire you for a month?” The answer is no, because you can’t do this for one month and expect to get big-time results. If you want to hire someone for a month, hire someone else who is happy to take your money and doesn’t care about disappointing you and undermining their own reputation. Publicity is a long-term strategy that takes time and the ability to develop new story angles and play off current events. Those events will happen, but they might not coincidentally happen during the first few weeks. Just as you might advertise for the life of your business, publicity should be approached the same way to continue to build your credibility. 
6. Your product, book, or service isn’t going to change the world. 
I believe in my clients and their messages. I really do. Otherwise I wouldn’t be representing them. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “The media is going to eat this up! This is really going to change lives! It’s a ‘game changer’!” I believe in you, but I hear it every day. Take a step back, and understand that the competition for precious minutes of TV time or inches of print is fierce. Although you probably have a very good idea, it’s not the only one out there, and just because you and I think it’s good, you can’t expect every media outlet to agree. 
7. Stop wasting your time with expensive press releases. 
You don’t need a publicist to write a press release and distribute it through a service such as PR Newswire or BusinessWire. You can do that yourself. Most press releases are self-serving and contain no news value. If you still want to pay these companies a lot of money to have your release lost in a sea of press releases so nothing much comes of it, I’m happy to help. I just think there are better ways for you to spend your money. 
8. Excuse me for trying to make you interesting. 
Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it. You might be the expert of all experts in your field, but if you’re boring, nobody is going to care. My favorite example of what I’m saying is my client Steve Siebold’s book, “Die Fat or Get Tough: 101 Differences in Thinking Between Fat People and Fit People.” His premise: If you’re fat, it’s your fault. That one phrase has resonated on television show after television show all over the world. Of course, he also has plenty of useful but more mundane advice like “eat better and exercise more.” But if he led with that, do you think he would have been featured all over the world? Nope. Spice it up! 
9. Lack of results isn’t always the publicist’s fault. 
With anyone I work with, have previously worked with or will one day work with, I give it my all, 100 percent dedication and commitment to doing the best I can. But after all, I’m selling you and your message. I’ve worked with really strong messages and others that aren’t as solid. If you’re not getting the media coverage you believe you’re entitled to, don’t always blame your publicist, but instead take a look at the goods you’re bringing to the table. Not all clients are created equal. Having said that, though, I won’t take a client whose message I don’t think I can sell. 
10. I don’t care what your branding strategist or social media team is doing. 
Many of my clients and the clients of other publicists have independent branding consultants, advertising teams, internal marketing people, and social media teams they work with as well. Though I’m always happy to jump on a call with them or hear what they’re up to, it’s usually a big waste of time and doesn’t concern me. I don’t care how many Facebook and Twitter messages your social media team is putting out; I care only about generating a lot of media coverage for you to help you build a massive amount of credibility that you can leverage forever.


Facebook Referral Traffic on Rise, While Twitter, Pinterest Dip

Posted in News on 22 July 2014

Facebook remains the undisputed king of social networking.

According to the latest report from social analytics firm Shareaholic, Facebook remains the leading driver of social referrals to sites across the Web.

Shareaholic’s second-quarter Social Media Traffic Report revealed that while Facebook’s referral traffic grew 10 percent in the second quarter of this year, those of its social rivals — Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and Reddit — dipped.

Social-Media-Traffic-Referrals-Q2-July-2014-chart“Of the top eight social networks, only Facebook drove a greater share of traffic at the end of Q2 than it did at the end of Q1,” wrote Shareholic’sDanny Wong.

Facebook’s share increased from 21.25 percent to 23.39 percent, while second-place Pinterest dipped from 7.10 percent to 5.72 percent. Twitter, No. 3 on the list, fell from 1.14 percent to 1.03 percent.

Pinterest, along with Facebook, in the previous two quarters enjoyed exceptional growth, while Twitter remained stagnant and the other social networks barely registered any referral traffic at all. This time, only Facebook plowed ahead while previous power surger Pinterest faltered, dropping 19 percent. While the virtual pin-up board sat at a 7.1 percent referral rate in March, it dropped to 5.7 by June.

Twitter is down nine percent from 1.14 percent in March to 1.03 percent last month. The other social networks all accounted for less than one percent of traffic.



NeonGrid Shines Light on Online Video Creators

Posted in News on 22 July 2014

Enables People to Credit Their Work in Online Platforms



A new program is giving credit where it is due, literally.

Launched earlier this summer, NeonGrid enables “tagging” on videos posted online. In a similar manner to tagging friends in photographs on Facebook, NeonGrid allows people in the video and music industries to instantly credit themselves for any of their work posted online. Anyone from Web series creators to commercial directors and sound mixers can control and verify their credits in real-time for work posted on online distribution platforms.

gridThe program was officially launched at VidCon in June with Machinima, the leading global video entertainment network for fanboys and gamers.

The program has the same ability as the Internet Movie Database where people can search for someone and see all their film credits. It’s a similar idea and that should come as no surprise considering one of the co-founders.

“The goal is to allow people who work in online entertainment to claim their credits in real time,” John W. Gibbons, a NeonGrid founder who spent roughly a decade helping to build IMDb, recently told The New York Times.

“Today, there are more than 25 million people in the video and music industries who do not have a platform that allows them to credit their own work or find others with whom they would like to collaborate,” Williams stated in a press release. “NeonGrid makes it possible for anyone to have a real-time crediting and attribution platform, allowing any entertainment specialist to better build a multi-media resume truly representing all work and all collaborations.”



New Facebook Feature Allows Users to Save Items From News Feed

Posted in News on 22 July 2014
Facebook has debuted a new feature that enables its members to save items that appeal to them from their news feeds.
Dubbed simply as ‘Save,’ the tool allows users to save links, articles, videos, music and other items from the news feed to look at later. All saved items are kept private unless the user opts to share with his or her friends.
“Every day, people find all sorts of interesting items on Facebook that they don’t have time to explore right away,” Facebook software engineer Daniel Giambalvo said in a blog post.
“Now you can save items that you find on Facebook to check out later when you have more time.”
To view saved items, simply go to the ‘More’ tab on mobile or click the link on the left-hand side of Facebook on the Web. The list of saved items is organized by category, enabling users to swipe right on each item to share it with your friends or move it into your archive list.
Facebook will periodically show users reminders of their saved items, such as article links, in their news feeds.
Save will come to all iOS, Android and Web users over the next few days.


Events Co-ordinator

Posted in Jobs on 21 July 2014
Location: Bedfordshire
We are looking for an experienced Events Co-ordinator with a welcoming personality to make Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa an experience to remember. As Events Co-ordinator you will deal with all sales enquiries concerning weddings, functions & conferences.  This will include meeting clients, producing quotations, contracts and invoices and function details.  Candidates should be able to demonstrate an excellent understanding of the hotel/conference industry and high level skills in diary management, telephone sales, communication and customer service. 
As Events Co-ordinator you will be articulate and be able to demonstrate relevant Events experience gained in the hotel industry. As well as outstanding communication and diary management skills we would be seeking evidence of success in a similar sales orientated role where monthly budgets and targets have been achieved.  Good administration, IT skills and attention to detail are paramount.  Candidates would need to demonstrate confidence with dealing with a wide range of corporate and private clientele.  For this post we require an excellent command of English.


Wedding & Events Coordinator - Bath Hotel

Posted in Jobs on 21 July 2014

The Company: Beautiful hotel near to Bath, popular with conference and banqueting events, especially weddings. We are seeking a highly organised individual to promote the hotel for Weddings and events.

The Role: As Wedding & Event Coordinator you will be hard-working, extremely well presented with a fantastic personality. The right individual will be outgoing with the ability to promote the facilities, effectively co-ordinate the functions on site and communicate regularly with the departments involved. This role requires someone with good negotiation skills, who is computer literate, and be able to implement a full administrative package for the client. It is important to keep up to date with current trends and the commercial market, looking at local venues and comparing what they have to offer against your hotel, always looking to be the best. Similar experience in quality hotels is preferred but not essential as full training will be given. Salary is depending on experience, Full time role, 5 out of 7 days a week, applicants must have means to travel. Our Wedding & Events Coordinator will be enthusiastic and can engage well with others. Can represent both yourself and the venue in a professional manner, is confident showing potential clients/customers around the hotel and facilities. Have excellent administrative, telephone and face to face skills, is responsible and trustworthy.



4 PR lessons from 'Seinfeld'

Posted in Tips on 21 July 2014
This year marks the 25th anniversary of “Seinfeld,” the ultimate “show about nothing” that became quite something. Though you may think of Jerry and the crew as a bunch of laughable slackers, watching the episodes on repeat in syndication has revealed that there are some business takeaways that apply to public relations. Read on and see if you agree. 
Read the social cues. "Seinfeld" explored the minutiae of relationships, and much of the show's comedy questioned etiquette or social discourse. For example, which conversations are too important to be made via cell phone (or now, via text)? How many dates must you have been on before you need to end a relationship in person? 
These questions can be applied to the proper handling of client-agency situations as well. Can you read the signs of a faltering relationship? Do you know which situations can be addressed in a call or which demand the “personal touch"? It may take some finessing, but the better able you are to read between the lines of an email or understand the subtext of a conversation, the better decisions you will make. As Jerry once astutely observed, “The fabric of society is very complex.” 
What goes around comes around. On the show, the characters extend themselves to help others fairly grudgingly, or they ignore the needs of anyone outside their own world, though in a hilarious way. Anyone remember George knocking down an older lady in a walker to escape a house fire? Or Kramer, Jerry, and Elaine trying to force-feed cookies to an unconscious man? The characters repeatedly live up to our low expectations of them, and in the end, they pay the price. The same is true in the business world. A good turn may come back to you years later, but a burned bridge can haunt your career forever. 
Healthy curiosity has its limits. A good agency-client relationship breeds curiosity and should come with the freedom to discuss issues without destructive, Seinfeldian obsession. (Like when Jerry spends an entire episode torturing himself to figure out why Audrey, the dessert-loving girlfriend, won’t sample the best apple pie in town.) Curiosity has limits, and we should know them. There’s a time to push in a productive way and a time to accept the circumstances or decisions of others. 
Worlds really do collide. George’s famous hand-wringing over certain people in his life meeting others is funny, but it also calls into question how PR agencies (or anyone) chooses to staff interactions. Whom should you bring to the new business presentation? Who should lead the account? To whom will you assign the “difficult call"? Good leaders know how to read each situation and forecast outcomes before developing a strategy for the next move. 
They also know that business gaffes are rarely as funny as anything that happened on “Seinfeld.” 



Delete these 9 things from your resume

Posted in Tips on 21 July 2014
As young professionals, we want to blow away employers with our credentials. That means we often pack everything we can into a résumé with little regard for the reader's time and attention.
Well, we live in a hectic world, and employers don't have time to sift through our autobiographies for the information that matters.
Open your résumé and cut out these nine items. They are unnecessary, and won't help your job search.
1. Anything from high school-and a lot from college (Part I)
You're an adult in the real world. After college, nothing from high school matters. If you're a recent college graduate and need to lean on college credentials, only list the most impressive extracurriculars—not every club you joined.
You will never hear this: "Treasurer of your freshman dorm? Wow! When can you start?"
2. Your résumé bullet points 5-10
The difference between you jobless and you with a job is the ability to quickly explain yourself.
- People don't have time to read about everything you've done.
- Decide what matters and what needs to go.
- Only include four bullet points.
- After four bullet points, the reader wanders off and ... Hey! Come back here. I'm not done yet!
3. A lot from college (Part II): A list of your college classes
Which matters more: a course you took on business management, or the company you created for a class project? Employers don't care that you took Supply Chain Management 357, but they do care about the skills you gained from it.
Again, if you must rely on your time in college, spare the course titles and focus on the experience.
4. Vague descriptions
Don't write: "Maintained a large database and assisted with organization's fundraising efforts."
That's the worst way to put it. Where are the specifics? The sizzle?
Do write: "Maintained a database of 42,000 donors and helped the organization raise $11.4 million during the 2013 capital campaign."
See? Details make all the difference.
5. The third page of your résumé
A two-page résumé from a 20-something is questionable, which means three is out of the question.
Give employers a tight, shrewdly worded one-page résumé. Don't make it longer to impress them. It won't. Less is always more.
6. The words "such as" and "utilize"
"Such as" and "utilize" scream, "I want to come off as smart! Please hire me!"
Exchange "such as" for "like" and "utilize" for "use."
Oh, and don't use "amazing." It's overdone.
7. Microsoft Word as a skill
Of course you know how to use Word. So does your grandmother. Leave this "skill" off the list.
8. The phrase "responsible for"
How many times does this phrase appear on your résumé? "Responsible for" is flat and uninteresting. Use words like "oversee" and "managed," which demonstrate leadership.
9. A selfish mission statement
"I am an energetic marketing professional who enjoys social media management and developing branding strategies."
Stop talking about what you like to do, and start talking about what the company needs:
"I am an energetic marketing professional who wants to help your company build its brand and grow business."
The difference in tone is striking.


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