Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO

As you can probably deduce from the category names, there are two different strategies SEO specialists can use, White Hat & Black Hat. White Hat SEO practices are favored because of practical approaches that focus on the user’s experience on a site as well as how the search engine views the site. Whereas, Black Hat SEO features practices solely focused on how the search engine perceives the site with the goal to only move higher on the rankings.

Black Hat SEO is a way of using shady SEO tactics in order to move quickly on the rankings, but will almost always hurt your SEO in the long run.

Common Black Hat techniques include:

  • Hiding text on a website – whether it is hiding it within the code (or in spammy structured markup), or just making it the same color as your background so it’s ‘invisible’ to the naked eye.
  • Link farms and Paid Links – Typically automated, a link farms is a group of sites that all link within each other, which may or may not have anything to do with each other. Paid links are exactly that – links that are purchased to achieve a higher ranking and gain link-popularity.
  • Keyword Stuffing – Adding keywords into the content, meta, titles, and tags, to the point where it doesn’t sound natural.
  • Scraping – Copying of content from a site or topic, just to have currently popular and ranking content available.

While Black Hat SEOs may see a quick ROI when they first implement these practices, it almost always catches up with them. When search engines find these techniques being used, the sites are promptly penalized and face a very hard uphill battle to earn that trust again.

White Hat SEOs typically have the longest turnaround times to get noticed by search engines and attain higher rankings, but there is also no risk involved, unlike Black Hat strategies.

Common White Hat techniques include:

  • Guest Blogging – Guest blogging is when a person separate from the site, writes and posts a blog for you. This is a win/win for everyone involved. The guest blogger receives a link to their own site, and you will receive links to the blog from the blogger promoting their work.
  • Quality Content – Content is key. With White Hat practices, the strategy isn’t just to get noticed and rewarded by the search engines, but also your users. It’s important that when visitors come to your site that they are finding the information that they want and need, and it’s written in a way that is understandable and easy to read.
  • Linking – Both internal and external linking is a big part of White Hat SEO strategies.
    • Internal linking helps to show the search engine a functional way to navigate and crawl the site, as well as helps the user experience find what they need. Nothing is more irritating than landing on a webpage, and having no idea how to find the next bit of information. Linking helps to ease that process.
    • External linking not only provides additional resources to your user, and backs up your claims, but it also shows the search engine that you’re an equal player in the online world. Just like you may ask for people to link to your site, you’re spreading the wealth and giving other reputable sites quality links, too.
  • On-Site Optimization – By far one of the biggest cornerstones in the SEO world is optimizing your site. Whether it’s updating content to reflect new changes in the industry or reworking your menu navigation to make more sense for the user, on-site optimization is what will help your site and hopefully keep people browsing for longer.

As with most things in life, nothing is ever just black and white. Even in SEO, there are also Gray Hat SEO practices. Less risky than Black Hat, but without the wait for updated rankings with White Hat, Gray Hat techniques still should be avoided, as they are still not in line with Google’s algorithms.

Common Gray Hat techniques include:

  • Three way link exchange – Different from a link farm, where all the sites link to each other, a three way link exchange is more of a link “chain”. For example, Site A will only link to B, Site B will only link to C, and Site C will only link to A.
  • Article Spinning – Article spinning is a technique where instead of directly plagiarizing a relevant article, it’s slightly tweaked or “spun” to avoid a penalty. Its far better to write a new article, than to tweak an existing one, to guard yourself from potential copyright infringement.

Just like you wouldn’t take your car to a shifty mechanic because you can’t fully trust what they are doing, you shouldn’t leave your website in the hands of Black Hat SEO tactics.

And if you’re a more visual learner, or just looking for a TL;DR, here’s a helpful infographic from CognitiveSEO.

 

Black Hat vs White Hat SEO
Original Infographic @ Black Hat vs White Hat SEO / Provided by cognitiveSEO

The Life Cycle of Junk Mail

junk-mailYou pull in the driveway after a long day at work. Hands full with bags of groceries, you grab the mail and make your way into the house. Flip through the envelopes, the bills, the magazines, toss aside anything that doesn’t look immediately important, and move on with your life.

But every now and then, one catches your eye, and it makes you think. When we’ve done our job right, it makes you care enough to take the next step and take action.

There is the advertiser’s challenge: How do we find a space in your life and make an impression? How do we make our product matter to you through a piece of paper you might only glance at?

Let me tell you, creating something that doesn’t become “junk mail” is the result of hours of meetings, production work, and research. From the time we begin to the time it reaches your home, it’s likely already been in the works for over a month.

It starts with the creative strategy and writing team. What are we selling? Why? Who are we selling it to? What’s the headline? What’s the special offer or message? A strategically sound creative foundation is imperative, and it usually takes a lot of misses to find the one direction that might be a hit.

Then, the designers get their hands on it, making sure the piece incorporates all the important text, cohesive and consistent branding elements, uses quality paper/print media, and has the proper messaging hierarchy. That’s where simple words are transformed into a compelling visual – never underestimate the power of a great design.

The media buyers have to scout out the right audience, buy or curate the right lists, and negotiate the best prices. Successful marketing comes down to the numbers, and great results don’t always have a hefty price tag if you have the right media placement and savvy buyers.

After rounds of revisions, tweaks, and approvals, it finally goes out to the client who also has rounds of revisions, tweaks, and approvals to go through.

The result is a simple postcard. Every word is carefully selected, images meticulously created, and consumers specifically targeted to get the results our clients are looking for.

The surprising part? More often than not, it works.

Taking it Easy with Ad Messaging

“I’m standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see – it’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me.”

I’ve never been a big fan of the Eagles, but that line from their 1972 hit “Take it Easy” recently made me think about the similarities between songwriting and copywriting. I was watching the documentary “History of the Eagles,” in which Jackson Browne and the late Glenn Frey of the Eagles discuss the song and how Browne had come up with the first part of the line – “I’m standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” – but was having trouble finishing it until Frey suggested the ending of the verse. Browne marvels: “Girl, lord, Ford, I mean, all the redemption, you know, girls and cars and redemption all in this one line. It’s very mercurial.”

Now, I’m not a songwriter by any means, but writing advertising copy is a big part of my day-to-day life. Brevity is essential in writing advertising copy because you’re always working within parameters. Some are fairly rigid: space if you’re writing something that will appear in print, or time if you’re writing for broadcast mediums. Some are less clearly defined. For example, in an age when we’re when we’re all exposed to hundreds of advertising messages daily, a copywriter has to compete for an increasingly limited amount of his or her audience’s time and attention. You have to engage your audience quickly. And when I thought about it, I was amazed by what Frey had done in just 24 words.

First, Frey clearly understood his audience and was able to relate to it. I could argue that the key elements of the line (girls, cars, redemption) are everything you could have wanted in an early 70s rock song with a presumably male audience. There’s also an emotional cue (“such a fine sight to see”), which anybody can relate to. Relatability is something copywriters strive for, too. Every time I sit down to write an ad I start with the same basic questions: who am I talking to, and what do I need to say to them? Compelling copy appeals to the audience’s interests, experiences, emotions, needs, and desires.

Good copy also sparks the audience’s imagination. It’s important to write visually, especially if you’re writing for a non-visual medium like radio. I think Frey succeeds here, too. I can picture that street corner. I can see the girl (she’s blonde), and I know what type of truck she’s driving because Frey told me (in two words). And because the writers immediately set the scene (we’re in Arizona), I imagine the Ford is a little bit dusty. Oh, and it’s an early 60s model.

I’m glad Netflix kept insisting that I’d like “History of the Eagles” and that I finally broke down and watched it, because the film’s dissection of that one line reminded me of the things I try to do when I’m writing copy: engage the audience with emotion and imagery, make it relatable, and keep it brief. I now admire that lyric, when previously I’d never given it a second thought. It’s won me over, the way good advertising can.

How to Efficiently Media Buy on TV

Media-ChartsThere are many questions we’re asked when placing a media buy for a client. One of the most frequent questions is…

How do you measure success on a media buy?

One major way we measure the success of a media buy is through the cost per point (CPP) – a ratio based on how much it costs to buy one rating point, or one percent of the population in specified market or area. The CPP is calculated by taking the total amount spent on a specific television station and dividing it by the total number of gross rating points (GRPs). GRPs, pronounced “grips”, are a standard measure in advertising denoting the advertising impact. GRPs are calculated by the total number of spots that you have running in a specific daypart (timeframe) on a TV station, multiplied by that specific daypart rating. Daypart ratings are determined by how many people in the market tuned into that show, or timeframe.

Nielsen and Rentrak are two major global information, data and measurement companies. They create ratings books that will give a rating to every program that runs on TV. Some of our clients advertise all 12 months of the year. So, to get a better idea of how the program we are buying did, we might ask that the TV station rep uses a 4 book average for all 4 seasons of the year. The ratings will be different for whatever age group you decide to use as your demographic. This way, if a November book performs exceptionally, but a July book does not do nearly as well, they would be averaged together and that would be the rating given to that program. This is very important because it affects your cost per point. Whatever the average rating is of all four books is your rating for that program. If we divide the program rating into the spot rate, we get the cost per point.

All markets are different sizes, especially in population. The size of a market typically impacts the cost per point. For example, smaller markets in rural and upstate New York would have lower cost per points than markets of a much larger size like, metro (NYC) area, Buffalo and Albany. Our goal as a media buyer is to reach our audience demographic at the lowest cost per point we possibly can.

Confused yet? Don’t worry… here’s an example:

Station A is #1 in the market (in ratings/viewership). Station B is #2 in the market.
We have a budget of $1000 to advertise with. I receive one proposal from each station using a 4 book average from Rentrak.
Station A’s proposal:
5am-6am morning news – $50 per spot for 4 spots – Rating 2.8
6pm-7pm evening news – $200 per spot for 4 spots – Rating 12.1

So for $1000, I would receive 4 spots in morning news and 4 spots in evening news. If I multiply the rating of 2.8 x 4 morning new spots, this gives us our GRP’s total, which is 11.2. Doing the same thing for evening news, it’s another 48.4 GRP’s. So total for $1000, we would receive 59.6 GRP’s. If we divide the $1000 into the total GRP’s 59.6, we get our cost per point, which is $16.78.

Station B’s proposal:
5am-6am morning news – $25 per spot for 8 spots – Rating 2.2
6pm-7pm evening news – $100 per spot for 8 spots – Rating 8.6
The total GRP’s with the same calculations above would be 86.4 GRPs. And if we divide to get our cost per point, it is $11.57.

As you can see, the #2 station, station B costs $5.21 less to buy one rating point. This example shows you just two dayparts (time slots your ad has to run in), now imagine a cable buy when you are buying 15 different networks and 4 different day parts per network?! Things get crazy. That’s when a media buyer can be essential to ensuring you get the most bang for your buck. The best part, media buying is typically a free service provided by agencies like MPW. You don’t pay extra for this service. A typical 15% commission is paid directly out of your intended media investment. So, you get more value out of the media outlets and don’t have to pay a dime to do it. Now THAT is a win-win.

4 Steps to Successfully Respond to Negative Online Reviews

Any good business owner wants to learn from their customers in order to grow their business. That’s why they ask people for honest feedback… like when a manager at a restaurant asks you how your meal was. Or, when a technician asks you to fill out a review form at the end of a service or installation.

The potential trouble with online reviews is that the anonymity factor can lead people down a dark path. While honest feedback is appreciated, the Internet veil can sometimes bring on exaggerated, non-constructive remarks. But, once it’s written online, it becomes a reality you have to deal with. So… how do you successfully respond to negative reviews, no matter how exaggerated, hurtful or just-plain-wrong they are? Simple.

Follow these easy steps using a kind and conversational voice.

  1. Thank the reviewer for his or her feedback.
  2. Apologize for whatever negative experience they’ve described.
  3. State your continued intent to better serve your customers.
  4. Offer an opportunity to discuss their concerns further and privately in either a private message or a phone call, and offer something for their trouble. (Make sure to state a specific owner/manager name. It adds a level of ownership and trust to the response.)

A majority of reviewers will not call a business back, but if they do, this is your opportunity to apologize, listen to their thoughts and offer a solution. Even if they never call you, you’ve assured future customers that you care about their experience. This increases their trust in you and negates the negative review in most cases.

So, that’s what you should DO. Here’s what you DON’T do.

  1. Ignore the review and hope it’ll go away or get buried.
  2. Refute their claim or dismiss their concerns.
  3. Write with harsh, defensive or robotic language (intended tone).
  4. Change the blame by going into detail saying what THEY did wrong.

Any confrontational language can lead to an unwanted continued exchange with a frustrated patron. It reflects poorly on your character as an owner or manager and negatively impacts the reputation of your business.

5 Things to Know Before Jumping into Pay-Per-Click

1) Your Audience

Your audience is the most important factor when starting PPC (pay-per-click). They are the one actively searching and buying your product or service, so it’s best to know how to target them. Targeting users can include sites they would frequently visit, where they are located geographically and general demographics, to name just a few.

2) Your Goal for Adwords

What are you looking to accomplish by using Adwords? Are you trying to get more people to visit your site? Are you trying to build brand awareness? Knowing what you would like to use Adwords for will help answer a lot of setup questions. For example, if you are a newer company and are just hoping to get your name out there, display ads may be the way to go, but if you are established and want to increase how many people contact you via your website, search ads may be your avenue.

3) Your Target Cost Per Lead

Your cost per lead is a great number to know regardless, but in Adwords, this will help to make sure your money is being used effectively and efficiently. If you estimate that you will still make money if you pay $100 for a new sales lead, that amount is the highest you should aim for with paid ads. Once you go drastically over your cost per lead, you may find that your campaigns need adjusting, or that you should adjust your approach when using paid ads.

4) Level of Satisfaction with Your Website

Your ads will ultimately lead users to your website, where that needs to be the big selling factor for a user to call your business, submit a form or take an action. View your site as a consumer. Are you able to easily find information you’re looking for? Is it easy to contact your business should someone have questions? Is it mobile friendly? If you are able to answer no to any of those questions, there may need to be a bit of improvement on your site before launching a campaign.

5) PPC Isn’t a Band-Aid; it’s a Supporting Factor

At MPW, we suggest that PPC should complement your other marketing initiatives, especially your online marketing initiatives. Specifically, when you are working on the SEO for your website, PPC helps to establish more real estate on the search engine results page (SERP) than just a paid ad or organic listing, alone. Seeing your paid ad, and then coming across an organic listing, helps to make an association from the keyword the user is searching to your brand that you are an expert. Especially if the user then clicks on the organic listing, this is even better. You receive the benefit of getting the click organically, with the real estate of two listings, without having to pay for the click.