This site showcases the (mostly) digital work of Andrew DiFiore from both Virtual Arts Studios and answerYES Interactive as well as random thoughts and experimental projects too volatile to be contained anywhere else.

 
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    Reporting Search Engine Spam

    I was recently asked by a prospective client about Negative SEO, the tactic of convincing search engines to “think” a competitor’s site is in violation of that search engine’s spam policy. It is kind of like the SEO equivalent of slander but there is nothing illegal about it.

    For the uninitiated, in the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) there are many techniques for achieving top-ranking on search sites like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. These techniques are divvied up into three types: White Hat, Gray Hat, and Black Hat. I’m not going to go into the differences in this post but if you’re really interested, start here. It suffices to say, Negative SEO falls under Black Hat and if you’re caught, you’re guaranteed to be banned from appearing on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) ever again.

    Given the increasing importance of having web pages rank high on search results, the unethical practice of Black Hat SEO is definitely trending up. And it is not just the little guys, as evident by the recent New York Times article about J. C. Penney’s folly during the holiday season. Yes, J. C. Penney’s reportedly fired their SEO firm SearchDex but it is most likely that the retail giant didn’t mind “the how” until they were exposed (Kevin Ryan of Ad Age Digital does a nice follow up on this story). The fact that I was asked about Negative SEO by a prospect reveals people are becoming ever-more savvy of SEO as well as the best ways to cheat.

    For the record, we don’t practice nor endorse the use of Black Hat SEO (so don’t ask).

    In the end, the benefits of such tactics are temporary. But unlike email spam, Google and company have a vested interest in minimize search spam. Simply put, if the value of the search results are diminished, so is the value of the search engine itself. As good netizens, we all have an interest in making the search engines a more effective resource.

    Report Search Engine Spam:

    If you find yourself a victim of Negative SEO or other Black Hat tactics, there are many ways to combat them to regain your site’s proper place on search engines. I would be happy to help.

    Batternay Collection launches new website designed to engage and educate visitors on how custom photographic artwork has the power to express the mood in both residential or commercial spaces. We helped founder and artist Nora Batternay explore the marketing opportunities for custom photography in the US before introducing a new brand online. Out of this process emerged a style and language that most effectively reaches interior designers and art consultants. answerYES collaborated with Betsy Moore of Brains for Rent on the art direction and copywriting. Nicely done.

    The Pieces of My Heart

    Digging through my old collection of mazes that I’ve created over the years (see Daedalus My Muse), decided to make a few “special occasion” ones available here on Virtual Arts for non-commercial use and distribution. So Happy Velentine’s Day and enjoy the pieces of my heart.

    Twitter Marketing Tips

    If you haven’t heard by now Twitter is a microblogging social network and a great way drive qualified leads to your website. In addition to the obvious social media benefits (a topic for another blog post), our clients consistently witness referral rates upwards of 6% per month from Twitter! Moreover, we often see that these referrals on average view more pages and spend more time per visit than those coming from other sources. Leveraging Twitter’s demo and  geographics in a site tracking tool like Google Analytics, you can  effectively qualify each referral and do more of the type of tweets generating the desired behavior (e.g. read a blog post, download whitepaper, fill out contact form, buy products).

    I will do a follow up post about Twitter ROI later but for now, here are some helpful tips on Twitter marketing you can start using today.

    Tweet Best Practices

    • Schedule tweets several times every business day between 6am and 1pm. Statistically, this is the time most business people check Twitter.
    • Tweets should be something useful. Most people are looking for information. Repetition is okay but it should be paraphrased so not to look automated.
    • 1 in every 10 tweets can be promotional in nature. We want to encourage following and retweets. Too many promotional tweets too often and this won’t happen.
    • Use #hashtags relevant to the tweets or business (e.g. #tech or #business). Try to use them in the body text of your tweets to conserve on your 140 characters.
    • Try to keep tweets to 120 characters so people can easily retweet without truncating the original text.
    • If tweet is a call to action, be sure to add a shortlink back to the site (or source). In a pinch, can use services like bit.ly or ow.ly to shorten URLs.

    Things to Tweet About

    • News about your business or organization, including your own success stories.
    • News from reliable sources like a partner’s blog.
    • News about your employees or staff (e.g. the company’s softball team wins).
    • Retweets of anything that might interesting to your followers.
    • TwitPic and TwitVid (or YouTube or eHow or HowCast).
    • Special offers just for Twitter followers (get more followers).

    To manage Twitter as well as all your other social channels from the comfort of your desktop or mobile device, I recommend either TweetDeck or  Hootsuite. Both are free, easy to learn, and easy to use. Great for organizing your tweets as well as your follows and followers.

    Social media moves fast so would love to hear about your experiences with Twitter. What tweets have worked for you? Have a Twitter campaign going on right now you want to share?

    Our client CONNECT Computer was running a year-end promotion in partnership with HP: Get a $15 Gift Card of your choice when you purchase two of the same HP LaserJet Toners. The offer expired December 31st, 2010.

    We did the typical stuff like email blasts and updating social channels but given the short notice and the fact that CONNECT’s social channels were too new (we had only recently launched the website) to have yet accumulated enough “social” capital, we needed something else… and fast!

    The answer was a splash page specific to the Gift Card offer and leveraging social browsing communities like StumbleUpon to drive targeted visitors to it.

    The idea behind a splash page is that it is a standalone page with a singular purpose, in this case the Gift Card. There is no navigation, no extraneous copy, and one call-to-action. More importantly, it can be done quickly and cheaply.

    Since the Gift Card offer expired at midnight on 12/31 we decided to create a peaceful winter scene, replete with animated snowflakes, displaying a countdown to 2011 (instant value add BTW). Both the snowflakes and the countdown were done using jQuery so the page worked even on iPads and iPhones!

    Social browsing took place over the last 5 days of the year. Yes, only 5 days! Personally, would have liked to have had 3 weeks for a campaign like this but we played the hand we were dealt. We still witnessed a 33.21% jump of visits to the Gift Card page and several sign ups. I suspect we would have seen even higher numbers if the campaign started before the holiday rush (i.e. end of November instead of December).

    The offer is over but you can still see the splash page here.