Businesses have been manipulating online factors to increase SEO and raise profit for themselves or their clients since the Internet began. But, some companies are crossing the line into a territory that Google classifies as “black-hat optimization.”
When most of us think about J.C. Penney, we think of it as a place for clothes, or household décor, but around the last holiday, J.C. Penney was coming up as the number one spot for all different types of searches. Was J.C. Penny just hitting the Google search lottery? Not quite. J.C. Penney actually outsmarted Google, and almost got away with it.
One way Google orders search results is by how many other sites are posting links to a website. J.C. Penney was exposed by the New York Times in an article, "The Dirty Little Secrets of Search," for paying more than 2,000 sites to post links to JCPenney.com. Some of these sites were unrelated to the J.C. Penney store or their products, such as nuclear.engineeringaddict.com. Even worse, some had no content except for the J.C. Penney links.
Google has warnings against this black-market strategy, which they refer to as “link schemes.” The punishment? Google drastically sank J.C. Penney in search results. For months JCPenney.com was the top result when searching “living room furniture,” two hours after Google took action they sank to number 68.
The lesson we can learn from J.C. Penney’s mistake? Even with the ever-changing world of advertising and marketing, ethics still comes in to play and companies will be held accountable. Or, just type “clothing” in to a Google search and see where J.C. Penney shows up, it’s pretty self-explanatory.
What are some other ways companies are crossing the ethics line for SEO?
Forget the sandwich, in the words of our illustrious COO, Maria Marcotte, I am a full-fledged member of the "four course meal generation." I won't mention my three children whose ages span 21 years, my full time career, or volunteering (although after 6 years of Lost, my schedule has now cleared for an hour a week), I'll just focus on an ever-so-gracefully aging mother who is halfway through a rehab stint at a very good convalescent home in North Carolina.
I've spent the last three weeks dashing around between home, work, hospital, and convalescent care, since my mother had knee replacement surgery. And would you like to guess how many elder-care marketing messages I've encountered? None.
What a missed opportunity. Do I want the best ongoing care for my mother? Yes. Do I have time to figure out what that really means? No. In the hours I have spent with her at the hospital and in the nursing home (sorry Mom, I know you like to call it re-hab), have I been a captive audience with a Blackberry and a penchant for searching health tips for older folks? You betcha. But not one relevant ad has crossed my path. In fact, kudos go to Johns Hopkins for being the ONLY organization to remotely recognize my situation, but that is only through opt-in health alerts.
So where are the marketers? I'm not that hard to find. Why not serve me up something on Facebook (since my life story is now ever-so-public)? As I dig around online why am I not targeted contextually? Why aren't those ads hitting me on my phone during those endless bedside hours?
Long-term care insurers? Long-term care providers? Home health organizations? Home medical equipment retailers? Hello? Anybody out there? Help me and the millions of people like me figure this elder care mystery out - we certainly don't have the luxury of time to do it ourselves.
It seems like all I ever hear anymore is how many people do not like Twitter or understand the concept. Those that actually have an account either use it strictly for business or forget that it's there all together. So if this is the general buzz surrounding the social media site, why is it U.S. site traffic grew from a few million unique monthly visitors early last year to over 20 million by June? Below is the projected continued growth of the site.
Do you believe Twitter is being utilized more often? Is it by people documenting their everyday life or business professionals trying to promote themselves? These are hard questions considering the general consensus used to be that Twitter would have lost steam by now.
We’ve been blogging and blogging about our fascination with coupons and now research from Borrell Associates reports that redemption rates for mobile coupons are 10x that of mail or newspaper. If you are putting it off because mobile marketing sounds expensive, you can put that thought behind you. In fact, tuck it away in your desk drawer under that bottle of Wite Out you haven’t touched since the late 90s. Simply texting an offer worth something valuable to your customer is sufficient. Waiting for others to test it and then you will be on board? Already done. Mobile marketing is moving fast and case studies show that if done strategically and following the rules of the game (i.e., opt-in, frequency caps), the ROI is exceptional. This is one party where showing up late isn’t fashionable. To put it into aquatic terms, catch the mobile wave or you’ll miss the boat.
Healthcare marketers are often challenged with to how to participate and ultimately lead health conversations through social media channels. In this highly regulated market, even marketers armed with great social strategies can find that they face seemingly insurmountable barriers thrown up by administration and information technology departments.
So how can you become part of the conversation when the thoughts you express could create a liability or privacy concern for your organization? Here’s one idea: borrow third party expertise. Turn the conversation away from your organization, your doctors, your services, and tap into some of the rich public health resources available online.
Why not get familiar with the major public health research publications such as Environmental Health Perspectives (fd: Brogan & Partners publishes and markets EHP on behalf of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences). Stay ahead of the competition when it comes to understanding the major health concerns of today and tomorrow by commenting on the research or news provided by these publications and the esteemed researchers that contribute to them. You can then draw connections back to your service lines as a way of providing additional information.
You’ll appear smarter and better informed while fostering a feeling of goodwill among consumers because your organization is taking the time to help them understand how to live healthier lives. Got other ideas on how to insert your organization into the social sphere while limiting exposure? We’d love to hear them!
Is traditional going to become non-traditional media? Well it seems that the ever-evolving social media is the latest and greatest form of marketing and advertising. Newspaper is close to extinction, TV and cable spots can be fast-forwarded and people are tuning into satellite radio. I went to MSU’s career fair earlier this week. All the students were familiar with social media and a few of them seemed to have a better grasp on it than others. What I’m really trying to say is - it should become a staple class among advertising college courses today. And it should be integrated into media buying courses as well.
I know it changes daily - but that’s the purpose of classroom discussions. Keeping it fresh!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve undoubtedly heard about the launch of Apple’s new ipad. Apple (and everyone else) is touting the new device a cross between the laptop and the iphone. I’m not going to go into the details of the ipad and it’s features and capabilities, however I do want you to think of the advertising capabilities that will be viewable now on the ipad’s large screen and smart interface.
Since the development of the smart phone, app developers have come out of the woodwork to capitalize on these phones’ capabilities. Now, with the larger display size of the ipad, a screen size of 9.7 inches (similar to Amazon's Kindle), but with 1024X768 Pixel resolution, app developers and rich media moguls are going to be salivating at the potential opportunities that await them. Imagine your ad on someone’s ipad, growing to a size not seen before on a device that has such mobility since the laptop. Imagine your ad animating, growing, moving, talking – persuading the reader In (technological) ways not even devised yet. The ipad doesn’t (yet) have flash capabilities so if you try to view something built in flash you’re going to get the annoying little icon that you’ve seen before on your iphone, however, I’m sure web developers and app makers are going to devise ways around this downfall by deploying messaging in ways that nobody has even imagined yet. I’m imagining that when an ad is viewed on an ipad, the ad will “know” that it’s being viewed on that device and display appropriately. (versus if it’s displayed on a smart phone) That opens up a lot of opportunities to ad builders like myself, and advertisers like you.
I don't think that the ipad will ever replace the mobility and usability of a smart phone nor replace the effectiveness of mobile marketing. Also the fact that ads on the ipad can be geotargeted will be a huge differentiator from ads served on laptop computers. As an art director I can see many benefits to this new frontier of viewing ads, although the jury is still out whether this device will be a hit or not. Do you see any new opportunities here? Shoot me a quick comment.
I love when I get a social marketing assignment. Because instead of selling capitalism with my creativity (not that there’s anything wrong with that), I get to sell people on the idea making the world a better place. Some of the best creative has come from public service announcements. What makes this campaign for the United Way Toronto special, is that it was not just a brilliant idea, it was brilliantly executed. That takes commitment, passion and know-how. Kudos to the production team that pulled it off (no pun intended)!
If you have any other creative social marketing examples to share, please do! This blog post is last in the series, 21 creative social marketing examples.
Before becoming a mom, my knowledge of toys consisted of about 3 things: Sit' N Spin, Big Wheel and Play-Doh. When realizing my dance rendition of Single Ladies by Beyonce and what I feel was a very well-thought out and entertaining reading of “Goodnight Moon” wasn’t quite enough to entertain my toddler for more than a few minutes, I entered a new realm – securing imaginative, stimulating kids toys. A trip to Toys "R" Us for me was comparable to a couch potato running the Boston Marathon. I almost passed out. There was no finish line in sight. I didn’t even break in my sneakers but I did break out in a sweat. I high-tailed it out of the store and headed home and jumped online. How many toy kitchens can there be? Seriously? Hundreds! Pure panic. Until I hit “read customer reviews” and felt immediate calm. Moms, just like me. Ones who have bought the product, took the time to write a review, and were kind enough to share it with millions of online users including little ol’ me. The one that I thought looked the best in the photo had terrible rankings - they had about 5 categories along with side notes, followed by complete reviews. So, thank you Katie from Minnesota, the anonymous grandma from New York, the mom of 3 from Wisconsin for your reviews, and the many more moms who saved my little one from having to endure my somewhat rusty dance skills. I knew which products were flimsy, which ones were hard to put together, seemed too big, and didn’t function well. I ended up with a fabulous Step2 kitchen which I found in stock using the store locator feature. I am no longer green to kids toys. In fact, I’m a rewards member now at Toys "R" Us – and I must say they send great coupons (read Jo’s blog about coupon use)! And really, Step2 has gained a very loyal customer via good feedback from current customers. I have quite a few Step2 products now – like the easel and outdoor climber. Reviews are important. And if your aiming to hit moms, pay close attention to what is said about your products online. Women are the primary purchase decision makers and word-of-mouth goes right to the pocketbook. Make it part of your marketing strategy. And if words aren't enough, check out some stats in this blog by Robert Gorell, I can only imagine these stats have increased in terms of the power of customer feedback.