Shortcuts through quicksand

There’s a very good post on Buzzfeed about the use of infographics (Diagrams displaying information in a useful and understandable way) to help rig Google results. It’s the new gray hat SEO manipulation technique.

Simple idea: Create an infographic. Make the content tabloid enough/interesting enough to get linked to and offer code for people to embed it on their site with of course a link back to the site with your golden key words.

Already we’re seeing website and blog owners being emailed and asked for links to these infographics and to use certain keywords with the links. Nefarious to say the least especially when there isn’t any thought on who might be interested in the content. “We thought you might like this health insurance graphic since you er blog about food and please link with the text: cheap health insurance Ireland”

Traffic Control.  Sparks, KS.
Photo owned by PV KS (cc)

It’s common for a client and an agency to want a quick win. Good traffic and lots of links. That’s the goal, right? Social media/online marketing is simple to set up, free to do and so people seem to think that there’ll be instant success as a result. The case studies we show and are shown make it seem that way too. Organic growth by creating content, interacting, getting feedback and moving on again is much more stable. But traditionally the marketing industry bought volume. Buy an ad on the Late Late, stick something in every paper and you’ll reach everyone with your very bland ad.

Quantity is still the catnip for many. That’s why you see so many company blogs mentioning celebrities and trying to shoehorn their offerings into some scandal. Good luck with aligning nipple slips into recruitment news lads. There was an old Irish Politics blog that started getting into mentioning all kinds of celebrity sex drivel. Traffic exploded but so did respect for the blog’s political analysis. This here blog for Mulley Comms gets 1/10th of the traffic as my personal blog and something blogged over there will do very well in Google but talking online marketing or online PR here means it won’t get first position on Google. That’s ok though as the blog here is new enough and still finding the way.

You see it too with Facebook campaigns that push for people to become fans. Win an iPad or iPhone for anyone that’s a fan of your Facebook Page. How many of your new Facebook fans genuinely care about what you do and how many clicked Like to enter the iPad draw?

Now counter that with what Sabrina Dent highlights for newsletter list building. She talks about Ciara Crossan going to Wedding Fairs. That’s where Ciara’s constituents are. Those who subscribe to her newsletter are the right demographic, not any old sod joining to get to the prize. Good leads at targeted events. There would be plenty of ways for Ciara to get 1000s of randomers on her mailing list but how many will take the content seriously then? A polluted database costs you more in the end.

So as clients, consultants and agencies should we keep pushing for the slow and more intelligent game instead of cheap tactics like link rigging and begging friends and strangers to Like client status updates? Should part of a company’s social media policy to ban staff from clicking on that Like button and leaving comments? The same way for competitions staff, their families and suppliers are banned from taking part? Should you train your own thoughts into thinking longterm?

4 thoughts on “Shortcuts through quicksand”

  1. Damien, when you say “Should part of a company’s social media policy to ban staff from clicking on that Like button and leaving comments?” – are you referring to agency/consultancy staff or the clients?

    Or both? Presumably there’s little value (bar the network effect) in these staff in clicking…

    Nice article.


  2. Hi David, I’d be looking at both. So many Facebook Pages liked by staff only and with every status update liked by 8 of the staff in 10 minutes, the same on their blog posts. Might as well say: “8 people liked this post and funnily enough they all sit in the same room”. It’s not as bad as astroturfing blog post comments but it begins to feel that way after a while. I can understand the paranoia behind encouraging staff to do this but it probably takes from a natural flow.

  3. I don’t think companies should necessarily ban people outright from posting/sharing company/client work on social media websites.

    There’s a big difference between showing your friends and family what you do for a living or talking about something you’ve created and are particularly proud of versus having everyone in the office hit “Like” on every thing a client posts (or that you post for them by proxy)

    Obviously it would become extremely obnoxious if I stuck up a blogpost and facebook post about every little thing we do in work, but when we launch a site that I think is really cool or different or that I think my auntie in LA would get a kick out of, it would be a bit sad if I had too second-guess myself and think “will all my Irish web-head friends think I’m being sleazy for sharing this?”

  4. Valid points Mr. Mulley.

    These linkbaits for infographics are nothing new; they are just a spin on things like what mingle2 did years ago with and other examples, to break into competitive niches. I guess with any sort of SPAM or manipulation of the SERPs the best way to approach things is to educate people, and to make people aware that folks generating these infographics are not always doing it for the good of their health (or health insurance company), rather they are looking at more spurious ways of getting links, and quick. While I would be the first to admit it’s not the best way, these ways still have positive effects with respect to the SERPs.
    I don’t know if its just SEO consultants (or social meja gurus) that are all jumping on this, and advising clients or it’s a fad that people have copped on to, or something that marketing departments have leaned.
    In the long run, these sites won’t do much better than a site that has taken none of these tactics. The short term benefit of a few links, might be well and good, and could bump up your rankings, but over a longer period of time if will only serve as a purpose that might get you spidered by search robots more often.

    And as you can also guess, traffic to the info-graphics will fall (from sites like digg, stumbleupon & twitter ) sharply over time. That is unless you are a site like that actually generates graphics on a regular basis with real value and consistent.

    As for your second point about people trying claim success by having X thousand of facebook followers, it all doesn’t mean much if you are not capitalising on them. Having 5 out of 1000 people on your list buying is only slightly more expensive as having 5 out of 100. But in the end you are wasting your time and your subscribers’ time by forcing your brand down their neck. IN fact you are only really hurting your brand unnecessarily. These extra 900 people on your list are very unlikely to buy in the first place, because the only reason they are on your list is that they wanted an iPad.
    Slow and steady wins the race,

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