Archive by Author

Is SEO now a complete waste of time?

17 Nov

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation is the mystic – or so the ‘gurus’ will have you believe – art of ensuring your website’s content is found organically by search engines and clambers to the top of search results. To clarify, when I say search engines, the efforts of SEO experts are generally focused on one search engine, the omnipresent Google. This is understandable as the SEO industry was born alongside Google and like the Pilot fish, has been swimming alongside, feeding off its oblivious benefactor ever since.

But has Google switched direction leaving the SEO experts out in the cold(water)? This may sound like a statement to bait a response – sorry I’ll leave the fish analogy here – but try typing ‘mobile phone’ into Google and what do you see? It’s probably something like this:

Google kills Search Engine Optimisation SEO

This is a screenshot from my desktop PC. The area inside the black tint is the full extent of a browser maximised for a typical 1024 x 768 screen, the green speech bubble is from the first organic result after web-traffic giant wikipedia which is nearly always going to appear first.

What this example shows is that three quarters of the available content space is devoted to ads. The organic – or non paid – links start appearing way down the page, below the initially visible screen real estate! This is fine if your digital marketing strategy is to ‘hope-users-ignore-everything-that-first-appears and scroll-down-to-find-your-result’. Good luck with that!

Is this indicative of a move away from organic search listings? Not quite – would you still visit Google if all you got was ads? It’s still going to provide relevant content to users, but the balance has definitely shifted to showing you relevant paid ads over relevant organic results.

The argument that Google is prioritising paid content is enforced if you look at your analytics. In October Google announced that for non Google verified sites it will no longer show you what keywords people used to get to your site organically (here’s a clearer analysis of the announcement). These ‘referer’ links are like gold dust for website owners and provide you with free keyword analysis with which you can further optimise your site.

Returning to the original premise. Is SEO a waste of time? Well, if your product or service is in a saturated or crowded market, and if you’re relying on your website’s organic performance in Google search results to drive business then there’s a good chance the answer is yes.

However, the good news, for the moment, is that SEO for organic traffic is still worth pursuing if your product or service is not in a fiercely competitive market. From my tests, search results for non saturated markets attract fewer, or no ads leaving plenty of space for your business listing to compete organically. A good SEO strategy will keep your content fresh, which will always appeal to customers and encourage repeat visits to your site. Additionally, if you buy  keyword based ads with Google, the cost of your ads is in part determined by the relevance of the content on your website.

Moving forward, to me it seems that to ensure your business gets found online you will soon need to widen your focus. Worry less about your placement in organic search results and start budgeting for keyword based ads. With Google starting to withdraw the freebies, the ad space is going to get more competitive. Unless you’ve Apple’s cash pile this means that the stakes are raised for every dollar of your online advertising budget.  Keyword analysis, online copy-writing, integrated marketing strategy and media expertise – to place, monitor and optimise the ads – are all going to be more important.

The free ride is coming to an end.

Confessions of an Art Dork Intern

2 Nov

A guest post by our latest and greatest intern, Mia Watkins

Before I start gushing about the amazing-ness that is Copeland Communications and my intern experience I feel a little back-story is required.

I would like to start off with a run down of the thought process of your quintessential visual arts student who is halfway through their degree: “Alright! Let’s get this painting done…and this drawing…and that sculpture… hang on a sec, hold up, what the heck am I doing? Am I really a Visual Arts major? Maybe I should be rethinking this and asking myself what I actually expect to do with my life and how can I ensure that I get there!”

Now, as a result from this what-the-flip-am-I-going-to-do-with-this-degree personal crisis I decided that I seriously needed to falcon punch my career direction in the gut and thusly gave myself a kick in the pants towards the career counseling office at UVIC. Several career placement tests and academic advising appointments later I deduced that I was rather interested in business as well as art. Problem, they wanted me to take math, and various other smart people courses, this was an impossible for my art dork brain to comprehend and as such a compromise of a business minor was reached, because, that’s almost as good… right?

Whatever I was going to do with my life, it had to incorporate creativity and a balance of the business world and the art world. Art direction soon became a viable candidate and I realized that I had always been fascinated by the world of advertising. I was advised by the career discovery type people at UVIC to get out there and get in contact with actual, real life, Art Directors, and my “Victoria advertising agency” google search began.

My perusal was rather short lived as a result of Copeland’s kick ass website promptly halting my search in its tracks. A phone call away and I had set up a meeting with Michael Tension, Art Director at Copeland.  After meeting him I pretty well skipped down Government Street thinking, “holy cow that was great, I think I might like to do that when I grow up, but what can I do to get there?” Turns out there are these little things called internships, and it turns out Copeland likes them!

After I spent all summer literally dreaming about interning at Copeland I decided it was time to take action and contacted Doug Brown. To my surprise I was granted a meeting with him and I. Got. The. Job. What? Definitely left the office and did a little happy dance half a block away accompanied by the typical “I am a very excited girl” squeal.

So far everything about this internship has been awesome. After the interview I was set up with my own desk (awesome) as well as my own swivel chair (double awesome) in the creative department (the most awesome).

As I’m sure you are aware the Creative Department, or as I like to call it the Man Folk Department of Hilarious-ness, is a conglomeration of excellently talented and creative minds. Comprised of Senior Art Director Brad Felt, Art Director Michael Tension, and in digital,  Tom Hammarberg. These guys have been a great in helping a complete Adobe CS newb like myself develop a grasp of the programs that are the most essential for an aspiring art director to possess.

During my time working with these fantastic individuals I have acted as a sort of junior illustrator, using my arty student business to sketch concepts for logos, beer labels, and other projects, many of them curiously involving skeletons. In addition to this I have been pulled into creative briefs, brainstorms and client meetings. There has really been a “part of the group” feel to this internship which is greatly appreciated as it allows me to get a feel of what it might be like to work in this field for realsies. My opinions have been taken into account and everyone has been very encouraging of any input I may have to offer.

I still have two weeks or so left to my internship and I am very thankful for this opportunity knowing that I will walk away from this incredibly enlightening and valuable experience with a very positive outlook on the advertising industry. A thank you in is order to Doug Brown and everyone at the office, all of whom have made this experience supremely lovely.

Thanks guys!

If you like, you can follow me on Twitter at @MiaWat and check out my art stuff at http://danicamia.deviantart.com/.

(Doug’s note: Mia was just awarded our Rock Star of the Week award for her amazing creative abilities and for being the best kind of art dork intern you could ever find.)

Facebook is Your Volatile Nightmare Landlord

14 Oct

For a while now you’ll have seen TV commercials, magazine or online ads sign off with a Facebook link. If your business is using Facebook as its website you may already have invested a lot of time nurturing people one by one through the stages of engagement; interest, trial, customer and then friend. They may visit your Facebook page regularly and get your business notifications via their Liking you. All is wonderful in the land of Zuckerberg.

This is all fine as long as it’s understood that your business status on Facebook is that of a tenant. You have few rights, do not own your content and your landlord can change the rules whenever they like; even if that means torpedoing your business. Fantasy surely, but you only have to look to the moves Zynga announced last week.

Zynga is the social gaming giant of Facebook and its biggest app-maker. They provide free-to-play games, enhanced with micro-payments and with titles you may have heard of – Farmville, Cityville, Mafia Wars – they have been very successful. Their revenue in 2010 was $597 million of which $58 million was profit. In July of this year their profits plummeted. The main reason? Facebook.

Facebook Credits take a cut from your e-commerceIn July 2011 Facebook introduced Facebook credits and dictated that all transactions had to be conducted with their credits. Their cut is 30% and this slashed Zynga’s profits by 90% for the quarter.

I don’t see a 30% cut as particularly onerous by the way, it’s a lot better than Groupon’s 50% – 100%, but if your business’ online presence relies on Facebook, then I’d suggest you consider what you might do if they change the rules overnight. At  the very least check if your current page flouts any of the existing rules. This is especially important if you’re using Facebook’s native functionality to promote your business. For example, running a competition on your wall isn’t permitted by Facebook. Contravene it and they can just shut you down without warning. No more business page. And yes, they do check and they do enforce it.

Returning to Zynga. In their case they announced the launch of Zynga Direct. An effort to break their reliance on Facebook and get customers onto their platform without going through Facebook. Not an easy undertaking considering their business was built from the ground up on Facebook.

It’s vital to consider Facebook as one engagement channel and not your only channel. You need to spread your message across different channels, each tailored to the users and expectations of those channels. It’s harder to do and you may need an agency to strategise, co-ordinate, or set this up for you, but it allows you to be flexible and mitigates platform fatigue or failure.

You should also determine where your hub is; The place that your online visitors will end up at. Perhaps it starts with Facebook, ending at your own website where you control your content.

Let’s go a step further. What if your Facebook landlord decides to sell up and disappear? If there’s a constant in the digital world it’s that everything changes.

The biggest search engine in the world in 2000? Yahoo; the crumbling father of the internet, leaking CEO’s and market share like a North Korean submarine, exited search entirely in 2009, replaced by a company no-one had heard of 11 years ago… Google

Flowers for a CEO

6 Oct

I heard the news of Steve Jobs passing along with countless others, on Twitter. A lone questioning tweet appeared, then a trickle, then the news cascaded down the stream. If you had just arrived on earth to witness it you’d be forgiven for thinking a beloved humanitarian fighting injustice and suffering had been assassinated.

Steve Jobs Apple silhouetteAs Apple’s figurehead and spokesman he didn’t invent any of Apple’s industry changing products, nor did he design them, he was the CEO. Which makes it all the more incredible that customers fans have been leaving flowers outside Apple stores in remembrance and people from countries all over the world are still flooding social networks with micro memorials.

Steve Jobs wasn’t just one of the greatest American CEOs, he was a true visionary.

The people who knew him describe his relentless drive to innovate, to push the people he worked with to improve every aspect of what they were working on, to do things differently. Not to give people what they wanted, but to bring them new products that they would love.

That he did this at the expense of profit led to him being fired by the Apple board in 1985. His return with his visionary leadership style intact made Apple what it is today. That’s what makes him one of the greatest American CEOs, but that doesn’t explain the genuine grief evident in the social sphere.

For me that’s explained in his ability to elevate form over function in a world that is increasingly focused on ROI, efficiency & the ruthless pursuit of cost-cutting.

We have an emotional response to design in a way we never will with an list of impressive specifications. With his drive, every Apple product touched by his vision shines. It’s what led Apple to be elevated to not just a global company, but a movement. And movements are driven by emotion. Few people leave such an amazing legacy.

This is a 5 star blog post

21 Sep

This is a 5 star blog post… or is it a 1 star blog post? Well you’re reading it, you decide. The star rating is the grandfather of social validation and review mechanisms. Migrating from the hospitality industry it moved to the entertainment industry before slipping effortlessly onto websites where it makes perfect sense for our attention deficit, fragmented, time-poor online world.

Copeland image: The problem with star ratings.With a single click you can sum up your entire experience of a product, service, or entity and be off to your next online destination. Conversely, no time to investigate a product? Just check the star rating. Everyone wins? Well no, and for the typical implementation of star rating systems here’s why:

It’s too democratic
The leveling power of the Internet has done some wonderful things. Bypassing the media, it has given a voice to people where previously their frustrations and delight would be confined to a small circle of friends and peers.

Mainstream social media hasn’t addressed this yet, but its problem is that in many ways influence and positioning vastly overshadow experience & knowledge. That’s for another post, but in the context of star ratings it means that everyone has the same level of authority when they rate something. So what’s wrong with that?

Well, should you really be allowed to rate something if you’ve never actually bought the product or experienced the service yourself? Why should you have the power to influence others based on hear-say, or worse, in the pursuit of an ill-informed agenda? Especially considering your star rating is elevated to the same level of influence as someone who actually paid for the product or service.

A star rating for a meal or movie accounts for a passive activity with a very short timeline. Should it be applied to a complex product or service with which you interact for a period of months or years? The blanket democracy takes no account of whether you read the instructions, ignored the warnings, let alone whether you paid for the product.

It’s open to abuse
Running a campaign or launching a product? Why not just buy 5 star reviews. Or go the extra step and buy 1 star reviews to be applied to your competitors.

Electronic Arts suffered the wrath of agenda driven star rating abuse when they released Spore, a PC game with what was seen by consumers as having  draconian anti-piracy measures. An organised backlash resulted in 837 1 star reviews being posted on Amazon within days, many by people who had never bought the game. Maybe this was a fair rating of the anti-piracy features, but it tarred every aspect of the product with the same brush.

It amplifies inherent bias.
If you pass my imaginary gate for people who have actually paid for the product then we run into the next huge failing. Inherent bias.
If you’ve committed to the point where you shell out money for a product or service then you’re pre-disposed to like it. There’s also the documented need to validate our decision. If you’ve ever looked for a review of a movie after you’ve watched it, or searched for a product review for the gadget sitting next to you on your sofa, as I have, then you’re probably looking for approval via social validation. You’ll be inclined to leave a higher rating as a result.

At the other end of the scale are those looking to assuage their anger with a 1 star review. What star ratings don’t show is the vast majority of people who find the product satisfactory. Have you ever taken the time to rate, or review  something that you were mildly pleased with, or was satisfactory? This evangelism amplifies both end of the scale, leaving the middle ground in a vacuum. It’s the reason youtube is looking for alternatives to star ratings. And if they are I’d wager the big e-commerce sites are as well.

You hired a social media saboteur

24 Aug

social media saboteurSocial media strategies. All too often they appear to be ill-informed and poorly implemented. I suspect the working of social media saboteurs. This is how they work…

Client, in this case a Co-op: “We sell some great local products in our stores. We want to increase consumer awareness and appreciation of our supplier’s food products. We’re thinking of some sort of people’s choice award.”

Social Media Saboteur: “Building awareness eh? Well social media is huge right now so let’s run a contest using Facebook. We’ll ask people on Facebook to vote in a contest.”

Co-op: “Great, we already have a Facebook page, so I guess they vote with some kind of status updates maybe?”

SM Saboteur: “Well we could do that, but we’re going to use the Like button, that way we can trick people into receiving product updates.”

Co-op: “I see, well we do love the people who already Like our supplier’s products.”

SM Saboteur: “The real fans? We don’t want them to vote.”

Co-op: “er… what?”

SM Saboteur: “Nope, don’t need ’em.”

Co-op: “Well er… oh I get it, you’re suggesting we should focus on new audiences in other channels.”

SM Saboteur: [chuckles] “Of course not, why waste effort on an unknown entity? Everyone is on Facebook.”

Co-op: “So let me see if I’ve got this straight? We’ll run a contest for mildly engaged customers on Facebook. When they vote we’ll subscribe them to product updates. They’ll start loving the product and buy more?”

SM Saboteur: “Bingo!” [fires two imaginary pistols in the air and blows smoke from the barrels]

Sounds far fetched doesn’t it? Well this is exactly the perception I get when I looked at the Co-op’s Eat Atlantic Food product of the year award, One of a number of Co-op campaign initiatives currently running on the Canadian east coast.

The award component is being run as a public vote. And as is so often the case these days, the strategist appears to have defaulted to Facebook as the platform to run the competition. I’m not saying Facebook isn’t suitable for social marketing. If the product(s) and the goals align with the platform then it can be a match made in heaven, and in this case the products are actually better suited to Facebook than most, but in this case the goals and implementation fall far short of their potential.

I’ll explain and, acknowledging that just picking holes in something doesn’t really advance anyone’s knowledge, I’ll provide some ways the campaign elements might have been improved.

The saboteur’s aims:

To limit the reach:
In a news article in the Times and Transcript, Romeo Cormier, manager of public affairs at the Co-Op explains the Award are part of a campaign to:

“…raise consumer awareness and appreciation for the world-class food products made here in Atlantic Canada.”

A competitive vote is a perfectly acceptable way to motivate fans to spread the word, but the nominated products were solicited from existing Facebook fans and Facebook is used as the voting mechanism. In effect this is severely limiting the reach by only targeting existing fans on one platform.

Alternate strategy: Expand the reach of the contest. Provide each nominated supplier with a suite of tools and simple solutions to encourage them to get votes from their customers. Tweet badges for websites, suggested email copy for mailing lists, incentivise voters with a decent prize for a random voter for the winning product. Send sample packs of nominated products to influential East coast food bloggers. There’s a whole world beyond Facebook.

To exclude most of the voters:
To vote, you have to Like the product on Facebook. This seems like a great way to increase engagement by subscribing people to future updates, but there’s a huge failing here. Fans can’t vote if they’ve previously Liked the product. This is a huge mistake! It excludes brand ambassadors from voting. The very people who are going to wave the flag for you are the ones you want to activate and encourage.

An alternate strategy: If you’re targeting Facebook then the status update mechanism will allow anyone on Facebook to vote, existing fan or otherwise. More importantly, allow people to vote with the tools they’re comfortable with. A lot of people are on Facebook sure, but your biggest fans might not be. Make it easy for them and allow votes to be submitted from different platforms. There may be duplicate votes, but this can only expand reach which ultimately is the goal.

To give the favourites a head start.
The contest rules suggest that the winner will be decided by the most likes. The current contest leader had approx 700 Likes at the start of the contest. They can quite comfortably ignore the competition, go on holiday and still win by a landslide. Even more troubling is that the landing page always displays the nominees in the same order. Guess who is in the favored top spot on the page? Yup, the runaway favorite.

Alternate strategy: Level the playing field. You’re not going to build a competitive spirit by giving Michael Phelps a 90m head-start in the 100m freestyle. Set all the competitors at zero votes and introduce a way to track votes within the timeline of the competition, e.g. subject lines in email votes, SMS shortcodes, hashtags in tweets etc. This gives the smaller suppliers a chance in one arena that they can compete with the big boys; community engagement, and energising ambassadors with one-to-one communication.
When displaying the nominees, randomise the list for each site visitor, ensuring everyone get’s a chance to appear at the top.

To ignore the original goal
The voting page displays each nominee, a logo and the infamous Like button… and that’s it. Looking back at the original goal, the execution falls way short on the aims.

Alternate strategy:
Address the goal of promoting “appreciation for the world-class food products” right on the vote landing page. Alongside each product display customer testimonials, celebrate the local ingredients, get some product insight from the farmer/manufacturer. This is going to expose voters to a broader range of products and help fulfill the aim of raising consumer awareness.

Ultimately every aspect of the competition should be checked against the goals.

Danny’s Copeland – an intern’s perspective

20 Jul

A guest post by one of our #zombieintern competition winners and all round good egg: Danny Prew…

My graphic design schooling at Pacific Design Academy is done and I’m now one month into my internship with Copeland. What a busy month it’s been. Now that my initial nerves have settled (mostly in a bloody pile on the floor), allow me to take you on a tour of my daily routine from my first month at Copeland.

The first impression of the office is a welcome one for a young zombie: I’m greeted by three rabid dogs as they roam the hallways for scraps.

chico

In the first office to the right the nasal moaning of fellow Zombie interns can be heard. I was lucky that my first few weeks overlapped with two talented and equally gruesome marketing interns Brad Tribbeck and Bryan Dwyer. Although they’ve now moved on, their presence can still be felt—as a 5-foot reminder on the wall.

zombie

Onward to the creative department: an immensely inventive room that’s talent is matched only by its cryptic stench. Unfortunately I was placed at a desk still shrouded by the talented and energetic shadow of Copeland’s last design intern, Stephan Rosger. That might explain the more unusual zombie artifacts stored in and around my desk- like the squeeze bottle of fake blood and the set of blood-stained handcuffs (I wish I was making this up).

Danny's desk

The hoard that I’ve been job-shadowing includes: Senior Art Director Brad Felt: a walking (dead) Adobe software textbook, Art Director Michael Tension, who right now is literally reviewing his role in an independent zombie film called “Meat Market 2”, and Interactive Art Director Tom Hammarberg, resident web genius and international accent impressionist. I should note that my computer is strategically placed directly behind theirs, an ideal location for over-the-shoulder monitor drooling and technique lurking. By offering up a fresh set of eyes I’ve had the chance to drip some blood into some of Copeland’s client base. While most of my schooling has placed me in the realm of print media, I’ve been dabbling with my ever growing interest in interactive design by assisting with some layout and development for Copeland’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

My first month has been a very influential one acclimatizing to speedy deadlines, working in teams, and melding my design work into a marketing framework. Ah yes, marketing! My eyes have been opened to a world that I must admit, I hitherto knew very little about. To remedy this I’ve been spending as much time as possible at client meetings, creative briefs, and tutorials so that I can soak in as much knowledge as my hacked-up brain will allow.

It will be sad to leave, but I am ever grateful for the opportunities, insight and experiences that I’ve been given. Wait- I’ve still got another month in this hell hole! Somebody get me out!

You can follow me on twitter @DannyPrew or by checking out my website: www.dannyprew.com