An open letter to Internet villains
Dear pageview inflators, keyword stuffers and other Internet villains:
We’re onto you. While we all love giant posts like “55 Coolest Superhero Powers,” not even the worst comic book villain would make us click through 55 pages one… at … a … time.
And it’s not just that. Beyond the never-ending slideshows, don’t forget shallow posts that make us wonder why we bothered clicking, unpressworthy press releases, keyword-stuffed content and self-centered social media. Holy bad Internet marketing practices, Batman!
Yes, all this might amp up your pageviews – but at what cost? It provides a terrible user experience for us, your customers (you know, the ones you really want to love and share your content?). It leaves us frustrated and – quite frankly – less likely to visit you again.
OK, so maybe you’re not all bad. We understand that you need to get buy-in from your clients and advertisers, but as customers, we plead with you to find and focus on real metrics that’ll free you from the pageviews curse. In exchange, we promise to keep visiting your site, and maybe (if you’re lucky) we’ll even help you grow a thriving community.
Ready to be less evil? Enter the Fantastic Four!
Don’t: Underestimate the importance of knowing your product inside and out. Steve Jobs once said in an interview to Forbes that “salesmen who led companies [were] smart and eloquent, but they didn’t know anything about the product. In the end, this can doom a great company, because what consumers want is good products.”
Do: Value honesty. Companies that have built thriving communities are honest with their users about the direction they plan to take. This must be a company-wide practice, and your salesmen need to understand the importance of using honest metrics with their advertisers & clients.
Take a week out of your busy schedules, and train your sales team. Require each of them to write down three questions prior to attending the training, and then be sure all the questions are answered over the course of week. To be let free, make the salesmen answer their own questions. Yes, it may take time out of everyone’s day … but they are the face of your company.
Don’t: Participate in paid-links, keyword stuffing and over-optimized pages. This shouldn’t even need to be said anymore. Search engine optimization has gotten a bad name with most people in the industry – and it’s understandable when a nice chunk of its practitioners tend to hide in dark and creepy alleyways. Don’t go to the dark side.
Do: Choose your weapons carefully. Learn the tools available to you, and invest in the ones that make a difference. Dive deep into the architecture of your site, and learn what weaknesses your team is able to fix. Your job is to spend time learning not just what is best practice today – but the direction search is taking in the future. When in doubt, ask yourself “What would my customers like better?”
Don’t: Annoy your audience! Avoid those pageview-grubbing slideshows, and don’t write shallow content – we’re talking anything less than 300 words. Ditch the non-newsworthy press releases that aren’t earning you any goodwill or news coverage. People hate this stuff (I promise).
Do: Always put your users first. Tell your story in a compelling way they’ll want to share. Provide great stuff to your audience, and honesty to your advertisers. They are the ones that keep you going, and if you choose to ignore this – your numbers will begin to disappear <poof!>.
Don’t: Obsess over your Twitter followers and Facebook Likes … it’s just a number. Avoid over self-promoting your content and pigeonholing your customers.
Do: Create a voice, show some personality and share your successes with your followers and within your company. Return on investment is tricky, but when you have awesome things to report – be sure to vocalize your wins. Lastly, never give up!
At the end of the day, we are all deeply in love with the Internet. It’s our home away from home, and we want it to remain a happy place to play.
So get up, brush yourself off, and start producing bitchin’ content that people are eager to gobble up. Get your customers excited about your content, and make your advertisers want to pay you.
Let’s win the war!
Your hopeful visitors
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Photo courtesy Roxanna Meta on Flickr