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Twitter’s Musical Magic

This weekend I attended a local music festival called Rifflandia. This epic four-day event featured over 170 artists, performing at fourteen venues all around the city—everyone from mainstage bigwigs like Courtney Love to beloved local acts that draw a small but dedicated crowd. On Thursday night, while watching the next band set up and do sound checks, I went to update Twitter on my phone and my new friend smirked. “You use Twitter?” he asked. “Why? I’ve never understood the appeal.”

©Rifflandia, 2013

©Rifflandia, 2013

It’s unfortunate for him, because events like Rifflandia are the exact place where Twitter shows its true strength. It takes those big moments—like a Courtney Love concert or a surprise encore performance of Bear Mountain—and makes everyone a part of the collective experience. We uploaded photos and video, made plans to meet with friends old and new, and got up-to-date information on which venues were at capacity. Through the network of thousands using the hashtag #Riff2013, we shared our collective experiences and were able to be many places at once.

One particularly poignant usage of social media to connect with fans was on display at the performance of the Montreal band Stars, who are a personal favourite of mine. In the hours leading up to their main stage set, they spread the word that the audience should film the band and themselves during the concert singing along to the song “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It”, and upload the video to their SwitchCam streaming video feed. The files will be used to create a crowd-sourced music video for the song, to be aired on CBC. Even though it was pouring rain, hundreds of us held up our smartphones and became videographers for a few minutes. It was an absolutely wonderful way to connect with fans, and we felt like part of the band’s family; our perspectives as music lovers were becoming a vital part of their newest album.

It’s not just the concert experience that’s enhanced by Twitter; it’s also been an invaluable tool for me as a radio host and aspiring journalist. I can attest to the fact that a personal outreach to someone on Twitter can make all the difference when it comes to getting an ‘in’ with that person elsewhere; I’ve made dozens of musician friends and connections on Twitter, and parlayed it into bringing a local musician into the radio station with me for a live show and cohosting event. It all happened because I saw them at a show, followed them, and sent a message praising their talent and asking if I could obtain their songs to play on my show. After some back-and-forth, a legitimate working relationship has emerged.

It was tough to explain all of this in just a short sentence to my friend, or anyone else who smirks at my heavy use of Twitter, but I wouldn’t trade it with anything. Becoming an SEO has only increased my knowledge of just how powerful the social network can be; it’s the best networking method for introverted oddballs like me, as well as people from all industries and demographic groups. I’m not surprised that Twitter has announced a new partnership with the advertisers of big television and live events, because live-tweeting the experience is half of the fun and it’s the perfect way to catch your audience in a direct, relateable manner.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:56 am on September 17, 2013


The Elephant Beneath My Feet

Using social media as a way to generate strategy and effective business plays a mighty role in our digital world. Many clients are concerned with how the big brand names are stuffing smaller labels under their feet by pushing them to the next page on Google. We should recognize that social media is here for a reason and can be harnessed to drive sales and traffic to the smaller label. The benefits of harnessing social media range from generating long lasting impressions, creating community and relationships and also connecting to clients. Dave Davies had mentioned that at the end of the day it’s creating traffic and making that decent pay check.

How do I generate long lasting impressions with social media?

In early 2010 Blendtec, one of the leading blender companies, used shock-com marketing to create long lasting impressions. The “Will it Blend” You Tube series used everything from an iPad to iPhone and blended it up. Owning an iPad at the time was a must have, but throwing it in the blender was inconceivable. Why would anybody do that? Blendtec did and it clearly showed that it could pulverize. It also created an impression that was virally shared, counting beyond the millions and bringing home economic growth. This type of campaigning has been around for centuries, like how Edison electrocuted an elephant as a propaganda campaign against Tesla. We all know how that worked for Edison. The truth is, we don’t have to go as far as electrocuting an elephant, but we can use this technique to conquer the elephant (Box Stores) with an internet impression.

When business enters the digital world it doesn’t mean you toss out old school networking ideals. When a brick and mortar business opens its door for the first time it focuses on its community and begins to build relationships within it. This connects their store and ensures credibility for their products as well as service. If a small business is accepted well within its own community people begin to speak highly of it. Word of mouth can have a positive impact or a negative impact, but it can happen fast. When a website connects with their clients using social media they gain credibility, and if that client is happy it’s easy enough to hit that share button. This kind of word of mouth happens at a relatively faster pace, with an even larger number of people reached. You can now take hundreds of individuals and focus that feeling of being personally catered to. All this can be a benefit by giving the small brand a voice in its community and avoid being crushed by the popular giant.

Big corporate companies don’t have to rid the local mom and pop store in regards to penguin and panda. It’s about playing smart and using the same techniques that were used in the days before the internet. Be personable when creating a community and relationships, but also never fear going out of your comfort zone to create a long lasting impression. Develop that traffic, spike that interest and make that decent check at the end of the day. Soon enough your presence will strengthen and you will hold that elephant beneath your foot.

SEO news blog post by @ 2:00 pm on August 16, 2013


Twitter’s New Anti-Abuse Policies and the Dark Side of Social Media

I won’t lie when I say that one of the best parts of my job is managing social media accounts; it can be legitimately fun, but it’s also a very important illustration of how the Internet affects customer/business interactions. My experience mostly comes from being a voracious and active social media user in my private life; I enjoy a following of 400+ people on Twitter, and I have seen what the network is capable of: live-blogging the Vancouver Olympic opening ceremonies, catching cheating politicians in the act, and spreading the word of everything from hot TV shows to full-blown revolutions. While some might resist it, social media is vital for modern reputation management and customer service; the web has democratized marketing in a very drastic way, making it nearly impossible for a company to cover up substantial issues with their products or service. When you do a great job, you might get the occasional positive mention; when you mess up, your customers will definitely air their grievances. And as a social media user myself, I can vouch for the fact that the public has come to respect businesses that address these issues honestly when they’re contacted about them.

Unfortunately, this democratization has lead to some inevitable abuses of the system. In some cases it’s a rival company posting fake reviews in an attempt to discredit the competition; in others, a company (or person) may be the subject of a vicious complaint that goes viral online. Part of online reputation management is being able to mitigate these issues, whether by reporting abuse to site moderators or addressing complaints head-on.

I say all of this because some business owners on desktop and Android platforms may see a new feature on Twitter in the coming weeks: an in-tweet ‘Report Abuse’ button. Currently, users who wish to flag threats must visit the online help center and go through several extra steps to report abuse; the new button will make the process far quicker, and (hopefully) hasten the removal of hate speech. Twitter’s announcement wasn’t just a routine update; it was spurred largely by a British woman named Caroline Criado-Perez, and the flood of horrific rape, violence, and bomb threats she received over the weekend. These weren’t mere trolls; the abuse got so serious that at least one man was arrested on Sunday as a result. What did Criado-Perez do to warrant hundreds of 140-character threats of violence? She campaigned—successfully—for the British government to put author Jane Austen’s face on the new £10 banknote. The threats were also sent to a female Member of Parliament who tweeted her support for the campaign.

If it seems absurd, that’s because it is; this wasn’t a case of radical politics or controversial opinion, but a fairly tame move to represent more British women on currency. The horrifying result was a stark reminder of the abusive power of social media, especially against women and other marginalized groups in society. But even if you’re not an active participant in social issues online, it’s intimidating to realize just how quickly the anonymous web can turn against you. While some have applauded Twitter for finally taking a decisive action to make their website safer for all users, the decision has also drawn criticism from people who have seen how ‘Report Abuse’ functions on other websites have actually been used against legitimate accounts as a form of abuse in and of itself; a group of trolls flagging an account they disagree with can result in that account being suspended by the website, even when the owner hasn’t actually violated any rules.

Of course, the gender politics and personal vendettas of social media are quite a bit more intense than what we do as SEOs to help clients. In terms of reputation management online, the Report Abuse button will likely be a helpful way to ensure that a company doesn’t suffer from malicious treatment. However, it also may be far too easy to report a dissatisfied (and vocal) customer out of sheer frustration. Online reputation is a fickle beast; a few damning reviews can take down an entire small business, and the damage can be very difficult to control—it’s easy to feel helpless when it seems like nothing you do can push down a few dissatisfied customers in favor of the happy ones. Business owners on Twitter should still make it a priority to engage with unhappy customers on a personal level, rather than just report an account because of a particularly bad review—even if it makes the problem temporarily disappear, the Internet is not kind to those types of tactics.

The Criado-Perez debacle over the weekend has shown Twitter’s dark side, particularly when it comes to misogyny and online gender violence. The effect of the new reporting feature remains to be seen in that regard. While smaller businesses on social media may not engage in that debate, it’s a prudent reminder that the web’s anonymity can cause a lot of malicious action in the name of free speech. Reputation management isn’t going to get easier as a result of Twitter’s changes; it will still require a human touch and an honest connection, because that’s what garners respect in the social media sphere. But hopefully this small corner of the web will be a little safer for everyone who uses it, giving people more courage to speak their minds without fear of retaliatory attempts to forcibly silence them.

SEO news blog post by @ 3:14 pm on August 6, 2013


Facebook Beith Not The Devil

Social media is not going away, and nor should it. For all the nay-sayers out there who deem Facebook as the work of the Devil, just remember social media has always existed. Since the beginning of time, in fact. It was called word of mouth. The baker told the butcher about his latest new blend of grains, the butcher told the housemaid, the housemaid told the tailor, the tailor told the constable and gradually everyone knew about the fabulous new compilation the baker was using in his breads. Now, with the evolution of technology social media has become more than just status updates and shared links to videos of cats snuggling with dogs. The business world has finally begun to see the benefit of this techno-word-of-mouth phenomenon that has 500 million (active) users tweeting their every thought. Social media is a marketing tool. On one side of the fence it is a means for the baker to put the word out about his new grain blend. On the other side, it is the opportunity for the butcher, housemaid, tailor and constable to learn of the baker’s activities and pass along the information. Therefore it makes good business sense for companies to use Yelp, Twitter, Facebook et all as their voice to the consumer.

Not long ago there was an article released by the American Pediatric Society warning parents about “Facebook Depression”. Parents were directed to watch their Facebook-friendly children for signs of depression stemming from either too much exposure to social media, or negative interactions taking place there. Undoubtedly there were a lot of parents observing their teen’s behavior a little more closely after that article hit the cables. Alongside the warning was the explained “Fear of Missing Out” or FOMO. Apparently adolescents are glued to their laptops and smartphones 24/7 waiting for the tiniest signal from a social media outlet, just so they don’t miss out on Justin Beiber tickets. What parents seem to be missing the point on is FOMO is natural. What three year old has not had a temper tantrum at bedtime? The teen version of FOMO is just the same, only on steroids. Parents, it’s all part of growing up. Didn’t you ever go way too far on the side of punk and stick a safety pin through your nose? The difference now is technology, and the corporate world has noticed.

The music industry has always paid close attention to the demographics of their followers, but now it is so much easier to obtain and use that information. Your teen is not only drooling at the mouth for tweets from peers, they are also watching for the latest news on celebrities, musicians, fashion icons, gaming news and probably dozens of other subjects parents would shudder to hear of. Young people with after-school jobs have the most disposable income of any demographic, and business executives know that. Your grumpy 15 year old may not be saddled with Facebook Depression, but there is a pretty good chance he or she is probably sulking over not having the latest Toms or missing out on the Halo release. That doesn’t mean every parent needs to confiscate the internet. Nope, in fact let it be. This is a learning experience. Adolescents are moody, demanding, boundary pushing kids still trying to figure out who they are. Let them continue on the journey, they will thank you for it later.

Of course the caveat to all of this is good parenting. We still need to be aware of our children’s activities and who their friends are. The internet, not social media in particular, is acting as a vehicle for speeding up the learning process for kids today – in both good and bad ways. Accept their use of social media as a means of skill building, but it will take a sound parental influence with a good sense of boundaries to know how to spot dangerous behavior.

Social media is not going away. It is here to stay because no other form of communication gets information out to the masses as quickly. And since we are all social beings with an insatiable need for information, social media is our drug. Embrace it. Use it to your advantage. Make Twitter work for you instead of the other way around. Feed your Google+ profile through to Twitter, re-tweet industry related blogs you follow, Bump your contacts to build up your network, Yelp about favorite restaurants. All this in an effort to get traffic with your name pinned to it, flowing. Use social media to be more involved with your teen’s activities. They can hide, but they can’t hide from the web. Their obsession with social media is your ticket to knowing what they are up to. In the end, you will love the fact that social media is not going away.

SEO news blog post by @ 3:52 pm on March 28, 2012


Part Six of Ten: Social Media

Welcome to part six in this ten part SEO series. The ten parts of the SEO process we will be covering are:

  1. Keyword Research & Selection
  2. Competition Analysis
  3. Site Structure
  4. Content Optimization
  5. Link Building
  6. Social Media
  7. PPC
  8. Statistics Analysis
  9. Conversion Optimization
  10. Keeping It Up

On the second day of SMX Social, I had the privilege of being on a panel that spoke about micro-communities. The panel included Rand Fishkin and myself while Danny Sullivan moderated. Several of my colleagues were a little confused with the title of the panel, just as probably a few of you are right now. So just what are micro communities?

First, before I explain that, let me start off by saying – the concept of Social Media is not new. That’s right, the concept of what exactly social media is not new. The fancy term that has been coined “Social Media” and the new “Web 2.0″ looks are what’s new to this rather old advertising medium (old in terms of the internet that is). Social Media has been around since the inception of the Internet. Think I’m a little nuts in stating that? Stop and reflect a moment, some of the most powerful social media outlets for your clients, services and products have been around a very long time – Forums and Message Boards.

Forums and Message Boards are chalk full of relevant very honed content around particular subjects. Whether its subject is about collecting comics, fan fiction writing, or making crafts most forums have a lot of “power” when it comes to value and optimization of your website (think age of domains, relevant content, etc.). They also offer traffic from very qualified resources, and these are resources that really would be more interested in what you have to say.

So now, maybe you are getting an idea of what micro-communities are? Micro-Communities are specific communities built around niches. When it comes to social media it can encompass a wide variety of social media types from specific social news sites (BallyHype, Sk*rt), bloggers blogging about very finite subjects, specific communities (WebMD, Corkd), to fourms/message boards (Cre8asite, Rotten Tomatoes). All of these social media types provide user generated content created by people interested in one particular niche.

Rand had a great list of all different types of communities in his presentation. This listed consisted of websites that were designed to be “communities” around a certain niche. However, when marketing to micro-communities you need to look beyond just a particular website that caters to creating a community to one niche. You have to open up the possibilities of reaching more people with your message, by only looking at “communities” per se, you limit your reach. Micro-community marketing strategies should include social news sites, blogs and blogging groups, forums and message boards, video and photo sharing sites (think about photo groups and video subscriptions) and also communities. Any where people “share” they are being “social”.

My presentation gave a case study, how we effectively leveraged utilizing a certain aspect of social media to spread the word about a client’s product. The client is in an extremely tough niche to market. This particular niche was over crowded, PPC spend was high and SEO is practically impossible other than for their brand name which no one knew about. After spending over 40k in PPC with lackluster results, the client needed a new approach, so we decided to take a much closer look at social media.

Several approaches were looked at, but we decided to first work with bloggers who were specifically blogging about their ups and downs with dieting. We did a tremendous amount of research and read their blogs. We started with a large list and looked at several factors such as receptiveness, how often they blogged, what was their reach, and how many subscribers the blog had. We decided to start with “smaller” bloggers (reach/subscriptions) first to minimize any negative backlash and also to learn from our approach. Most importantly we followed the WOMMA guidelines. Due to the industry our client’s product was in, and the propensity for spam and being seen as a “slimy, unethical marketer”, this was very important.

After a 4-6 week period, the project had greater success than the PPC campaign did in 3 months. The goal was to give away free trials via an online form. That was accomplished when after a blogger wrote about their experience with the product, they were then offered to offer their audience a free trial as well. The most important thing we did with this project, beyond being upfront and honest, was that we NEVER asked a blogger to blog about the product. We did not expect it, we did not ask for it we left that up to the blogger to act on their own. If the blogger did blog about their experience with the product it was recorded, and we also interacted with the blogger’s conversation. Whether it was a positive or a negative response, we always engaged in the conversation thanking them for their honest opinions and feedback.

In the end, when we finally handed the project over to the new marketing group our client started, the project was deemed successful by our client. They actually had sales from this effort, where in the PPC campaign, there was none. The client also learned a lot about the perception of the product and considered that a great take away too.

Taking the time, researching and being up front and honest about who you are is imperative to marketing to micro-communities. If the community smells a “rat”, they’ll out you faster than OJ Simpson was outed for “stealing his own sports memorabilia” back. Trust me when I say this, you mess up by not being upfront and honest, your campaign efforts are done. People in these micro communities talk with each other. Bloggers participate in forums, forum participants engage in social news, social news junkies scour the message boards for new information to post – get the picture here?

Micro-communities are a great place to market to qualified targeted audiences, but unless you invest the time and sincere efforts of engaging with a community, your strategy is doomed from the start. The last thing I’d like relate about micro-communities is: remember, these communities tend to be a much smaller scale than Digg, Propeller or StumbleUpon, you shouldn’t be after traffic if you are looking to interact with these communities. Digg, Facebook,etc. all have broad and general audiences and can drive tons of unqualified traffic, micro-communities can turn out to be a much bigger “win” if your goal is conversions.

About The Author

The most recent article in the series of ten was published today by Li Evans of Search Marketing Gurus. I first met Li at an SES event some time ago, have interviewed her once for Webmaster Radio (as I will get to again for

Next week the topic will be PPC. Stay tuned for some great enlightenment about this important topic and how it affects organic SEO.

SEO news blog post by @ 1:47 pm on March 13, 2008


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