FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – The iCopyInsider Crystal Ball

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

With the Mayan Apocalypse behind us, we can all breathe a sigh of relief and start looking forward to the year 2013. Here’s a prediction: It’s going to be a weird one.

To get you started, just check out some of the new 2013 entries in the Guinness Book of World Records, courtesy of The Telegraph. No human should do that to his or her biceps. I’m going to venture an optimistic prediction though; these oddities will not represent the pinnacle of human achievement in 2013.

I usually try to avoid the crystal ball. It’s a risky thing to do, according to this year’s forecasting wunderkind Nate Silver, who wrote a great book on the subject this year, in addition to nailing the 2012 election for The New York Times and being featured in his own FreakyFriday segment (we should all have the kind of year).

But my guess (or hope) is that new technologies – freaky, cool and useful – will to open up new possibilities for small businesses and entrepreneurs to realize their big ideas.

Some things to look out for in 2013:

1. Inc. Magazine foresees gesture control for tablets and computers making huge strides this year. Think of the Xbox Kinect, but for your computer. Developers will go nuts with new applications for this technology. Soon you’ll be able to answer calls with the literal snap of a finger.

Another humble prediction: This will create many more opportunities for nerds to pretend that they are Jedi.

2. Here is an awesome roundup of 2013 predictions from the brilliant folks at the Nieman Journalism Lab. As a content producer, it’s worth keeping tabs on the media world, as newsrooms are grappling with many of the same fundamental Web questions that all businesses are. One of the best insights – responsive design is going to get weird this year.

3. Or maybe optimism is useless because the robots are going to replace us all.

Here’s to living in interesting times, and Happy New Year!

Photo Credit: garryknight

Monday Must-Reads: Christmas Edition

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Happy holidays from iCopywriter this glorious Christmas Eve – which, as it happens, falls on a Monday this year, so you know what that means …

That’s right, a special Christmas Edition of Monday Must-Reads. It looks like you’ve all been very good copywriters and SEO managers this year, because your humble blogger Santa Alex has some very special links for you.

To get you in the spirit, here are some good holiday reads.

1. The Los Angeles Times reports on efforts by scientists to build a better Christmas tree. As in, one that won’t shed needles on your floor. Because nothing says Christmas like mutant trees.

2. The Washington Post wants to help you pick a last-minute holiday gift.

3. And ABC News has Christmas Eve store hours. 

4. Newser wants you to know that your holiday tree has 25,000 bugs. Yuck.

5. The Queen of England filmed her annual holiday message in 3D.

6. From The Patriot-News in central Pennsylvania, a brief history of your favorite Christmas songs.

7. And, for old times’ sake, one of the first viral reads in American media history. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. It’s still a fine piece of writing. Read it with your kids.

Merry Christmas!

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – When Obamadon Ruled the Earth…

By: iCopy Head Paleontologist Research Blogger Alex Dalenberg

It’s a bit too late to win over the crucial paleontologist vote, but scientists at Yale and Harvard have named a newly discovered prehistoric lizard after our newly re-elected 44th president.

Enter the Obamadon, which, according to the Yale news service, was a slender, toothy lizard roughly one foot long. Unlike the president – who has shown a predilection for Spam, of both the email and canned variety – Obamadon probably ate insects.

The scientists said no one should impart any political significance to the name. Paleontologist Nicholas R. Longrich told Yale News, “We’re just having fun with taxonomy.”

If only we all had such fun with taxonomy.

Actually, whether intentional or not, the buzzy name was a rather clever coup for these scientists, if for no other reason then the fact that their upcoming journal findings received nationwide press thanks to the Obamadon. Of course, they’re not the first scientists to name their findings after notable politicos. Reuters reports that ancient sloths and slime mold beetles have also been named after presidents and various cabinet members.

In general, it’s best to tread carefully when it comes to politics, but I’d categorize this is as being a win on both sides of the aisle. For example, conservatives can snicker that the Obamadon was a cold-blooded bug-eater with fangs. As for the liberals, well, the chances of there ever being a Romneydon are, shall we say, extinct.

Photo credit: shvmoz

 

 

Monday Must-Reads…

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

OK, it might not be as invigorating as a strong cup of coffee, but why not start your week with a potent brew of SEO and copywriting knowledge? If you’re interested in staying found on the Web – and what business isn’t? – then you know at some level you’ve got to keep up with this stuff.

Luckily, we’re huge geeks here at the iCopyInsider, so we’ve done the hard part for you. Welcome to our new feature: Monday Must Reads. Every Monday, we’ll bring you some of the best articles from around the Web related to SEO, SEO copywriting and pretty much anything else we think you might useful or interesting.

 

Here are five reads that we think are worth your time this week. Enjoy!

1. Is a picture worth a 1,000 clicks? How to boost SEO with infographics via Practical eCommerce.

2. VentureBeat asks an important question: Are you getting a good deal on SEO?

3. We wrote about the growing importance of Google+ last week, but here it is again. AdWeek talks about how Google+ is following Facebook’s trajectory.

4. Here’s a new tool recommended by PCWorld that you can use to see if your Twitter followers are actual humans.

5. And finally, here is a good read in The Guardian about the dying art of creative copywriting.

 

 

FreakyFriday – Weird of the Day: Long Live the Royal Molecatcher

By iCopy blogger Alex Dalenberg

We live in an age of disruption. Trends come and go. Companies rise and fall. Groupon surged out of the gate to be hailed as the next big thing, but it now seems to be declining just as quickly, with its shares tumbling. The New York Times, the closest thing there is to a bastion of old media, announced this week that it will be offering buyouts for 30 newsroom positions.

But there are some jobs and industries that stubbornly endure. Enter the royal molecatcher of Versailles.

Yes, according to the Associated Press, an official molecatcher has been gainfully employed at the French court since the 1600s, surviving the monarchy itself, multiple revolutions and two world wars. Today the job is held by Frenchman Jerome Dormion, who even signs his text messages, molecatcher to the king.

Versailles it seems, isn’t just a pleasure garden for the human set, but also moles. The population has been booming since its natural predators – wildcats and weasels – have declined in the wild. The job is still much the same. Even the tools haven’t changed. Dormion is charged with keeping the roughly 2,000 acres of grounds – an iconic symbol of France – mole free.

Not to uh, make mountains out of molehills, but I actually see a few smart business lessons buried here.

1. Dormion fills an important niche: a single mole can make up to 30 molehills per day, so even a handful of moles can completely deface a country estate.

2. He’s unlikely to be replaced until engineers invent an efficient mole-catching robot, probably not a major concern for robotics experts.

3. He’s an expert. Most amateur gardeners struggle to capture wily moles, which are exceptionally intelligent.

What does your business do that will stand the test of time? Do you have a “royal molecatcher” position?

Photo credit: AP Photo/Thibault Camus

Big News- Google’s Author Rank is on its Way

By iCopy blogger Alex Dalenberg

So … this is happening:Google authorship.

If you haven’t yet heard the rumblings coming out of SEO world, heads up. If you create, post or access content on the Web, Google’s new author-ranking scheme is going to affect you, one way or another.

Here’s the gist of it. Google has been quietly rolling out its new author rank program – which has more or less been in the works for years. The idea is that content creators are now able to link the stories and posts they create to their Google Plus identity.

This is a big deal because the conventional wisdom says that someday soon, authorship is going to play a major part in Google’s page rankings.

You can find a few good primers at Forbes as well as the SEOmoz blog, but the main takeaway here is that it isn’t just going to matter how well a page or domain performs; it’s going to matter who writes it, as well.

The idea is that more reputable authors – judged by things like social sharing in the form of likes and plus ones, comments, links and more – produce better, more reputable content. Therefore, it’s reasonable to expect that Google is going to give posts by those authors much more weight in search listing results.

This isn’t out of the blue. As the Web becomes more social-oriented, so should the way we search – at least in theory. But for now, here is the least you need to know, as far as we see it here at iCopywriter.

1. Your Google Plus account matters now.

Love it or hate it, Google is pushing hard to make its own social network much more relevant. And, as far as it can affect search rankings, they have a lot of leverage here. If you’ve been neglecting your profile, it’s time to get it up to date and start posting your content.

And, if you post your own content, it’s time to make sure that Google can find you. They have a comprehensive set of instructions here.

2. The rules are still the same. Quality content will win.

The fundamentals of this game are unchanged. Quality authors will provide quality, relevant content. However, more than ever, it’s time to think about how to create content that readers are likely to share and discuss. In my mind, this means useful content.

3. Do you know who is writing your stuff?

You will need to soon. With Google Authorship, the focus is shifting to individuals and personalities. For those who are willing to embrace the different voices that make up their company, rewards await.

iCopywriter is keeping up with the news and happenings of Author Rank (and all-things-SEO). Don’t you want us on your team?

Photo credit: followtheseinstructions

 

Google vs. Bing – The Battle Gets Heated

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

It looks like Microsoft is taking the fight for search traffic directly to Google – just in time for the holidays – with ads explicitly calling out the Web giant as a terrible place to shop.

This is according to a recent article by The Associated Press. Microsoft, of course, wants to drive eyeballs to its own search engine, Bing, which is a far-off second to Google when it comes to traffic.

Microsoft’s main issue – and it’s fair game – is that Google is charging merchants to appear in its special shopping listings. This of course goes against Google’s overall ethos as the fairest and best source of information on the Web. Microsoft has set up its own site as part of the ad campaign: Scroogled. The site doesn’t shy away from saying that the Google guys are basically hypocrites, using their own words against them to pretty devastating effect.

Although, as Danny Sullivan, an editor at SearchEngineLand.com, tells the AP, even though Microsoft’s attacks on Google are more or less fair, Bing isn’t exactly innocent. It takes its own cut from listings provided by Shopping.com, though the majority of Bing’s shopping listings aren’t paid for.

My initial reaction is that tech companies like Google are going to keep looking for ways to drive new revenue – like any company would – except that the Web is so ridiculously competitive. And the margins are so low that we really shouldn’t be surprised if Google starts balking on some of its idealistic promises. Witness Facebook’s recent changes to its business pages, which more or less force users to pay to promote their posts in order to reach their full audience.

After all, giving away the world’s information is expensive, especially if you’re doing it for free. The question is how much companies like Google and Facebook can get away with before they compromise their brand – and drive away users.

On the Web, you’re only as good as your audience. My sense is that Google messing around with its shopping listings isn’t much of a game changer. There are a ton of other price comparison apps out there; people will gravitate toward the one that actually finds the best prices. If Google can’t do that through paid ads, then people won’t use the site.

But if Google starts fooling with its actual search page – which is about as close to sacrosanct as you can get on the Web – well, then it’s time to have a whole new conversation.

How do you feel about the Microsoft/Google dust-up?

Photo Credit: michperu

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Robots vs. Writers

By: iCopywriter blogger Alex Dalenberg

Guess what? The writers are still winning. That may come as a shock to anyone who works in the media industry (your humble blogger is himself the veteran of a mass newsroom layoff, even at the tender age of 27).

Old media’s struggle to adapt to digital disruption wasn’t bad enough. But anyone who has been watching the bleeding edge of online content over the past few years knows that the geeks who rule our world are hard at work on the robots that will finish us all off.

Not physical robots of course, but algorithms that can aggregate and even write stories in the place of humans. Statsheet.com is one of these. It automatically writes game recaps based on data. For example, this story about Gonzaga crushing Lewis & Clark State* in basketball this week, was not written by a human. Of course, the writing is, shall we say, robotic.

But, this week, one of the pioneers of this kind of automation — TechMeme founder Gabe Rivera had some interesting things to say this week about the old-fashioned process of curating news. This is via the tech blog GigaOm, by the way.

Rivera’s site, of course, automatically aggregates Silicon Valley headlines from around the Web — and it works quite well. But in the past few years, he’s added human editors throughout the country to help the machines do their job better. The problem is that the algos can’t yet sense when a story is played out, or not truly worthy of the front page. For now, human news sense still can’t be replicated.

Not that this doesn’t mean algorithms and aggregation are dead. The fairly obvious feeling I get from this is that the publishers who will be successful are the ones who find the best mix of automation and the human touch. Excellent content — and how it’s organized and presented — still rules the day.

Which actually isn’t so freaky after all.

* Side note: the human who edited this piece looked a little more into that Gonzaga-Lewis & Clark State bot-originated article. We scanned the article in question, and the Flesch-Kincaid readability calculator suggested that FIVE of the 18 sentences be revised. 30% of the content.

Hmmmm…Can you get bot content for your site? Sure. Will it be a cheaper option for you? Yep. Will Google know if your content was bot-generated? Bet on it – they’re not dummies. Will they penalize you? We think so…are you willing to chance it?  iCopywriter real, live, human writers and editors.

Photo Credit: Sebastianlund

SEO Guru Blog – Part II: SEO-Cubed: Three Suggestions from Three Search Engine Gurus

Last week at iCopyInsider we featured the first part of an interview we did with some of the fantastic project managers we work with.

We grilled them about all-things-copywriting and SEO to get their take on how businesses should approach the sometimes-daunting task of staying found on the Internet. They dropped a lot of knowledge, far more than we could fit into one post; so today we bring you the second installment.

To refresh, here is your expert panel of SEO gurus:

Fumi Matsubara, Director of Account Services at Geary LSF Group

http://LSFinteractive.com

http://Gearyi.com

http://GearyLSF.com

Miguel Salcido, CEO of Organic Media Group

http://organicseoconsultant.com/

http://organicmediagroup.org/

Jenna Allison, Account Services Manager at Geary LSF Group

http://LSFinteractive.com

http://Gearyi.com

http://GearyLSF.com

And here is each of our guru’s answers to the following question:

“What are the top three suggestions you can give clients who want to improve their ranking?

Fumi Matsubara

1. Develop strong, sound site architecture. Improve title tags that are not just keyword rich, but also with call to action to help with your click through rate.

2. Make sure your website is mobile compatible. This way you can broaden customer base and provide a quality user experience.

3. Invest time and resources in a good content marketing strategy.

Miguel Salcido

1. Be dedicated. Put aside enough budget for at least 6 to 12 months and let it ride. Basically, you need commit to SEO and see it through without getting antsy.

2. Create great content and continuously create new content. The more content that you have, the more traffic. It’s pretty simple.

3. Promote your content. Your content is the gift that keeps on giving. You should be proud to promote it.

Jenna Allison

1. Make it easy for Google to read and understand your site. Make sure that any content on your site pages is organic and natural, and update any title/meta tag descriptions for those pages.

2. Don’t over optimize. Several years ago, it was common practice to “stuff” keywords into your content. This is no good now. The way you should look at doing any content on your pages or for link building is to create conversational content. Don’t write something that wouldn’t make sense if you were having a conversation with somebody in front of you. Google is smart enough to understand what you are doing if you use too many keywords in one space.

3. Think quality over quantity when it comes to link building. This is one of the keys to creating authority for your site as well as boosting search rankings. Make sure that you aren’t overdoing it though. A few years ago it was OK to syndicate content over thousands of different blog farms. Now, Google is actually devaluing and penalizing those sites because it isn’t natural. You want to create content with links that are going to be beneficial to the reader/user: this is Google’s main objective when it feeds you a search results page.

Check out iCopywriter for YOUR online content needs

 

 

FreakyFriday: Weird of the Day – Black Friday Gets Freaky

By: iCopywriter blogger Alex Dalenberg

Is there a freakier Friday than Black Friday? This blogger is tucking into the leftover sweet potatoes and apple pie and skipping out on the Super Bowl of shopping. So far, it’s looking more and more like I made a good decision.

ABC News has a good rundown of the chaos thus far. Some of the lowlights:

  • 71-year-old man arrested in a Walmart parking lot in Covington, Wash., for vehicular assault. He ran over two people with his SUV.
  • In San Antonio, a shopper pulled a gun on a man who cut in line outside a Sears.
  • Five men assaulted and robbed a 14-year-old boy outside of a Bed Bath and Beyond early this morning in Baltimore.
  • And, in Massachusetts, a man scored a big-screen TV, but left his two-year-old son at a Kmart.

Also, the Los Angeles Times reports that there was a small earthquake in New Jersey, but thankfully no injuries.

Of course, the funny part is that Black Friday may not even offer best deals of the year outside of a few limited doorbusters that the big-box stores use as loss leaders. Fox Business reports that, at least in 2011, Black Friday was actually one of the worst days of the year for a snagging good deal. And Decide.com, a Seattle-based price tracking website that also attempts to predict whether an item will go up or down in price, says that the best deals of the holiday season are actually yet to come.

As consumers are armed with more and more information, it’s worth asking how long traditions like Black Friday can hold up. Sure, there’s a certain sport to Black Friday that has its own unique appeal, but for today I’m perfectly content typing away here at home over some cold turkey.

But as an alternative, I’d like to suggest events like Small Business Saturday as well as other local shopping events being promoted by smaller retailers and businesses. It’s a good way to keep a few dollars in the community and find some great new stores outside the usual mega-retailers.

And, of course, a belated Happy Thanksgiving from the team here at iCopywriter. Whether you’re a Black Friday warrior or spent the day sleeping in, have a happy and safe holiday season!

Did you hit the stores today? We’d love to hear from you…

Photo Credit: Robert Banh