Freaky Friday – What it Takes to Censor the Chinese Twitter

It’s no secret that the Chinese government is not a fan of free and unencumbered access to the Web. But unlike North Korea, which restricts Internet access to all but a privileged handful of citizens, China recognizes that you can’t maintain your status as a rising power without you know, email.

So you can actually get on a computer and surf the Web in China, albeit one that is heavily censored. In fact, unlike repressive regimes in say, Syria or Egypt, China has done a fairly good job keeping the conversation under control – i.e. no criticism of the government – even using the Web to boost its legitimacy.

But while it’s well known that the Chinese Internet is heavily policed, we actually don’t know much about how it’s done. Rice University professor Dan Wallach and several colleagues recently set out to measure how censors keep non-approved content from appearing on Weibo – essentially the Chinese version of Twitter.

You can and should check out the entire story here at MIT’s Technology Review. The results are equally fascinating and freaky. Wallach and his team measured the volume of messages as well as the time and frequency of deletions to make conclusions about how Weibo is censored.

To keep tabs on Weibo’s 300 million users, who send 100 million messages per day and 70,000 per minute, Wallach figured that it takes 1,400 censors at any given moment and likely 4,200 each day to scan and delete messages. And roughly 12 percent of all messages are deleted.

I try not to get too political on this copywriting blog. But at least to me, this is very important work if for no other reason than it highlights the fact that a free and open Internet isn’t a given.

And it can’t be taken for granted.

Boost Your SEO IQ This Month

January is almost over, iCopyInsiders. How are those New Year’s resolutions going?

Of course, here at the blog, we don’t believe that it needs to be Dec. 31 to commit to self-improvement. So, we’d like to humbly propose a New Month’s resolution:

Learn something new about SEO and/or the Web in February.

Even if your company outsources its search engine marketing – and most do – it’s well worth it for any business owner or manager to pick up some of the basic SEO terminology and skills [check out iCopy's latest Pinterest boards: "For Our Clients: Interesting SEO Copywriting Info & SEO News]. It will make you a savvier customer when it comes to shopping for vendors, and it will make strategizing with them more effective, as well.

Knowledge is power, as the cliché goes. It also leads to Web hits. Here are some of our favorite resources for learning the art and science behind the clicks.inflatable jumpers buy

Online Courses

For a comprehensive dive into SEO, there are a number of excellent online courses.

HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing University offers more than a dozen online videos taught by some of the leading lights in search, tech and marketing. They’re a little less than an hour each, but well worth a chunk of your evening or whatever spare time you can find. They’re also free to watch online.

In terms of paid options, DistilledU offers access to its SEO classes for $40 per month, although you can test out the service with a free demo. Point Blank SEO also offers a course for $67 on the all-important subject of link building.

Subject Guides and Blogs

For digital bookworms, the gold standard on the Web is the Beginner’s Guide to SEO, a free ebook produced by software company and online search community SEOmoz. It’s short enough to read in one dedicated sitting, but covers all the biggies, including the basics of how search engines work, how to use analytics and SEO-friendly Web design.

No surprise here, but Google also offers several useful resources. The company offers its own Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. To stay on top of the company’s latest announcements, be sure to bookmark its Inside Search blog. Google Analytics IQ is another great resource for figuring out how to decipher the vast amounts of visitor data that websites produce.

Web Development

For those who are truly ambitious – but technical newbies – consider dabbling in programming. Getting under the Web’s hood is the fastest way to understand how it works. Luckily, thanks to massive online open courses, top-flight tech classes are right at your fingertips. Udacity’s beginning computer science course actually runs users through how to build a bare-bones search engine. Codecademy is also a fun way to learn the basics of programming and development.

How to Give Your Website a Checkup

Welcome to the depths of winter, iCopyInsiders. We hope everyone is staying healthy with flu season raging (don’t forget to wash your hands, folks). And of course, America’s own version of seasonal affective disorder is swiftly approaching with the end of football in two weeks.

As the weather gets dreary and frigid temperatures set in this week, it’s as good a time as any to stay indoors, heat up some soup and give your business website a checkup, as well.

And when we say checkup, we mean checking in on some of the key indicators of a healthy, vibrant website – one that potential customers will actually find on Google and other search engines.

Now, as we’ve written in the past, a successful content strategy takes a dedicated investment of patience, commitment and resources to see serious return on investment. But you don’t need to hire an expensive firm to get a basic idea of whether your site is doing well or poorly. There a number of free search engine optimization diagnostic tools that can give you a broad idea of how to improve your site’s SEO efforts.

Here are some of our favorite free diagnostic tools.

Google and Bing Webmaster Tools

Both Google and Bing offer a ridiculously useful set of free tools for diagnosing the health of your website. Both of these should be a starting point for any site checkup, because they can be used to quickly see how the two search engines view your site, including the search terms customers are using to find it. They can also be used to figure out malware and website glitches such as crawl errors.

Copyscape

Google punishes duplicate content in its search rankings. And it’s no secret that plagiarism, whether you are aware that your content producers were committing it or not, is a guaranteed fast way to tank a reputation. That makes Copyscape – which scans the web for duplicate content – one of our go-to tools here at iCopywriter. We run everything that our writers produce through the service, but even if you’re an iCopy client, it’s worth checking out if you’re posting material on your own or from other bloggers.

Google Page Speed

Website load speed is an underrated factor in your search rankings. You don’t want to waste users’ time with a clunky, hard-to-load website. Also, they’re more likely to click away from a site that doesn’t load quickly. Luckily, Google has a set of Page Speed Tools that can be used to assess how quickly your website loads.

Site Grading Tools

There are a number of sites that can give you a quick, letter grade assessment of how your website is performing. We like HubSpot’s Marketing Grader. It’s a great resource for figuring out a few jumping off points for improving your website.

Social Mention

One of the big trends for 2013 will be social media’s increasing importance in search rankings. Bing is incorporating more Facebook chatter into its search results and Google Authorship is going to give more weight to socially influential content creators. Use search engines like Social Mention to get a quick feel for how and where your brand is registering on social media.

Have you checked out iCopywriter lately?

Photo Credit: FindYourSearch

Monday Must-Reads

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Happy Monday, iCopyInsiders. I hope you’re enjoying the long weekend. Of course, if you find yourself behind a laptop, tablet, smartphone or other glowing rectangle today, we’ve got you covered with our weekly reading list.

If you’re attending an Inaugural Ball tonight, you may even think about asking your social media butler to retweet a few of them.

Without further adieu, check out these SEO and copywriting links.

1. We harp on it a lot, but if you want further evidence that social content is becoming more and more relevant to search, HubSpot has a good article about how Bing is adding more Facebook content to its search results.

In other words, it’s a good time to clean up that company Facebook page.

2. Maybe I’m in a social media mood today, but I also liked this piece from Entrepreneur about how to optimize your LinkedIn profile for search. You’ve got expertise, but can the people who need it find you online?

3. I initially chuckled at this new series from Copyblogger called The Writer Files, which will feature regular interviews with some of the Web’s foremost content producers. I mean, we’re not exactly The Lives of the Poets. But it’s actually an interesting window into what kind of workflow some of the Web’s best bloggers use.

4. I guess we have to give a nod to mighty Google because this is an SEO blog. Here’s an interesting piece from Slate about how the company keeps its employees happy with the world’s most sophisticated HR department.

5. Finally, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is more than a lazy Monday. I recommend reading (or rereading) Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail or the text of his immortal I Have a Dream speech. His words remain powerful, inspiring and even revolutionary.

 

Monday Must-Reads

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Everybody shake off the holiday hangover? At least for me, the second week of January is when the year really feels like it’s getting underway (although, if you need a break, there is always football).

So, to get your brain revved up and back in the swing of things, here are five great reads out of the world of SEO, copywriting and one just for fun.

1. We’ve touched on some of these in the past, but there are some good reminders in this Entrepreneur piece about the five deadly sins of SEO and online marketing.

2. Does your website load quickly? It’s pretty important. Search Engine Journal explains why in this article about load speed.

3. Persuasive writing is the cornerstone of good copywriting. Copyblogger breaks down the five most persuasive words in the English language.

4. Cursive writing is becoming obsolete. Will we miss it?

5. We’re linking to this story on the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist on Businessweek for its amazing headline and because we love syrup.

Happy Monday and happy reading!

Monday Must-Reads: New Year’s Eve Edition

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

As Bill Murray once said in Ghostbusters 2 – the best or worst New Year’s film ever made, depending on whether you are 13 years old or 30 – “Happy New Year!

While you’re sitting around waiting for the ball to drop, or to be fashionably late to that big New Year’s gala, here is this week’s roundup of SEO reads and other interesting links.

1. Solid advice from Search Engine Watch – which you should bookmark anyway – detailing how 2013 will be the year of marketing integration.

2. This article from tech blog The Next Web is perhaps more appropriate for a FreakyFriday post. Chinese search firm Baidu is testing a facial recognition search engine.

3. If it hasn’t already, 2013 is going to be the year your business gets cozy with content marketing. Here’s a good piece from Mashable about how SEO fits into the content marketing equation.

4. If you’re making New Year’s resolutions, Forbes has some tips for you on how to be more successful.

5. And, as you fill up the Web with all that great business content, make sure you’re thinking about who actually owns it. As The New York Times points out, confusion abounds.

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 – It’s the iCopywriter End of the World Roundup – and We Feel Fine

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

In case you’ve been living under a rock – or maybe an ancient stone tablet – it’s the end of the world as we know it. Do you feel fine? Yes, the ballyhooed Mayan Apocalypse is finally here. Or, as a Facebook friend of mine put it, the most annoying day on social media. Ever.

We initially held off on writing this week’s Freaky Friday, you know, just in case. But the world hasn’t ended in Australia or New Zealand, so let’s do this. Um, what are the SEO or copywriting lessons here? Well, my professional takeaway is that, because it looks like reality is going to continue as scheduled, both those things will continue to be important to any Web presence!

You can still cash in on the last drops of viral goodness here – #EndoftheWorldConfession is trending on Twitter – but it’s probably too late for any apocalypse-themed sales. And all the good parties were last night. But hey, it’s not the end of the world, right?

So let’s just cut to the chase here with iCopywriter’s ultimate guide to our favorite end-of-the-world links.

1. The Onion suggests that the apocalypse is already here. So funny it hurts. A lot.

2. Slate has been a reliable source of end-of-the-world coverage. Here’s the effect on the markets, a report on past apocalypse scares and the ultimate end-of-the-world mashup. And yes, a few are even using the old last night on Earth line.

3. Still not convinced? Here’s a good debunking of apocalypse myths from National Geographic. Plus, what the Mayans actually meant with that whole calendar thing.

Photo Credit: Kim-bodia

 

Monday Must-Reads…

By: iCopywriter Blogger Alex Dalenberg

Welcome to a new week, iCopyInsider readers. That means it’s time for our second edition of Monday Must-Reads, in which we round up some of the best links related to search, copywriting, social media and more.

Did you find last week’s reads interesting or helpful? Let us know.

We’re seeing lots of retrospectives as we approach the New Year, but check out this week’s No. 1 especially. You won’t regret it.

1. This is more of a must-watch. But anybody who uses the Web needs to check out Google Zeitgeist 2012 for the ultimate recap of the year online.

2. In industry news, slowly, but surely, Google continues to creep up on 70 percent market share for search via Search Engine Watch.

3. Emails are content, too – not just what goes on your website. Sales and email app Tout is out with a good guide on how to write kickass sales emails. 

4. Is your business overdoing it on social media? Update overload remains brands’ biggest social danger via eMarketer.com

5. It’s not just for hipsters anymore. The New York Times has a cool story on how businesses are using Instagram.

 

 

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