The Netflix show has managed to engage audiences far beyond their TV screens.
From Imposter Syndrome to Tech Influencer – A Tech Podcaster Tells His Story
Today’s episode continues our series where I hand the podcast over to you, the listeners, to tell your stories and tips of starting and growing your blogs.
Today’s blogger is Neil Hughes from Technology Blog Writer. Neil shares how he started out writing articles on LinkedIn, and talks about some of his struggles, accomplishments, and goals.
Links and Resources for From Imposter Syndrome to Tech Influencer – One Tech Podcaster Shares His StoryTechnology Blog Writer Blogger Neil Hughes Start a Blog Course Facebook Group PB121: 7 Strategies for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view Darren: Hi there and welcome to Episode 231 of the ProBlogger podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the founder of problogger.com – a blog, podcast, event, job board, series of ebooks and a course all designed to help you as a blogger to start an amazing blog, to grow that blog, the traffic to it, the content on it, and to make some money from it as well. You can learn more about what we do at ProBlogger over at problogger.com.
In today’s episode, we’re continuing our little series of blogger stories which we are ending 2017 and starting 2018 with in the lead up to our Start a Blog course. My goal in 2018 is to see hundreds, if not thousands, of new blogs started. We’ve developed this great little course which you can find at problogger.com/startablog. It’s free and it will help you, all your friends, to start a blog.
As part of the launch of this new course, we wanted to feature the stories of bloggers who had started blogging and to tell the stories of the opportunities that came from that. Also, to share some tips particularly for those starting out but also for those who are on the journey.
Today I’ve got a tech blogger from the UK who is gonna share some of his tips. He’s actually used blogging, podcasting. He started out on LinkedIn. He’s got some expertise in that as well. He’s really built himself an amazing little business as a result of that, a business that has enabled him to leave his full time job and work for himself. He talks a little bit about imposter syndrome and pushing through that. He gives a brilliant tip that I wanna add some thoughts to at the end of his story as well.
I’m gonna hand over now to Neil Hughes from Tech Blog Writer. You can find his blog at techblogwriter.co.uk. You can also find a link to that on today’s show notes at problogger.com/podcast/231. I’ll be back at the end of Neil’s story to wrap things up and tell you a little bit about tomorrow’s show too.
Neil: My name is Neil Hughes. My blog, podcast, and everything that I do comes into the name Tech Blog Writer. My URL is predictably www.techblogwriter.co.uk. I’m hoping that you know what I do from the title there. That was the idea from the very beginning. My story really began in July 2014 when I published my very first post on the LinkedIn publishing platform. It was a simple post calling out gurus, ninjas and those self-proclaimed influences, you know the kind, the Instagram expert with 72 followers.
The post was called The Rise of the Social Media Guru. This is where my tech blogging journey started. At the time, I didn’t have any objectives, any hopes, goals or dreams for the blog. I just wanted to share my insights having spent 20 years working in IT. I gotta be honest with you, I was originally scared about blogging on the LinkedIn publishing platform and crippled with that self-doubt and imposter syndrome that so many of us go through.
I still, to this day, remember nervously hovering over the publish button full of fears and doubts. What would my professional colleagues, friends, and contacts say? This was my personal brand on a professional platform that everybody would say and judge but obviously, I did hit publish on that post. It was instantly picked up and promoted by LinkedIn themselves. It received thousands of views. More importantly for me, fantastic engagement.
A year later, I had over a hundred tech articles against my name on LinkedIn that seemed to act as my own portfolio and cement me as a thought leader in the tech industry. What was also great about writing on the LinkedIn platform at the time was that they displayed all their sharing and viewing stats for everyone to see so everyone could look at all the articles you’re creating and how many views, how many likes, how many shares that you have.
Suddenly I found myself with one million views and was voted the number two tech writer on the whole of LinkedIn. Quickly I started getting accolades from my way including being named one of the top nine influential tech leaders on LinkedIn by CIO Magazine. ZDNet included me on the list of you need to follow these 20 big thinkers right now alongside from million names which is Jack Dorsey from Twitter, Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg and Jeff Weiner to name a few.
I still struggled with that pesky imposter syndrome. When I looked back at the mistakes that I made and I’d advise other people to avoid in their blogging journey, I would say that my biggest mistake was to unwittingly become too reliant on one platform. That platform was also somebody else’s playground. Essentially, I was just a guest there. Obviously looking back, I should’ve diversified my work much soon.
My best advice to anyone who wanna be a blogger is that never have all your eggs in one basket and don’t rely on a game where you’re playing by somebody else’s rules and in their playground. Saying that, but I did make the most of so many great opportunities. My LinkedIn work suddenly catapulted me into the tech writing stratosphere. I now have columns in Inc. Magazine and The Next Web. Millions of article views no longer excite me, it was finding other ways to meaningfully engage with those million readers.
I launched my own podcast around the same time that Darren launched his ProBlogger podcast. I still remember, on launch day, we were featured side by side on the New and Noteworthy section of iTunes. I tweeted Darren a pic which he immediately replied to. This is where things got really exciting. Fast forward two years, I’ve now performed over 400 interviews with the most significant tech leaders and startups in the world such as Adobe, Sony, Microsoft, IBM, writers and even TV chat show host, Wendy Williams and movie star William Shatner.
I still have to pinch myself. This work has enabled me to leave my day job as an IT manager and setup my own business. I’m now living by my own rules and doing something that I love to do. I guess worth pointing out, for me it was never about the Neil Hughes show, it was about me sharing insights and my guest sharing insights.
I’m then throwing it out there to all the people listening and reading and consuming my content and asking them to share their stories. This was always my biggest motivation because if we think about it, our ancestors thousands of years ago went from town to town exchanging stories around the campfire. We’re doing the exact same now but around virtual campfires. We’re tearing down geographical barriers and stereotypes by talking, working, and collaborating with each other. That’s what this recording is doing right now, isn’t it?
My number one tip for any new blogger would be don’t get carried away with this age of instant gratification where everyone wants instant success, [inaudible 00:07:27] solution but it doesn’t exist. Do not believe anyone that offers you a shortcut. Remember, we all digest content differently. If you wrote two blog posts per week, you can also turn those two blog post into podcast and to videos too.
After one year, you could realistically have 100 articles, 100 podcasts and 100 YouTube videos. If your audience likes to read, listen or view their content, you’ve got all bases covered. Most importantly of all, think of the SEO there because all of that content is against your name. That will cement you and your reputation as a thought leader within your industry.
Think of the SEO on iTunes, on Spotify, on YouTube and your own personal blog as a hundred pieces of content that sits next to your name. However, most people will end up doing 5 to 10 pieces of content in the New Year and say this is a waste to time and give up by the time they hit February or March. It’s that grind of getting 2 of pieces of work against your name every week until you have a 100 or 300 if you repurpose your content. That’s where the value is.
I think this is the only real secret to success. It is hard work. As Gary Vaynerchuk often says, “Don’t complain that you haven’t got a few hours to spend each week when you binge watching TV shows on Netflix.” My number one tip for new bloggers in 2018 is two blog posts per week every week. Two per week becomes eight per month and that becomes a hundred over a year.
Along the way, don’t forget to build on your success and grab opportunities along the way. Just like a snowball rolling down a hill, your content and your portfolio will get bigger and bigger. That’s it for me. Guys, what are you waiting for?
Darren: That was Neil Hughes from techblogwriter.co.uk. You can again find the links to Neil and his blog on today’s show notes at problogger.com/podcast/231. I loved Neil’s story today. I love today that we’re talking a little bit about a podcast as well because I think a podcast is essentially, whilst a lot of people would differentiate it from a blog because they would say a blog is a written content, a podcast is an audio content.
In many regards, they’re a blog, they’re both a blog and they share many features, they’re both presented in chronological order with dates and usually with show notes and comments. I generally would say it is an alternative to a blogger and a nice addition to a blog. I love Neil’s story for a number of reasons.
Firstly, he mentions the imposter syndrome there. I know many of you who are thinking about starting his blog in 2018 are probably wrestling with that right now. There are others of you who have already started your blog, this is a very common thing to wrestle with. You have fear, you have doubt about whether you really have the credibility to say what you’re saying on your blog, whether anyone is gonna listen to you. It’s something that we all face in different stages of our blogging and podcasting career.
If you’re struggling with that, can I really encourage you at the end of this podcast to go and listen to Episode 121. In that episode, I gave you seven strategies for really dealing with imposter syndrome. It is something you need to push through. In that episode, I gave you some practical things that you can do to really push through that imposter syndrome. That’s Episode 121.
I also love Neil’s story because he mentions there a mistake that many bloggers make and that is becoming too reliant upon a platform like LinkedIn. This really could be any platform at all that you don’t have complete control over. Neil mentions there that he really built his asset, he built his archive of articles on someone else’s playground.
LinkedIn owns LinkedIn, LinkedIn ultimately controls the content that he put onto LinkedIn. With the algorithm changes that’s on their domain, ultimately what you’re doing by building on LinkedIn or Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest or any of these other places is building someone else’s asset. You put yourself at the mercy of other people.
This is something a lot of bloggers who are starting out fall into the trap of. They see a tool like Medium or LinkedIn’s blogging tools or even Facebook and they’ll say, “I can just blog there.” There are certainly some advantages of using these types of tools because they can help you to get some exposure. If that’s all you do, if all your eggs are in that basket, you’re setting yourself up for trouble down the track and you put yourself at the mercy of their algorithms and their rules and there are limitations on what you can do.
What Neil did in starting his own thing, in his case it was a podcast, in many other cases it’s a more traditional written blog, in other people’s cases a video blog. Setting something up of your own that you have control of on your own domain, on your own service is one of the best things that you can do. Certainly I’m not saying you shouldn’t be involved in these other platforms.
I think LinkedIn is certainly a place that some of you should be working and building a presence but do it to build your own presence as well, drive people back to your own blog, your own podcast, your own email list and build the asset there. I think it’s great to do those things in conjunction. That’s what Neil is doing today.
I also love Neil’s tip there of not getting carried away with instant gratification, there are no shortcuts in this. Do what he said, his great call to action there. Create two pieces of content every week, two blog posts every week and then repurpose those two blog posts into two audio files if you can or two videos. You have 100 articles by the end of the year if you do that. I think that’s a brilliant goal for a new blogger just starting out, 100 articles by the end of the year.
As you get going, you might wanna then start repurposing and aim for 200 pieces of content with 100 articles and 100 podcasts or 100 videos as well. Start with those articles, start with the medium, I guess, that you’re most comfortable with. In most people’s cases, that does tend to be a written content but you might wanna start with a podcast as well and then learn how to repurpose those things.
Ultimately, that grind of creating that content every week is going to pay off in the long term because you’re gonna end up with an asset. The asset will be, if you set up on your own blog, in your own home base, something that you control and gradually over time, that asset builds. Every one of those articles is a new doorway into your home base. It’s a new potential reader who you can get the email address of and you can build a relationship with.
Over time, the more articles you’ve got, the more doorways you’ve got into your site. It doesn’t happen overnight, there’s no instant gratification here. This is something that does take time to build but it’s an incredibly powerful thing. It can open up opportunities for you in the ways that Neil has talked about in new relationships in building a business as well.
Also, I love that he said that we all digest content differently. This idea of not just creating written content but also exploring some of these other mediums is a very powerful thing as well. I know many of you who are listening to this podcast today have already got blogs. Maybe 2018 is the year where you need to explore that idea of podcasting for the first time or maybe you do need to start creating some videos in some way as well.
I hope that you’ve got some ideas and inspiration from that. If you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ve already got this amazing archive, hopefully, of hundreds of articles that you’ve written. It’s not too hard to repurpose those in today’s other mediums. I encourage you to explore that in 2018.
Again, today’s show notes are at problogger.com/podcast/231. You can find our Start a Blog course. We’re just two days away from launching that course now if you’re listening to this in the day that this episode goes live. You can find where you can signup to claim your spot in the course at problogger.com/startablog. If you’re listening after the 10th of January 2018, then that course is, hopefully, live now for you to go to as well. If you go to that URL, you’ll be at a signup and start that blog as well.
As I’m recording this, over 1300 people signed up already for that course. There’s a whole group of people going through it together. We’re gonna have a Facebook group where you can begin to interact with one another, support one another, ask questions. We’re also going to help you to launch your blog as well. I’ve got some great things planned where we’re going to feature all the blogs that start as a result of this course over on ProBlogger and hopefully find you some new readers as well.
Again, problogger.com/startablog. I can’t wait to get going with that course in the next couple of days. I hope you are finding some inspiration in this series. If you wanna listen to a few more stories of this series that we’ve been doing, every episode between 221 and 232 which will be tomorrow’s episode will be these blogger’s stories. Thanks for listening today. We’ll chat in the next few days.How did you go with today’s episode?
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The post 231: From Imposter Syndrome to Tech Influencer – One Tech Podcaster Shares His Story appeared first on ProBlogger.Related Stories230: How a Blog Helped Grow My Voice Coaching Business229: 2 Finance Bloggers Share their Tips for Building Blogs from Hobby to a Full Time Business228: From Crying in the Bathroom at Work to a Multi Six Figure Online Business – A Writing Blogger Shares Her Story
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On Monday December 23, 1985, in the small city of Sparks, Nevada, Raymond Belknap and James Vance had spent most of the day drinking beer, smoking marijuana, and listening to heavy metal records.
Among the albums that Belknap and Vance are believed to have listened to that day was Stained Class, the fourth album by seminal British metal band Judas Priest. As the sun slowly set across the small desert city just outside Reno, Belknap and Vance, who were 18 and 20 at the time, decided to visit a nearby playground.
It was at that playground that the two young men shot themselves with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Belknap went first. After successfully killing himself with a single gunshot wound to the head, Vance took the shotgun from his friend’s hands and attempted to end his own life. Unlike his friend, Vance did not die immediately, instead sustaining serious facial injuries that left him disfigured. Vance died of complications stemming from the failed suicide attempt three years later.
Belknap and Vance’s families sued Judas Priest’s label, CBS Records, for $6.2 million (approximately $14.2 million in 2017). They argued in court that the pair had been driven to commit suicide by auditory signals concealed in Judas Priest’s cover of the Spooky Tooth song, “Better By You, Better Than Me.” The plaintiffs claimed that the song contained a subliminal message – “Do it” – urging listeners to take their own lives.
The suit was eventually thrown out, but not before putting the perceived dangers of subliminal messaging front-and-center in the minds of concerned parents across the country. Other performers, including Ozzy Osbourne and 2 Live Crew, would also find themselves defending their music in court on similar charges before the hysteria gradually faded from the public’s mind.
It isn’t just rock stars who allegedly dabble in what the judge presiding over Belknap/Vance vs. Judas Priest called “subliminals” and what the media called “backward masking” for years. Many advertising campaigns have leveraged this controversial practice to make their ads and branding even more persuasive. In this post, we’ll take a look at seven such cases of subliminal advertising.
First, though, let’s take a moment to explain what subliminal messages actually are.What Is Subliminal Advertising?
Subliminal messages are visual or auditory stimuli that the conscious mind cannot perceive, often inserted into other media such as TV commercials or songs. This kind of messaging can be used to strengthen or heighten the persuasiveness of advertisements, or to convey an altogether different message entirely.
True subliminal messages cannot be observed or discovered by the conscious mind, even if you’re actively looking for them. This is because stimuli to which we respond every day – the things we see and hear around us – are above the threshold of conscious perception, unlike subliminal messages, which are below this threshold.
Image via Visme
What makes subliminal messaging so insidious is that even though we’re utterly unaware of the message hidden in whatever we’re watching or listening to, part of our subconscious mind cannot help but respond to this concealed stimuli – it happens entirely without our knowledge or consent.How Are Subliminal Messages Used in Advertising?
Although the term “subliminal” has been widely used for many years, it wasn’t until 1957 that the practice became known beyond scientific and academic circles, when Vance Packard’s book, The Hidden Persuaders, brought the concept of subliminal messages to the mainstream.
The book detailed the results of a study conducted in the 1950s that claimed Coca-Cola had used subliminal advertising in movie theaters to drive sales of sodas and popcorn at concession stands. The study claimed that by splicing single frames of visual messages like “Buy Coca-Cola” and “Buy popcorn” into movie reels, sales of those products had increased by 57% and 18%, respectively.
Unfortunately for Packard, the study was completely bogus. It had been fabricated in its entirety, as its disgraced author James Vicary admitted years after its publication, in an attempt to part advertisers from their money.
Despite the shaky factual foundation of The Hidden Persuaders, the book popularized the concept of subliminal messaging and its potential uses. Coca-Cola might not have been engaged in a campaign of psychological manipulation aimed at America’s moviegoers (in that specific instance), but this particular application of subliminal messaging – leveraging the power of the subconscious mind to increase sales – is among subliminal advertising’s primary functions.
Subliminal messaging has also reportedly been used to further certain political agendas. During the bitter fight for the U.S. presidency between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000, Gore accused Republican campaign managers of including a subliminal message in an attack ad focusing on Gore’s proposed healthcare policies.
Gore alleged that, in the video, the word “RATS” appears onscreen for a fraction of a second before the ad shows a visual featuring the word “Bureaucrats.” Personally, I think it’s impossible to miss, especially if you’re looking for it:
Today, the use of subliminal messaging is banned in many countries. Unsurprisingly, the United States does not expressly forbid the use of subliminal messages in advertisements, though their use does fall under federal law enforcement jurisdiction.
Now let’s see some examples of subliminal advertising in action.1. Playing Games with Husker Du
Husker Du (the board game from which the rock band takes its name) was released in the early 1970s and marketed as a family game by its maker, Premium Corporation of America. The company paid for a series of TV ads for the game to be created, which featured single frames that read, “Get it.”
An executive for Premium Corp. later admitted responsibility for the inclusion of the frames, which the FCC investigated following viewer complaints.
The incident prompted the FCC to declare that subliminal messaging in TV ads was “contrary to the public interest” and forbade the practice.
The board game might be a forgotten relic of a bygone age, but the incident is believed to be the first example of subliminal messages being utilized in TV ads, securing it a strange yet unique place in advertising history.2. Marlboro’s Subliminal Barcode
Despite attempts to curb cigarette advertising around the world, Marlboro remains one of the best-known American brands. We may not see the famous “Marlboro Man” on TV anymore – tourism to Flavor Country has declined sharply in the past 20 years – but Marlboro is still among the world’s best-known cigarette brands, a coveted position Marlboro sought to retain through the use of subliminal ads.
In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, many professional sporting organizations and regulatory bodies expressed concern about the prevalence of cigarette advertising in Formula 1 racing. Until that point, virtually all of the world’s top drivers raced in cars emblazoned with cigarette brand logos, but the sudden ban on cigarette company sponsorship in Europe precipitated an exodus of cigarette brands leaving the sport.
To circumvent this inconvenient restriction, the marketing team at Marlboro came up with a dastardly ingenious idea; they would use subliminal visual messaging to convey the Marlboro brand without using the typographical logo of the company itself.
Marlboro accomplished this by using a barcode-style design that, at the high speeds at which F1 cars travel around the track, was almost as recognizable as the logo itself.
While clever, Marlboro’s attempts to get around the advertising ban were short-lived. The European Public Health Commission applied considerable pressure to European lawmakers, who ruled that the design was indeed too close to the banned Marlboro design.
Image via Campaign
Hilariously, Marlboro told The Wall Street Journal in 2010 that, “The barcode was never intended to be anything other than a neutral design, one that was not linked to the sale of tobacco products. It was never intended to be a reference to the Marlboro brand in any way.”
Right.3. Seriously Suggestive Ads
Warning: The three following ad examples all feature strongly suggestive content that should be considered NSFW. The worst offending ads themselves are not shown, but readers may still want to exercise caution.Benson & Hedges
Marlboro may have raised a few eyebrows with its supposedly neutral barcode design, but this was far from the first time that a cigarette company used subliminal visual clues to sell smokes.
In the late 1970s, British tobacco brand Benson & Hedges launched an advertising campaign in the United States. The campaign’s primary goal was to raise awareness of the brand’s new cigarette packaging; B&H was among the first tobacco brands to adopt cigarette packs that used hard card, rather than the thin paper packaging that cigarette manufacturers favored at that time.
Here’s the ad as it appeared in print:
I’d call this one truly subliminal; it’s hard to see the “hidden message” until it’s highlighted. If you want to see a side-by-side comparison of the ad, complete with hidden visuals highlighted, you can see it here. (You were warned!)
The ad doesn’t leave much to the imagination once you’ve noticed it.Gilbey’s Gin
Although British distillery Gilbey’s lacks the name recognition of other brands of gin such as Beefeater and Gordon’s, Gilbey’s gin has been helping people temporarily forget their problems since 1857. Gilbey’s itself may not be the most famous distillery in the world, but Gilbey’s signature gin certainly left an impression on people back in the late ‘70s when it launched a controversial ad campaign.
Like many of our examples, Gilbey’s chose to experiment with subliminal advertising in an attempt to sell more bottles of gin. And, like many of our examples, it’s surprisingly easy to spot – once it’s been pointed out to you, of course.
Coca-Cola was also accused of similarly risqué ads in the mid-1980s, when a member of the public spotted what appeared to be a strongly suggestive image when they saw it on the back of a truck.
To avoid offending any of our readers, we’ve decided against including the ad in this post. If you want to see it for yourself, you can see it here.
Legend has it that the artist responsible for the artwork included the visual as a joke, and that Coca-Cola was unaware of it until the initial complaint. The incident prompted Coca-Cola to fire the artist and instigate legal proceedings against him. It also forced Coca-Cola to recall millions of items of collateral and promotional material.
Today, examples of this particular ad are highly sought-after by collectors of rare vintage advertising memorabilia.4. Food Network’s Fast-Food Fracas
In 2007, during the broadcast of an episode of Food Network’s enormously popular cooking show, Iron Chef America, the image of the McDonald’s logo was flashed on-screen for a fraction of a second – short enough to slip by most viewers unnoticed, but long enough for more than a few eagle-eyed cooking fans to notice.
Both the Food Network and McDonald’s denied the accusation that they had colluded on a secretive subliminal ad campaign. Food Network spokesperson Mark O’Connor said that, “It was a technical error on our part and not a subliminal message as suggested by a website running the slow-motion playback.”
McDonald’s was even more blunt in its dismissal of the allegations, merely stating “We don’t do subliminal advertising.”5. Wendy’s Family Values
Speaking of major fast-food franchises, our next example comes courtesy of Wendy’s.
When Wendy’s redesigned its classic, yet somewhat disturbing logo a few years ago, people immediately noticed a rather subtle detail – the apparent inclusion of the word “Mom” in the logo. As with Amazon’s A-to-Z or the FedEx arrow, it’s impossible to miss once it’s been pointed out to you:
This example of subliminal messaging is a little different than our previous examples. It doesn’t use an existing slogan or strapline in the message. Rather, it attempts to leverage word association to create a favorable mental image in the mind of the observer.
However, just because this particular example isn’t pushing the hard sell doesn’t make it any less creepy. Let’s face it – you couldn’t get much further away from delicious, home-cooked family meals or meaningful family relationships than a nationwide burger joint.6. KFC’s 12th Secret Ingredient
Since we’re on the topic of creepy, overly familiar fast-food mascots, our final example of subliminal advertising comes from The Colonel, or rather, his restaurant franchise, KFC.
In 2008, a keen-eyed TV viewer caught something in a visual of KFC’s then-new Snacker sandwich:
Yes, that’s a dollar bill hidden in the lettuce.
This example proved particularly controversial at the time. For one, there’s the fact that the guy who claimed to be the first to notice the bill concealed amid the sandwich’s garnish is believed to have actually fabricated the entire incident to create business for his market research company – American entrepreneurship at its finest. Then there’s the fact that this wasn’t the first time KFC had experimented with this kind of promotion, having ran a similar campaign two years previously in 2006 for its Buffalo Snacker sandwich.
It’s unclear whether KFC has resorted to such trickery in the decade since its first foray into subliminal messaging, but since the effectiveness of subliminal advertising has called into question repeatedly, it’s also unclear whether it would be worth it.
KFC certainly has a sense of humor when it comes to its branding. Allen recently drew the attention of the WordStream content team to KFC’s Twitter profile – specifically, the accounts KFC is following.
KFC is following just 11 accounts: all five former members of British ‘90s pop sensation, the Spice Girls, and six guys named Herb.
Get it? 11 Herbs and spices?
What other examples of subliminal messaging have you come across? Do you think this kind of messaging can work?
Welcome to this week’s edition of the Social Media Marketing Talk Show, a news show for marketers who want to stay on the leading edge of social media. On this week’s Social Media Marketing Talk Show with Michael Stelzner, we explore Facebook Watch (their TV solution), YouTube mobile share and chat with Amy Schmittauer, Facebook […]
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– Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle
Posted by randfish
Competing with comparison sites in the SERPs can feel like a losing game, but it doesn’t have to. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains the challenges and outlines five solutions that can help you begin ranking for those high-value comparative terms.
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to this impossible edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about one of the toughest things that a lot of SEOs face, which is trying to rank for these specific types of queries that have a plural comparative intent behind them.
So I’ll give you a bunch of examples just to set the stage for this.
Let’s say I’m a hotel operator in Edinburgh, and I run one individual hotel, maybe a boutique hotel, and I want to rank for “best hotels in Edinburgh.” But that is nearly impossible, because if you look at the front page of results, all the folks there are comparative types of sites. They’re media properties. They’re hotel comparison shopping sites. So it’s TripAdvisor and Telegraph and US News & World Report, and This is Edinburgh, which is a media magazine there.
If I want to rank for “compare headphones” and I am the maker of one particular type of headphones, it’s incredibly difficult to outrank a PC Magazine, Forbes, HeadphonesCompare.com, CNET, Reevoo. This is an incredible challenge, right?
“Best Broadway shows,” if I’m operating a new Broadway show and I want to come up for this, which would be really meaningful for my Broadway show, which, by the way, most of them lose money. It’s an incredibly tough business. NYC Theatre, Time Out, Broadway.com, how do I get in there?
Or let’s say I’m in the software field. I’m FullContact, and I want to rank for “FullContact versus Clearbit.” There are lots of comparative types of searches like this. If you search for your brand name or your product’s brand name and “versus,” you’ll almost certainly come up with a bunch of suggestions. Well, it turns out neither FullContact nor Clearbit rank for this type of query. It’s Inbound.org and StackShare and Quora and Analyzo.
For “Android word games,” if I’ve come out with a new word game, it could be huge for me to rank for this term. But you know what? It’s going to be Android Central and Google Play, Tom’s Guide, Android Headlines, right?
If I have a new TV comedy, it would be fantastic because a lot of people are searching for “TV comedies” or “TV comedies on Netflix” or what have you. If I was Netflix or if I were some of these folks, I would love to come up here. But instead, it’s UPROXX and Ranker and IMDB. It’s comparative media sites almost always.
So what do we do? The first step is we have to identify the problem, like what is fundamentally going on. Why is it that these types of sites consistently outperform? This is not universal, but it’s close enough, especially on competitive head terms, like some of these, where it gets close to impossible or feels that way.
I. It’s really tough to rank without using the right words and phrases.
If you are a boutique hotel in Edinburgh, you might not be very comfortable using words like Hilton or Marriott or some of these other words that are branded terms that are owned by your competition. There could be legal issues around that, but it might also just be a brand guidelines type of thing. So that’s one part of the hard problem.
II. It’s really hard to rank without serving the searcher’s true intent.
In these cases, the searcher’s intent is, “I want to compare multiples of these things.” So if you have an individual hotel website or an individual headphone website, an individual Android word game, that’s not actually answering the searcher’s intent. It used to be easier, back before RankBrain and before Google got really smart with Hummingbird around their query intent understanding. But these days, very, very challenging. So that’s the second one.
III. It’s really hard to get links, hard to get links when you’re purely promotional or self-interested, you’re just one brand trying to outrank these folks, because these types of pieces of content seem sort of less selfish. The comparisons feel less self-interested, and therefore it’s easier for them to get organic links.
So tough challenge here. Three big issues that we have to address.5 primary solutions
There actually are some solutions. There are some ways that some very creative and clever folks have worked around this in the past, and you can use them as well.1. You can try separating your media or your blog or editorial content.
By separate, I mean one of two ways. You could go with a wholly separate domain. That’s pretty tough. You won’t inherit the domain authority. It will probably be a new domain, so that will be a challenge. Or you simply separate it editorially, such that it’s segmented from the promotional content. Moz actually does this, and, as a result, we rank for a lot of these types of queries. We even rank for a lot of SEO software types of queries that are clearly comparative, because we have that editorial independence in our editorial content. So this is one way you can go about doing that.
So if you can go out to the websites that are already listed here or ones like them, those independent, editorial, media-driven properties and say, “Hey, I will contribute to this as an independent author or writer. Yes, I work for this brand, but I think when you see my content, you will see that I’ve done my research and I am not biased.” If you can prove that to the editors at these publications, you can often prove that to the audience as well, and then you can earn these types of rankings.
You can actually see an example of this. I think it was, yes, I think the Forbes contributor here, I suspect they worked either with or for or at least in conjunction with a brand, because it seemed like they had a preference behind them and the author had a connection there.
This is something that a lot of big companies will do. They’ll go out and they’ll say, “Hey, you’re an independent research firm that’s well-trusted. Will you do some research in our particular space?” Then hopefully it’s something that the press will pick up. It’s these press websites that you’re actually hoping are going to earn the rankings over here.
I will say while most of the folks doing this right now are very large companies with big research budgets and big advertising and promotional budgets, you don’t have to be. You can go and contract a single expert in the field, someone that you trust to do a great job, and you can say, “Hey, you already contribute to CNET, you already contribute to Time Out, you’re already a contributor to Tom’s Guide or Android Headlines or whatever it is. Could you do this independent research? We’ll pay you. Whatever the results you find, we’ll pay you regardless.” That can be quite successful.
So creating a site like if I’m Q over here and I’m XvsYvsQ.com, I’m not sure the exact match domain is precisely the route I’d take, but conceivably that microsite can perform well in these searches, and there are several examples, few and far between though they are, of this strategy working.
So if I want to rank in “best Broadway shows,” well, maybe I could just be “Hamilton.” If I want to win at “compare headphones,” maybe I could invent that patent on the noise-cancelling headphones that Bose have, which, by the way, win like three out of five of these. If I want to win the FullContact versus Clearbit, well, I need the features and the functionality and the things that these reviewers are using in order to win.
There’s almost always a bunch of objective criteria that you can identify by looking through these SERPs and related SERPs to figure out what you need to do. The challenge is it’s not just a marketing or an SEO or a content problem. Now it becomes a product and a positioning and oftentimes an engineering problem as well in order to have that win. But now you’ve got the strategies, hard though it may be. This is not impossible. It’s just difficult.
All right. Look forward to your comments and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.
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