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David Amerland is the author of the best-selling ‘SEO Help: 20 steps to get your website to Google’s #1 page’. His latest book: ‘The Social Media Mind: How social media is changing business, politics and science and helps create a new world order’ details how to best use social media and avoid its pitfalls. He runs his own blog on SEO and Online Marketing. Follow him on @DavidAmerland. or find him on G+
HMS Media sits in the middle ground between theoretical advice and getting somebody in to do it for you. Their website is a practical resource which contains SEO and Social Media Marketing tips which can be implemented within minutes after you have read the article.
MO: You occupy a slightly unique position in the technology writing world. You have a corporate background experience from a blue-chip UK company and can filter online trends through it. How has this enabled you to ride the edge of the wave in both SEO and social media?
David: It’s a little like being a poacher turned gamekeeper. I can understand the commercial pressures which drive companies to look towards the adoption of new technologies or new ways of working because I have been inside the reservation, facing the same pressures and responding to the same questions. I understand their reservations. Business is conservative by nature, no one wants to grasp the nettle first, everyone wants to wait and see and only have to make a move when there are really no other choices. I now stand on the other side of the divide and I can feel the energy and enthusiasm which goes into the development of new technologies. Because I have been inside the corporate environment I speak its language. I understand the mentality which wants to avoid uncertainty and use innovation to achieve measurable results. Because I work in SEO and Social Media, two areas hallmarked by their fluidity I can see where that fluidity can be made to work in a way which a corporate client or a hierarchy-driven legacy model business can benefit. It also makes me aware of the potential for disruption. I can see where social media, to give an example, will challenge a traditional business model by bringing in with it requirements for trust, independence, new skillsets and transparency which a traditional business may not be ready for. Many times I have herded business partners towards a new way of working through a number of baby steps which progressively applied online marketing techniques, beginning with SEO then social tagging then social marketing in a limited environment, finally preparing to take the big plunge into full scale social media marketing with a retooling of the existing business structure. A traditional marketer would have avoided that process and blindly cherry-picked SEO and social media techniques and shoehorned them into a traditional marketing model, He would then have wondered why it didn’t work and might even have come to the conclusion many businesses came to at the end of last year in a ComScore poll, that social business is not for them. Because I understand the reservations business have to overcome, I can guide them in a way which allows them to see the potential for themselves and take the next, natural step. Traditional SEOs or social media advocates tend to go in with all guns blazing, excited by the possibilities and unable to understand why businesses are so reserved and resistant to their advice.
This ability to see both camps has helped me to write books which are practical in value and which businesses can ‘get’ and it helps in the creation of content at HelpMySEO.com which, again, demystifies the process and brings those who need a solution to their online business development in contact with the solution in a non-threatening way.
MO: Can you provide us with an outline for your seven steps to social media success?
David: There are seven fundamental steps which are behind total social media marketing success and to get to them I analysed social media success stories from Cyrus’ unification of Persia and Martin Luther’s Reformation to the Occupy Movement and the Arab Spring. I will use Facebook as an accessible example:
1. Create a focal point. This is not a product or a service. The world has plenty of those. It is the heaven-sent answer to a need. When Facebook came along, for instance, it was not about marketing, networking, Facebook Stores or Facebook marketplace. It was about connecting with your friends past and present. That was it. That’s simple and Facebook made it simple to do.
2. Use the latest technology available. You cannot ride the wave using yesterday’s tech. Before Facebook there were bulletin boards, business networks, marketing forums, even Friends Reunited. Facebook swept them all away by offering greater functionality, immediacy and speed. It made MySpace feel old and tired and pretty much killed every other online hangout out there.
3. Create accessibility. If you make something difficult to use you are creating unnecessary barriers. Facebook could have been a tiered subscription-based model which charged you for added functionality (the Friends Reunited business model). It could have been a heavily monetized ad board. It could have charged a small fee for brand pages. It took none of these paths. It made everything easy, clean and efficient and it was rewarded by a massive uptake.
4. Generate engagement. For that to happen you need to grasp what’s important. For Facebook it was friendship, that simple. It made everyone connect and keep on connecting.
5. Create a meme. The principle of a successful meme is that whatever format it is in it means different things to different people and it is easy to share. The Facebook ‘Like’ button gave us a new notion of the word ‘Like’ and a new kind of activity to share.
6. Use social networks. Facebook is a social network but before it became as successful it was fantastically good at infiltrating and disrupting existing cliques and then drawing them into its environment. It did that by being the talking point within those cliques, whether they were forums or business networks or any other connecting vertical.
7. Employ gamefication. This is not gamefication as in having a badge of some kind or collecting some points or accumulating karma. Succesfull gamefication is as unofficial as it is pervasive and it creates status out of the sheer act of participating. Suddenly not to be on Facebook felt like you were a social outcast. People who had never been near a computer were rushing to create a Facebook profile and find their friends. Gamefication is the secret sauce that makes things go viral.
MO: What are some easy and practical tips for our readers to improve their SEO?
David: There are three things which you should be doing right now:
1. Create content that is entirely compelling and disarmingly honest. If you are selling something what I want to know is not what you are selling but why you are selling it. If you cannot answer that in a way which electrifies me and makes me want to do business with you then the chances are that you are creating the same tired, rehashed content as everyone else. Today if you create content you should be prepared to put a little of yourself in it. Your passion and drive.
2. Share it. If you do not share your content on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus you have lost a major chunk of your potential traffic and also hamstrung your SEO efforts.
3. Have a robust and active G+ profile. Unlike any other social network content posted on Google Plus does not have an expiry date and it is indexed within 20 minutes. Think about it, you post an article and 20 minutes later it is in the Google index bringing you traffic through organic search. In the past you needed to own the Huffington Post to achieve that.
MO: How is social media changing way we relate to our governments to the way we look for work and the way we work online?
David: Social media is a game changer. It is an unexpected side effect brought about by vertical technologies which suddenly allowed people separated by geography, belief systems or ideology to connect and that connection became catalytic. Suddenly no government could address its people individually from the top down in the privacy of their own heads secure in the knowledge that they felt small and alone. Neither could any company dictate to its customers because it happened to be so big. Just since the beginning of this year social media has managed to bring about a U-turn in the public policies of an American President, it made the G20 nations at the World Economic Forum in Davos go into a huddle and ask whether Capitalism “is fit for purpose” in the 21st century. It has made business schools talk about double bottom accounting and social good in their new syllabuses and we have not yet seen it reach anything of the potential it has for growth. And let’s not forget that coming close behind it is Social Business which is promising to be even bigger and which will totally disrupt legacy enterprise models just as it generates sustainable value out of doing business in an online community environment. When the web first began, those of us working online felt it had a potential for change which was never realized. We are seeing that potential bear fruit now.
MO: How is social media killing the traditional resume?
David: The traditional resume was always a calling card of dubious value and veracity which was used because we had nothing else to use to sift through potential job candidates and get to a shortlist. Who made it through then got a job depended upon Strengths, Motivation and Fit. The three things a corporate interview panel or an HR director look for in a candidate. Some candidates were pretty good at faking and got through when they shouldn’t. Some were not good at projecting themselves and failed to get a job when they should have. It was a far from efficient way for either those looking for work or those looking to employ them. Already there are companies asking for the submission of a name and email address and a job position and they then use social networks to do their own due diligence. Potentially this is a better way for creating that shortlist and it is going to save time and money for all concerned which means that like it or not it will eventually be adopted. Before that happens there are, typically, huge challenges to overcome. Job hunters must become versed at becoming curators of their content, so that they create a meaningful social media profile which can help them with a job hunt. HR will have to be trained at extracting meaningful signal from the social media noise they discover online. There will come a time when the notion of sitting down and dutifully laying out a timeline of our education and past jobs as opposed of our skills, experiences, abilities and achievements will seem positively quaint.
MO: What are some social media and SEO trends that you think that we should be paying attention to or taking advantage of?
David: We are seeing a lot of convergence right now. SEO has always been guided by the need for quality content (a rule that was frequently flaunted in the past). The Google Panda update which started in March 2011 was a real game changer for search. It looked at the quality of the content of a website in a way which had never been looked at before and it found some of the biggest networks wanting (like Associated Content and Ezine Articles for instance). Now you need to work very hard to make your content truly unique, imbued with authenticity in order to make your SEO work, it is no accident that this is also the kind of writing that works well with social networks. The social signal is getting more and more nuanced in search and it is also getting stronger. As we are moving forward we shall see the crystallization of three distinct and slightly overlapping drives: Localisation, Personalisation and Socialisation. The web is getting bigger every day and yet it now feels more comfortable, more personalized, more like our space, when we get online. The explosion in mobile computing and the ability of mobile devices to do so much has already made the web portable. We no longer have to access it from home or from work, tied to a desk and a massive monitor. The next step which will change everything is a seamless integration of the online and offline worlds. In many ways this has started already. Google wallet and the introduction or QR codes have blurred the traditional divide. It needs now widespread wi-fi networks like Google is trialing in Kansas at the moment, or cheaper data packets from the phone companies, and always on connections and we will be surrounded by the web and constantly feeding data to it. Anyone not thinking about how to make their online presence or online business succeed in such an environment is already walking with dinosaurs.
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