Mike Laraman, Author at Gooey Digital
Gooey Digital

5 Common Social Media Mistakes: What Not To Do

Much has been said about the marketing power of social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Each of these platforms represents a great opportunity for small business promotion – placing your marketing messages in your customers’ feeds right next to content from their friends and family.

However, while these channels can undoubtedly be effective, good results aren’t always as easy to achieve as we might hope. Many businesses and marketers jump into the world of social media without much of a plan for success, and unfortunately mistakes are common.

Today, we’re going to outline a few everyday social media missteps and offer some advice for getting those underperforming channels working for you…

Social media

1. Forgetting to be human

Many businesses (especially on Instagram) simply post endless product photographs and adverts for their services. While one of these posts might be effective on an individual basis, it’s no way to build a brand – customers will likely be slow to follow a page that offers nothing but an endless stream of self-promotional material.

Instead, take the time every so often to break things up with a personal touch and some human interest – a photo of your team out for lunch together or of the office cat sleeping on somebody’s keyboard will go a long way to help your company seem as though it’s full of real, lovable people.

Social media is at its best when marketers and customers are able to build a relationship. Bombarding users with nothing but self-serving spam is unlikely to get them to care about you, so let them put some faces to the business name.

2. Inconsistent posting

We get it – for many small businesses, social media isn’t a top priority and it gets done when somebody remembers. However, much like exercising, it’s rarely effective when you only do it once in a blue moon.

Dog on a treadmill

In order to get the best results from social media, you’ll need to get serious about your posting schedule and maintain a constant stream of good content. It’s an unavoidable fact that a ludicrous amount of material is posted every day on social media and unfortunately it’s necessary to bang a drum loudly and often in order to get noticed.

The good news is that consistent posting can be a great way to accumulate followers; as users notice they are seeing more and more content from you that they enjoy, they will be much more likely to sign up for further material.

We know it can be hard to find time every day for social media, but with tools such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Buffer and Post Planner you can queue material up ahead of time and leave the software in charge of publishing it when the time comes – meaning you can prepare a whole week or month’s worth of content in one go and then turn your mind to other matters.

3. Not being ‘social’

It’s a sad fact that brands and businesses often seem to forget the ‘social’ part of ‘social media’. All too often, content is queued up, published, and then later checked hopefully for ‘engagement’ – all without actually engaging any users themselves.

As a strategy on social media, this is tantamount to sitting alone in the corner at a party and hoping somebody will come over to talk to you: it happens occasionally, but it’s a poor approach for making friends.

Lonely frisbee

Many businesses don’t do nearly enough to start conversations, reply to commenters and interact with other people’s posts – and so it’s hardly surprising that users rarely look their way. It’s always worth remembering that social media is at its best for marketing when time is taken to interact personally with users and to build real relationships and trust.

Speaking of interacting personally, another common issue is…

4. Mis-handling complaints

It’s bound to happen eventually.

Maybe you’ll screw something up, or maybe the commenter will just be a troll trying to make you look bad – but from time to time you’ll get the dreaded Negative Comment (cue thunder clap/dramatic organ sounds). It’s an unavoidable consequence of being active on the Internet, the same way that getting snowed on every now and then is a natural side-effect of living in Alaska.

The question is what to do about it – many businesses are in the habit of simply avoiding, ignoring or (in some cases) actually deleting negative comments, thinking that having customer complaints sitting out in the open is a bad look.

You Didn't See Anything

These actions may seem sensible, but really they erode consumer confidence and trust – if people realise that their complaints are being ignored and removed they will start to lose faith in whether you truly care about your customers, whether you’re listening to what they’re saying and even whether you might secretly be keeping other transgressions on the downlow.

As with many things in life, it’s often best to come clean and own the situation. By responding to the complaint with apologetic respect and explaining how the situation is being rectified you may actually earn admiration – most consumers know that businesses aren’t perfect 100% of the time, and they’d rather see the inevitable complaints and slip-ups get handled with grace and professionalism than swept under the proverbial rug.

5. Not tracking results

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” is a well-known pontification of the business management thinker Peter Drucker. These days nobody can seem to agree if it strictly constitutes good or bad advice, but there is some logic to it – especially in the world of digital marketing.

Simply put, too many businesses on social media don’t really have much idea of whether or not their efforts are actually getting anywhere. They may be watching the follower count, but what about their engagement metrics? Are they tracking user clicks and keeping tabs on which posts are generating the most conversions? Are their posts attracting more likes and comments than those of their nearest competitors, or fewer? Have they done hashtag analysis to identify the most promising tags for each post?

Data is the friend of digital marketers everywhere. The more information you have about what works, what doesn’t and what users best respond to, the better your marketing output can become – otherwise you’re just blindly trying things and not keeping any record of what’s working, or why.

At the end of the day, social media in its various forms can be a seriously powerful marketing tool, but there are many ways to do it wrong. It’s not something you can get into ‘a little bit’ and expect it to work for you, and social media channels each require careful planning and dedicated effort to get real results.

By maintaining a scrupulously consistent update schedule, keeping tabs on your data and taking the time to come across as a real human you can lift your brand’s social media marketing to the next level – and make a great connection with your followers and customers along the way.

 

 

5 SEO Myths That Just Won’t Die

Persistent myths are a regular feature of human society. Whether we’re talking about classical concepts like dragons and King Arthur, or “urban legends” such as the notion that Area 51 might contain an alien spacecraft, myths can be fun ideas that make the world seem to be a more fantastical place. While we don’t often think of SEO as having a mythical component, there are certainly some ideas that owe more to fiction than reality.

Some modern myths might be better described as commonly held misconceptions – such as the belief that the Great Wall of China is visible from space (it’s not) or that vitamin C helps you get over a cold (it doesn’t).

As with many technical disciplines, SEO has its own fair share of frequently cited untruths which have somehow managed to persist for years despite having no basis in fact – and today we’re going to set the record straight on five of the worst offenders.

Fake news

  1. SEO is done once and then you’re golden

Often, we’re not geared up to think about “optimisation” as an ongoing, long-term effort. If you’ve got something that’s unoptimised, you optimise it and then it’s optimised – right?

Many of us don’t realise what a dynamic and constantly-changing environment the Google search results pages really are. New pages are indexed at a rate of 100 billion a month, algorithm updates juggle things around, some sites undertake SEO practices for the first time while others are being penalised for succumbing to hackers or using black hat SEO tactics, and so on.

It follows that the results page you get for your query on Monday may well appear differently to what you see on Tuesday, because the Internet never sleeps.

The very idea that you can optimise your site once and then expect it to perform at the top of Google’s results forever is patently silly. What happens when the competitors you out-optimised start to use their own SEO practices to catch up with you? What happens when Google changes its system? You’re going to need some new tactics.

Every industry – and every client – is different, but often getting a given website to the top of the results page is only half of the battle, and the real trick is keeping it there. It’s not enough to rest on your laurels and expect Google to recognise the site’s self-evident brilliance for the next decade – the search results page is a never-ending treadmill, and you’ll have to keep moving if you want to stay where you are.

  1. Great content is all you need

We should be clear: we think that great content is very, very important for search engine optimisation. Creating rich and valuable content for a site’s visitors is a very powerful way to improve rankings and increase user satisfaction, reduce your site’s bounce rate, and boost conversions. Great content is awesome, and it forms the backbone of a lot of what we do.

Kermit typing

However, sometimes people take the idea a little too far, and start coming out with maxims like “write great content and the rest will take care of itself.” While we might see some truth in the statement, it’s also misleadingly reductive.

What about link-building? What about keyword research, and meta-titles, and site speed optimisation? There are a large number of techniques for improving any site’s SEO, and while all of them can make a difference, a really powerful SEO strategy will use them all in combination.

In short, any expert who tells you “this one technique is all you need” is probably not taking their job seriously – or are getting it seriously wrong.

  1. Google are actively trying to outfox SEOs

Every good SEO professional knows that Google can and does update its algorithms on a regular basis – sometimes causing merry hell in the process – and it can be tempting to see deliberate malice when your entire job is making sure that those search results pages look the way you want them to.

Of course, Google’s job isn’t to serve data in a way that pleases SEO consultants – it’s to provide genuinely useful results to its countless daily users in whichever way it thinks is best, and getting annoyed with Google for changing its approach is a bit like getting angry at clouds for raining on you.

Chill out, homeboy

Combined with the deliberate obfuscation of the inner workings of the search engine’s logic (which we all know would immediately be exploited into oblivion if it were ever revealed), operating in the world of SEO can sometimes feel as though Google is specifically trying to make our lives difficult.

That being said, the search engine giant has made no secret of its disdain for dodgy black hat techniques. Confusing this highly specific grudge with a dislike for the SEO industry as a whole is an easy mistake to make, but the truth is that Google actually seems to approve of search engine optimisation when it’s done properly – as evidenced by the amount of helpful material provided by its Webmaster Guidelines and its part in establishing useful SEO standards such as Schema markup.

  1. Guest posting is dead

This is one of those dramatic proclamations that has been made on a regular basis for so long now that it’s beginning to sound like those people who keeping saying the world is about to end because Nostradamus or the Mayan calendar said so. Here’s an article from earlier this year, for example, along with one from 2016. Here’s another from 2014, one from 2013, and did you know that 2012 had some too?

We’re not sure why people are still writing these things, in spite of the fact that high-quality guest blogging has continued to work consistently for link-building throughout.

Chill

Some of the misgivings have been due to some less-than-glowing comments from Google in 2014 (“stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy”), although these were later softened with some clarifications (“There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging… Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there”).

Another warning was issued by the search engine providers in 2017, although it didn’t add too much new information.

Yes, writing low-quality articles with the sole objective of getting a do-follow link is spammy and gross – it ought not to be a surprise to anybody that Google doesn’t like that sort of thing. But there is a difference between doing that and trying to write a unique and high-quality piece of content designed to bring real value to the readers of another website (who may just decide to link to you in return).

If your guest posts are well-written, non-cynical and provide genuine value to readers (and aren’t mass-published), you have nothing to be concerned about – no matter what the SEO alarmists tell you every year.

It’s worth nothing that while guest posting is most certainly still very much alive, it is a lot harder than it used to be. Webmasters are far more alert to spammy pitches, and securing an article on a prestigious publication takes a lot of time, effort, and some top quality writing. But that’s the point anyway, isn’t it?

  1. You can get position 1 results in a matter of days

The danger with an industry in which the day-to-day principles aren’t well understood by the general public is that sometimes you encounter practitioners who, for want of a more polite term, we might describe as snake-oil salesmen.

From time to time we see people making promises along the lines of “getting you to position 1 in one week” and other such claims, which can sound terribly impressive to unsuspecting potential customers but have absolutely no basis in reality.

It's a trap

For one thing, some industries are highly competitive and it may well be the case that all of the client’s competitors have been powerfully optimised already – it might take a sustained and dedicated effort to dislodge them and claim the top spot in the search results.

For another, Google’s crawlers often take several weeks to register changes and it might be next month before you see any of the fruits of your link-building labour; and let’s not forget that often the best SEO strategy in the world can encounter delays when cooperating with the client’s existing web development team or internal review process.

In short, these claims never stand up to scrutiny and are an unethical way to handle client expectations. The honest truth is that real SEO can take many months of sustained research, strategising, optimisation and link-building – and saying you can do it all overnight is tantamount to quackery.

Of course, with the frequency of Google’s algorithm changes, none of these debunkings are necessarily set in stone – maybe one day content will actually become the only important factor for SEO, or the search giant really will kill guest posting once and for all.

For now, though, the only thing to be done is to keep an ear to the ground and to stay up-to-date with current developments – all the while diligently sorting fact from fiction.

 

Keyword Stuffing Is Poison For SEO – Here’s Why

In a lot of ways, the early days of the Internet were a simpler time. You didn’t have to make the kind of responsive web pages that would display just as well on a 360×640 smartphone screen as they did on a 1080p desktop monitor, the use of cookies wasn’t a tangle of confusing legislation – and search engine optimisation (SEO) was a lot more straightforward.

The intelligence of Google’s ranking algorithm has come along in leaps and bounds over the years, largely to the benefit of the Internet in general – the inevitable corollary being that many of the SEO tactics of days gone by are no longer effective (and in some cases now work to the detriment of the page they were intended to boost).

What is keyword stuffing?

Sometimes rather oxymoronically referred to as “over-optimising”, “keyword stuffing” is the practice of jamming as many target keywords into the display text or hidden markup of a webpage as possible (often regardless of any concern for its readability in the eyes of an actual human being) in the hope that this will convince Google of said page’s overwhelmingly high relevance for those keywords. Just look at how many times these keywords come up!

The example provided by Google is as follows:

Keyword stuffing example
Provided in the form of an image, so that Google doesn’t think this website is guilty of keyword stuffing…

The writer of the above hypothetical example would be hoping that this would be enough to convince Google that their site was the number one destination on the web for all things relating to custom cigar humidors and put them at the top of the search rankings – and wouldn’t it be nice if that were all you had to do?

Of course, it doesn’t work that way, and if it did, that company’s competitors would have to fill their sites with spamtastic, keyword-packed paragraphs to keep up – and pretty soon the entire Internet would become nothing but an unreadable mess of word salad with little or no value to human readers.

Google’s engineers know that if search engine users found nothing but keyword-stuffed nonsense pages, the usefulness of the service would be in jeopardy and they’d all eventually be out of a job; and so their algorithm is constantly updated to try to identify good-quality content which is of genuine value to humans – and to penalise transparent attempts at gaming the system.

What even is a humidor, anyway?

Why is keyword stuffing bad?

As well as being generally ineffective, keyword stuffing is ultimately sort of a pointless tactic in any case.

Let’s say it did work, and our spam-packed site sat majestically at the top of the Google search results for cigar humidors – time to celebrate, right?

Peanuts celebration GIF

Well, not really, because any actual potential customers who click our link are going to say to themselves, “Yuck, what is all this nonsense? This looks super dodgy, I don’t think I want to buy anything from this site.”

In short: even if a visibly keyword-stuffed website did do well in search results, it wouldn’t be of any real use to anybody (and probably would have an appallingly low conversion rate for the webmaster).

Sometimes the keyword stuffing is done in such a way that it is not visible to the end user, and is either camouflaged in the layout (for example, by hiding words in white text on a white background) or by disabling their visibility via stylesheets (using display:none) – the latter tactic completely hiding the spam from human users, but preserving its readability for Google’s search spider.

This brings us onto the second reason that keyword stuffing is a bad idea: Google takes a dim view of the practice, and will actively penalise any website that it catches trying to manipulate its algorithm in this way.

A famous example is BMW’s German website, which in 2006 was caught trying to rank a spam-loaded page that auto-redirected human users to a nicer, cleaner version and was ultimately banned from the search engine – note that this happened nearly thirteen years ago, and you’d better believe that Google has since gotten a lot more sophisticated about spotting crude attempts to get an advantage over the competition.

“Webmasters are free to do what they want on their own sites,” Google engineer Matt Cutts has said, “but Google reserves the right to do what we think is best to maintain the relevance of our search results, and that includes taking action on keyword stuffing.”

What do I do if my site has been penalised for keyword stuffing?

Sometimes, keyword spam is implemented not so much out of a conscious desire to unfairly game the system but more of a general innocence about how websites work, or an outdated notion of SEO best practices.

Consequently, well-meaning users are occasionally surprised to find that their website has been blacklisted by Google and often end up feeling like they broke a rule nobody actually told them about.

Whoops

Fortunately, Google do accept appeals in this matter. Once your site has been cleaned up and the spam excised, you can file a Reconsideration Request in Google Search Console and hopefully have it reviewed for re-inclusion in the search rankings for your target keywords.

What’s the alternative to keyword stuffing?

So, if you’re not allowed to stuff your pages with paragraphs full of product names and possible keyword permutations, what can you do with your page content to ensure good positioning in Google’s search results?

As with many things in life, the answer is that there aren’t really any shortcuts; Google’s algorithm wants to favour content that is the most useful to the largest number of people, and so the solution is… write really great human-readable content.

It may sound like an anticlimactic answer, but the truth is that there are no magic techniques to make Google “think” you have a great page full of really relevant and helpful information (apart from actually just honestly making that page).

The algorithms today are very sophisticated and able to tell with high accuracy which pages are likely to be the most valuable to human readers, and while there are often optimisations that can be made to a page’s meta-information and header tags for a bit of an SEO boost, few things are as powerful as high-quality content.

After all, content that is genuinely engaging for human readers is much more likely to be linked-to from other sites and shared on social media by interested users, and you simply can’t get that kind of organic word-of-mouth marketing by using spammy pages that look like they’ve taken keyword steroids.

Steroids

Fundamentally, keyword stuffing is both useless and dangerous when it comes to boosting your presence in Google’s search rankings, and it hasn’t been a serious SEO technique for at least a decade. Nonetheless, we still see its influence in many websites, even today.

Even if it did somehow end up ranking fairly well, a spammed-up website wouldn’t do much except contribute to the general white noise of Internet spam – and consistently lose readers to competitor sites that featured genuinely interesting and useful page content.

 

Six Digital Marketing Tips For Game Developers

In today’s games industry, making a great product is only half the story. “Build it and they will come” no longer rings true, if it ever did. Many developers seem to operate under the assumption that a self-evidently great game will just “sell itself”, and unfortunately this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The good news is that there are always things you can do to generate interest in your game, even if your marketing budget wouldn’t cover the cost of a Happy Meal – so here are some things you can do right now to start getting people excited.

  1. Start early

Many new developers think that the marketing process starts a couple of months prior to their big release. Unfortunately, they might as well just load a gun and point it at their toes.

When should you start? As soon as possible. Right at the beginning of development. Yesterday.

Start banging a drum about what you’re making as soon as you start making it. This can go against all of our impulses to only show the world things “when they’re ready” and they have a bit of polish, but today’s gamers and social media users love to see projects develop.

If you haven’t even made a prototype yet, post some of your concept art. Post something. The unfortunate truth is that it can take months and months, perhaps years, for your message to start to take hold in a big way, so don’t short-change yourself by trying to do it in six weeks.

Marketing

“PLACEHOLDER GRAPHICS!”

By the way, don’t be afraid that people will copy your brilliant game. Howard Aiken once said, “don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” Ideas are ten-a-penny, and largely worthless without good execution – so put them out there and show the world how well you can act on them.

2. Find a niche

So, real talk: your development company probably isn’t Ubisoft . You almost certainly do not have ten hojillion dollars to market your games the way the big guys do, blasting your message on the biggest and broadest wavelengths possible.

In a way, though, those triple-A marketing efforts are often more wasteful than they are effective. It doesn’t matter if 100 people see an advert for the latest FIFA title and 99 of those people have never had the slightest interest in buying a sports game.

This just means you will have to get creative with your approach. Don’t try to reach “all gamers” – that’s daft. Instead, start thinking of ways to reach those specific types of people who might be interested in what you’ve got.

  • If you’re making a game in a specific genre, could you target people who have enjoyed other games in that genre – for example, could you sell a new hardcore platformer to people who enjoyed Super Meat Boy or Cuphead?
  • If your game has a nostalgic, creepy vibe, could you sell it to people who like Stranger Things, or gamers who are fans of Stephen King stories?
  • If you have a game about wizards and spells, could you find a way to reach players who are crazy for Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?

In essence, try to identify a group of people who might be interested in your product – particularly a group that might have a fan community or a way to reach them.

Jurassic Jump Ad Banner
A screenshot of an ad seen on a Jurassic Park fan community site – that’s the way to do it!


For some marketing projects, you might be forced to think outside the box; if you’re making a game about cartoon carrots, you’re probably not going to find a passionate carrot fan community waiting to buy a videogame. You might, however, be able to find people who like quirky things and silly concepts in general – perhaps by trying to reach people who like Adventure Time, say, or The Muppets.

On a related note…

  1. Ditch #gamedev

Every game developer in the universe seems to post their work on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtags #gamedev, #indiedev, #screenshotsaturday, and so on. These are all well and good – you may even seem to be getting good engagement with them.

But let’s not forget who uses these hashtags; it’s other game developers.

Yes, game developers buy games, too. But are they your main target market? You want to reach people who play games, not just people who make them, and #gamedev has become little more than a big incestuous mess of game developers trying to sell each other their creations.

Identify the people you do want to reach, and then find out what hashtags they use and where they congregate. To do this, a combination of Googling for fansites and hashtag research for social media can help you to zone in on the right gamers (RiteTag.com is an excellent tool to help with the latter).

  1. Have a compelling trailer

Trailer
No, not that kind of trailer…

Trailers are one of the most important aspects of your marketing activities, and to some extent can make or break your game’s success (it won’t matter if you get ten thousand gamers to watch your video, if it makes your game look like a piece of crap that nobody in their right mind would get excited about).

Here’s some tips for a great game trailer:

  • Keep it short – a good rule of thumb is to not exceed a 1-minute duration unless you have a really, really good reason. People online have short attention spans, and if you can’t hook them in 60 seconds you’ve got a problem.
  • Be sure to feature a lot of gameplay – this sounds obvious, but everybody hates those trailers that are basically just cutscenes and flavour narration and don’t show you what the actual game is. Triple-A development teams with established followers can get away with this, but everybody else? Nope.
  • Identify upfront what you want your trailer to say. You’ve got one minute of your viewer’s attention to communicate the essence of your project, so clarify this before you start editing the video. For example, you might say, “I want the viewer to know that this is a horror game with a creepy vibe and not too much action.”  Use that motto to guide your decisions about which shots to include in the trailer and how to communicate that with the presentation.
  • Don’t front-load a bunch of logos; nobody wants to sit through several seconds of “So-and-so Game Studios presents…” stuff before anything happens. If you have to have those idents in there, consider putting them at the end.
  • Make sure your game’s Unique Selling Point (USP) comes across very clearly – if you’ve been able to make a game with a compelling hook, your trailer should be shouting that from the rooftops. If you’re lucky enough to have any awards, accolades, good reviews, or a previously well-received game project under your belt, then get it all in there as well. You know, “From the makers of…”
  1. Utilise calls to action

This is Marketing 101 – if you’ve gone to the trouble of putting your promotional materials in front of a lot of people, you should definitely make sure they know what to do about them.

A call to action instructs someone to take action then and there, and it can simply be something like, “Buy now!”, “Play now”, “Buy it here”. It might sound obvious, but a surprising number of developers just put their material out without really stating what they’d like people to do with it.

If your game hasn’t come out yet, you can’t do a call to action, right? Wrong! You still want to gather up all those interested gamers so that they can later find out when the product gets released – so your calls to action in this situation might be things like:

  • Wishlist the game here!
  • Follow us for more updates!
  • Sign up to our mailing list!
  • Check out our development blog!

A person who sees your marketing material, and is interested, should not be left wondering what to do to find out more – so make sure there’s a clear instruction they can quickly carry out.

  1. Think twice about courting YouTubers and streamers

Yes, this flies in the face of a lot of conventional wisdom when it comes to marketing games, but the truth is that getting streamer coverage of your game isn’t a magic potion for mega-sales – in fact, it may even harm you.

The Binding Of Isaac
The Binding Of Isaac

It’s true that there is a type of game that can benefit hugely from video coverage. If your game has a lot of generated content and variation in play experiences, then getting big views on YouTube can make your game look like a fun experience without spoiling anything; some games, such as the procedurally-generated The Binding Of Isaac, owe a huge portion of their success to Twitch users watching streamers having fun with the game and deciding that they wanted to play, too.

But consider a more content-authored game, one with a linear narrative progression – what are the chances that somebody will watch a video of the gameplay and then “not need to play it” for themselves? Who would want to buy a puzzle game after watching their favourite YouTuber find all the solutions? Depending on the type of game you’re promoting, you may well decide that streamer and YouTube coverage is unlikely to work for you and focus your efforts elsewhere.

In the end, the most effective videogame marketing strategy is one intelligently tailored to the specific project you’re selling. By starting your promotional efforts as early as you can and carefully targeting the people most likely to be interested, you can sometimes achieve great results even with little to no financial outlay.

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