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An Analysis of 100 Inbound.org Submissions

Inbound.org Incoming screenshot

When I interviewed Rand Fishkin about Inbound.org – the community-curated inbound marketing resource – earlier this year, I found his answers to be very open, interesting and eye-opening. In particular though, this answer stood out the most for me:

Steve: What’s your view on self-promotion? Should people be afraid to submit their own posts (even if they are really good, ideal for the audience), or would you much rather see people only sharing other people’s content instead?

Rand: If you’re submitting 1/100 things you produce, that’s fine. If it’s closer to 1/10, that’s probably crossing a line. We don’t currently ban/remove for self-promotion or self-submissions, but we will ban accounts that consistently submit low-quality stuff (from anywhere).

In particular, it’s that mention of the “1/100” ratio. For everyone 100 posts someone submits, 99 should be someone else’s material – not their own.

Now we’re an industry all about marketing and promotion and regardless of the industry, I think if anyone’s proud of what they’ve written and genuinely thinks that it can help others, there shouldn’t be any shame in sharing it. I think I’ve submitted close to 1/20 of my own stuff, either from SEOno, my company’s blog or in the form guest blog posts, but a) not excessively and b) only when I think it’s genuinely useful to people. Here’s an example (which flopped anyway and made me feel a little like this)!

As a daily visitor of Inbound.org who also regularly tucks into the Incoming page (rather than just sticking to the main page), I’ve noticed a fair few folk who do not follow this rule even close to 1/10, let alone 1/100. So I got curious…

At around 9pm (BST) on Thursday (25th October), I scraped the 100 latest incoming posts to analyse them.

Disclaimer: I’m not doing this to show anyone up, to discredit the site (which I adore!) or to highlight how Rand’s utopian view of the site does not line up with the reality. It’s purely scientific – I’m taking some data and analysing it. Treat it as a social or even a psychological experiment: i.e. here’s a site and this is what people are doing with it!

How many people self-submit?

So the first thing to check was how many people self-submit/self-promote their content. The answer? 38%. More than 1 in 3 out of the sample. Wow. Sorry Rand…

What counts as a self-submission? Some are less obvious than others, so I considered all of the following:

  • When the submitter is the owner of the blog,
  • When they’re the owner of another blog indirectly (e.g. “in association with…”)
  • When they’re the author of the post, even if it’s not on their own site (e.g. a guest blog post),
  • When they’re submitting the post of someone they work for/with,
  • When they’re submitting something from another website that still promotes them in some way (e.g. if it’s a SlideShare presentation on a talk that they’ve done, etc.)

Of course, it’s not simply a case of saying that it should be around 1%, as not all submitters are created equal (so to speak) and some people contribute more than others. I suppose it’s a bit like Dr Pete’s recent post on “X% of Queries” –  there’s other factors at play and therefore it can be interpreted a number of ways. But regardless, even if we were to say that 5-10% was a fairer figure, 38% is still considerably higher than that.

Here’s a few other random-ish observations…

Were self-submitters a certain type?

I definitely noticed that self-submitters were usually company/agency profiles. Although a few individuals self-submit (and likewise a few companies/agencies don’t), it seems the case that individuals using the site will use it as intended – sharing content that’s written by others – while companies/agencies will share their own.

Who was the most selfless submitter?

Who submitted the most posts that weren’t their own? The wonderful Aleyda Solis, who submitted 7 posts that weren’t her own. I think she deserves a link for that. 🙂

Ed Fry came second (with 4). Ed recently became the site’s general manager, so it’s good that one of Inbound.org’s leading figures is using the site exactly as intended.

Speaking of which, a fair few SEOmoz individuals were in the sample, including Jen and Cyrus, all of them submitting non-SEOmoz material. However you could argue that with a site like that, they don’t need to self-submit because inevitably someone else is going to do it anyway – there’s less pressure on them to consider doing so. (Note: I’m certainly not saying that they’d be that way inclined anyway, but there’s certainly a difference.)

Who was the most selfish submitter?

Who submitted the most posts that were all theirs? I’m not going to name-and-shame, and luckily for me, it was a tie between a few people, so it doesn’t seem feasible to link to them all anyway (hah)! But there were a few people who’d submitted 2 of their own posts and just that – no one else’s.

I won’t say who, but in particular, one self-submitter has submitted 20 posts in their Inbound.org history and all 20 have been self-promotional. Now that is a bit sucky.

Ok, so while I don’t plan to name-and-shame, in the spirit of TAGFEE, I’m still willing to pass on the data. Want to see the spreadsheet with the full sample? You can view it here.

General hat tips

I wanted to end on a few notes of thanks…

Cheers to @Andrew_Isidoro of SEOFoSho for recommending a scraper tool for me to use in order to obtain the data from the site. While I used a different one in the end, I still wanted to say thanks.

Cheers also to @ir_emery, @Nonentity and @paulgailey/paulgailey.com for recommending Google Drive as the best/easiest way to share a spreadsheet online.

A Tale of Mind-Blowingly Incredible Customer Service

Artist Residence entrance imageI was in Brighton for two nights (Thursday and Friday) for my second visit to the excellent BrightonSEO conference when I came across possibly the best customer service experience I’ve ever encountered.

I was meant to stay at a Brighton hotel* called the Artist Residence (@artistresidence). However, when I arrived on Thursday evening, we uncovered an error (my mistake, not theirs) and so the booking unfortunately couldn’t be honoured. More worryingly, they were fully-booked (including the room I’d wanted), as were most of the hotels in Brighton that weekend – I know of some people who could only just manage rooms at the Travelodge when booking just a few days before the conference.

* Yes, I’ve given them exact match anchor text. No, they’re not a client. Yes, they most absolutely deserve it!

It could’ve ended there. They could’ve said “sorry, there’s nothing we can do” and sent me on my way. But they didn’t. Chantelle and Megan of the AR told me not to panic, to sit down, relax, have a cup of coffee and that they’d look into local hotel availability for me. They searched for a few minutes and after a few possibilities, they found out that a local rental apartment was available. The apartment’s owner usually charged £100 per night and preferred minimum stays of one week, but he just so happened to have it empty for two nights and was willing to let it for £140 for both nights (instead of a total of £200). I couldn’t believe my luck. I asked how much I owed them for the coffee and they told me not to worry, it was a freebie for me. I also asked them for directions to various places – including the apartment, the conference venue and a pub where some SEOs were meeting – as well as recommendations on where to eat that evening and they were happy to help, providing a tourist map with directions/routes drawn out and destinations marked for me.

This is bearing in mind that they didn’t have to do any of this. What did they benefit from this? I wasn’t even a paying customer! Well, more on that later…

The apartment was lush. It was still central enough to be accessible to the centre of Brighton while just far away enough to escape the noise of many of the pubs and clubs. I said to the two girls that the least I could do was to visit them for breakfast both mornings.

On the Friday morning (before the conference), they asked me what I thought of the apartment, genuinely wondering how I was getting on. I grabbed breakfast from them – they happily obliged with my awkward dietary requests (I recently found out that I might be wheat and yeast intolerant, so no bread for me!) and in fact, although I asked them for something without the toast, I think they gave me an extra egg to make up for it – again, they didn’t have to. Before leaving, I asked them if I could use their bathroom. It seemed as though the didn’t really have customer/public toilets (guests could use the ones in their own rooms, I guess), so they said I could use their private/staff bathroom. Once again, they could’ve said no/sorry and that’d be that.

I then didn’t see them until the next morning, for another breakfast before leaving Brighton to head back home to Cardiff. A colleague of mine had called them on the Friday to pay for the apartment on my behalf, but not the breakfasts. At first, one of the girls said not to worry about paying for the breakfasts. However I insisted – I wasn’t going to put them out. There’s being helpful and generous, but at the end of the day they’re still a business, not a charity. Still, it was very generous of them to offer to waive the two lots of £7.50 simply because they were worried that I thought they’d been paid for when they hadn’t been.

I just couldn’t believe their generosity and their determination to make sure that I was happy and well looked-after, bearing in mind that I wasn’t even a paying customer (except for the breakfasts). They did all of the above – going to such efforts – for virtually nothing. They didn’t say “sorry, you’re on your own” or “you can’t use our bathroom” or “we can’t give you anything extra to replace the toast.” Many other service providers and/or hotels might’ve been like that though.

Earlier in this post, I said that they didn’t benefit from all this. For me, this post serves three purposes. Firstly, to document an example of what I’d consider to be excellent customer service, some of the best I’ve ever known. Secondly, I probably can’t justify a legitimate TripAdvisor review, seeing as I haven’t actually stayed there, so this post counts as a sort of standalone, unofficial review. And therefore thirdly, to also explain what they have gotten from all this:

  • A loyal customer for life – if I ever visit Brighton again (and I’m sure that I will for future BrightonSEO conferences), I know where I’ll be staying, no hesitation.
  • A loyal referrer – if I know anyone who’s visiting Brighton and looking for a hotel, I’ll know which hotel to recommend to them.
  • A direct link with exact match anchor text (within this post), which’ll help with their SEO. If this post becomes popular, they’ll get second-degree links, making it even stronger from an SEO point of view.
  • A number of @mentions via my Twitter profile, including a few tweets mentioning the AR and the #BrightonSEO hashtag within the same tweet, so that conference-goers would see it, too (example).
  • When I do go again, I’ll then be able to leave a review on TripAdvisor afterwards, which I’m sure will no doubt be glowingly positive and another 5-starrer to add to their list of satisfied customers.

Recently, Wil Reynolds said that in order to succeed in SEO, companies need to “do real company shit.” Although he spoke in the context of link building, it’s so easily transferable to any and all areas of a company’s existence – to online marketing, marketing, running a business in general or – in this case – customer service.

This, my friends, in my opinion, was real company shit. A lot of companies can (and should) learn by their example. Make the effort to make your customers smile, even if you go out of your way to do so. You will not regret it. You will be rewarded.

Facepalm kitteh

MSN Fail: Video Of Car Crash Injuring 10 People Is “Funny”

Ok, so this is a bit off-topic for SEOno, but I’m wondering how long it takes before MSN UK realise the stupidity of what they’ve done and make the relevant changes…

This morning,  I logged out of Hotmail (yes, I still use Hotmail, and yes, it’s on my to-do list to do something about it) and saw this on my screen:

MSN homepage screenshot
(As an aside, I’m loving the juxtaposition of the Sky ad – “dim the lights – for full effect…”)

O-ho, a video! “Car crashes through front of supermarket.” Like William H. Macy’s character in Magnolia! Brilliant. I’m sure it’ll be… hang on…

MSN homepage close-up
Are those people in the way of the car, including a woman with a pram?!

If you are sadist enough (like me, apparently) to go beyond the homepage and actually watch the video, you’ll see it happen at normal speed and as well as about 4 different rates of slow motion. Tasteful.

You might also notice this:

MSN video page screenshot
Can’t see that? Let’s zoom in…

MSN video page close-up
Category: “Funny Videos”?!

Facepalm kittehOh, MSN… That’s pretty bad taste. Turns out 10 people were injured, including “3-month-old baby Tyshawn Davis, who was in the stroller visible in the video and escaped with minor injuries.”

Reminds me of the lyrics to the Faith No More song “Ricochet”:

It’s always funny until someone gets hurt…
And then it’s just hilarious!

At closer examination, it turns out that that “Funny Videos” link is at the top of every video on the MSN UK website, regardless of the content. But still – I was fooled by it, so how many others would be? I’d say this is a big user experience factor: that maybe MSN should consider not showing a link that says “Funny Videos” on a video that clearly isn’t funny, even if said link isn’t necessarily associated with it…

[Itty bitty kitty facepalm image credit: Robyn Anderson]

#SMsceptic: True Twitter Authority Is All About Follow Ratio

100,000 CupcakesLet’s begin with a (slightly rude/NSFW) quote:

“Having the most followers on Twitter is akin to having the most imaginary friends, the biggest Gamerscore, or the world’s longest e-penis. In other words, what does it mean in the real world? Precisely f*** all.”

A friend of mine wrote that on his Facebook profile a while back. He was annoyed because a friend of his was paying a lot of money to see a social media professional for social media training. This professional’s big, bold unique selling point was that he had a lot of followers, the most in his chosen field and area of expertise, apparently. So he must know what he’s talking about and be good at what he does if he’s that popular, right? And fair enough, he did have a lot of followers. I saw his profile and he had about 100,000 followers on Twitter. Nice!

The only problem? He was also following about 100,000 in return. His Follow Ratio was pretty much 1:1.

Why do I have a problem with this? A few reasons:

Quantity can be gamed: Auto-follow tools such as TweetAdder make it easy for someone to obtain a large number of followers. Set it to automatically follow people based on various criteria (e.g. their location, keywords in their profile’s Bio, etc.). Eventually, as you’ve gone to the effort of following these people, some will follow you back – and you can even automatically unfollow those who do not reciprocate after a certain amount of time. Rinse, repeat, and after a while, voilà: you’re “popular” (read: you look more popular).

Why do I say “look more popular” when they could be genuine followers? Well…

You could be preaching to following the choir: What if the 100k that you’re following – to get 100k people to follow you back – are doing exactly what you’re doing? Then it’s purely a numbers game – you’re not reading their tweets, they’re not reading yours.

…And why do I say that? Well…

It’s impersonal: I think it’s pretty safe to say that if someone is following 100k people, they’re not actually reading the tweets in their Twitter feed. I follow 200+ people I genuinely care about as I type this, and I struggle to keep up! In fact, at an event I went to a while ago, one of the speakers – who gave a talk on Twitter – said that you should just follow lots of people from your business profile, and use a separate/personal profile or a Twitter List to follow the people you actually want to keep up-to-date with. Umm… no thanks, that’s not for me.

Scrambled NumbersQuantity isn’t everything: Social media isn’t necessarily about having lots of (or the most) followers. As I’ve said before (point #12), I’d much rather have 10 followers who care about what I have to say than have 10,000 followers who don’t and who only follow me so that I follow them back and beef up their stats. As always, quality trumps quantity.

And at the end of the day…

It’s snake oil – it’s tricking potential customers/clients: I know all this, and I’m assuming most other online marketing professionals reading this know all this, but does your average Joe Bloggs – who wants to learn how to use Twitter for business use – know to watch out for it? Probably not. My friend’s friend didn’t.

So why is Follow Ratio (FR) important? Well compare the above gent’s ratio of 1:1 (followed by 100k, following 100k) to someone who truly is an authority. If someone is followed by 100,000 people but is only following 100 in return – their FR being 1:1,000 – then it seems a lot more legitimate that this individual is genuinely being followed because people care about them. The person doesn’t have to follow people back and they will still follow him/her.

Fortunately, contrary to what I’ve said above, I think people are gradually getting wise to this. SEO has had a similar problem: it seems logical to think that the people ranking at the top of Google for a keyword like “SEO agency” are the best at what they do, but what if they’ve gotten via dodgy/spammy means, or it’s a keyword that looks good but doesn’t even get much search volume? Meanwhile, Twitter does have Klout as a metric, but then it isn’t exactly accurate (and I believe Klout doesn’t currently take followers into account)…

To me, what’s important are things like reviews, testimonials and word-of-mouth. Fair enough if this social media trainer with a 1:1 FR is actually really good at giving social media training, but in my opinion, they shouldn’t use “I have lots of followers” as a USP when such a thing can be easily manipulated (and – judging by his profile – probably has).

Funnily enough, as I was going to publish this post, someone on my Twitter feed complained about how people he knows are falling for follower numbers. Using Storify Wakelet, I’ve included the tweets and @mentions between me and two others: @NeilCocker and @tombeardshaw. (More people and tweets were involved in the discussion, but as some of the tweets went a bit off-topic and became quite negative – pin-pointing a particular individual guilty of the practice – I’ve only included a few of them.)

[Image credits: 100,000 cupcakes by Adam Tinworth (because everyone loves cupcakes!); “Scrambled” by Nick Humphries]

SEOno Returns

Just a quick bit of news…

In my last post, I said that SEOno would be on hiatus until June. However it looks as though my circumstances have changed, with my CAM Diploma deadline moving from May to September, which should give me some time in-between in order to blog on here again.

I also realise that it’s been a while (August) since I wrote a post listing guest blog posts and articles I’ve written for other sites, but I think there’s only been the one since then anyway, which appeared on Fresh Business Thinking in October: How to Find Opportunities and Mentions of Your Business Using Google Alerts and Twitter. Should be a few more in the pipeline though…

And that’s all there is to say for now really… I’m not used to typing posts that are this short!