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Pitch (v.) – to throw out

Pitch (v.) – to throw out published on No Comments on Pitch (v.) – to throw out

Oh, pitches. You get so many as a blogger, yet it’s been so long since I’ve had a good one. And these days it’s rarely even “Here’s an interesting angle on a cool topic”; instead, the pitch is “Post my content” or “Post a link to my content.”

And the stuff is consistently awful content-farmed dreck, created purely to generate leads or sway search engine algorithms—with exactly the amount of heart and soul that implies.

Sometimes it’s a guest post they want me to run, with a few keywords including a link to some site they’re promoting. (“We have posts on a wide range of topics,” they’ll sometimes say. If I want to feel good about humanity, I’ll sometimes pretend that’s their way of apologizing for not researching what my site is actually about.)

Lately the MacGuffin of choice is an infographic, one they’re just so sure my readers will find fascinating. True, I don’t blog about student debt financing and probably never will, but they assure me you’ll be riveted by their collage of stats, charts and stock illustrations.

The high-water mark for pitches so far was one that came to me in my capacity as The NOW Group’s Director of Integrated Communications. “As a Director of Integr, we’re sure you’ll be interested,” the email gushed. Apparently the spammer’s database allocated only a miserly 18 characters to the field “sucker’s job title”.

(Let me make something clear. I take integr very, very seriously. I studied in the School of Integr at Carleton Univer, and being Director of Integr is the fulfilment of a lifelong dr. So kindly don’t use it with such casual disregard, please and thank-you.)

Here’s the sad truth. Unless it’s directly related to the stuff I write about, and unless it’s really useful to the folks who read my blog, I am never going to link to your infographic. Never.

And in response to the spammers’ “Why not share this with your readers?” I offer the same answer Arthur Dent once did: because I want to keep them.

But everything needs SEO

But everything needs SEO published on No Comments on But everything needs SEO

How long before someone has a viable business helping parents choose names for their kids based on low-competition, high-value search terms?

State of the Union: What’s more, China is overtaking us on strategically crucial SERPs.

State of the Union: What’s more, China is overtaking us on strategically crucial SERPs. published on No Comments on State of the Union: What’s more, China is overtaking us on strategically crucial SERPs.

Watching the State of the Union, I’m wondering what would happen if President Obama announced he was supplementing the Peace Corps by launching an SEO Corps.

Ethics, metrics and just plain icks

Ethics, metrics and just plain icks published on No Comments on Ethics, metrics and just plain icks

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb

The web has redrawn a lot of ethical boundaries over the past few years. The ongoing debate over Michael Arrington and whether journalistic ethics from the pre-Internet era should apply today is only the latest in a flood of dilemmas, quandaries and fine-how-do-you-dos. And every time I start thinking something’s nice and simple on the ethics front, a new wrinkle emerges.

Like email marketing. I’d thought the day had been carried long ago by supporters of double-opt-in: where you sign up on a web site, then click a link in an email to activate your subscription. That’s as opposed to single-opt-in, where you submit an email address, and the flow of thinly-disguised ads valuable information begins. Or zero-opt-in, which is more commonly known as spam. (Unless you have permission through some other channel. No, “vibes” or “a feeling they’d like to hear about this great offer” don’t count.)

It turns out I was wrong: single-opt-in still has its loyal partisans. Their core argument often boils down to convenience and effectiveness in list-building: many people never click that confirmation link. Then again, it’s hard to say how much of that is because people miss the confirmation emails, because they can’t be bothered clicking… or because someone submitted their email address without their permission. (More on that in a sec.)

You could see that argument as self-serving: “because it improves my metrics” doesn’t exactly radiate moral suasion. But the flip side is convenience for the subscriber: being able to sign up for something with a minimum of fuss and bother.

Problem is, there are plenty of people (and bots) plugging fake or unauthorized email addresses into sign-up forms. I know, because I see it happen on my company’s own newsletter form… and because I keep seeing email marketing pieces from reputable companies piling up in our catch-all email account, with made-up user names. And for a user who has been signed up without their knowledge, there isn’t much difference between receiving a piece of single-opt-in email and spam.

Which means a new ethical question: does convenience for the users who want to subscribe outweigh the inconvenience to those who get signed up involuntarily?

Complex, no? And yet from these conflicting arguments and competing moral positions, one crystal-clear conclusion emerges: If you want a job with real growth potential, you could do a lot worse than becoming an ethicist.


Gifted published on 1 Comment on Gifted

With such a narrow finish, I couldn’t just leave the other caption in the closet, never to see the light of day again. (Especially if it might be useful for someone’s blog post or PowerPoint presentation.) So here’s the alternate version; it also happens to be the one I was thinking of when I first drew the cartoon.

Bet she’ll be the only “Replica Rolex” in her class

Bet she’ll be the only “Replica Rolex” in her class published on No Comments on Bet she’ll be the only “Replica Rolex” in her class

Torn between two captions,
feeling like a fool…

The people of the Internet have spoken, and by the absolute narrowest of margins – 43 votes to 42 – you’ve chosen this caption for the cartoon. (Should this caption be unable for any reason to fulfill its duties, the other caption will serve in its place.)

This cartoon ran on ReadWriteWeb on the weekend, where I wrote this:

There seem to be two poles of opinion in the SEO world around content. At one pole, you optimize everything you do within an inch of its life: writing headlines and structuring copy to engage search engine algorithms rather than human imaginations. You frame your content and choose your topics with a view to linkbait instead of what really charges your passions, and you track metrics and prune away less productive activity ruthlessly.

On the other pole, you may be no less attuned to metrics than your counterparts at the other end of the spectrum, but you direct your focus to creating great, engaging content and building a community around it. Here, you’re counting less on talking directly to search engines and more on creating the kind of traffic and organic linking activity that will drive up your rankings.

And then, of course, there are points in between where you do some of each. But there’s no question that there’s a tension between writing for search engines and creating a distinctive, authentic voice of your own.

Now, I can find advice anywhere along that spectrum with no difficulty. (It’s no surprise that people who do SEO for a living don’t find it hard to make their content visible.) And I can find vocal, often heated arguments and very strong opinions.

What I can’t find is hard data on which approach works better, and where the sweet spot lies. I imagine apples-to-apples comparisons would be hard to do, but that information would be pretty valuable. I have my preferences – I like a Web of communities and genuine voices, and I’d find pushing the ruthless-linkbait-and-keyword approach soul-destroying – and my instincts about what I’d like to believe works better, but that’s just me.

Anyone out there find anything tangible?


Obnoxious published on No Comments on Obnoxious