Monday, December 21, 2009

Spambots: the ultimate indicator of incompetence

For those who have no idea what spam-bots are all about, here is some quick info about them. But basically, it's an automated program that looks for any page it can comment on and throws in a link to it's originating site. The point is to get better Google page ranking or just flat out spam advertising for any site traffic.

It's the most idiotic type of spam.

And it's cluttering up the internet with garbage.

Recently this blog got hit by a bot (which means that the blog is on the rise and becoming more noticeable). Look at the first comment here and you'll see a vague response. Usually these types of responses are also filled with grammatical and spelling errors. Most publishing platforms (like word-press and even blogger) have filters that automatically take out the links or delete the comments outright.

But, some people still insist they have their uses. The only use I've ever seen for automated responses is as an indicator of incompetence. Any blog that publishes auto-response messages are either too stupid to see the exploit for what it is or too desperate for comments to care.

But the internet is being clogged with these stupid comments and messages with the sole purpose of generating quick and free advertising. If you want solid credibility, stay the hell away from spambots and auto-response scripts. Why? Because anyone who has a clue about blogging, publishing or the net can recognise them for what they are.

And the next thought your readers will have will be about your credibility.

Is this what you want them to be thinking about while reading your material?

Once again, I'm the exception to this rule because I've only allowed the publication of one to use as an example for this post. I'm well aware of the irony here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

You don't plan to fail, you fail to plan

This is a new section I'm starting about my past (and present) mistakes in blogging, copywriting and life in general. I've created a new tag called "my mistakes", which leads us to my first mistake of not planning out this blog properly before I began it.

It's kind of understandable (in my mind anyway!) because I had no idea where the blog was going when I first started, I was just told to start blog that could be associated with my company. And it was simply going to be a professional showcase of my knowledge and abilities. However, as I've become more proficient in blogging, social networking, brand building etc. this site should reflect those changes, and yet not lose the process of the journey.

So it's an okay mistake to make and learn from because it can be fixed without much hassle, depending on how much content you've already deployed. Over the weekend, I'll be planning exactly what I want from this blog, what new content will be covered and where I want to be in the next few months.

This is an important thing to remember when planning your blog: look to the future and define what you want from your blog in the next month, next six months and next year. If it's generating visitors, then you need to define a target number and the steps that will leand you there. If it's content then you need to think about relevant topics to your niche and how you're going to make it worth reading. Everyone has a blog, anyone can write, so how is your voice going to be different?

I like to take an informal conversational tone, minus my usual sarcastic and offensive tone. Why do this? Because this isn't for my friends to get a laugh out of and enjoy. It's for a serious skill set display and to build my own brand:

I am Thomas George. I am a writer. I am awesome at what I do.

But, like every person, I still make mistakes and this is where you'll hear about them and find out how to turn it into something positive.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Being yourself, only don't; it depends

I'm going to let you in on a secret about myself: I'm a social chameleon. I don't just change my behaviour in different circumstances, I also shift my personality as well. This has freaked out past girlfriends who've gotten close to me because they see me as this vibrant enthusiastic upbeat kid and then see that's not me at all once alone.

I'm not saying I'm an flesh eating snarling ogre, just a quiet and withdrawn troll.

This comes in handy when copywriting because you have to take on the ideals, the lexicon and even the mannerisms of the person you're writing for. You have to be them, sometimes literally, which is what ghost-writing is all about.

But when it comes to my own writing, it's really hard for me to find a middle ground. My writing for this blog isn't me, but it is.

It's Thomas at a job interview.

You won't see me being dirty or dropping f-bombs like they're going out of fashion. You won't see me pushing boundaries, which is something I love doing in my writing. You won't see me being ultra sarcastic or using hyperbole to the extreme.

It's true, I'm a self indulgent childish writer!

This is something you have to keep in mind when writing your blog, copy or any piece of writing that someone will look at. This is a record of you as a person. Your personal brand. One of my favourite bloggers covered this better than I could.

One of the hardest skills I've learnt (or have I?!) is the one about self censorship. I write this blog as though a potential employer, university professor or researcher might come across.

I'm still me, but not.

Monday, December 14, 2009

For every hour you spend writing..

Over the past few weeks I've been monitoring my copywriting output against certain factors. Also from what other writers have written I've found a rule of thumb when deploying content and it breaks down like this:

For every one hour you spend writing copy...

Spend double that interacting with people on blogs with similar content and networking your name. This is also know as promoting your brand.

Spend double the time you spent interacting and promoting your blog by reading more blogs, information, books and making sure that you know the subject matter your talking about. This is considered research and will reduce the amount of times you end up looking like an ass.

Following that wont guarantee you success, but it will reduce the time you spend removing your foot out of your mouth, especially if you're as much of an over-opinionated wind-bag as I am!

If only I could follow my own advice sometimes!

But, I did find some interesting advice along these lines through another blog called thecopyblogger. Interesting insights into things to keep in mind when writing.

So, this post took me 10 minutes to write, 20 to post and advertise and an hour to research other material. To be fair, I actually spent around 2 hours because I follow links and get distracted by other things like candy and TV!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The death of the introverted writer

After writing that title, I realised how redundant and inaccurate it is. And yet, I've decided to keep it because there is no way for me to explain it more succinctly. My writing influences have changed since I went to university because I became versed in the great writers of our times, which is pretty much why I went to uni. And as with all of the great writers in history, they are not easy to read.

Great writing needs to be interpreted, it cannot ever be blatantly obvious.

But that's not all because the real thinkers in literature; the ones that successfully challenge convention and redefine the boundaries of creative thinking are all introverts who struggle with success. One example is Franz Kafka a fellow born in my old hood of Czechoslovakia.

If Kafka were alive today, he would be blogging his angsty little heart out with practically zero page hits. As with all introverts, they live mostly in their own imagination and struggle with regular social interactions. In this day and age to be successful in writing (regardless of your medium) you need to have social networking skills.

You need to be extroverted if you want recognition.

But then again, Kafka's genius wasn't discovered until after his death, so perhaps his posts would stagnate on his blog. That is, until his neighbours discovered it on his computer while investigating the stench of his decomposing corpse. Thus would his work become known to the world.

I find myself doing more social networking than writing lately and what I write can hardly be considered my best or most thought provoking work. Yet it has garnered more attention than anything else that has been unleashed from the unrecognisable mess that is my mind.

It seems paradoxical to me.

But that's the way this world works. You find love when you're not looking for it, you find happiness unexpectedly, or success in another field than the one you want.

Unless you're introverted. Then all that comes after you live a horrible life of neurosis and self doubt. It's only after you've punched your ticket that people realise how unique you really were.

And I really don't want to be that guy shoving his "uniqueness" in peoples faces.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Articles Directories

Most blogs and information articles are now being tracked by third party sites and assessed for relevancy and consistency. If you've ever visited Technorati, you'll know about the authority score, which is a great indicator of your expertise in the field you're talking about.

These article directories are what I'm researching today and I've discovered more than a few inconsistencies. I’ve had little experience with these sites before so as usual I’ve done a background search on Wikipedia and found some interesting results because it doesn’t just give a general description, but also a slanted add for a specific add:

Article standards developed by SEO experts are a word count of 400-500 words and a keyword density of approximately 2%-3%. Article submission sites like ePubster allow article submissions and contain job boards for authors to freelance writing services for website owners. Ezinearticles also gives authors a way to submit articles but charges authors for multiple submissions. Expertscolumn require Authors to submit unique Articles and rewards Authors through Revenue Sharing services generated from the Articles. While article submission sites allow link backs for SEO, they have limits to how many are normally allowed. Link backs should be keyword optimized using HREF tags with keywords in the title tag. Writing standards also prohibit keyword stuffing, so articles are reader friendly for humans and not just crawlers.

The first thing I noticed was the suspicious capitalisation of certain words like “Authors” and “Articles”. This is a great indication that the person writing the article has an agenda specifically related to Google keyword links. Once I explored the Expertscolumn website I found it to be a very dodgy Indian based scam, where they try to solicit people to write content for their site and give vague promises of monetary influx for the traffic generated.

Then, at the bottom, they recommend you DON’T use a Google adwords account, but another product they’re linking. I didn’t even have to go through their lack of content to see how much of a scam it is.

I wonder if I would have been able to spot it without all the marketing information I’ve soaked in over the last few weeks. Certainly I wouldn’t have suspected it on the Wikipedia page without knowing all the stuff about search engine optimisation that I know now. I would have blindly assumed that the vast editorial process of Wikipedia would have picked it up.

It seems that it’s easier to look like an expert in any field online. Hungry Beast, one of my favourite shows on the ABC also recently did a prank like this, releasing a report about how gullible Sydney residents were over Melbourne people. They copped heavy flack over how believable their reports were when the media picked up the story and didn’t do any fact checking.

But I wonder how many of us do fact checking over any information we soak in over the net?

My advice: Question EVERYTHING. Believe NOTHING.

Except that. Ha!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The SEO noise can only get worse

Everything I do is centred around Search Engine Optimised words. This means that anything I write needs to be loaded with the correct keywords that people search for on Google which will in turn raise our clients importance in Google search results.

One of the key balancing acts of my role is to keep the copy I do interesting and readable while stuffing it full of those SEO words. This is tedious at the best of times, but some people don't even bother doing this. Do a Google search for "small business marketing", go on. I'll wait.

Did you notice how the first page was filled with nonsensical results like: "Small Business Marketing: Small Businesses" or "Business Marketing- Small Business Marketing"?

The first thing that strikes me is how awful that search string now is. It is cluttered with SEO loaded pages that read like a 14 year olds myspace page (Amateur Capitalisation Of Every Word Makes Me Look So Professional And Cool, Don't You Think?).

Secondly, the search page is almost useless now because it is almost impossible to get any informational differentiation between the results. All they are focused on is cramming it full of keywords.

Over time with everyone doing this do you think Google will get better or more cluttered with indecipherable search results?

No, you say? You're positive the staff will change Google around to work again when the complaints start rolling in!

Sure, they may tweak the overall design, but people will keep up with these changes and adjust their SEO to match. In fact, a whole industry is blossoming with the singular purpose of messing with search results to yield better results for their clients.

So what happens to Google when the primary function of its existence is no longer effective and people cant tell one result from another. Random clicking? How long before they give up and turn elsewhere?

Personally, I don't even use Google for certain search strings any more due to all the SEO clutter. I go to outside third party sites who vet and evaluate websites on a much more strict and tightly controlled basis. is an example of this.

Perhaps whoever solves this dilemma will become the new Google visionary of the next decade?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Target and engage

The singular focus of being a writer (which is my ultimate goal) is simply to write. With blogging that can also be the primary focus as content does matter, especially worthwhile content. However, that isn’t the full picture and if that is all you focus on, you'll most likely fail. I’ve written plenty of funny blogs which stagnated after a while due to lack of interest. Despite a few odd hits, I never really advertised, figuring word would get around naturally about how awesome I was.

The trick to making any blog successful lies not only with clever writing that captures peoples attention, but also engaging your target demographic and putting yourself out there as someone with an opinion. I’ve been experimenting with this blog, keeping the simplistic layout but also using Google analytics to keep track of my daily traffic and other statistics.

Whenever I’ve responded to certain blog posts about stuff I have an opinion on, I’ve linked my blog and watched how many people came visiting from that post. I should start to link back the posts to the blog, but relevance of the target traffic hasn’t matched my niche subject matter for this blog yet.

What that means is that this blog is very specific, dealing with subject matter in a non-topical way and therefore is very hard to find a niche or audience for. However, by linking posts back to this blog and directing the right kind of traffic back here, I’m slowly gaining headway with site visits that don’t just include my friends and family. This blog is now my most successful with regards to raw page hits in the shortest amount of time.

So there are the two things I’ve learnt and found that works within the blog marketing sphere:
  1. Engage other bloggers
  2. Know your niche

Incidentally, a big thank-you to my mother for being the only subscriber so far. Thanks mum, I hope you’re enjoying reading it and get some sort of entertainment value out of it!

Monday, November 30, 2009

The non-existent fine line

There is a misconception about the thin line between being funny and being offensive. Being funny (or attempting to be) will inevitably offend someone, somewhere, somehow. This is something that cannot be helped or changed. You can avoid it by churning out emaciated dry copy which reads like an encyclopaedia, but then you run the risk of being boring and losing readers.

You may take a page out of the shock bloggers out there and just not give a damn. Maddox is the best example of this genius and he’s been around for over a decade. He talks pure tripe, but does it in such a hilarious way that I can’t help but love him for it. However, as he constantly complains: his inbox is inundated with idiots complaining about how he’s offended them.

This is despite the big caveats plastered all over his website: “If you disagree with anything you find on this page, you are wrong.”

I’ve always had a penchant for hyperbole and find the offensive and crazy stances quite funny. But the aspect that I can never handle well is how it tends to attract the unwanted attention of the over opinionated mouth breathers who pontificate without any contemplation whatsoever. Tact is definitely an underdeveloped trait in me.

Yet this presents the contradiction I discussed in my first post. Getting loads of attention is exactly what I’m after in advertising, but without generating the interest of the imbeciles while still being punchy and entertaining.

The simple truth is that it cannot be done.

You’ve got to pick a side.

So somewhere around the world, someone will read this post and indignantly soil their underwear.

I look forward to reading your emails.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Word Press: the crap generator

Word Press is the premiere writing tool used for blogs. I've never gotten to play around with it much, but after a few weeks I find myself quite proficient with it. This is because it's very easy to use; with simple a interface and loads of support for both platform and delivery.

This is good because it allows more people access in delivering their copy to their audience. This is bad because it allows more people access in delivering their copy to their audiences. Have you read some of the stupidity out there? I've just come from a horrendous article from a news site (Sydney Morning Herald online) which has a recognisable and reputable name. Yet the site design is atrocious and riddled with auto-loading spam.

Despite this, I still follow a few blogs they deliver when I was referred to this rambling diatribe by a friend. My immediate response was to question the editorial process in which a reputable news service can publish such confused dribble. The whole article screams of inconsistency and unfocused rambling.

I'm picking up all these new analytical skills towards evaluating any piece of writing however absolutely none of those skills were necessary in identifying raw ineptitude of writing. Which sadly is the majority of blog content out there on the net.

Trying to not think about how my writing shapes up, instead I wonder how long it will be before search engines become intelligent enough to evaluate blog posts and automatically discard those that are too stupid or badly written from search result. I'm sure Google is already working on algorithms that do exactly this.

Which then begs the question, can everything we write be evaluated for skill based on a mathematical process?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Marketing Darwin

I watched a very interesting documentary regarding Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Its focus wasn't so much on Darwin, but rather the men around him that helped his theory gain a foothold into the scientific community which instantly dismissed it due to religious indoctrination and programming.

This relates directly to advertising as Darwin's supporters had to generate interest inside a hostile market. They did this by debating established scholars and discrediting them in such flamboyant ways so that newspapers would report on them and thereby increase the overall coverage about his revolutionary and very controversial theory.

It got me thinking that if Darwin didn't have these ardent supporters engaging in the political stoushes marketing his message to the masses, would his work have been utterly dismissed as it originally was and lost within the annuls of time?

I've always looked at marketing as generating interest into products that couldn't do so for themselves, thereby making them inferior to those that spread by word of mouth. However I can see that I was very much mistaken with that outlook. Perhaps we owe one of the greatest discoveries ever made by man to the advertisers and snake oil salesman?

I feel a little dirty about this realisation.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Reading and research

Most of any day is spent reading other blogs and researching specific topics in order to have some clue as to what I'm saying in any post or response. There are many different blogs I have to read, however after reading for a while it all they seem to all conglomerate into one miasma of self serving agendas and angles.

It's when this point is reached that I know it's time for a break. I don't believe I've ever been challenged as much mentally in any role as much as in this one. I've had to scrutinise words and phrases including my own to remove words and appropriate phrases that I don't use. Also, tightening my writing is something editors have advised me when submitting any journalistic pieces. Perhaps I'm finally getting the hang of it through sheer repetition.

As always I learn best by doing and making the mistakes instead of being told about them. It's weird that until I experience something for myself it doesn't crystallise and though it can be demoralising to an extent, I do enjoy the experience. Perhaps this reflects a penchant for my own mental self flagellation.

It's always good to know one's place.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Revisions of Revisions of Revisions

Have you ever revised something so many times that any changes you were told to make were changes that you didn’t even change in the first place? One of the most difficult things to do is thinking along another person wavelength, to know what phrases and what inflection they prefer to use.

This is even harder when the person you’re attempting to imitate keeps changing their mind about the words they want to use. This is frustrating because it’s a necessary part of the process. After each revision I honestly think I have it right, only to discover it is anything but.

The most disheartening aspect is that with each new blog I work on, I figure I’ve learnt the tricks and now know what to look out for. I bring my fresh piece to the table with a smile of satisfaction, only to discover that once again I’m the heel.

Maybe next week I’ll be better.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The level of control you are unaware of

There are many tips around about creating good copy and getting a small business web page noticed. These tips are already being used and one of them is to position a company as an expert in whatever field they are in.

So, as time goes on a cacophony of noise will arise, each one claiming to be experts in their fields. So these leave the consumer begging the question, "What can I believe or trust?"

Sadly, that reflects one of the fundamental shifts of advertising focus from 'trustworthiness' to 'believability'. In this day and age the focus is set purely on credibility and simply being believable because of the level of control an advertising company has over information on the internet is pretty much absolute.

Testimonials towards products are concocted, so are web forums and most importantly: search engines are specifically targeted to return information on searches that advertising companies meticulously manipulate.

So in essence, the best option is to be as cynical as you can be at every scrap of information you source on the internet.

Remember: Propaganda is only effective when you are unaware of it.

I wonder if it's possible

My natural writing voice in very sarcastic and antagonistic. I do this on purpose because I've noticed that any piece of writing I do will receive more attention if I'm antagonistic towards the audience.

If I craft a thoughtful essay tightened and neatly constructed, very few people will argue with it or bother even replying because there isn't any wiggle room in my piece for them to refute me.

So part of my new role in copywriting is to deliver interesting pieces with hidden agendas. I wonder if I can write in that manner and somehow keep my off beat perspective about life and my adventures within.

This blog is my attempt to keep an interesting record of my experience, without being offensive or antagonistic in any way.