Sword and the Script

Six Creative Ideas for Blog Posts

by Frank Strong


The only thing boring about content may well be the creator.

That was the message in a post on Copyblogger with a subtitle that read, “There are no boring topics, only boring content creators.” Author Pratik Dholakiya next tackles the challenge of making coffee cups interesting.

It’s an idea reflective of Malcom Gladwell’s work, who is a prolific writer with the hairstyle of a genius. In his book, What the Dog Saw, Gladwell says the role of a gifted writer, or more specifically, a journalist, is to breath life into a topic and in essence  make the uninteresting…interesting.  Read More…

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Triberr: Blog Building for the Magic Middle

triberr, magic middle, blogging

Image credit: Triberr

by Frank Strong

Twitter and Facebook killed blogging because it took the conversation out of blogosphere and moved it to social networks. That’s Dino Dogan‘s thesis — and it is a founding thesis for Triberr.

He’s not alone in his thinking — it was an often repeated refrain a few years ago — and the demise of Google Reader has resurrected the “end of blogs” discussion.

Google Reader’s shut down is not the end of blogs — there are plenty of RSS alternatives caught the news tail. There’s nearly a dozen good alternatives and at least one, Feedly has scored nearly one-half million new users as a result.  That’s 500,000 vocal power users and Google’s golden opportunity to earn good will walking out the door. Read More…

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Google Reader and Google’s Opportunity to Win Friends

google reader

Image credit: Lars Fosdal on Google+

by Frank Strong

Google announced it’s shutting down Google Reader. The company cited declining usage of its aggregation service as justification for killing it come July 1, 2013, but the web has exploded with unhappy comments.

There’s a petition to keep Google Reader running.

Maybe the complaints are from a few that shout louder than the majority.  Maybe the complaints are from a few that are influential.   Maybe.  

I’ve seen some pretty smart people react so viscerally to this announcement, that it must be worth hitting the pause button and perhaps putting some fresh paint on the Google Reader shutters.  Read More…

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Marketing Ideas: A Different Approach to Social Advertising

Facebook Ads

Image: Screenshot of current Facebook Ads on the side of my stream.

by Frank Strong

Rants about Facebook advertisements are a dime a dozen  and Facebook might be introducing a way for users to pay to have them removed.  I’ve seen a lot of comments in social media flatly saying they’d never give Facebook money to remove ads — it does seem a bit like holding people hostage — but clearly there’s also a market for it.

“I understand the company needs to make money (and I WANT them to make money) but why not at least honor your customers by providing an option that allows us to stop being annoyed?” wrote Mark Schaefer in a post titled pointedly, Dear Facebook. Please let me pay you.  “Let us give you a few bucks a month to end the insanity.”

The image Mark used in his post suggests a subscription fee of $20 a month as a fair price. If even a fraction of Facebook’s billion users subscribed, it’s stock price just might get back to that $38 per share mark it had for a fleeting moment at its debut.  As for the possible push back from users, Facebook has the unenviable position of a double edged sword:  no matter what they do, somebody is going to get angry. Read More…

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No, PR Does Not Look More Like Advertising

PR does not look like advertising

Photo credit: Flickr

by Frank Strong

PR Daily ran an oped earlier this week:  The PR industry today looks an awful lot like advertising.

Why does it look like this, according to the author?

Because, he says, with social media, blogs and even press releases, PR is going straight to the audience and bypassing the traditional media.

According to the post, “It doesn’t matter whether they’re selling information, clothes, or coupons—they are selling it direct to the audience. So are they advertising or PR-ing?”

No, PR does not look like advertising

What the author is getting after is third-party validation: by skipping the media and publishing to reach audiences directly, PR is missing the credibility that is earned through the media.

But he’s wrong. Sometimes the press release is the story.

Read More…

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Five Essential Technical SEO Tips For PR Pros


Photo Credit: Flickr (modified under Creative Commons).

Note:  The following is a guest post  who is an online marketing consultant specializing in SEO and web analytics. I can best describe Scott in one word:  brilliant.  There’s a lot PR can learn from a good SEO and I asked Scott for a post that goes beyond the standard five tips for SEO we see so often in blogs.  Over the weekend, he wrote this post published below.

* * *

PR professionals are well aware of the importance of links earned in their coverage, right?  In an SEO’s world, a link from one site to the next is seen as a vote of confidence by search engines, and it’s the basis for Google’s Page Rank Algorithm.   As PR Pro’s, you value a link as a pipeline for referral traffic and possibly additional coverage and even sales.  What I’d like to do, is present a few ways that PR pros can help the SEO’s on your team, and in turn, help yourselves.  Read More…

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Content Marketing Backlash? Fuggetaboutit

Charlotte's Web was Content Marketing (Photo Credit:  Flickr)

Charlotte’s Web was Content Marketing (Photo Credit: Flickr)

by Frank Strong

Enter the content marketing backlash.  We are not far away from seeing posts titled “Content marketing is dead.”

I wouldn’t cast my lot with that following and don’t recommend anyone else do either.   Why?  Because content marketing works and as Ann Handley writes, “Content marketing is a tremendous opportunity.”

Ann wrote a book about it with C.C. Chapman called, Content Rules, which I highly recommend.

Yesterday, The New York Times ran a story about Marcus Sheridan, who often goes by TheSalesLion.  It’s a story about how a guy that sells pools took a business on the brink of bankruptcy and turned it around.  He did it with a “revolutionary marketing strategy,” which boils down to simply answering customer questions.

In a world filled with complex strategy and where executives spend hours editing and re-editing adverbs for oh, a very pleasing polish, it’s a refreshing read with real world results.  And anybody can do it.

Anyone that’s heard Marcus speak, knows he is plain spoken, brutally honest, and passionately wants to share what he’s done with others, so that they too might find success.  There’s one part of his interview that really jumped out: Read More…

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Native Advertising’s Google Problem

Native Advertising

Photo: instagram.com/frankstrong

by Frank Strong

Last week Google reminded marketers about the basics in a blog post:  paid links must be distinguished as paid links.

Links are still arguably the single most important factor in PageRank and therefore search results.  The post was widely reported, earned a shout out on Inbound.org, but it leaves the question of why?

Why would Google’s top spam fighter feel the need to make such a post — especially after the widely felt effects, and subsequent buzz — following the Panda and Penguin updates?

It’s common sense, no?

Some Possible Causes

Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan theorized it was a result of a UK-based publisher placing links in advertisements. “It is believed the reason Google has downgraded their PageRank scores is because they were selling links on a massive scale,” he wrote.  Read More…

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Wear Sunscreen When Social Media Sites Die

by Frank Strong


Photo: Google screenshot on an image search on the closing of Posterous.

If I could offer you one piece of advice, it would be this: don’t bet your egg-nest on any one social media site. 

Social media may never sleep, but it also won’t live forever.  At least not in its current form.

A former colleague once relayed a story about MySpace. They’d met with an advertising team and signed a big contract to spend a boatload on paid media on the site when the unexpected happened.

The next day MySpace filed for bankruptcy.

There’s an old saying about eggs and baskets which needless to say means if we have more than one of the former, we certainly need more than one of the latter. Read More…

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Google+ Authorship is a Game Changer

by Frank Strong


On the modern day battlefield there are three kinds of people:  those on our side of the fence, those on the other side of the fence and those sitting on the fence.

Stay with me, I’ll link this to Google+.

War used to be won by seizing terrain and holding it, but opposing sides also used to wear uniforms that distinguished one from the other:  you could easily tell friend from foe.  Today they blend in, because arguably, there isn’t a military force in the world that can go toe-to-toe with the United States in a conventional war.

The way to beat America is to trade space for time — and after paying a heavy price, we’ve grown wise to that.

To the American Soldier, that blend means a culture we don’t understand, using a language we don’t speak and making decisions based on values that are different from our own. We need more people on our side of the fence to win.  It’s the only way; brute force will only secure temporary gains.

To that end, the way to win isn’t to seize and hold new ground, rather it’s to win over those fencesitters.  Those on our side of the fence will deny safe haven and identify those attempting to blend with the mix.

This is how I view the digital media landscape shaping and Google+’s role in it.

Anything but a Ghost Town

Even just six or eight months ago, Google took a bashing that it’s third attempt at a social network was devoid of activity.  There are all sorts of user numbers — and the blogging community debates the veracity — but I can say from my own experience that engagement is up.

With a few exceptions, I’ve worked hard at finding new people to follow or engage with on a level that’s not possible on Twitter. Mark TraphagenSteve HallJesse Wojdylo and Anneliz Hannan are good examples of people I’ve connected with on my own Google+ account.

Google+ will be Google in the next five years

As, anyone active on Google+ can attest, that activity on in the social layer has reached new heights.  I’ve also observed tangible benefits: Google+ is often the second largest referral source to this blog, trailing only Twitter.   Not social referral sourcereferral source.  This is especially noteworthy because in the last couple months I’ve been experimenting with paid media on LinkedIn and Facebook to promote blog content.  In other words, earned traffic on Google+ has outpaced two paid sources of traffic combined.

My view is that anyone that writes it’s a ghost town is marketing anger in order to provoke a reaction:  it’s linkbait plain and simple.

Related Content:
One Last Time…Google+ is not a Ghost Town 

The Social Layer will be Google

It’s easy to attempt to compare Google+ to a network like Facebook, but the reality is, Google+ has something very powerful Facebook does not: search.  There is no comparison.

Many dismiss the term “social layer” as Google-speak or jargon, but it makes a lot of sense to me because Google+ is melding search and social, two distinct mediums that naturally fit well together.   The company has been explicit in stating it’s intent that Google+ will be Google in the next five years —  I heard a Googler use that exact phrase at a conference last summer first hand.

Think about the gravity of statement for a minute.

How many businesses are dependent on search volume?  How important is search to an organization’s marketing efforts.  Chances are, it’s dramatic, or the seriousness of being punished by Penguin and Panda would have been slighter.   For many blogs, and all traffic sources considered, Google Search is by far the top way consumers find their way to information.  For this blog, and several others I’ve had access to in the past, traffic generally flows the most from Google Search, then Twitter, then Feedburner and now, Google+ — for all traffic, not just referral sources.

Google+ isn’t some little side project holed up in spare server room — Google is betting the company on it.

PR embrace content marketing google authorshipWhy Authorship is a Game Changer

A simple link used to be the single most valuable way to earn page rank.  By all accounts, it still is, but with a twist because of the gaming for links.  So, Google wants to verify your work, and then monitor how it resonates and moves through the web.  In exchange for becoming a trusted source, it will index your content sooner, provide more visibility and perhaps, give you an extra link in search.

A while ago, a very savvy SEO, suggested we link content on a corporate blog to our Google+ profiles — what has become known as Authorship.  I balked because I struggle with the overlap and the separation between personal and professional social media personas.  After having implemented Authorship on this blog for several weeks, I’ve come to realize, that should not be a concern and linking the profiles to verify authorship is probably the smartest and easiest thing I’ve done in a while.  

You were right, Scott. 

So why is this a game changer?  If you want to increase the user base, you’ve got to give people a reason to use it.  White hat SEOs have been thrilled with Authorship and are championing the cause.  SEOs are on the Google+ side of the fence and the conversation they are fueling is winning over the fence sitters because they are able to distinguish what makes Google+ different.  Google is appealing to it’s tightly-connected community and using it as a stepping stone to broaden its penetration.

Maybe it’s happened already and I missed it, but I’m waiting for that first major media outlet to adopt Authorship — a publication like the Washington Post or New York Times.   They’d have to forgo linking to profiles on their own sites, which is a risk, but this could also be a real opportunity for a media outlet that been hurt in the shift from print to digital formats.

In an era of page view journalism, contributors may well start demanding it.

Tips for Verifying Authorship

Google offers two ways to verify authorship.  If you have an email address from the same domain name where you contribute, you can use this authorship method.   For this blog, I chose the alternate method.  It’s worked out well and was simple to implement.

Here are five tips:

1.  Confirm your verification.   Google will send you an email once you’ve been verified.  You can also use the structured data testing tool for a preview.   For the screenshot nearby, I used an incognito search because it appears to me, Google won’t display your own Authorship results in personal searches.

2.  Ensure your profile picture faces your content. Ann Smarty published a post about the impact of profile photos on search results in Small Business Trends.  We already know photos perform well in social media, but take away from her post was we want the photo to be facing to the right as you look at it.  This is so when it appears in search, your profile photo is looking at your content.  She’s cites heatmapping research that indicates a viewer’s eyes will follow your gaze right into your headline.  (Note:  More recently Google has removed author photos from search results).

**Update Feb. 20, 2013 10:51 a.m. EST**    3.  Forget Author Rank.    For now.  Does it exist?  There’s enough writing on the topic to lead me to believe it does, until I included a little link to a tool that turned out to be a hoax by a UK SEO firm.  You can see this in the comments here, or at the very bottom of this thread on Google+.

4.  The best time to publish on Google+.   The best day or time to publish on social media or even press releases is an old story, so naturally there’s a tool for Google+.  Timing+ says it will analyze your Google+ publishing history and activity and recommend the best time to publish.

5.  Makes making a Google+ Page easier.  Recently, I created a Google+ page for this blog to experiment with.  Dan Myer, a freelance designer ginned up some graphics for me and I was off.  When I created the page and linked to the blog in the profile, Google notified me that since it has already verified me as an author, it would verify the link to the blog in the Google+ page as authentic. This could be very useful for anyone thinking about creating a page in Google+ for their employer or agency since it streamlines the process.

Media, marketing and PR have all felt dramatic changes in the last decade as a result of a dynamic landscape.  With search, the battlefield for social media has changed and there’s no company better positioned to win over the fencesitters than Google.

How about you?  Do you think Google+ Authorship is a game changer?  Have you implemented author verification with Google+?  Have you seen results from it?  What do you think Google means when it says, Google+ will be Google in the next five years?

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