Only When the Words Outdo the Silence

Marketing, Media and Minutiae

Archive for May 2010

Hire the Better Writer

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I recently picked up a new book called Rework based on a blog post recommendation by a friend of mine.  Or, it might have been a tweet.  Who knows these days, right?  Right.

Seth Godin is quoted on the cover – “Ignore this book at your own peril.”  From what I’ve read so far, this isn’t surprising.  The chapters are anything but chapters.  They’re short, crisp ideas lacking any sort of fluff.  Straight to the point.  Wisdom in scarcity.  Finality of tone.  Extended proverbs?

There is a chapter entitled, “Hire the Better Writer,” that made me raise up and say, “Yes! I agree!”  If two candidates are equally qualified, then I choose based on the better writer.  I’ve heard many people say, “Cover letters are a waste of time,” but I entirely disagree.  You can fake a resume.  You can load it up with all of those action verbs and business buzzwords.  That’s easy.  But you can’t get around being a poor communicator in a cover letter and, as the chapter states, clear writing is a sign of clear thinking.  Basically, good writing shows good, structured thinking

Hire Great Writers

If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer.  It doesn’t matter if that person is a marketer, salesperson, designer, programmer or whatever; their writing skills will pay off.

That’s because being a good writer is about more than just writing.  Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking.  Great writers know how to communicate.  They make things easy to understand.  They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes.  They know what to omit.  And those are qualities you want in any candidate.

Writing is making a comeback all over our society.  Look at how much people e-mail and text message now rather than talk on the phone.  Look at how much communication happens via instant messaging and blogging.  Writing is today’s currency for good ideas.

Good writing and clear thinking is needed in a field like search.  Everyone plays within the same rules set.  We all play in the same sandbox.  The difference in quality from one company to the next is in the emphasis of the different facets of on-site and off-site SEO, for example, and the creation and application of unique ideas.  It’s knowing what to omit from a report in order to make your successes easier to understand.

One last note on writing and jobs involving the internet.  If you’re applying for a job that involves the internet, it would behoove you to create a WordPress, Blogspot, Tumblr, Typepad or et cetera blog with your name in the URL.  That way, when you’re Googled the blog pops up and allows the employer to get a better idea of how you think, what you think about, what you think about the things related to your potential job and who you are as a person.

Written by Cory Barbot

May 18, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Burnt Apple

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Lappé’s counter-argument centered on a number of scientific studies indicating that it is indeed possible to feed the world using a variety of organic and agroecological methods of farming. She pointed to a multi-year, multi-disciplinary study by Catherine Badgely and colleagues at the University of Michigan, which concluded that a hypothetical worldwide alternative agriculture system could produce between 95 and 157 percent of the calories presently produced—without agricultural expansion and with no net increased use of resources. Researchers at the University of Essex who analyzed 287 projects in 57 countries found similar improvements with a transition to less resource-intensive agriculture. And the seminal IAASTD report—engaging 400 scientists and development experts from 80 nations over a period of four years—also determined that “resource-extractive industrial agriculture is risky and unsustainable, particularly in the face of worsening climate, energy, and water crises.”

On: Words and phrases whose inclusion in this paragraph, considering the topic, strike me as tasting like burnt apple

  • number
  • scientific studies
  • agroecological
  • multi-disciplinary
  • hypothetical worldwide alternative
  • agriculture system
  • percent
  • produced
  • agricultural expansion
  • net
  • increased
  • analyzed
  • development experts
  • resource-extractive industrial agriculture

Written by Cory Barbot

May 11, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Posted in Minutiae

Predicting the World Cup

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Written by Cory Barbot

May 11, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Content Strategy by Karen Halvorson

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Huge fan of slide 84. It’s one of the initial seeds I like to plant during the kickoff phase of an SEO engagement – it’s all web content.  All of it.  PDFs?  Text it.  Create pages.  Processes?  Talk about them.  Make it a prominent feature?  No.  Make sure your CTAs are solid, in prominent positions; their presentation is consistent.  But create the plan and build it out.  Build it out entirely. Don’t let those branded keywords as the top traffic drivers fool you.  How did they find your company initially?  Probably a mid or long tail keyword.  Check out this deck on content strategy by Kristina Halvorson.

Written by Cory Barbot

May 10, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Social Media Revolution 2

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Written by Cory Barbot

May 8, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Ratings in PPC Ads

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Google and Bazaarvoice recently announced they’d be teaming up to bring ratings to the world of search.  I just came across a number of ratings in PPC ads for a few keyword searches, but it doesn’t look like the work of Bazaarvoice.  Check it out:

ratings in ppc ads

Written by Cory Barbot

May 5, 2010 at 9:50 am

A Random Walk Through the Cloud

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On: Exciting Evenings Entertaining Yourself
(Or, the first entry in the “Minutiae” category”)

I’m lying on the couch reading an article by favorite “public intellectual” – Nassim Taleb. From reading his stuff, I’m sure this label would bother him; awesome. Specifically, I’m reading an article by him the Edge website and came across this passage:

“Mediocristan corresponds to “random walk” style randomness that you tend to find in regular textbooks (and in popular books on randomness).”

My thought process:

1) Random walk. Hmm, I wrote a blog post for work with this phrase in it.

2) I should go to Wikipedia – there must be more to this phrase than a clever bit of imagery.

3) From Wikipedia. Random Walk:

A random walk, sometimes denoted RW, is a mathematical formalization of a trajectory that consists of taking successive random steps.

4) Rereads blog. Sees Dr. Larson link. Wants to check out Hendrix website.

4b) But first, brain juices slosh back to paragraph just above random walk phrase:

In Mediocristan, exceptions occur but don’t carry large consequences. Add the heaviest person on the planet to a sample of 1000. The total weight would barely change. In Extremistan, exceptions can be everything (they will eventually, in time, represent everything). Add Bill Gates to your sample: the wealth will jump by a factor of >100,000. So, in Mediocristan, large deviations occur but they are not consequential—unlike Extremistan.

Think consequential link building, link baiting, versus non-consequential link building, junk directories.  Think white hate versus black hat.

4c) Hmm, Google looks at the web and how to provide relevant search results through the Mediocristan lense? Microsoft says, nooo, nooo, nooo (c), we must look at how users interact with a website once they’re there – length of stay, click through path – because itdoes matter; it’s Extremistan. Determining relevant results (website rankings, of course) is not binary – we should care about how true it is that someone found a website useful outside of merely linking to a website. How did he or she interact with the website. How true is it that website A should be ranked number 1 for keyword X?

Think Google’s recent announcement that page load time is a factor.  Take that idea and run with it.  What is the meta keyword of “page load time”?  It’s website effectiveness or website conversion or conversion rate optimization.

5) Clicks on Dr. Larson link. Reads update on The Village @ Hendrix.

6) Thinks, that was random…

7) Heads back to Wikipedia.

8 ) Reaches See Also section of Random Walk entry. Markov Chain…this word has been bandied about by a coworker. Click.

9) From Wikipedia. Markov Chain:

In mathematics, a Markov chain, named after Andrey Markov, is a stochastic process with the Markov property. Having the Markov property means that, given the present state, future states are independent of the past states. In other words, the description of the present state fully captures all the information that could influence the future evolution of the process. Future states will be reached through a probabilistic process instead of a deterministic one.

10) Why not follow the random walk further back? Take into account links to determine the probability a user will randomly come across site X by clicking link after link after link on the web as well as on-site metrics like time on site, page load time, navigation path.  That or I’m completely off…

11) As I’m recollecting my thought process, I’m actually adding onto “what I thought.” What a liar. Voluntary memory.

12) In Search of Lost Time

13) I’m tired

Written by Cory Barbot

May 5, 2010 at 12:12 am

Posted in Minutiae

BrowseRank and the Future of Search

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Written on September 24, 2008

Undeniably, what currently works in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) occupies a majority of the collective mind of Apogee’s SEO department – links, links, links, on-page recommendations in the form of content, internal linking and tag optimizations, among others. However, we are also keenly aware of the future – that is, what does the future hold? Where is search heading? How will search engines determine a website’s relevancy for a keyword in the future? What will search results look like in the future? Where will Information Retrieval lead us?

To borrow an ongoing joke from Late Night with Conan O’Brien, what will happen in the year 2000 (9, 10, 11, etc.)? It behooves us to be Google, Yahoo! and MSN voyeurs because we are in the business of maximizing web sales or leads for our clients. Constantly researching industry trends will allow us to continue to produce solid results.

At present, Microsoft sits in third place behind Google and Yahoo! in the search engine space. Essentially, Google’s current domination of the market is due mostly to their search engine. Google provides the most relevant search results and, as a corollary, receives the bulk of traffic.

However (emphasis mine), according to Google, as quoted from their quarterly investor report, “[i]f Microsoft or Yahoo! are successful in providing similar or better web search results or more relevant advertisements, or in leveraging their platforms or products to make their web search or advertising services easier to access, we could experience a significant decline in user traffic or the size of the Google Network. Any such decline could negatively affect our revenues.”

So, how is Microsoft attempting to provide better web search results and snag the gold?

Microsoft thinks it has an idea about where search could head in the future and, of course, they are looking to mold that future. PageRank meet BrowseRank. Google’s PageRank algorithm places emphasis on the number of incoming links to a website when determining relevant search results for a query. It is not the only criteria for determining rankings, but it’s very important. Researchers at Microsoft feel incoming links are important as well, but their BrowseRank algorithm places greater emphasis on how users interact with a website – length of time spent on the website and click through path, for example.

In a paper entitled BrowseRank: Letting Web Users Vote for Page Importance, researchers concluded that, “PageRank only models a random walk on the link graph, but does not take into consideration the lengths of time which the web surfer spends on the web pages during the random walk. Such information can be a good indicator of the quality and thus importance of the pages.”

What might this mean for you and your website? Since we’re strolling through “what if” land (my history professor, Dr. Larson, always said “what if” history writing is terrible history writing), let’s assume PageRank and BrowseRank somehow form like Voltron to produce ProwseRank, the ultimate algorithm.

First, developing incoming links would continue to be vital to any SEO campaign. Second, providing users with the best experience possible through sustained A/B and multivariate testing, informative and interesting content, useful internal linking and optimal website effectiveness and usability would not only increase conversions, but would definitively increase rankings. It already sounds like a recipe for success!

Written by Cory Barbot

May 4, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Posted in Internet, SEO


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Excerpts from Karim Rashid‘s manifesto on how non-professional designers can incorporate design sensibilities into our lives.  I came across the list in a book I read called A Whole New Mind:

1. Don’t specialize

2. Before giving birth to anything physical, ask yourself if you have created an original idea, an original concept, if there is any real value in what you disseminate.

3. Know everything about the history of your profession and then forget it all when you design something new.

4. Never say “I could have done that” because you didn’t.

5. Consume experiences, not things.

6. Normal is not good.

7. There are three types of beings – those who create culture, those who buy culture, and those who don’t give a shit about culture.  Move between the first two.

8. Think extensivesly, not intensively.

9. Experience is the most important part of living, and the exchange of ideas and human contact is all life really is.  Space and objects can encourage increased experiences or distract from our experiences.

10. Here and now is all we got.

Written by Cory Barbot

May 4, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Posted in Creativity

Tagged with , ,

Making Ideas Happen

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Image by Eduardo!

Ideas and no follow through.  It’s a constant in business and in life outside of work.  How do you create an environment that is not only conducive to idea generation but idea instantiation? I think number one is the most important of the five tips for making ideas happen – “Avoid a Reactionary Workflow” – particularly because it’s often a form of number four – insecurity work.

I’ve made a point to log into to AIM (or Pidgin in my case) only a few times throughout the day, usually no more than 3 or 4 times.  In total, it works out that I’m “online” for only 45 minutes or so.  That gives people the opportunity to hit me with quick messages that can be answered immediately.  Otherwise, if it’s that important, I’ll see their beautiful smiling faces peek into the office.  Likewise, if I need something done and it involves another department then it’s a great opportunity to get up and walk over to their desk.  That’s the best way to move ideas into reality – good old fashioned face-to-face conversations.

Also, I set aside time to simply read during the week: industry blogs, articles, websites, the lot of it.  Just read.  That’s my sweet spot of creativity and where getting those big projects done actually happens (read, analyze, incorporate, brain dump, organize).  And if I’m feeling extra saucy, I’ll even shut down Outlook.  What do you do to get ideas from generation to instantiation?

Creative types have a problem.  We have so many great ideas, but most of them never see the light of day.  Why do most ideas never happen? The reason is that our own creative habits get in the way.  For example, our tendency to generate new ideas often gets in the way of executing the ones we have.  As a result, we abandon many projects halfway through.

Written by Cory Barbot

May 2, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Posted in Business, Creativity


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