Viral video basics

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the gold standard of marketing was to have an ad during the Super Bowl that people would talk about around the water cooler when they got to work the next day.

That last sentence is sort of like that old kid’s game “How many things can you find wrong in this picture?” Let’s see:

People don’t really talk around a water cooler that much anymore.
People also don’t wait a day to talk about a hot subject either. Instead, they discuss it as it happens on Facebook chat, or text, or email, or. …
More than a few people don’t go to work from 9 to 5 anymore, instead relying on mobile technology to allow them to work at home, on the road, inside a Starbucks, or. …
People also don’t wait until the actual game to view the commercials, as many such ads are “leaked” online well before the game to create buzz.

So, yes, the rules of marketing have changed, and radically. Why? It’s the same thing that has changed everything from how books are sold to how health care is delivered: the Internet.

As a result, the gold standard of marketing today isn’t the funny Super Bowl ad, but rather the viral video. Create one of those and you’ve struck Internet oil.

All of which, of course, begs the question: Can you make a viral video on purpose, or is it something that just happens naturally — sort of like taking a video of your sons and posting it online with the title “Charlie Bit My Finger.” Can you capture that magic and disseminate it on purpose?

Yes, it turns out you can.

Or maybe a more accurate analysis is that you can create the context for a video to go viral, give it your best shot, and then cross your fingers and hope your video is sprinkled with fairy dust.

Here’s how:

Create the right sort of video

Why don’t my small-business videos go viral? Because I didn’t create them that way, nor did I intend for them to be viral videos. They are simple business how-tos on my site TheSelfEmployed. They serve their purpose.

Viral videos are different. Viral videos tend to fall into a few different categories. So if you want to create a video that might get spread around the Internet like the Ebola virus, the first thing to do is make sure yours fits one of these categories:

Funny: A video begins to go viral when people not only watch it, but tell their pals about it, too — sharing it via email, Facebook, YouTube, text, Twitter, whatever. And what causes people to want to share a three-minute clip? It’s because they think their friends will like it/laugh at it/be amazed by it too, or they think they will get some street cred by sharing it or discovering it first.
The first way to make that happen is by posting a video that cracks people up. How do you do that? That’s your job, amigo — I’m just sharing the process.

Weird/quirky: When I first saw “PSY – Gangnam Style,” I, like many, couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. It was just so … different. Weird works. Quirky kills. Posting an odd video ups the chances of yours going viral because odd is memorable — and especially in this e-world, you have to do something different to get noticed.
By the same token, larger companies have been able to get their videos to go viral because they have a budget to create a special effect that amazes at first sight, like an outfielder scaling a wall to catch a ball.

Cute: Kitten videos are all the rage because kittens are just so damn cute.
Outrageous: That a stupid movie about the Prophet Muhammad could cause rioting half a world away shows the power of posting something outrageous online. Now, if you are in the small-business world, outrageous is probably not what you want. But it does need to be noted that outrageous is a viral player.
Poignant/insightful: A professor’s last lecture. Steve Jobs speaking at graduation. Sincere insight is another tried-and-true way to position a video for virality.
Post it right
Once you have the video, the trick is to choose a thumbnail that’s captivating and a title that’s intriguing.

Distribution
As indicated, having the right video is only a small part of the viral video game. There are tons of great videos out there that no one sees. So how do you get people to see yours? There are strategies large and small:

Begin with your network: Once posted, share your video with those in your extended network and ask them to share it with theirs. Tweet it. Post it. Blog it. Email it.
 
Share it with influencers: There are bloggers out there with huge audiences. Writers with many readers. Sites with millions of visitors. Your job is to get your video in front of them and get them to share it with their followers and fans.
Finally, remember that viral videos tend to be short (three minutes or so) and make people feel something — they laugh, they cry, they get mad, they worry. 

And then they share.

Google Webmaster Guidelines

Doctrine According to Google

Following these guidelines will help Google find, index, and rank your site. Even if you choose not to implement any of these suggestions, we strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to the “Quality Guidelines,” which outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index or otherwise impacted by an algorithmic or manual spam action. If a site has been affected by a spam action, it may no longer show up in results on Google.com or on any of Google’s partner sites.

When your site is ready:

Design and content guidelines

    • Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
    • Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the important parts of your site. If the site map has an extremely large number of links, you may want to break the site map into multiple pages.
    • Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number.
    • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.
    • Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.
    • Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn’t recognize text contained in images. If you must use images for textual content, consider using the “ALT” attribute to include a few words of descriptive text.
    • Make sure that your <title> elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.
    • Check for broken links and correct HTML.
    • If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL contains a “?” character), be aware that not every search engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the number of them few.

Technical guidelines

    • Use a text browser such as Lynx to examine your site, because most search engine spiders see your site much as Lynx would. If fancy features such as JavaScript, cookies, session IDs, frames, DHTML, or Flash keep you from seeing all of your site in a text browser, then search engine spiders may have trouble crawling your site.
    • Allow search bots to crawl your sites without session IDs or arguments that track their path through the site. These techniques are useful for tracking individual user behavior, but the access pattern of bots is entirely different. Using these techniques may result in incomplete indexing of your site, as bots may not be able to eliminate URLs that look different but actually point to the same page.
    • Make sure your web server supports the If-Modified-Since HTTP header. This feature allows your web server to tell Google whether your content has changed since we last crawled your site. Supporting this feature saves you bandwidth and overhead.
    • Make use of the robots.txt file on your web server. This file tells crawlers which directories can or cannot be crawled. Make sure it’s current for your site so that you don’t accidentally block the Googlebot crawler. Visit http://code.google.com/web/controlcrawlindex/docs/faq.html to learn how to instruct robots when they visit your site. You can test your robots.txt file to make sure you’re using it correctly with the robots.txt analysis tool available in Google Webmaster Tools.
    • Make reasonable efforts to ensure that advertisements do not affect search engine rankings. For example, Google’s AdSense ads and DoubleClick links are blocked from being crawled by a robots.txt file.
    • If your company buys a content management system, make sure that the system creates pages and links that search engines can crawl.
    • Use robots.txt to prevent crawling of search results pages or other auto-generated pages that don’t add much value for users coming from search engines.
  • Monitor your site’s performance and optimize load times. Google’s goal is to provide users with the most relevant results and a great user experience. Fast sites increase user satisfaction and improve the overall quality of the web (especially for those users with slow Internet connections), and we hope that as webmasters improve their sites, the overall speed of the web will improve.Google strongly recommends that all webmasters regularly monitor site performance using Page Speed, YSlow, WebPagetest, or other tools. For more information, tools, and resources, see Let’s Make The Web Faster. In addition, the Site Performance tool in Webmaster Tools shows the speed of your website as experienced by users around the world.

Quality guidelines

These quality guidelines cover the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative behavior, but Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here. It’s not safe to assume that just because a specific deceptive technique isn’t included on this page, Google approves of it. Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.

If you believe that another site is abusing Google’s quality guidelines, please let us know by filing a spam report. Google prefers developing scalable and automated solutions to problems, so we attempt to minimize hand-to-hand spam fighting. While we may not take manual action in response to every report, spam reports are prioritized based on user impact, and in some cases may lead to complete removal of a spammy site from Google’s search results. Not all manual actions result in removal, however. Even in cases where we take action on a reported site, the effects of these actions may not be obvious.

Quality guidelines – basic principles

    • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
    • Don’t deceive your users.
    • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
    • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.

Quality guidelines – specific guidelines

Avoid the following techniques:

Engage in good practices like the following:

    • Monitoring your site for hacking and removing hacked content as soon as it appears

If you determine that your site doesn’t meet these guidelines, you can modify your site so that it does and then submit your site for reconsideration.

More Background SEO According to Google

 

SEO Experts

Some of the SEO “experts” we encounter exhibit less than tasteful attributes. Having been inspired by The Oatmeal, I’ve taken the liberty of illustrating some of the bad SEO professionals.

I understand that I might be slightly hypocritical in this post. I’ve found myself displaying some of the characteristics below.

Big Words/Acronyms SEO

You may have caught yourself using jargon that might be over your clients’ heads. These SEO Experts may know the trade, they just lack the ability to communicate effectively with clients. If you notice that your client has a blank look, you may want to ask if they don’t understand something you’re saying.

Your CMS is really bad for SEO. In fact I don't see a robots.txt or an XML sitemap. I recommend a mod_rewrite for your non-www version and use of the canonical tag. Your keyword density looks spammed and you have no ALT tag descriptions. No wonder you aren’t at the top of the SERPs.

Sparkling, White Hat SEO

Don’t get me wrong, white hat is the way to go in SEO. However, some incompetent SEOs may claim that their lack of linkbuilding is due to high moral principles. They put on a facade of “White Hat.” These SEOs either don’t get linkbuilding or they don’t want to put forth the effort to do it. Of course there are plenty of gray/black hat ways of building links. But other linkbuilding methods such as submitting a press release, creating quality linkbait, etc. are legitimate and great for SEO.

Just give me a few years and I'll get your website to the top. I'm completely white, sparkly hat. My SEO campaigns are based on moral principles. Link building is just not for me and my possy. If you have to work for links, then you're crossing the integrity line. Most of what I do is on-page... actually all I do is on-page optimization. But hey, I'm really gooood at it.

Conversion Expert Turned SEO

The Conversion Expert SEO is more uncommon. These SEOs somehow mistakenly believe that user experience is intricately connected with SEO. They carry the label of “Internet Marketer” but they only talk about conversion and design. The idea of increasing traffic rarely crosses their minds

Search marketing is a lot about user experience. So you've got 10 visitors a month? With my SEO experience, I'll boost your conversion rate by 10%. I'm sure we can convert at least one of them.

Self-Proclaimed Social Media Expert

The Social Media Expert may have been an SEO who was drawn into the hype of Social Media. He tells the world that he is a Social Media Expert because he knows how to use Facebook and Twitter. He frequently talks about “going viral,” although he has no idea how to go viral. And sadly, he measures his effectiveness based on the number of followers and friends he acquires.

We HAVE to get an account with every social network... I've already signed you up for SocialBunny, Diggggg.com, and Wuphf.com. If you get lots of accounts you'll get lots of links. Oh yeah, you're going to want a lot of followers and friends... it will definitely help your SEO.

IT Guy

SEO is an IT thing right? Wrong. Unfortunately, the in-house IT guy thinks that SEO belongs to the IT department since it involves algorithms and coding. While SEO may require someone with a bit of HTML skills, it should belong to the marketing department and more specifically a “Search Team.”

Well, I just googled SEO and I found out that keyword density is REALLY important. I’m just going to be adding our keyword, 'Organic Kitty Chow,' all over our website and in the keywords meta tag. We don’t need an SEO firm -- SEO is an IT thing. I’ll take care of it.

Bad Grammar Offshore SEO

We get plenty of emails and comments filled with poor translation grammar. Do you really want someone who’s using a translation tool to do your keyword research? These SEOs may be cheap but not very effective.

I has like blogging, and I always comment on other blogs to get links. I says things like 'Your write good posts, I am bookmarking this blog for return.' These kinds comments always get approval. SEO is really a lot as surgery. I has got thousands of comment links with my softwares. Please make business with me.

Black Hat SEO

The Black Hat SEO should be avoided like the plague. He may get you fast results, but those results will quickly decline after Google notices the spammy tactics around your website. Black Hat SEOs will always take the easy way out and often do more damage than good.

Give me your business and I'll get you to the top tomorrow. I've got plenty of doorway pages and I spin just about every article out there. Who needs to actually write unique content anymore? Don't worry about my techniques, they always work. I've only had a few hundred websites banned.

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