Gamification of Maps and Landmarks

Picucubuan, Bolinao, Pangasinan fishing village

You have to look at social media as a game. It’s like a child’s game of show and tell. In some instances, it can be childish, like Twitter or Instagram, where you can post a rant, or an enviable toy, and then not care about the comments. For a lot of people, it has become a hobby or a pastime.

Recently, I have been posting pictures on Google Maps. This has led to me writing short (200 character) reviews of places, as well as rating these same places. The activity dovetails with photography. I quit my Instagram a while back. Mainly because I don’t like to shoot with my cellphone. I usually have a camera in my bag, and the places I go to also conveniently have few customers while I’m there. I take out the camera, shoot a few pictures without the flash and that’s it. I usually do some post processing on the colors, and resize the picture before I post online.

That is, until I started posting the pictures on Google Maps. I have never tried posting on travel sites, or on location sites like Foursquare, Yelp and Travel Advisor. However, its something that any marketing person, SEO or social media professional should consider. Specially with Google Maps.

Since I never posted in other travel sites, I don’t know how they do things there. On Google, it’s like a game. Google has gamified the crowdsourcing of pictures and information. There are categories, badges and levels which are achieved by a points-based contribution system. You get to 10 points per review, with a bonus 10 points if the review is more than 200 characters; 1 point for a rating; 5 points per photo; 7 points per video; 1 point per Answer; 3 points when you respond to Q&A; 3 points per edit; 15 points for every place you add; and 1 point for every fact checked.

As a points system, there are 10 levels, and you reach them with increasing number of points. On top of that there are badges. Submit a set of activities and you get a badge, and there’s a more advanced badge after that.

The importance of this is that the system is within Google. Google is about authority. It implicitly asks if you are an authority figure. The only way to know if a person is an authority is if he can share information. To verify that information, it relies on other contributors. It has cloud sourced fact-checking. It has cloud sourced verification. It has also cloud sourced additional images as proof that a place exists. It has outsourced map updating, corrections and editing.

At some point, the results of this crowdsourcing activity will leak out and seep into the search results. It is hard to predict what Google will do, however, the verified information is already available and online to Maps users. Whenever you try to search for a place on Google Maps, there is additional information included in the search result. It can also help you to navigate to the place, either by walking, riding a public transpo or by riding a car.

If you have a business, it is highly recommended to put in the information yourself. It is also not a bad idea to post pictures on the map every once in a while. It wouldn’t hurt to have more pictures on the map. When you search your establishment, the information appears in a box on the right hand corner of the search, along with pictures of the place. As a contributor, the establishment owner will also see the number of views for each picture.


The 1% SEO Solution

Vintage manual typewriters

I’ve been working on SEO since 2008. The work has evolved a lot in 10 years. I have been writing blog and web content articles, putting up links, then pulling down links, using various tools for link building, using social media for link building, sharing and commenting.

I like the job.

However, what riles me is that there are times when an somebody from the other end of the pipeline insists to use untenable metrics. I don’t want to say they are illogical. I just mean that these could not be sustained over time. In addition, most times, these metrics are “old” guidelines.

Intelligent and Natural

For instance, I write technical articles for a blog. The blog and website is intelligent and they require high quality writing. They have an editor who sends back materials both for grammar and content revisions. Sometimes, they just want it longer. The normal articles on the site are about 800 words in length. I’ve written articles which are almost 3,000 words in length. There are several writers on the payroll, and the pipeline can take up to two months before an article is published.

However, like every other internet company, surprises just jolt you on some random day when you least expect them. The company hired a new SEO person. This is nothing new. What’s new is that the writing guidelines were revised to have 2-3% keyword density.

First off, I can’t do anything about it. I just write what’s assigned to me. Therefore, I can only follow directives. However, my contention is that the SEO person might not have been reading the Google guidelines. Or it is possible that her former job required 2-3% keyword density.

Guidelines Interpreted

The Google guideline states that website content should read naturally. This means that the article should sound as if it was written by a person. The words should not be stilted, it should use proper grammar. It should be readable. As an American company, Google is also biased towards the use of active voice. Asians by the nature of their home language are used to using the passive voice. For this, there are tools online to check for the use of passive voice.

The guidelines also dissuade keyword stuffing. This is the practice of unnecessarily repeating the keyword. This leads to redundancies in the text. It also makes the whole article unnatural.

Admittedly, there are some copy which are redundant in nature. Some poem forms, technical specifications, owner’s manuals, user’s guides and marketing copy are inherently redundant. To make sure that their web content reads naturally, online marketers have come up with a simple metric of using only 1% keyword density. The keyword should not be used more than once every 100 words. Marketers have been using this metric since around 2010-2011.

A paragraph in web content is usually less than 100 words in length. Imagine a keyword or key phrase repeated every paragraph. It is almost like a litany. It burns into the background. It can be sustained for the whole article. However, if you repeat the keyword two or three times for every paragraph, it becomes an annoying hum. If this is repeated too often, search engines might lower the site’s page rank. For human readers, the annoying hum might force them not to read other articles on the site.


What Are Your Hobbies?

Nikon DSLR

A person has to have a life outside of the office or away from the website. This is usually some kind of passion or activity which draws in the person and keeps him from growing crazy about the real world. It is a way to let loose some steam, maybe simmer, cool down, and finally release the tension from work.

In the old days, people collected stamps, train sets, Matchbox cars, pottery, knick knacks, keychains, bag tags, cocktail stirrers, bottles, cans, and others. Most millennials would not know of these things. Nowadays, twentysomethings would be collecting Gundams or 1/32 Model Cars (Supercars like Ferrari or Lamborghini) from gasoline stations.

Take Up a Hobby

Of course, still others totally different hobbies, like taking selfies, posting images on Instagram or Facebook, and food porn. Other more common or trending hobbies include arts and crafts projects, calligraphy, and fountain pen collection.

Which brings us around to the idea that blogging or Instagramming is a hobby. The way people use social media, as well as the amount of time people spend on their cellphone checking Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, sounds a lot like hobbies.

If you are working on your blog, it helps to have a hobby. In a bizarre sort of way, it also helps if your hobby is blogging, or some form of social media related activity like photography or videography. This is not to push the agenda of always being in front of the camera, which veers towards narcissism. Rather, these are hobbies which can be used as tools for brand awareness.

Using a Hobby with Your Blog

One feature of a blog article which should be added to attract attention is the featured image, or a video. In some instances, you can have an image which is vaguely connected to the topic being discussed. To do so with a video is plainly insane and a waste of time creating the video.

When you think about it, almost any hobby can be useful when writing a blog. I once had a client who ran a goat raising blog. It just so happens that I lived in a subdivision where there were many goats grazing in the area. After I told this to my client, we agreed to that I would take some pictures of the goats, and these would be added to the blog. Regular goats grazing and minding their own business. These were candid shots as they did not want to pose for me.

If you like taking pictures with your cell phone, there is no one stopping you from using the images and posting it on your blog. It also solves the problem of copyrights and intellectual property as you own the pictures and you can attribute them to yourself.

Don’t be afraid if the pictures are not in any way related to the topic. Think of it as a haiga. A haiga is basically a haiku with an accompanying image. The image is as easy to explain as a Japanese rock garden. The haiku is harder to explain because it is not just the length of the lines, but also the relationship between the lines of the poem. It is both a riddle, a zen like thought, a statement of a paradox, and is best used to explain that Spring has arrived.

Place the text on the image. You can easily do this with the use of Canva. Then use the image as a featured article. Please do not forget to add the description, caption, the alt-text, as well as the attribution.

If you can’t do a haiga because you can’t write a haiku, then do a meme. It’s much simpler to do a meme.

You Are an Authority

Japanese calligrapher

There is one thing that Google is harping on about in its search engine results page (SERP). This is the context of the search. Google has been trying to create the best SERP based on the context of the search. It has gotten to the point that it includes other things about you and your prior searches in order to understand what the search results mean for you.

That means that the SERP are no longer just about the keywords you typed. It means that Google is trying to understand what you want to see on SERP. It includes your location, and the context of your prior searches, as well as the pages you have been to. What has not changed is that the SERP also provides the best sources of information possible. The SERP typically provides authority figures or websites with high credibility.

Authority and credibility

For those keywords which are services or products, the authority and credibility is computed by Google based on the web presence, this includes the number of same-industry websites which link to your site. It also refers to includes the articles which you have on your site, or in other sites which are attributed to you or your Google persona. It also takes into account the volume of articles, and the breadth of topics related to the authority subject.

In easy to understand words, it takes into account your brand.

To get an idea of where you or your brand is, take a look at your web presence:

  • How many social media followers do you have?
  • How many likes and comments do you elicit?
  • How many web articles have you posted?
  • How many topics or subjects have you written about?
  • How long are your articles?

What do you know?

Moving forward, the task is to write articles on the company blog, or on your own personal blog, about things that you know, or are related to your work or industry.

What do you know? What service can you provide? What product do you sell? These are the things to write about. You also have to write it regularly and explore all possible aspects of the topic. You are developing a brand, you are now supporting the brand by putting out quality work online proving that you know what you are and what you are offering.

You do not have to know everything about your product, although that is expected of you. Whatever that you do not know, you can write about later. You can have stock knowledge up front in your blogging calendar. The rest will follow.

What is your passion?

One advice given to those who are just starting out in blogging, is to write about a passion. When you write about something you are passionate about, you would be writing about a topic you have a better than average knowledge about. It is something which fires you up. You are easily motivated to write about it.

If you have a personal blog, you can write about your hobby, or your personal travels, or food you have eaten at restaurants.

Although it may not be true for all cases, but generally, if you are passionate about something, that means you are an authority about that topic. If you are not an authority about the topic, then at least you know where to get the information about it. You may not be credible in the beginning, but in time, you can establish your credibility. Or at least, you can establish your credibility with Google.

If you have a hobby which is not aligned with your brand, product or services, you can still write about your passion, and use it in parallel with your brand. You can talk about how your hobby is related to what you do or what services you offer.

Write it down and post it

For a lot of people, the problem with blogging is that it is a form of writing. Not every blogger is a writer. Some are video bloggers, others are photographers, while still others are podcasters, or digital artists. If you are not comfortable writing in English, then write in another language. If you are good with graphics, create an infographic.

Create it, write it and post it.

For written articles, strive to have posts longer than 500 words. For video and audio posts, try to have them longer than 5 minutes, depending on the frequency and topic. For photographers, try to re-post in other websites, including Deviant Art, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, Unsplash, Reddit and Tumblr. For infographics, check out the graphics sizes on Pinterest, and repost on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Tumblr.

Google is searching for authorities and credible brands. When you keep regular posts, you are creating your brand’s credibility.

The Blogging Calendar

A monthly desk calendar

Most companies have websites and in a previous part I mentioned that there should always be fresh articles on the website for the search engines to index. In that same article I also mentioned that the best way to do this would be to write blog articles.

Strictly speaking, the best way is to add new pages describing products or services. Unfortunately, not all websites update their product pages weekly. In which case the only alternative is to update the blog.

Writing Takes Passion

This is where passion and commitment come in. It takes pain to keep on working articles about a product or service twice weekly. This is also the point when passion and commitment to write articles is not enough. At some point, the blogger runs out of things to write. Or runs out of inspiration.

There is no secret to blogging for a company website. There is only the persistency to keep on writing. Admittedly, not everyone is a writer. Not everyone can write 500 to 700 word articles at the drop of a hat. This is where planning can help the blogger.

The best solution to the writing problem is to create a calendar of topics and titles, and to write them in batches.

Topic List

The blogging calendar is a list of topics and titles to be posted in the coming year. This includes, but is not limited to seasonal articles, company notices, pa releases, videos, infographics and others.

A calendar takes the load off of the need to think up of topics. In addition, the writer has the luxury of time to write articles in advance. Since he already knows what topics to write, the blogger can write them a month or even two months in advance and have the content management software schedule the posting accordingly.

For those who sell services, this can also be a way to schedule a series of topics and have them posted in a logical order. If the blogger is writing an ebook, he can post the chapters in sequence and then use the articles as drafts. With minor edits, the ebook takes shape online while it is being written. After all the chapters have been published, the ebook can be edited to make it more cohesive.

Ad Hoc Articles, News and PR

There will be instances when a new article has to be inserted in the posting sequence. One article alone is not  a problem. It can be inserted at any time, even while adhering to the posting schedule. However, if it seems like an article which is part of a series, then the calendar can be adjusted accordingly, with an eye towards keeping seasonal posts on time.

There are articles which are time-sensitive and these should be given priority. These include any product updates, software updates, promotions, news or press releases. The writer will know if these articles should be prioritized due to the newsworthy value of the topic.

There are seasonal topics which should not be skipped. These topics, due to their nature can be plotted on the calendar ahead of time. These include Holy Week, summer vacation, start of classes, Independence Day, other holidays, religious holidays including Christmas, Holy Week, the start of Ramadan, Hanukkah, as well as Halloween, Thanksgiving and New Year. When it comes to holidays, you should customize it to your geography or your target audience.

The Evergreen Article

For those topics which can be calendared, these should be written in such a way that they timeless. There should be almost no signature as to the general time when it was written. It should be fresh and relevant in 2005 as it is in 2025. That is a hard task, but if it can be done, well and good. Otherwise, try to inform the reader that the article was written at a certain time, and who are the relevant personalities as well as the pressing issues of the day. These backgrounders are important to provide context to the article.

The topic or blog calendar is not fool-proof. Neither is it written in stone. What it really does is give the article writing more weight. It is also used by the writer to write articles in bulk, where he can focus and write four to ten articles in a day or two.

Remember, not everyone is a writer, so you should be kind to yourself or the writer, and give the writer time to write the whole month in one batch.

Social Media and Social Network Marketing

Social Media has become pervasive.

For all it’s pervasiveness, there is still a lot of misunderstanding regarding social media. Social media and social networking are different from one another but the terms have been used interchangeably.

Social media is primarily sharing of media. Flickr, Instagram, YouTube, soundcloud and DeviantArt are social media websites. The user posts pictures, videos, drawings, or music and shares these with friends, colleagues or the general public. LinkedIn and Facebook are social networking sites. Those who join want to connect with others. Some social networking sites connect professionals, businessmen or college pals.

Moving forward from the above distinction between social media and social networking, the idea of social media marketing is a blur. The media being used is posted in social media and then shared in social networking sites.

When a website is promoted on several social networking or microblogging sites, it is assumed that the growth would be seen across the board. Unfortunately, that is not true. Even if equal importance, time and resources were put on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr, the social media accounts’ various growth rates would not be the same. This may be true while the accounts have very small numbers of followers. But at some point, one or two accounts would lag or may even lose followers. This is true even if the posts to these different accounts were linked together to post and repost the same things.

The various social networking sites behave differently, almost like they were showing personalities. This would explain why a website might have 300,000 followers on Facebook and yet have only 230 followers on Twitter. The above disparity can be seen on plenty of social media sites which are supposed to be used in promoting another website.

connecting accounts and cross-posting does not assure that there will be an increased interest in both. In fact it is not even automatic. However, if you already have a lot of followers on one account, at least these followers might be open to the idea of following on another social networking site. There are ways to do it, all of which include a lot of work.

Asking followers on Facebook to follow you on Twitter will not convert each of these accounts. You have to give them a reason. You have to make it worth their while and you have to present a value proposition.

The Blog-Centric Campaign Strategy

A floating string art installation

Any SEO strategy should have search engine results pointing to the website. In the same manner, any social media marketing campaign should have the individual social media links pointing back to the website, and not to another social media site. These campaigns and strategies aim to promote the brand via the website.

However, there are some companies which point their links to a social media site like Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. This strategy has some gaping logic holes. First, the target market is not limited to the social media account. There are some social media which will only allow access to a page after the visitor has logged on or signed up. Non-member may have to sign up first, which for some is not something they want to do. Secondly, the social media site is not the place to air dirty laundry. When it becomes the link page, then visitors will also treat this as their channel for complaints and negative comments. The negative attention does not help the campaign. The owner should make all efforts to keep bad comments and complaints from being posted on social media where these could be easily shared.

Linking Everything to the Blog

One advantage of the having links pointing to the blog is that the more the post is shared, the more links now point to the website. It does not matter if this is an image, a video, a podcast or a blog article. The links may not directly go to the website but it will spread the word about the website.

With a blog, the website is forced to update and send a signal to the search engines to index the site. Not all websites get updated with new pages. Usually, the website’s newest pages are new blog articles. When these are posted, the website content manager can send a request to the search engines informing them that a new page is up and the website needs to be indexed. The search engines then crawl the website with the help of the XML site map. With regular updates, the index keeps on getting refreshed. This is good for the website as its page ranking also improves.

Part of the strategy is to have links pointing to the newest page. The links are shared on social media maybe once, twice or more, depending on the social media. For Facebook, the sharing is usually done only once. For Twitter, a snippet from the article could be shared maybe twice during the first week, and once a week for the rest of the month. Depending on the value of the information, there can be more tweets and at more frequently.

To create a link on image sharing sites, like Instagram and Pinterest, a relevant image should accompany the article. It can be something relevant, or it can be a meme. It is interesting that an article with a featured image has a better chance of being read on Facebook, compared to an all text link. This is also true on Twitter. On Pinterest and Instagram, the featured image can be posted with a link to the article.

This strategy depends on influencing social sharing. That means that you want your blog articles to be shared. When they get shared on social media, your ranking increases. Shares, comments, likes on social media sites all contribute to creating an authority figure. It helps make the website credible according to the search engines.

Video Linking

There are other types of blog posts. These include videos as well as audio posts. The video posts are not necessarily vlog posts. They can be any other interesting video which the web admin might find interesting to share to regular visitor. In the same manner, the audio posts are not necessarily podcasts. These can be other types of sound files which might be interesting to regular visitors.

Video linking has ran over some complications lately. If a video was to be linked on the site, there has to be some changes in the procedures. The first step would be to upload the video to YouTube. The share link has to be posted on the blog site, along with a short article explaining the video. The video plays on the website, but the visitor has the option to click on the video and run it from within YouTube. On the video description, the YouTube video has to have a link website and blog article. This may seem counter-intuitive since the video itself links directly from the blog article to the YouTube video. Not to worry, this is okay. If you are also uploading to Datamotion, you would also be doing the same thing on Datamotion, with a link on the video going to the blog article. However, you don’t need to point back from your blog to the Datamotion video.

Facebook now has a policy of not promoting a video if it is not stored in its servers. This means that the video also has to be uploaded to Facebook. The link to the blog article is in the description of the video. But it only plays within Facebook.

These are little things that link to one another with a campaign or the web branding strategy. It requires a mindmap or a spreadsheet to follow and keep track which website gets what and the links used for each website. It also needs some experimenting to get it right.