Questionable Twitter Growth Hacks

April 26th, 2016

For the past few weeks, I’ve been on the receiving end of list notifications that look like the following. Seeing a list notification is nothing new, but this *cough* “Twitter growth strategy” *cough* appears to be awfully automated.

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Up until a few weeks ago, I observed a different attention grabbing tactic where I would initially see a list notification or an actual follow. Then, a few days later, the new (to me) account would favorite an old - could be days or event months old - tweet which somehow intersected with their interest. (Let’s just say a good number of so-called marketing and other B2B services used this strategy, and not too many consumer or personal Twitter accounts.) When I still didn’t follow back within 24 or 48 hours of the favorited tweet (there was no engagement with me otherwise), the account would then unfollow me.

It’s one thing if I noticed this scenario once or twice. For a while I was seeing several accounts try this “growth strategy” *each day*. The faux engagement actions are questionable enough, but the automation of faux engagement is…off-putting. I don’t know what social media marketing program is enabling these Twitter “growth hacks”.

Who Is A Sales Engineer?

April 19th, 2016

If you’ve ever participated in a sales deal for a hardware or software — or other technology — product, you’ve probably been introduced to a Sales Engineer (sometimes called a Presales or Solutions Consultant). But who are they?

Sales Engineers are the front-facing technical experts for a product or a solution. She or he will possess deep product expertise (if not product certifications), readily architect product solutions, easily anticipate and overcome sales objections, and they understand the competitive landscape.

Typically, Sales Engineers are brought into the sales process either during or after prospect qualification, depending on the initial technical expertise of the salesperson and how the prospect is qualified.

The duties of a Sales Engineer include conducting discovery calls to determine business process and technical requirements, presenting impactful in-person and Web-based presentations and demonstrations to technical personnel and executives, sometimes creating and administrating Proof of Concepts (POC) for sales deals, responding to RFPs/RFIs, relaying prospect and/or customer needs to product management or customer success, and sometimes even account management.

All in all, Sales Engineers are a critical part of the sales process. Do you agree?

Now this is a ridiculous referer domain

March 14th, 2016

For those of us who were curious, the maximum length of a domain name can be 63 characters. An enterprising spammer used about 57 of them (I could be wrong, I stopped counting) for his URL referer in the screenshot below.

In case you were wondering about long domain name efficacy for SEO, Moz advises to avoid domain names longer than 15 characters.

Ridiculous Referrer URL

Add a pink beating heart to your Gmail subject lines

February 21st, 2016

Earlier today, I peeked into my Gmail spam folder only to see an email message with what looked to be a gif in the subject line. I have seen a lot on the Internet, but a moving image in a subject line was a first.

beating pink subject line heart

Upon closer examination of the email, it appears that the spammer in this case used =?UTF-8?B?876sjQ===?= inline in the subject line to create the beating heart effect. To add to the fun, the body of the message used inline Windows-1252 encoding, I suppose to try to get around spam filters. Below is a partial sample of the email encoding…

<html>
<head>
<meta http-equiv=3D"Content-Type" content=3D"text/html;=charset=3DWindows-1252">
</meta></head><body><div style=3D"color:#5C5E93; =font-size:21pt">
&#105;=&#102;o&#117;n&#100; yo&#117;r &#112;&#104;o&#116;os i&#110;
=f&#97;&#99;eb&#111;&#1444;o&#107; . &#121;o&#117; a&#114;e=&#114;ogue!&#33;
</div></body></html>

There is a part of me that respects the ingenuity, although this totally got stuck in spam filters.

Also, here’s a tweet about the beating heart, according to stack overflow, the UTF encoding refers to a Google specific emoji set.

Tweets can influence SERPs

February 6th, 2016

Posted below are two screenshots for the first page SERP for Joy Larkin. (Heh, see what I did there?). First screenshot is when I haven’t tweeted in a while and the second screenshot is approximately 48 hours later after some tweet activity. My Twitter account does have my name on it.

You can see that time and number of tweets do influence position on the search engine results page.

Before.
SERP before tweeting

And after.
SERP after tweeting

Quick Twitter SEO Observation

February 3rd, 2016

Here’s a quick Twitter SEO observation. For the longest time, I had my about.me profile URL in my Twitter bio. It was ok (the analytics for the free version are less than optimal), so I decided to see if switching up the URL would improve SEO for Joy Larkin, as there are a few women named Joy Larkin on the Web, and of course, I wanted to rank first.

Last week, I added my LinkedIn URL to my Twitter profile. After a few days, my LinkedIn profile ranked first.

Joy Larkin SEO

Being ever curious, tonight I added my cleverhack about page to my Twitter bio. Now I’ll watch to see if that gets ranked first for my name.

Twitter Status Page

January 19th, 2016

In light of today’s partial Twitter outage, the official Twitter Status Page is at http://status.twitter.com.

However, there may be situations where Twitter DNS is disrupted and you are unable to visit the official status page. In this case, you can visit http://twitterstatus.tumblr.com/.

It appears that status.twitter.com is just embedding the posts from twitterstatus.tumblr.com anyway. For example, if you click on a post link on twitter.status.com it redirects you to the tumblr.

TwitterStatus.png

Should You Buy Or Build Your Email Marketing Solution?

January 17th, 2016

The answer here is…it depends on what your pain points as an email sender are. If you’re technically proficient, sometimes going with an ESP seems like overkill. On the other hand, a good ESP provides help with email creation, list segmenting, campaign reporting, and with email deliverability.

1) Setup:

DIY - Has to find an ISP vendor, setup and configure mailserver software. Make sure domain has the proper DKIM, Domain Keys, SenderID, SPF settings enabled. Warm-up IP addresses if not sent from before. IP address reputation is unknown.

ESP: Configuration has been done. IP address reputation is known. You should be advised as to what domain authentication has been done/is appropriate.

2) Email Creation, Uploading & Campaigns:

DIY: Has to code email, validate email coding for text and HTML, configure email lists and email suppression files, and upload email code and email address lists to MTA software which requires technical and design knowledge. Has to create unsubscribe feature and possibly email delivery preferences features. Harder to do field insertion for email personalization. Harder to segment lists and emails for email testing and personalization.

ESP: Probably has in-app pre-created email templates, email validation services for text and HTML, easy email address import and email suppression features. Most likely has unsubscribe page and email delivery preferences features. Easier to do field insertion for email personalization. Easier to segment lists and emails for email testing and personalization. Personnel doesn’t need as much technical knowledge to use service.

3) Reporting:

DIY: If MTA software doesn’t have deliverability reporting, probably has to rely on Web server analytics to track opens using tracking .gif and/or Google Analytics to track clicks & Web behavior. Would have to compile unsubscribe and bounce reports manually.

ESP: Should have deliverability reports for opens, clicks, and bounces. Would still use Google Analytics to track clicks & Web behavior. Would get easy to access lists for unsubscribes and bounces.

4) SPAM Complaints and Deliverability:

DIY: Spam complaints are dependent on how the ISP deals with them and how bad the complaints are from upstream providers in particular. Self educate on CAN-SPAM. Would have to deal with blacklist maintainers and network operators on a one to one basis.

ESP: Generally proactive in educating users on CAN-SPAM, and most ESPs will kick off service if too many complaints since their overall deliverability will degrade. ESPs usually have devoted deliverability personnel and good relationships with industry organizations, blacklist maintainers, network operators, etc.

Post inspired by this Quora thread.

Just How Do Email Servers Detect Spam?

January 11th, 2016

An email server detects spam by using spam filter software which evaluates incoming emails on a number of criteria. (Yes, you can run an email server without having spam filter software enabled - you’d just see any and all spam email.)

Now how do anti-spam software/services detect spam? They primarily utilize different methods including content-based message encoding and keyword filtering rules, email authentication rules (if the sending server has SPF/DomainKeys/DKIM/Sender ID enabled), mail server IP blacklists, and domain blacklists for sending domain and email content.

When a new email arrives on your mail server, it is initially evaluated against the IP and domain blacklists and for email server authentication status, and then for the email content rules. Usually, if the email scores higher than a preset criteria (for most services, an administrator can set scoring criteria) the email is marked as spam and dealt with appropriately.

Note: To reduce server load, spam filtering services will outright reject email that arrives from IPs or domains on blacklists (this is why ensuring the sending IP and all domains are not on blacklists is so important). They also might reject or delay email if you are an unknown email sender violating email sending limits (this is called greylisting). These tactics are designed to relieve email servers from abusive email spammers who try to send as many spam emails as they can in a short amount of time.

The most common spam filtering software is SpamAssassin, and many other popular spam filtering software/services use SA as a primary source. Other popular spam filtering services include Barracuda (hardware device based), Cloudmark, and a variety of MS Exchange based products.

Post inspired by this Quora thread.

Can Web Analytics Track Company Web Site Visits?

January 7th, 2016

Services like Hubspot, Leadlander and even the Google Analytics network domain function reverse lookup the WHOIS information for the visitor’s IP address to sometimes find the company domain of the visitor.

In some cases, the visitor’s organization may be acting as their own Internet Service Provider, and that information is reflected in the WHOIS lookup of the IP address. At other times, the organization may use a third party ISP like Comcast Business, and Comcast Business provides the organization’s name on the WHOIS record.

(Remember: you can always perform a manual whois lookup from an online tool like network-tools.com or via the command line.)

However, in my 20+ years of experience on the Internet, IP WHOIS lookup for an originating organization is maybe 70% accurate if you are very lucky. As of right now, there is no convention compelling ISPs to publish customer information - business or individual - on IP WHOIS records. Back in the day, Pacific Bell used to provide the customer name on the WHOIS for static IPs, but then there were privacy concerns for the customer.

In addition, I’ve heard of some marketing automation tools being able to identify a current visitor from an organization if a previous visitor with that same IP address (or IP address block) had given information to someone else using the marketing automation tool. You should consult your software provider on if/how they implement this “secondary lookup” method.

Post inspired by this Quora thread.

What Is An Email Suppression List?

January 6th, 2016

An email suppression list list — aka a suppression mail list — is a list of email addresses of people who have either opted-out of or have unsubscribed from your organization’s email marketing programs. Basically, you use a suppression list in conjunction with email marketing programs so you DO NOT contact these recipients. Most email marketing software has the functionality to allow you to maintain this list separate from your recipient lists. (A marketing pro-tip: Up-to-date unsubscribe and opt-out information should also be recorded in your organization’s CRM system so other parts of the organization always has access to this information.)

In addition, your organization’s email suppression list should be shared in the following situations: if you use a third-party provider for email marketing or if a partner executes a marketing campaign on your behalf. In these cases, you would provide your email suppression list prior to the launch of any marketing campaign so those suppressed email addresses can be scrubbed.

In the US, the CAN-SPAM Act allows organizations to take up to 10 business days to add unsubscribes and opt-outs to the suppression list, so it’s in your best interest to keep the list updated as soon as possible, if not in real time.

2016 Easy SEO: Update Your Web Site Copyright Date

December 30th, 2015

Here’s a quick and easy SEO trick for you.

We all know that Google indexes freshly updated content on your Web site. Since it’s the New Year, take a moment and check if your Web site copyright notices are updated. Not only do you get that piece of mind from an updated copyright date, but you’ve just updated each page of your Web site since each page should have the footer.

For those of you using PHP, here’s the code to insert into your footer, if it isn’t already there.

© Copyright < ?php echo date("Y") ?>

Easy, huh? (Yes, I have blogged this SEO tip before.)