Predatory marketing during a pandemic

Disclaimer: When I started this was meant to, in fact, be a post about predatory marketing during a pandemic. As I started thinking further, and rambling, it unfolded into a lot more than initially intended. All that being said, I was unsure of what to change the title of this post to… hence the original title only being applicable to a portion of what I am talking about.

What’s the appropriate way to do business during a pandemic?

This is a subject that I’ve been thinking a lot about the past few weeks. Whilst we’ve been aware of Corona Virus since New Year’s Day (here in Canada), things didn’t really start getting bad until the end of February. The end of February also marked a distinct turning point in this country, a turning point in which both people and corporations, companies, businesses and entrepreneurs began to show their true colours.

I’ve seen a lot of blatant disregard for the human condition the past few months. Racist dog-whistles putting Asian communities across the world at risk, fights about which resources should be put where, people hoarding groceries and cleaning supplies forcing a lot of vulnerable citizens to go without. It’s been a trying time for our world. And, amidst it all, though I’m sure there’s more happening on the inside they’re not telling us of, a lot of business is acting as though it’s business as usual.

But is it?

To quote one of my favourite books:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair

-Charles Dickens

I guess I should preface this with saying that I did a double major of Marketing and Economics while at University. I remember falling into the subject my first year as a mandatory requirement, and for the next three and a half years switching all of my electives to relate to Economics.

To its definition, economics is the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. More than it’s definition though, economics is the study of people. How we act and react to the world around us. What we deem important, what are needs, what are wants and what are frivolous things that we coax ourselves into purchasing.

Though it might not seem it from the outside, Economics and Psychology are two closely related subjects.

For the past year I’ve also been consulting for an economic development firm. The hours have been sporadic, at times non-existent, but it’s reignited my passion for people and the way they do things, and how someone (or some thing, in the case of what I’m talking about) can project behaviours based on the state of the world.

Basically, if you want effective marketing, you need to understand people – both from an economic and a psychological standpoint.

Wow, okay. Longest intro ever.

Does anyone else have an email inbox that has been inundated with ‘special offers’ from what seems like every company on earth the past month? Is anyone else getting special text message offers from other companies, of things they can do to take advantage of this sale that “they never do!”? No? Just me? Well, I speak from personal opinion anyway, so I’ll keep going.

When companies react to a crisis, they can take one of three routes:

Route 1) Understand that people are hurting, struggling or going through tough times and try to help. This can be done in a number of ways, using Corona Virus as the subject matter, examples include:

  • Breweries creating hand sanitizer to ship to medical facilities, senior care facilities, homeless shelters and so on and so forth
  • Clothing manufacturers halting production of clothing in their warehouses to have workers create protective masks to be sent to health care workers on the front lines
  • A basic example is just companies taking the burden. What I mean by this is, changing in-person jobs to online jobs. Purchasing the software and safety equipment necessary for the employees to be properly, and adequately looked-after because they value their employees

Companies that take option one are also the companies that understand, during a pandemic, that up to two thirds of the population are going to become very careful about how and where they spend their money. These companies aren’t about to slam products down your throat. They will, continue to market their products as done before, but they are acknowledging the fact that we’re living through unprecedented times and that there is no road map for life right now.

Route 1 is an option that I would personally consider to be a very productive means to support society… customers or not, during times of need. I have seen considerable examples of this during the past month. Vessi, a Canadian sneaker brand, gave away free shoes to any health care worker that could provide them proof of their employment/job. Tristan Style, a mid-high end Canadian fashion brand, is now paying all seamstresses in their warehouse to create protective masks and visors for health care workers.

Taking a closer look at communities across the country, there are companies who have taken this crisis head-on and are responding in productive, albeit not-profitable, ways to help. These companies are not only dedicating their efforts towards helping people in the front lines of this pandemic, they’re also helping each and every one of their employees by keeping them working. These are the companies that deserve support through ‘your’ business both now, and once the fog has cleared..

Route 2) Close or limit operations. Either for good, or for an indefinite amount of time, laying off or firing workers that relied on that employment as a means to feed their families and financially support them through said crisis.

Route 2 is a hard road to take and a hard pill to swallow. As much as we’d like to believe that everyone can stay open whilst not churning profit, it’s just not feasible. I understand that. But I also understand there are two types of businesses that have closed during this period. Those who were forced to close because they cannot financially support their employees to work through this time, and those who chose to close because the do not want to financially support their employees to work through this time.

It’s worth noting that in a grey area here also is Amazon. Amazon, a company that is.. half open(?) at this time, but is also not paying for health insurance or sick leave for any employees. I honestly don’t know enough about his personal financials to verify the validity of the statement, but I read online that Jeff Bezos (a man with more money then he could ever spend in his lifetime) could pay for basic health insurance for every single employee that works for Amazon and he would still have a personal fortune of more than 80 billion dollars. I’m not saying that Amazon is the devil here, I’m just providing all sorts of input. Nevertheless, I digress.

Through this pandemic there are businesses that have chosen to close. They were not forced to close. They opted to lay off, or fire, their employees and just close their doors because it’s easier. They’re cutting their losses, literally and figuratively, and will revisit at a later date. These are the businesses that I truly believe do not deserve time or money when all is said and done.

Route 3) PANDEMIC MARKETING. This is where the vultures come out. Pandemic marketing is a term of reference for any corporation, company, small business or entrepreneur who has tried to take advantage of this situation to better their business/financial standing. I refer to them as vultures because these companies, while aware that in times of trouble, crisis or panic are aware that people get more careful about what they spend money on, will market the fucking hell out of you just to see how much money they can get. Examples include:

  • The big players – Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc…
  • The mid-size players – Sephora, clothing brands like American Eagle or JCrew, national chains like Petro Canada (that don’t seem to understand price gouging is illegal)
  • The predatory players – Any and all MLM companies.
  • The smaller players (these are the players who are trying to hide their pandemic marketing behind a message of ‘just looking out for you’) – these include smaller businesses, maybe the local carpet supplier who’s trying to convince you that right now, right this very instant, is the perfect time for you to redo all of the flooring in your home

Whether it through email, text message, direct facebook messages, sponsored instagram posts, youtube videos, however you’re seeing it, I guarantee you’re seeing it.

“BUY NOW FOR 40% OFF. WE NEVER DO SALES THIS EPIC!” – Carpet One

“If you purchase during these difficult times, not only will you have the ‘hospital staff care kit’ (I’m not lying, they actually named it that) but we’ll throw in the energy fizz bath bomb and hand sanitizer as well!” – Arbonne

“Walmart has just what you need to get you and your family through this together! Also, take 40% off clearance items!” – Walmart

“Get a luxury mini when you spend $35, free shipping if you spend $50 and a coupon for 25% off your next purchase if you spend $80.” Sephora

So, upon first glance, these don’t seem all that bad, do they? Well, minus the Arbonne kit. Any company that is selling overpriced hygiene items they’re referring to as the ‘Hospital Staff care kit’ during a pandemic is a new level of low. But, as far as advertisements, these seem somewhat innocent.

Except they’re coming every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. Sephora knows that people don’t need makeup to get them through a pandemic, because they’re not going out. That’s why they’re trying to bait people with these ‘special offers’ that aren’t so special. Act now and get a luxury mini? Oh boy. People can’t find toilet paper, but a sample of luxury skincare enough for 2-3 uses sounds like a steal of a deal right now.

These companies are trying to take advantage of the fact that people are, or should be, at home right now, and if they are at home, they’re bored. They’re trying to take advantage of consumers wallets before people realize the severity of the situation and buckle down on how their money is being spent.

In the case of the Arbonne, and various other MLM advertisements I’ve seen and been bombarded with the past month, the MLM memos have been to prey on people’s anxieties and insecurities as a means to sell product. In what world would anyone want the ‘hospital staff care kit’ when all of the items in said kit could be found a the grocery store for half the price? In a pandemic when those items have been stripped from the shelves! Time to take advantage.

In the case of Petro Canada, I’ve seen some pretty alarming social media messages the past few weeks about the company, from coast to coast, selling things like personal/purse sized containers of hand sanitizer for $24.99. A month ago those containers would have been two or three dollars. But, this is pandemic marketing we’re dealing with. They know that people are panicking and they’re going to take advantage.

Social media sites like Facebook. Twitter and Instagram are making bank right now. No question about it. Because every company that has been affected by this pandemic is using social media to reach out to their customers, or could be customers through paid-for advertisements. I’ve seen how predatory it’s been first-hand because I run social media accounts for the economic development firm I’m consulting with, and also for Knight’s work, and Facebook has been shoving advertisement sales down my throat the past few weeks. SALE! SALE! ACT NOW AND WE’LL GIVE YOU 10 DOLLARS OFF! Oh, you didn’t act? Well, we’re still feeling nice, act today and we’ll give you the 10 dollars off!

I guess, the point of this long and winding message that I’ve been trying to portray here is that it’s important to take a look at how companies and people are acting, and reacting, to this pandemic. Who is trying to take advantage and who is trying to help weather the storm?

It’s a widely known fact that the majority of society will tighten the grip on their wallets in times of a crisis. This is where economics, marketing and psychology meet. Certain goods will not able to be produced at the same rates they’ve been being produced at for years, whilst other goods need to ramp up production. How do companies balance profits and losses whilst knowing that the products they’re trying to sell are exactly what people don’t need in the middle of a panedmic?

In the words of the late Kenny Rodgers ‘you’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run’. That’s actually a pretty accurate depiction of business, and life in 2020.

Those who worried about how their bills are going to get paid are now being bombarded with ‘ACT NOW AND OUR $200 BIKINI IS ONLY $145!’ Do people have enough will power to ignore these sales? That’s what these companies are trying to exploit, hoping they will cave and spend even more money in a time where the future is anything but certain.

I feel as though I started this with a clear purpose in mind and I lost track of the point I was trying to make along the way. I’m hoping this makes sense. But I guess, if it doesn’t, that’s completely on brand for me.

Guest Post: SEO Basics: Optimize your blog with Yoast and improve traffic

The following is a guest post written by Debby from the blog DebbySEO. *Please note that certain plugins may not be available to all WordPress accounts due to them only being available for certain plans.


Often I am asked what the best SEO tools and plugins are that I recommend. This comes as no surprise as search engines are a major source of traffic for most sites, and every blogger wants to increase website ranking in an effort to get more sales. Sometimes we just don’t know what to do or where to start in order to make SEO work for us.

In this article I will share the best WordPress SEO plugins and tools for you to use. I have noticed that many WordPress sites on are offering great content, but simply lack the SEO plugins required to perform well. In this article I will explain how to install the Yoast WP plugin for SEO, and lightly touch topics such as keyword analysis, off-site link building and more.

Note that when reading SEO tips found in top 10 results, or when searching for phrases like “best free WordPress SEO plugins” you will find many results and recommendations. The truth is that the top recommendations are not always the best ones. After all, everyone in the Google top 10 listings seems to be out to sell something. I have been providing affordable SEO services for years and will provide you with reliable information so you can kick-start your business and blog using whitehat SEO techniques without paying a penny.

Obsessive Compulsive Keyword Disorder

Do you suffer from obsessive compulsive keyword disorder? Yes Ma’am! Keywords are extremely important for SEO as they draw the right visitors to your website. They can make or break a website. Having a better understanding of the specific keywords your visitors are searching for allows you to offer better services and products on your blog.

On the other hand, you should be careful not to use SEO tools to over-optimize. If you use keywords too frequently the website will look spammy and you may even be penalized. The Yoast plugin is designed to help you optimize SEO by spreading out keywords in a responsible manner, taking into consideration the proper density and placement based on a real-time comparison with top ranking websites.

I think of Google Analytics & Google Webmaster as a friend

Proper use of keywords has the biggest impact on your SEO campaign, make sure to use Google to better target them. If you have not already done so, I recommend that you first sign up for a free Google Analytics and Google Webmaster account. This will enable you to measure the difference in traffic before and after installation of SEO plugins such as Yoast.

There is nothing more important than SEO titles and descriptions

And Yoast is all you need to successfully complete this task. You can quickly add SEO titles and descriptions to all blog posts and pages on your website, and you can even include open graph metadata and social media images to your postings. The best way to decide what title is appropriate, is to look in Google analytics to see what your audience is searching for, and then decide on which keywords you wish to target. The descriptions should always take some special consideration as this will be listed in search engines and as such determines your click-through rate.

And at the end of the night, they realized how important those little XML Sitemaps were, which they ignored while adoring the beauty of their sites

Yoast SEO will generate your XML sitemap with images in no-time! All you have to do is press the button and it will create a highly optimized cached page that will quickly load and be automatically updated every time you make a post. You can also easily import SEO data if you have been using another plugin. Yoast is the all-round solution for both rookies and veterans.

Let me quickly line out the features here. Yoast offers to change post’s SEO titles and meta descriptions on a per post basis, it supports meta descriptions for taxonomies (for example category and tags), it will focus on your keyword testing, configure your robot.txt file in order to add noindex, nofollow pages etc. You will additionally be able to configure an RSS footer/header, get Google search result snippet previews, clean up permalinks while still allowing for Google custom search, import data from other SEO plugins such as Platinum SEO pack and All in One SEO pack and more. Did I just dazzle you?

This might indeed all sound a bit overwhelming but it is in fact really easy and it just requires you to play around until you become comfortable with the full functionality. So far I have discussed only the free version of the plugin but there is paid version too which offers a redirect manager, focus on multiple keywords, ability to export focus keywords, internal linking suggestions, video tutorials to help you better understand how everything works and premium support to get the most out of your site’s SEO. The paid version can be obtained for less than $90, but in my opinion the free version offers plenty of functionality.

It does not do to dwell on Yoast SEO and forget to build offsite links

Yoast has been around since I just started my first SEO Company, and their plugin has worked miracles for the websites I have worked on. All the websites I have worked on increased their traffic by focusing on important keywords for their niche market, but still, if you don’t spend time on off-site link building your SEO campaign will not be very successful. Google must see links pointed to your site in order to determine that your content is relevant.

A good way to get some link juice flowing is to install a plugin that allows you to setup a resource directory where you can exchange links with content related websites. If done right, this will also add value to your blog. Another SEO technique that is often employed is to write guest postings and to obtain offsite links in topic related directories. The more links pointing to your website, the higher the relevancy. Obviously keywords used for the anchor text and surrounding content is very important for relevancy. SEO always has a high payoff in the long run, it may take time but it is definitely worth it.

Yoast drowns out all but the brightest SEO plugins

I will now mention some other SEO plugins for you to enjoy. SEMrush is said to be the most effective SEO tool but it does come at a cost. You can use it to find organic keywords and search terms that you can easily rank for. Such keywords are known as niche market keywords which are in high demand as they have little competing websites. Next up is Ahrefs, you have probably heard of the name, it is an all-in-one SEO tool for bloggers, marketers and businesses. It is an alternative to SEMRush and offers similar features and tools.

More free SEO tools are offered by AllinOneSeoPack, a popular WordPress SEO plugin offering a comprehensive set of tools to improve your ranking. You can use it to optimize SEO titles and metatags, image sitemaps, open graph meta tags and more. I have used All in One SEO Pack in the past and would rate it just below Yoast. Both offer their plugins for free so don’t wait and start optimizing. SEOPress is another free Yoast alternative that offers a premium version at lower cost. It comes with easier setup for beginners and advanced controls for more experienced users so it may be something you may wish to consider.

Remember, install only one SEO plugin at a time and frequently check for broken links on your site as these are harmful to your listings. I hope you enjoyed this article, make sure to check out the Yoast SEO installation video at:   https://youtu.be/4KOc-oM7Yr8


Thank you to Debby from the blog DebbySEO for contributing the following post to #MillennialLifeCrisis.

How to spot the fakes, the overly-edited and the just not quite real photos on Instagram and beyond

I’ve heard it said that as many as 6 out of every 10 people really can’t tell the difference between if a photo is real or fake. As someone who has done a lot of photo manipulating in my day, I thought perhaps I’d take the opportunity to show some examples of fake, overly edited and unrealistic photos as a means to know what to look for.

If you know any of the people in this photos, please do not send them hate messages. The point of this post is not to bully, it’s just to share more insight on just how Instagram and reality aren’t always the same.

Some examples:

THE TAJ MAHAL

When I first saw this photo, the Instagrammer was claiming that she merely used a filter to give it a pink-tint, because she liked the look. The problem is, there’s a whole lot more that’s been done to this photo than just adding a filter.

Firstly, as one of the most visited, photographed and loved landmarks on earth, the Taj Mahal is crowded. All the time. Every day. Even on a slow day it’s 100% unlikely that she ever would have been able to take this photo with only her in this shot.

Secondly, the reflection of the Taj Mahal in the pool has been disproportionately scaled to fit in the pool. While it is possible to see a reflection of the structure in the pool, the width of the building and the angle of this shot make it virtually impossible for the entire Taj Mahal to be seen in the narrow pool.

Thirdly, note how the shadow of her standing in front of the pool is on the stone she’s standing on, but stops dead at the pool. Her reflection does not continue in the water… which is not really how reflection works, either.

This is a small thing, not noticed by simply looking at this photo alone, but this girl has actually photoshopped those birds, the exact cluster of birds, into several other photos from different locales around the world – the south of France, Venice, etc.. Moral of the story – there is more fake in this photo than real.

LAKE LOUISE, ALBERTA, CANADA

This photo, or photos, is at the Fairmont Lake Louise. This is a place I’ve been to many times in my life and can attest to its beauty, so when I see this photo, not only do I see a cringey photoshop job, but I also take a little bit of offense. Lake Louise is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, naturally. It doesn’t need to be edited.

Putting my personal feelings aside, do you notice how she seems to have a sort of ‘ethereal’ halo around her? When people are newbies at photoshop, that’s a trick they tend to use to try and help photos blend into the background. In her case, I think she likely thought because there was so much white in the background it wouldn’t look as obvious. You can also see the halo-like lighting at the top of the chair and all the way around the edge of the window frame.

Another thing to note is that she appears to be wearing a colour changing toque. This is a small thing but the back of her toque is pink and the front of her toque is grey. This happens a lot when you import a part of an image from elsewhere into a new image. In this case, I think she imported her body in front of this window.

While I think she likely ate at this restaurant when she was there, she likely wasn’t seated by a window. This restaurant books up months in advance, and since she couldn’t get a picture in front of a window, she photoshopped herself in front of the window, added some filters and then overly-saturated the two images to try and make them blend together easily.

IT’S PARIS… OR IS IT?

Have you ever seen stars in the middle of the city? No. There’s a reason for that, it’s called light pollution. When the light from a city brightens the sky, it drowns out the visibility of the stars.

This is Paris, the city love, the city of lights, with millions of lights everywhere… hundreds, if not thousands seen in this photo alone. The Eiffel tower itself is lit in this photo. There’s also lights lit all around the tower. And yet light pollution just didn’t happen on this day? A sky full of stars just magically appeared in a not very dark sky?

To me it looks like there’s been some stitching down around hear head, and also on her left leg. Those are more subtle.

Was she actually in Paris? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ve never been to the Eiffel Tower, so I cannot vouch as to whether or not this concrete she’s sitting on is in fact there. I will say though, this concrete she’s sitting on could really be anywhere. It could be in her back yard. The fact that she’s looking away means there really isn’t a lot involved with changing this photo to be San Francisco, or Hong Kong… or anywhere, if you catch my drift. If she wasn’t in Paris, all she really needed to do was drop Paris in the background. In her case, she also heavily edited the sky to fill it with stars so that her life looks even that much more magical.

It’s an illusion. It’s all an illusion.

THE ‘CLOUD CHASER’

Take a close look at the clouds in the background of these photos. This Instagram user has photoshopped the sky in every photo she’s taken, around the world, to put in clouds that she actually liked, because the actual clouds in the sky just weren’t good enough for her. That same cluster of clouds followed her around the world.

If someone is willing to go through the process to edit the clouds in the sky, what does that say about the authenticity of their Instagram?

HOW MANY HANDS DOES SHE HAVE?

Honestly, the Kardashians are easy to use for showcasing photo editing fails because there aren’t really any photos they post without editing.

Editing of this photo was clearly done in FaceTune. If you don’t notice the flaw immediately, that’s okay. It’s subtle on first glance. But look at the hand on the right side of Khloe Kardashian, she seems to have tried to pull in her thigh to make it look thinner, and in the process, created a second hand… or at least 1.5 hands. The thing about FaceTune that people often forget is that when the APP disrupts the data to make someone thinner, it’s going to try and fix that data by re-writing the background of the photo. In this case, her hand ended up getting duplicated.

WHEN YOUR THIGH IS THINNER THAN YOUR KNEE

Either her left leg (the underneath leg) is considerably longer and thinner than her right leg (disproportionately so) or, this is a bad photoshop job. Now, this is Kourtney Kardashian, who in my opinion needs no photoshopping to start with. This photo is just all sorts of weird. It seems to give the illusion that her left thigh gets thinner as yo move farther up from her knee. For a woman who’s already very thin to start with, it’s sad that she feels she needs to be this heavily edited in order to be posted for public consumption.

Things to look for:

If you’re browsing Instagram and something seems to good to be true, it probably is. I want to disclaim that, to the people who feel a need to edit their photos there is no hate here. I just want to make people more aware of just how easy it is to fake reality. If we all know the truth behind what a photo really is, we might stop trying so hard to make our lives a series of these picture perfect images. If you’re curious about how to tell for editing, here’s couple of suggestions to look for:

  • Everything in the photo is in focus. Camera’s aren’t capable of capturing both the subject in the foreground and the objects in the background to all be in focus in one photo.
  • Copied patterns. This doesn’t just happen with the sky, this happens with human body parts. Fitness influencers are big for this – not only do they photoshop their muscles, but they’ll photoshop the muscles of anyone in the photo with them. If you’ve ever seen a group of men flexing their biceps that all seem to look shockingly similar, it’s probably because they are.
  • Blurriness or lack of texture is a telltale sign that someone’s face has been smoothed over with a FaceTune filter. Human beings have pores, texture and colouring in their skin. If you’re not seeing it in photos, that’s not because they were blessed by the genetic lottery, that’s because they edited it out.
  • Damaged/Distorted Pixels. If you’re looking at a photo and there appears to be damaged pixels within the image, this is a telltale sign of poor editing. There’s something in photoshop called the ‘Clone Stamp’ and what that does is allow you to draw over portions of an image with the pixels from elsewhere in the image. The process of clone stamping works great if you’re not looking closely at an image, but, if you’re taking a second look, the clone stamp ALWAYS damages pixels in the photograph. Once those pixels are damaged, you can’t get them back.
  • When the reflection doesn’t match the body. While people will make their waist thinner, legs longer, boobs bigger and so on and so forth, the majority of people seem to forget about their reflection. If there’s anything reflective in the photo at all – mirrors, windows, any body of water, shadows from the sun, check the reflection. Often times the reflection will be a display of their original image that they were trying to edit out.
  • A distorted background. Probably the most easy of all to spot, crooked doors, lamp posts with holes in them, clean lines of walls and paintings being off are all telltale signs the photo you’re looking at isn’t legitimate. When people try to make themselves look thinner in photos, these apps they use ‘pull in’ their body. When their body is pulled in, so is the background behind them – which makes for a whole lot of cars with protruding lesions and benches that seem to defy the laws of physics.

To anyone who doesn’t already know (I’m assuming everyone does, but just in case) any and all photos you’re viewing on Instagram from your phone can be zoomed in by pinching the screen of your phone. If you’re not on your phone, or you’re elsewhere on the web and something looks off, it probably is. You can zoom in on any photo on the internet by changing the view of your Internet Browser.

To close this off, I’d just like to say that… life is a very beautiful and fragile thing and that who you are is perfect, just the way you are. If you do edit yourself in photos for your Instagram, that’s your choice, but please, at the very least, keep the real versions for yourself. There’s nothing worse than looking back at photos of your life and realizing that they’re so heavily edited you don’t even recognize yourself. It almost… distorts your memories, if that makes any sense.

There’s no hate. I just want to remind people that Instagram and reality aren’t one and the same.

Is it legit? Being mindful of emails that try to scam bloggers.

One of the most exciting things you can receive as a blogger is emails about business opportunities/partnerships. Sadly, a lot of these emails often end up being scams. But, in receiving one, you can sometimes get so excited that you’ve been sent this email you forget to look for the small details.

It’s important to be able to tell if an email is a legitimate business opportunity for your blog, or a phishing scam. Lately I’ve both received, and heard of, a lot of different scam emails being sent to bloggers. If you have a ‘Contact Me’ page on your blog, or offer your email address on your blog, you may have even gotten some of these yourself. Here are some things to look for that can help determine whether or not the request you’ve gotten is legitimate.

  • The email should be addressed to you, not to the name of your blog, or a generic phrase such as ‘dear customer’. If you do not provide a first name on your blog, a legitimate business request will include them introducing themselves and asking for your first name
  • The email should have proper spelling and grammar. (This email I’ve included as example is a hot mess) Scams will often exchange ‘o’ for ‘0’ to bypass spam filters that services like hotmail, gmail and yahoo mail have in place.
  • The email should include a company name, at bare minimum, in the signature. If they’re smart, they’ll include it elsewhere in the email as well. If they are self employed, they will acknowledge that.
  • The email should NEVER ask you to do something in direct violation of law. IE Post a paid for advertisement to your blog whilst not disclosing that it was paid for.
  • The email should never request for personal information such as a phone number, access to your blog, pay-pal account info, and so on and so forth. If no business relationship has been established (yet) why would they need this information immediately?
  • A legitimate business opportunity for your blog will never come from someone who ‘expects’ anything from you. Initial emails should be a request and nothing more.
  • Take a close look at the email address, not just the sender name. Often times the domain can be a dead giveaway that an email isn’t legitimate. And, while it is true that some self-employed/small business owners do use services such as GMAIL for business, they will always have their name, or their company name used in the email. In the case of the email example I have attached, the name in the email address of who the email was from did not match the name on the bottom of the email.
  • Do not open poorly labeled or unlabeled attachments. And, if attachments are labeled, be careful to make sure that it’s not a scam before you open.

Last, but certainly not least, does the email make your ‘spidey sense’ flare up?

This list may sound obvious when you’re reading it, but there are a lot of people in this world who fall for email scams. People get so caught up in the excitement of them that there are a lot of Nigerian Princes with a lot of money right now. And, a lot of Lawyers in Monaco that won’t be wiring that 4.2 million they promised from your dearly departed relative that you’ve never met that they set up the will for.

I would strongly encourage that, if you feel an email could be a scam, you do not respond. Even a simple ‘No thank you’ can send them after you for months on end, request after request, annoying the crap out of you in an effort to wear you down.

If you think it could be a scam just hit delete.


Have you ever received a business request/opportunity for your blog that you felt could be a scam? What did it say? How could you tell that it just wasn’t quite right?

I LOVE ANALYTICS.

What can your analytics teach you? What should your analytics teach you? If you have a blog, or any form of social media, you have access to analytics. Do you use them?

346 people have visited my blog today from 53 countries and territories around the world. How cool is that? People from all over the world have found my blog, my words, my little corner of the internet.

3,321 people have viewed my published tweets.

1,106 people have viewed my Instagram page.

18 people found my blog through search engine results.

6 people found my blog from Facebook. And I don’t even have a Facebook account.

I don’t say this to brag, I say this because analytics fascinate me. I love tracking visitors, hits, interactions, popularity (or lack thereof depending on the post) and reach.

I use my analytics to determine what the best time of day is to post something, as well, what the best day of the week is to post something. I also use my analytics to determine what topics will garner more hits, and what topics won’t really resonate with my community. Also, on that note, I use my analytics to understand my community.

Why?

An estimated 40% of the people who read #MillennialLifeCrisis are Gen X-ers. That’s right, the largest group of people who read this blog are not even Millennials. That tells me that these things that I’ve felt alienated me for so long now are in fact, not generational, but more so just the overall human condition.

Quite often I’m asked different variations of ‘what’s your secret? How’d you get so many followers?’ What’s my secret? I don’t keep secrets. I use analytics. I’ve been using them since I worked in corporate settings and I can say without a doubt, that if you’re looking to grow an audience for your personal blog, analytics are going to play a major factor in your success, or lack thereof.

How many people viewed your blog today? What countries did they come from? What did you do as a measure to help convince them to return to your blog? How can you use your analytics to your favour?

Here, I’ll give you an example:

Let’s pretend that you live in London, England. Now, upon reading the base analytics that WordPress provides to EVERY user (regardless of if your account is free or paid), you notice that far and above anywhere else, the majority of your audience is from the United States. If you want the most people possible to see your post, I do not recommend hitting publish at 9:00 AM Greenwhich Mean Time. Why? Because for the majority of your audience, that’s the middle of the night and they’re asleep. Instead, I recommend you schedule your post to be published at 9:00 AM Eastern Standard Time. Your post will be top of feed for all of your American audience to see, and you stand a much higher chance of having farther reach.

If you’e blogging for a hobby and you don’t care how many hits/visitors your blog gets, analytics probably won’t matter to you. But, if you want to build a community, your analytics can be one of your best assets. They will tell you what you’re doing wrong, what you’re doing right and how to improve upon all of it.

I still post what I want when I want. But, I also know that if I do something like… posting this after 7:00 PM Pacific Standard Time, it’s going to get far less hits than had I gotten by butt in gear and posted this 10 hours ago.

That is how I use, or don’t use, analytics in my favour. Whether I post it at the optimal time or not, I’m still going to track visitors, hits, interaction. Why? Because I’m a nerd who loves data. Because I believe in the value of analytics. Because this blog is my pride and joy and I really appreciate knowing all that I can about it.

So what do your analytics teach you? How can you use that information to your favour?


If you liked this post and would like to read more of my blogging tips, click here. All blogging tips/tricks/advice/suggestions are all categorized under ‘Marketing’ on my blog’s main menu.

If you would like to support myself and the content created on #MillennialLifeCrisis, I have an official Patreon account with patron options starting as low as $1 per month. Click here >

I have an Official Patreon

Thanks to some encouragement from a fellow blogger, as well as support from two friends, I have gone ahead and created a Patreon account for #MillennialLifeCrisis.

If you would like to support this blog and myself, financially, you can do so by subscribing to my Patreon here. Presently there are two subscription tiers, $1 per month and $5 per month.

$1 Per Month Tier

  • Totals $12 per year
  • Provide monetary support to myself and #MillennialLifeCrisis

$5 Per Month Tier

  • Totals $60 per year
  • Provide monetary support to myself and #MillennialLifeCrisis
  • Have your blog linked under the ‘Supporters’ page on my blog

There are only two tiers for this Patreon because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself, or anyone else for that matter. If this turns into nothing, no harm and no foul. And, if this turns into something that actually benefits me, and this blog, that’ll be a huge blessing for 2020.

*Please Note that monetary subscriptions are not a requirement to follow this blog. This is an option to those who subscribe to this blog and would like to support it financially as well. All of my posts will still be public. Any of the things that may have brought you to this blog initially will still be public domain. This includes all of my blogging/marketing tips, tricks, hacks and suggestions. I believe in sharing my knowledge at no charge, to hopefully help other bloggers thrive. Patreon will (hopefully) be a vehicle for me to be able to dedicate more strategic efforts toward improving this blog and expanding the content that I share.

Thank you for your continued support of this blog. Whether you choose to support monetarily, or not, I appreciate you for coming to this blog, sharing your stories with me and leaving kind comments.

You have given this self-proclaimed introvert a corner of the internet where I can truly be myself without fear. That is a sense of pride I have that I can’t even begin to explain. Thank you to all 6,000 plus of you. It means the world to me that you care about what I have to share.


To anyone who might not know, Patreon is a membership platform that provides business tools for creators to earn income from their content.

If they so choose, supporters of Musicians, Writers/Bloggers, Artists, Magicians, etc… can subscribe to the Patreon account of the person which they support, pledging a certain amount of money to said person per month.

12:19 AM

Burning the midnight oil (quite literally) right now.

Working from home, from your computer, gets increasingly more difficult if your internet is painstakingly slow. #FirstWorldProblems

I’ve been working on some design work tonight. Here’s a tidbit… if you’ve got access to Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign, and aren’t a graphic designer, the website freepik.com can be one of your most valuable resources.

The entire premise of the website is designers helping designers/future designers… which is a movement that I wholeheartedly stand behind. If you have a creative talent and can provide that to others, for free, that’s some good stuff right there. And if you need some creative motivation, now you know of a free resource that can help you in your design journey.

Freepik.com.

Oh, if you use anything, always provide credit. Don’t be ‘that person’ that doesn’t provide credit.

Backlinking – THE INTRODUCTORY BASICS

Disclaimer: SEO, Backlinking and DA are all extremely convoluted subjects. Different people have different opinions as to what works best and what doesn’t. Because of this, different platforms will offer different advice. This is the main reason why I’ve put off writing about this topic for such a long time. There are a lot of layers to the subject matter so please, take everything said in this post with a grain of salt. If you’ve found results using different tactics, then keep using the tactics that have given you results.

Also, there will be posts coming in the future on these topics. Because there are so many layers to Backlinking, SEO and DA, it’s not something that could ever be covered in one single post. So if you like this, I’ll try to make sure it isn’t a year before I write a part two.

Okay, onto the meat and potatoes…


If you’ve ever googled ‘SEO’ before (googling SEO… now that’s funny to me) one of the most common terms you’ll come across is ‘Backlink’.

What is a backlink?

A backlink is a link created when one url links to another. Backlinks are also called “inbound links” or “incoming links.” Backlinks are important to SEO.

Why is a backlink important?

A backlink to your site is the web’s equivalent to someone saying ‘Yeah you can trust them’. It’s vouching for a website, letting search engines know that cataloging said content will be of value to the search engine. A backlink is a reference that is comparable to a citation in printed work.

It is worth noting that not all backlinks are treated the same. Some are more valuable than others. A backlink from a more trusted site is going to be seen as a more valuable than say, one from a site that has only been up and running for a month, for example.

A SIMPLE how to for bloggers:

BACKLINK TO YOUR OWN SITE

In 2017 while in the process of rebuilding the the website for the company I was working for, the hosting company I was working with to build the site informed me that you can, in fact, backlink to your own site. While these backlinks aren’t quite as valuable as those from other sites, they do still count.

When you make a new post to your blog, each individual post is given its own link. So, if you’re writing a post on February 3, 2020 and you link a post from the past (referencing a story, for example) inserting a link to a previous post that you’ve made counts as a backlink.

INTERNAL LINKING

A good internal linking structure plays a key role in the success of a blog because, with a good internal linking structure, you can help your audience and potential audience easily navigate through your website and increase the user experience. What does this mean? This means you should make sure that your menus are in order, that your links go to where you say they’re going to go, that there’s no ‘dead pages’ on your blog with zero content on them. Dead pages decrease the value of your site in search engine algorithms .

For WordPress users, it’s quite easy to create a navigable menu at the top or the bottom of your page. Ensuring that you’re choosing proper titles and linking people to the right places boost your link legitimacy in SEO.

  • Personally, I always tell people to keep menu links to a smaller amount so that your linking is more manageable. This is a personal preference so you need not listen to me when I say this, but you’re going to have a lot easier of a time managing 8 categories for your posts than you are managing 30. However many categories you choose, though, please make sure they’re all being properly linked in whatever menu structure you’re using.

WRITE GUEST POSTS

Guest blogging is an effective way for bloggers to reach new audiences and, in the process, earn backlinks. When you write a guest post for someone else’s blog or website, not only will your own content be exposed to new readers, but said readers can then use the backlink to find their way to your website.

It’s a simple way of increasing your audience, building your reputation and earning backlinks in the process.

REBLOGGING

When you reblog someone’s content, so long as they do not delete the link to your blog (the source), that counts in their favour as a backlink. Likewise, when someone reblogs your content, that counts in your favour as a backlink.

LEAVE COMMENTS

If you’ve ever noticed someone leaving a comment on your blog who shares a link to their own blog at the end of their comment this is, in itself, a backlink. You can do this when you’re leaving a comment on someone’s blog, though I’d be careful to do it in a tasteful way because it can, at times, piss some people off. This can also be done to write reviews and testimonials… of a blog, or a book, or a product of some sort. Basically, wherever you can slide your link in, there’s a means of backlinking your site and making it look more legitimate.

To conclude:

It is important to note that after reading this you SHOULD NOT start spamming your link out to every corner of the internet. Backlinking should be done in a strategic manner, associating your blog and your brand with sites that you feel will benefit your growth and legitimacy.

DO NOT SPAM PEOPLE.

DO NOT START TWEETING OUT YOUR BLOG LINK TO EVERYONE ON YOUR TWITTER OR INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS LIST.

I apologize for the caps lock there, but I just wanted to drill those two points home.

Be strategic about where you backlinking appears. If you’re going to use this means as a measure to grow your place on the world wide web, you want your url to be associated with the right places. EX: If you’re a family friendly blog talking about how to build the perfect school lunches for kids, it might not be the best idea to use an Adult Content Only website to banklink your content.

If you have questions about backlinking, share them in the comments section. If you have anything to add, please feel free to share that in the comments as well. I tried to keep this as simple as possible because, as mentioned at the head of this post, it’s a very convoluted subject with many layers to it. So, some of the layers may not yet have been touched on in this post.


Thanks to https://myhomefarm.co.uk/ (yes, this is a backlink) for giving me motivation to write this post and share some of my thoughts on the subject.

Let’s talk about ‘the algorithm’

Photo Credit: SloanReview.MIT

*Note – I’m touching on this subject because I’m finding there are still a lot of people on the web who really don’t know about this. If you’re aware of ‘the algorithm’ and the information contained in this post, please feel free to ignore.

Have you ever been searching Instagram and thought to yourself ‘Why the hell are you suggesting these photos to me, Instagram?’Likewise with Twitter, have you ever been on Twitter and wondered why some people’s Tweets are always at the top of your feed whilst others never seem to show up at all? This is ‘the algorithm’ at work.

Gone are the days of things showing up chronologically on your time line. These are the days when the algorithm picks ‘exactly what you want to see’. I say that in quotation marks because for weeks now my feed has been filled with babies and baby announcements, so clearly the algorithm isn’t functioning at proper capacity.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and even WordPress all use some form of an algorithm for showing you content. Cracking the algorithm is, in itself, a form of social media marketing.

So, how does it work? I suspect only employees on the inside know for the certain the full extent to the algorithm’s functions. That being said, there is one rule of function that seems to work.

  1. Engagement is the most important thing you can garner with your content.

In the case of all social media platforms, engagement is likes and comments. In the case of YouTube, engagement also includes people clicking the ‘Thumbs Down’ button to dislike, and it also includes watch time.

So, let’s break down how this works on each site.


TWITTER

Twitter is going to suggest to you the Tweets from people on your feed with the most comments and likes. So this is why, if you follow celebrities (in addition to your friends and family), the celebrities tweets are always going to appear near the top of your feed. This is also true for Follow Trains, comment threads or anything that garners a large amount of comments in a short period of time.

Twitter is also going to suggest to you the Tweets of the individuals who’s Tweets you’ve liked and commented on in recent past. So if you’re ever thinking that ‘I haven’t seen a tweet from this person in a long time’, it’s probably because you haven’t liked or commented on any of their Tweets.


INSTAGRAM

Even though in recent months they’ve moved away from publicly showing how many likes a photo has, likes are still a driving force to what photos are suggested to you on Instagram. This is how, if you search Instagram, you can always seem to find one of the Kardashian sisters, no matter how little attention you pay to them or care about them. With like… 100 million subscribers each on the platform, the moment they post a photo they get A TON of likes, and those likes are what push them to the top of suggested posts.

When a celebrity or influencer says “Comment below with”, that is them trying to garner more comments so that the algorithm suggest their content to more people. Trust me when I say this, they don’t give a damn about your comment. When someone you watch on YouTube says ‘Follow me on Instagram and tell me you came from YouTube’ that’s a tactic to garner more engagement and get their photos suggested to more people through the Instagram algorithm.

When a brand does a giveaway on their Instagram and the requirement of the giveaway is to ‘Tag a friend below’, this is a two-fold promotion for them. 1) You’re tagging your friend so that your friend can see their Instagram, which is promotion and 2) You’re commenting on their Instagram page, which counts as engagement. More engagement means they rank higher on the algorithm of suggested posts. Do you have a chance to win? Sure. One in… however many people tag a friend and like the post. This is why so many brands do giveaways. The promotion they’re getting just from you tagging their friends is worth the… probably 20 dollar value of whatever they’re giving away.


YOUTUBE

First, I will say that likes and dislikes count as engagement on YouTube. So, whether you hit the like button or you hit the dislike button you’re working in the favour of said person creating the YouTube video. If you really don’t like it, you’re doing much better if you just click away from the video.

Secondly, watch time plays a factor in engagement. YouTube tracks average watch time for videos. So, if a person makes a ten minute video and most people click off after 2-3 minutes, they’re not going to get recommended as a suggested video in Youtube’s algorithm. This is why so many people will say ‘Stay tuned to the end to find out —–‘ or ‘Stay tuned to the end for the giveaway’ or ‘Stay tuned to the end to hear a secret’. If you watch through to the end, that works in their favour with ad revenue, with Youtube’s algorithm and with making their channel look as though content is valuable and worthy of YouTube investing in.

When a Youtuber says ‘Comment Below with’… well with pretty much anything… that is their attempt to drive up engagement. ‘Comment below with your favourite day of the week!’ or ‘Comment below and tell me what colour your eyes are!’ That YouTuber really doesn’t give a flying fuck what colour your eyes are, they just want their video to look more legit to the YouTube algorithm. The more comments they get, the more legit they look, the more likely they are to get suggested as a ‘video to watch’.


FACEBOOK

Facebook, much like Instagram (because Facebook owns Instagram) will suggest to you the comments, status updates, photos, memories, etc… from the people who have the most likes and comments. So, you’ll notice that if you have a friend who is a bit of a Facebook whore, for lack of better terminology, their posts are always going to seem to be at the top of your feed… whereas your quiet friends who don’t have a ton of Facebook friends will always seem to appear much lower down on your feed.

If you are the quiet friend trying to get the word out about your blog, your writing or anything of the sort, the way to go about it is to ask for likes, ask for comments and to ask for people to share your content. The more engagement that you get, even if you need to ‘pimp your content out’ (for lack of better terminology), the better off you are.

If you’re using Facebook to spread word about your blog, your writing, your music or your artwork, I strongly recommend joining groups and finding a community of people who will help to share your content with Facebook. The more it’s seen, the more Facebook is going to recommend it.


WORDPRESS

WordPress, working with transparency (which I love) actually tells you just how their algorithms work. I talk a lot about them on my page, but mostly in the comments section of my posts, so I don’t know how many people are truly aware of how it works.

If you’d like the source of any of the following information –> Click Here (If you’re looking to work the WordPress algorithm in your favour, I highly recommend clicking and reading the entire page)

The algorithms are often being improved, and what content we show depends on a complex combination of factors. Here are examples of the types of information we may use to make our recommendations:

  • The title, content, tags, and categories of posts.
  • Other text from the site, such as usernames and logins; site names and the host name (support.wordpress.com).
  • Total number of likes and comments.
  • Who has liked and commented on a post.
  • Total number of followers.
  • Who has followed a site.
  • How recently a post was published.
  • How often or recently a site has posted.
  • The content of what you have liked and commented on.
  • Whether posts have links, images, or videos.
  • How often a site has been rejected from being recommended in the Reader.

Content we filter out from our algorithms:

  • Sites we think may be spam.
  • Sites that have mature content.
  • Sites with potentially objectionable content.
  • Content that is not in your language.

The moral of the story? Asking for likes, comments and engagement helps. It helps in big ways. If you can find another way of getting people talking that doesn’t require your asking them something, then you’ve struck gold. If someone is asking you to ‘Comment below what colour your eyes are’ don’t do it. If a brand says ‘Tag a friend and you’re entered to win’, unless you really, really love the brand, only give that free promotion to a brand that you really love. And, if you want to truly make an impact with the content you’re pumping out, surround yourself with an incredible online community who’ll stand behind you and your work so that you can share your world with the web and they will help and support you every step of the way.

Also, if the Kardashian’s keep getting recommended to you in spite of your not giving a flying fuck, you’re not crazy. They’re cheating the system. It’s estimated as much as 60 percent of Kim Kardashian’s online following is bots. Bots that help her stay at the top of page and relevant on just about every website. She’s got the money, so I wouldn’t have a hard time believing that she bought all those bots.

Also, there’s a rumour going around (I’ve yet to see in action) that you can now buy bots to artifically ‘growth hack’ your accounts whilst you’re least active on social media. I don’t know if this is true or not, I’ve not seen it in action. But… I did see a relatively average Youtuber shoot from 52,000 subscribers to 750,000 subscribers in about four days earlier this month. So, I don’t have a hard time believing it… especially since his engagement is still the same as it was when he had 52,000 subscribers.

Blogging Tip: Stay True to You

Blogging isn’t about picking the right topic; it’s about finding the right voice. Your voice. What matters, what people really resonate with, isn’t so much what you say, but how.

People are going to tell if you’re being inauthentic. People are going to be able to tell if you’re writing for attention. People can always tell. Believe me when I say this, if you’re blogging well, people will know the motives behind your words.

My advice? Write from the heart. Speak your truth. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Not everything has to be polished, but everything should showcase who you are and what you stand for. The world, and the blogging community does not need more mindless drones pumping out the same thing over and over. People need creativity, words that speak from our innermost desires and pictures so beautiful that they make us stop in our tracks.

When you sit down to create your next post remember the fact that there is only one you. What piece of your personality are you going to bring to your brand, your blog and your readers? What piece of your story will bring people to your blog? I’m not talking about having the perfect logo, a beautiful title, the perfect formatting or any of that, I’m talking about creating content that speaks to who you are and why someone wants to read what you write. For example: anyone can share a product review so how are you going to make your review of that product different from everyone else on the web?

While I’m here, let’s also talk about the fact that too many people believe finding success comes from a high follower count. Finding success isn’t really about finding a lot of followers. Finding success is about finding interaction, about finding people who resonate with what you’re sharing. Whether that’s five people, five hundred people or five million people, be grateful for every person who takes time out of their day to view your content.

If you saw a YouTube channel that had one million followers and averaged ten thousand views per video and you saw a YouTube channel that had one hundred followers and was averaging 90 views per video, which would you deem more successful? Stop looking at follower counts and start thinking about your message and your reach. I encourage you, when you look at your blog posts, to look at something in the most positive light. It’s easy to say ‘Nobody liked my most recent post’. It sounds lackluster and can make you feel defeated. It’s also really easy to say ‘250 people read my most recent post’. 250 people stopped, took five or more minutes out of their day to check in with you and see more of your story. That’s HUGE!

Lastly, while I have you here, I just want to remind you that not everything you post is going to be a hit. Sometimes you’ll make killer content and sometimes it’s going to flop. That’s the trials and tribulations that happen when you’re building a brand… your brand. If something doesn’t work, take note, improve upon that the next time. If you’re smart though, you won’t let those flops speak for you. Improve upon them. Focus on making your blog, your brand and your content better each and every time you hit publish.

Be You. Find your voice. Fall in love with your creativity. And then, just do it.

“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” I actually don’t know where this quote is from. But, it’s pretty relevant.