Dawn J. Bennett was a financial advisor in major trouble with the SEC. She also has a sporting apparel company. She hired an SEO, Pierson, to improve the search engine indexing of her website. After a payment dispute, Pierson posted a blog post that starts out “DJ Bennett, the luxury sporting goods company, does not pay their employees or contractors.” Bennett demanded Google de-index the blog post, and then sued Google for defamation and more when it didn’t.
As you’d expect, the suit flops. Guided by the binding Klayman v. Zuckerberg opinion, the court’s short opinion easily grants Google’s motion to dismiss on Section 230 grounds because:
* “Google qualifies as an interactive computer service”
* “Scott Pierson, a third party, wrote the blog about Plaintiffs,” and
* “Plaintiffs aim to hold Google liable as the publisher of the content”
A textbook Section 230 claim. The court continues:
To salvage their claim, Plaintiffs attempt to argue that a novel issue is presented in this case which requires the court to deny the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiffs state “[b]ut what courts have not fully addressed is where a service provider, such as Google, adopts definitive prohibitions regarding the content of third party user material, and does not enforce them … [what is] the impact of such failure on Section 203(e) immunity.” Simply, “… does it create such an obligation for itself if it adopts guidelines of what it deems objectionable content and fails to follow through by enforcing such standards?” The answer is “no,” and thus Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss must still be granted. See Klayman, 753 F.3d at 1359–60 (discussing that the CDA bars claims arguing that service providers must be held to a heightened duty of care based on adoption of any statements allocating rights and responsibilities between interactive computer services and their users). “It would be impossible for service providers to screen each of their millions of postings for possible problems.” Zeran v. America Online, Inc., 129 F.3d 327, 331 (4th Cir. 1997). Furthermore, holding Google liable for establishing standards and guidelines would ultimately create a powerful disincentive for service providers to establish any standards or ever decide to remove objectionable content, which the CDA was enacted to prevent.
As the court indicates, this argument is not the least bit novel. Dozens of times, plaintiffs have pointed to defendants’ editorial standards as creating some enforcement duty. In my Internet Law course, I teach this issue using the Noah v. AOL case from 2003. Thus, the court rightly shut it down quickly.
Case citation: Bennett v. Google, Inc., 2017 WL 2692607 (D.C.D.C. June 21, 2017). The complaint.
Most SEO campaigns need three kinds of links to be successful; targeting your content to influencers can get you 2/3 of the way there. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers the tactics that will help your content get seen and shared by those with a wide and relevant audience.
Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about how to create content that is specifically influencer-targeted in order to earn the links and attention and amplification that you often need.
Most SEO campaigns need 3 types of links:
So it’s the case that most SEO campaigns, as they’re trying to earn the rankings that they’re seeking, are trying to do a few things. You’re trying to grow your overall Domain Authority. You’re trying to get some specific keyword terms and phrases ranking on your site for those terms and phrases.
So you need kind of three kinds of links. This is most campaigns.
1. Links from broad, high-Domain Authority sites that are pointing — you kind of don’t care — anywhere on your site, the home page, internal pages, to your blog, to your news section. It’s totally fine. So a common one that we use here would be like the New York Times. I want the New York Times to link to me so that I have the authority and influence of a link from that domain and, hopefully, lots of domains like them, very high-Domain Authority domains.
2. Links to specific high-value keyword-targeted pages, hopefully, hopefully with specific anchor text, and that’s going to help me boost those individual URLs’ rankings. So I want this page over here to link to me and say “hairdryers,” to my page that is keyword targeted for the word “hairdryers.” Fingers crossed.
3. Links to my domain from other sites, in my sector or niche, that provide some of that topical authority and influence to help tell Google and the other search engines that this is what my site is about, that I belong in this sphere of influence, that I’m semantically and topically related to words and phrases like this. So I want appliancegal.com to link to my site if I’m trying to rank in the world of hairdryers and other kinds of appliances.
So of these, for one and three, we won’t talk about two today, but for one and three, much of the time the people that you’re trying to target are what we call in the industry influencers, and these influencers are going to be lots of people. I’ve illustrated them all here — mostly looking sideways at each other, not exactly sure why that is — but bloggers, and journalists, and authors, and conference organizers, and content marketers, and event speakers, and researchers, and editors, and podcasters, and influencers of a wide, wide variety. We could fill up the whole board with the types of people who are in the influencer world or have that title specifically, but they tend to share a few things in common. They are trying to produce content of one kind or another. They’re not dissimilar from us. They’re trying to produce things on the web, and when they do, they need certain elements to help fill in the gap. When they’re looking for those gap-filling elements, that is your opportunity to earn these kinds of links.
So a few tactics for that. First off, one of the most powerful ones, and we’ve talked about this a little bit here on Whiteboard Friday, but probably not in depth, is…
A. Statistics and data. The reason that this is such a powerful tool is because when you create data, especially if it’s either uniquely gathered by you, unique because you have it, because you can collect it and no one else can, or unique because you’ve put it together from many disparate sources, you’re the editorial curator of that data and statistics, everyone like this needs those types of statistics and data to support or challenge their arguments or their assertions or their coverage of the industry, whatever it is.
Why this works: This works well because this fills that gap. This gives them the relevant stats that they’re looking for. Because numbers are easy to use and easy to cite, and you can say, “Feel free to link to this. You’re welcome to copy this graph. You’re welcome to embed this chart.” All those kinds of things. That can make it even easier, but much of the time, just by having these statistics, you can do it.
The key is that you have to be visible at the time that these people are looking for them, and that means usually ranking for very hard to discover, through at least normal keyword research, long-tail types of terms that use words like “stats,” “data,” “charts,” “graphs,” and kind of these question formats like when, how much, how many, number of, etc.
It’s tough because you will not see many of those in your keyword research, because there’s a relatively few number of these people searching in any given month for this type of gap-filling data, so you have to intuit often what you should title those things. Put yourself in these people’s shoes and start Googling around for “What would I need if I had to write some industry coverage around this?” Then you’ll come up with these types of things, and you can try modifying your keyword research queries or doing some Google Suggest stuff with these words and phrases.
B. Visual content. Visual content is exceptionally valuable in this case because, again, it fills a gap that many of these folks have. When you are a content marketer, or when you’re a speaker at an event, or when you’re an author or a blogger, you need visual content that will help catch the eye, that will break up the writing that you’ve done, and it’s often much easier to get someone else’s visual content and simply cite your source and link to it than it is to create visual content of your own. These people often don’t have the resources to create their own visual content.
Why this works: So, for everyone who’s doing posts, and articles, and slide decks, and even videos, they say, “Why not let someone else do the work,” and you can be that someone else and fill these gaps.
Key: To do this well, you’re going to want to appear in a bunch of visual content search mediums that these folks are going to use. Those are places like…
Google Images most obviously, but also
SlideShare, meaning take your visuals, put them up in some sort of slide format, give some context to them and upload them to SlideShare. The nice thing about SlideShare, SlideShare actually reproduces each individual slide as a visual, and then Google Images can search those, and so you’ll often see SlideShare’s results inside Google Images. So this can be a great end around for that.
Instagram search, many folks are using that especially if you’re doing photos. You can see I’ve illustrated my own hair drying technique right here. This is clearly Rand. Look at me. I’ve got more hair than I know what to do with.
Flickr, still being used by many searchers, particularly because it has a Creative Commons search license, and that should bring up using a Creative Commons commercial use license that requires attribution with a link is your best bet for all of these platforms. It will mean you can get on lots of other Creative Commons visual and photography search engines, which can expose you to more of these types of people as they’re doing their searches.
C. Contrarian/counter-opinions. The last one I’ll cover here is contrarian or counter-opinions to the prevailing wisdom. So you might have an opinion like, “In the next three years, hairdryers will be completely obsolete because of X.”
Why it works: This works well because modern journalism has this idea and modern content, in fact, has this idea that they are supposed to create conflict and that they should cover both sides of an issue. In many industry specific sorts of fields, it’s often the case that that is a gap that goes unfilled. By being that sort of challenger to conventional wisdom or conventional thinking, you can fill that gap.
The key here is you want to either rank in Google search engine for some of those mid or long tail research type queries. These can be competitive, and so this is challenging, but presenting contrarian opinions is often great link bait. This is kind of a good way to earn links of all kinds in here.
Second, I would also urge you to do a little bit of comment marketing and some social media platforms, because what you want to start is to build a brand where you are known for having this contrarian opinion on this conventional topic in your space so that people point all these influencers to you when they’re asked about it. You’re trying to build up this branding of, “Well, I don’t agree with the conventional wisdom around hairdryers.” Hairdryers might be a tough topic for that one, but certainly these other two can work real well.
So using these tactics, I hope that you can go reach out and fill some gaps for these influencers and, as a result, earning two of the three exact kind of links that you need in order to rank well in the search results.
And we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.
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Originally released as a platform to enable the transfer of Bitcoins, blockchain protocols accommodate “smart contracts.” What are “smart contracts,” you ask? Digital programs that automatically execute parameters of a transaction. This can range from placing a custom call or put option to making scheduled payments. Smart contracts reliably run as programmed, therein substantially reducing the risk of fraud or third-party interference. Due to the rise of this cryptocurrency technology, state legislators passed an Arizona blockchain law.
HB 2417 (The “Signatures; Electronic Transactions; Blockchain Technology” statute) was signed into law by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey in late March. The regulation addresses blockchain enforceability and smart contract transactions involving product sales, leases, and documents.
The Arizona Blockchain Law: Amending AETA
The Arizona Electronic Transactions Act (AETA) establishes that digital signatures are legally enforceable. HB 2417 clarifies that electronic records, signatures, and smart contracts — guaranteed via blockchain technology and governed by UCC Articles 2, 2A, and 7 — are treated as legal electronic signatures under AETA. The new statute also stipulates that a transaction agreement shouldn’t be denied validity, legal effect, or enforceability just because it was executed via a smart contract.
Seeking to avoid any legal uncertainty surrounding blockchain transactions and smart contracts relating to certain digital assets, HB 2417 includes a number of interesting points:
The statute includes a very specific definition of “blockchain technology” as a “distributed, decentralized, shared and replicated ledger, which may be public or private, permissioned or permissionless, or driven by tokenized crypto economics or tokenless” and provides that the “data on the ledger is protected with cryptography, is immutable and auditable and provides an uncensored truth.”
HB 2417 includes a definition of “smart contracts” as an “event driven program, with state, that runs on a distributed, decentralized, shared and replicated ledger that can take custody over and instruct transfer of assets on that ledger.”
The law provides that a person that, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, uses blockchain technology to secure information that the person owns or has the right to use retains the same rights of ownership or use with respect to that information as before the person secured the information using blockchain technology.
Arizona isn’t the only state to address evolving technologies, like blockchain. Nevada has a bill pending; in 2016, Vermont made sure the state’s evidentiary rules treated blockchain-based digital records as business records; Hawaii, Maine, and Delaware all have bills pending or are considering amendments.
Kelly / Warner is a leading Internet law firm that works with businesses across the country and around the world.
[Heather is a Visiting Researcher at Harvard Law School (Spring 2017). She has also been Bigelow Fellow & Lecturer in Law at University of Chicago Law School (2014-2016) and a Googler (2007-2010). She will be a doctoral candidate in Philosophy at NYU starting this Fall.]
The majority opinion in Packingham v. North Carolina “equate[d] the entirety of the internet with public streets and parks” and declared it “clear” that “cyberspace” and “social media in particular … [are] the most important places (in a spatial sense) for the exchange of views.” Indeed, the Court went so far as to call social media “the modern public square” and thought it “[a] fundamental principle of the First Amendment … that all persons have access” to it.
Most commentators have thought the main takeaway from all this is that the government is now unable to limit individuals’ access to internet sites (Justice Alito’s stated concern). And from this they have inferred a second takeaway. Namely, that the First Amendment now protects internet companies in imposing whatever private rules they like. I question this inference. Conceiving of these sites as the modern public square may indeed make it difficult for states to deny individuals and organizations access to them. But, it may also make it much harder for these sites to deny access to users and advertisers. And, as I’ll briefly mention at the end, if Packingham makes it harder for these sites to deny users access, it may also call into question the constitutionality of Section 512(i) of the DMCA, which conditions service provider safe harbor on their terminating access for repeat infringers in “appropriate circumstances.”
In short, it’s worth stopping and asking: what are the implications of thinking of Facebook or Twitter or Google as the modern public square? I think it more complicated than some have said. To that end, here are a few thoughts:
A number of (not well resourced) litigants have argued that companies like Google violate both their First Amendment rights and a litany of unfair and deceptive practices laws when they delist their sites, refuse to run their ads, block their accounts, remove their videos, etc. Companies like Google successfully respond in two ways. First, analogizing themselves to the newspaper editor in Tornillo, they argue that their decisions about what to rank, which ads to run, etc. are editorial judgments, and forcing them to do otherwise would constitute unconstitutional compelled speech. Second, they point out that the First Amendment proscribes the conduct of government actors, not private ones. Courts, in cases like Zhang, Langdon, Search King, and Cyber Promotions have agreed with these companies on both counts.
As for the first argument (that the company outputs are their First Amendment speech), it continues to be debated by scholars. As my co-author Robert Simpson and I discuss in a forthcoming article, it’s been something of a war of analogies. Google as editor v. Google as conduit v. Google as shopping mall. So, does seeing these spaces as the modern public square change this analysis? Hard to say, but seeing these spaces as public squares may make courts more receptive to a non-editorial framing. Conceived of as a public square, people may not see these site layouts and ad placements as the company’s speech, which at minimum may bolster the argument that requiring Facebook to accept a particular ad isn’t compelling Facebook to speak at all. Again, hard to know.
But as interesting as that all is, Packingham’s implications for the state action doctrine seem even more so.
As is well known by legal scholars (less so by everyone else), the First Amendment protects people from government restrictions on speech, not restrictions leveled by private actors. There are, however, exceptions. The Court has adopted various tests for determining state action and I’ll avoid guessing which one(s) it’ll use going forward. But, as the Court said in Marsh, “[t]he more an owner, for his advantage, opens up his property for use by the public in general, the more do his rights become circumscribed by the statutory and constitutional rights of those who use it.” In equating the internet with public streets and parks and finding them “the most important places” for First Amendment speech in modern times, the majority certainly seems to think these companies are, contra the shopping center in Lloyd Corp. Limited v. Tanner, open to the public for general purposes. Indeed, companies like Facebook and Google have consistently tried to frame themselves as neutral platforms where third-parties speak. And, contra the private shopping center in Logan Valley Plaza, the Court in Packingham seems to think being denied access to social media sites deprives people of a reasonable opportunity to convey their message.
As I mentioned briefly above, Packingham may also call into question the constitutionality of Sec. 512(i) of the DMCA. Annemarie Bridy talks about this more here. While she finds that Sec. 512(i) is not state action, considering that online is the modern public square and the state requires providers to deprive access to users in order to themselves escape substantial liabilities, I can imagine some arguments to the contrary.
Finding these companies vulnerable to the First Amendment challenges of users is no slam dunk, and the Court may walk back its language going forward. But, at least for now, Packingham might tip the scales a bit more in that direction. If I were at any of these companies, I’d wish Justice Alito’s concurrence had been the majority.
In 2017, consumers are looking online now more than ever to find a small business just like yours. In order to be competitive in your industry, you have to be visible when a customer looks for you online, and content marketing is a cost-effective way to boost your business in search results. In fact, 72% of marketers say relevant content creation is the most effective SEO tactic.
Content marketing allows your business to maximize its potential to drive engagement, gain new customers, and fortify relationships with existing customers.
Not sure how?
Follow these 5 steps to develop and implement a comprehensive content marketing strategy, tailored to your business:
Step One: Brand
An effective content marketing strategy will be consistent, authentic, and tailored to provide value to your business’s audience. You’ll want to be very clear about your business’s brand so that it can inform every single piece of content you post.
What results do I want my online content to accomplish?
No one knows the ins and outs of your business better than you do! By asking yourself these questions, you’ll be able to get a sense of the authentic voice that makes sense for your business. From there, every piece of content that you create for your content marketing strategy will be inspired by your voice, your followers, and your goals.
Step Two: Social Media
As a business owner in today’s market, you have to integrate social media marketing into your content marketing strategy in order to be competitive. Setting up Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles for your business is free and comes with many benefits for you and your customers alike!
The benefits of being present, active, and engaged on social media are a boost in SEO, increased opportunities for customer service, a cost-effective means of increasing brand awareness, and visibility in local search results.
If you don’t have the time or the know-how to keep up with all of these platforms at once, choose the one platform that makes the most sense for your target audience. If your business caters to a young demographic, Instagram is the most effect way to reach the youngest group of internet users. If you mostly serve or sell to customers 30 years old and above, Facebook the best place for you to start. Twitter is the most receptive platform to non-visual content, so if you don’t have access to strong photography of your business and your products, Twitter might be the best match for you.
Try to post at least once day, mixing up your content so that there is variety for your audience. Provide value by posting educational content relevant to your industry, photos of your product or service, and news about your community! From there, interact with and respond to all comments, mentions, wall posts, and reviews that your customers leave on your profiles. This of this as good customer service. It will show your fans and followers that you are grateful for their support and engagement.
Once you’ve used social media to bring in new customers, outlining an email marketing strategy is the next step to build brand loyalty and keep those customers coming back time and time again.
By sending out a weekly or biweekly email newsletter to your existing client base, you’ll stay top of mind with your customers, making it more likely that they’ll become repeat customers and loyal fans.
Integrate your social media and email marketing efforts by including links to your social channels in each email you send! That way, your loyal customers have the opportunity to interact with you online in more ways than one.
Step Four: Blog
Content marketers who prioritize blogging are 13 times more likely to achieve a positive ROI on their efforts. And, as an added bonus, regular blog articles give you extra content to share on your social media channels!
When deciding what kind of content to create for your blog, you’ll want to strategize how to provide value to your audience and stay true to the brand you developed in Step One. Show variety in your content so that your customers will want to check back, and make sure everything you post is relevant to both your industry and your target audience.
From there, measure the results of each blog you create. By comparing the number of views, reads, and shares on each piece of blog content you publish, you’ll be able to determine what kind of content your audience enjoys most and allow that inform your content strategy moving forward.
Don’t have the time to write blogs every week? Team up with the talented writers at ContentWriters to fill out your content!
Step Five: Evergreen Content
The beauty of creating content is that it lives forever on your site. Foundational content, or evergreen content, yields numerous benefits long after the minute you push that publish button on your blog. Once you publish a blog post or other form of extended written content on your site, it becomes part of the greater volume of work that establishes your business as a thought leader in your industry.
A great example of evergreen content is a white paper. White papers are designed to provide value to any customer reading it by giving them real insight into the business, specifically, your company’s role in the industry. Having multiple white papers on your site increases the relevancy of your business, which helps immensely when search engines are trying to decide who should rank first.
We know that developing and executing a successful content marketing strategy is a time commitment, especially on top of running your small business every day. However, by following these five important content marketing steps, you’ll be able to return on that investment with higher search results, increased brand awareness, visibility to new customers, increased loyalty with existing customers, and a better online experience for your customers.
Main Street Hubis the only do-it-for-you, full-service online marketing platform for local businesses. Do-it-for-you is code for ‘whatever it takes.’ Using tools developed by our world-class engineers, designed with the needs of small business owners in mind, Main Street Hub brings together a mix of writers, designers, and tech experts to drive growth and take social media responsibilities off your plate — for good. Visit MainStreetHub.com to learn more, and head to our blog for more social media tips and best practices!
ContentWriters specializes in providing expert-level written content across a diverse range of industries. From blog posts to white papers, ContentWriters has the ability to craft content that is perfectly tailored to your brand message at any scale. By tapping into our robust network of talent, our team ensures that the perfect writers are assigned to your company’s content needs.
As a reputation management pioneer, Nick has the inside scoop on all things Reputation Management. This blog will focus on Reputation, practices, technologies, providers and re-shared content from some of the preeminent players in the industry. We hope you enjoy!