05 January 2016

3 temptations in content marketing

Scenes from the Past Magic Lantern Slides - Temptation of Christ by Satan in Desert Vintage Biblical Study 1890 - 10x10 Iron on Heat Transfer for White Material (ht_246853_3)
After Christ fasted for 40 days and nights, Satan tempted him with comfort,  fame, and glory--aren't these everything that we wish for? Let's consider these temptations one by one and see if we succumb to them in our blogging and content marketing strategies. Specifically, we shall discuss three things: (1) content scraping, (2) viral content, and (3) worship me.

1. Turn these stones to bread: content scraping
The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” 4* He said in reply, “It is written:c‘ One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.' (Mt 4:3-4)
Blogging is difficult. Even great writers would need about an hour to write a decent and well-researched paragraph. So an 8-paragraph epic content requires 8 hours of labor, which is a full day's work. So bloggers are tempted to go the easy way: steal other people's content through content scraping and make money out of these through advertising. Here's a definition of Content Scraping from Techopedia:
Content scraping is an illegal way of stealing original content from a legitimate website and posting the stolen content to another site without the knowledge or permission of the content's owner. Content scrapers often attempt to pass off stolen content as their own, and fail to provide attribution to the content’s owners. Content scraping can be accomplished via manual copy and paste, or may use more sophisticated techniques, such as using special software, HTTP programming or HTML or DOM parsers. (Techopedia)
I read before that one of the magazines of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (I think it's the CBCP Monitor) was scraped by a US website, so CBCP has to shut down its web magazine and make a new one with a different name (perhaps it's the CBCP News) with better web security installed.

Blogger and Wordpress are also vigilant about content scrapers. If they see that your blog post is 90% scraped from somewhere else, e.g. Amazon, then pfft! Your blog is gone.

So what do we do when we are faced with turn-these-stones-into-bread temptation? We can meditate on what Christ said: "Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God." Blogging can still be fun and rewarding even if we don't make money out of every word that comes out from our own keyboard strokes. These words that we write may not come from the mouth of God, but at least we must strive that what we write should be edifying and useful for our intended audience.

2. Jump from the Top of the Temple: Viral Content
Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, 6and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”d 7Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” (Mt 4:5-7)
To jump from the top of the temple and survive the fall is a spectacular feat that draws the crowds and leaves their mouths agape. Most bloggers want a spectacularly awesome content that will be virally shared in social networks. There is no harm in trying to achieve virality, provided that the means are legitimate techniques, such as SEO, excellent writing, and well-designed posters.

But other bloggers enter the dark side by using Black Hat SEO techniques banned by Google:
Black hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception. One black hat technique uses text that is hidden, either as text colored similar to the background, in an invisible div, or positioned off screen. Another method gives a different page depending on whether the page is being requested by a human visitor or a search engine, a technique known as cloaking. (Wikipedia: Search Engine Optimization)
Some write false news or satire or clickbaits without informing the reader the nature of the text. Check out Fake News Watch for the list of such websites.

Website header of Fake News Watch


And still others use other people's photos and change the images to make it appear that the people are either stupid or endorse certain political candidates, such as Duterte in the case of the love team Aldub:


Kath Crave on December 6, 2015 in Facebook: "For those spreading this photo about ALDUB endorsing Duterte for President.  Please stop sharing it...(Rody Duterte For President Movement International)
"For those spreading this photo about ALDUB endorsing Duterte for President.  Please stop sharing it as it was clearly mentioned by Tito Sotto during Eat Bulaga yesterday that AlDub is not endorsing any candidates for the election.  He even advised not to vote the candidate because the supporters are making up false stories.  So in order to protect Duterte's candidacy as well, we should not keep spreading unconfirmed campain from other artists just like this.  Just saying :) #Duterte2016 (Kath Crave, Rody Duterte For President Movement International)

What do we do when we are faced with jump-from-the-top-of-the-temple temptation?  Let us ponder on the response of Christ to Satan: “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” Many people worship false gods. For SEO practioners, it is Google Page Ranking. For online advertisers, it is the pay per click (PPC) or pay per impression (PPM). For political followers, it is their political candidate. And they would do everything to put their gods to a test by outsmarting Google, clicking on their own PPC links, or making others vote for their political candidates. In doing so, bloggers and marketers probe the fine line between good and evil, and breach it to make their content go viral, but at the expense suffering the pain of loss due to drop in web traffic and PPC earnings when Google updates its algorithm or drop in positive public relations ratings when the public lashes out at the duplicitous political marketing methods. Sin has deleterious effects, not only in the after life, but also in the here and now.

3. All the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence will be yours if you worship me
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”* 10At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’”f 11Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
Copywriting is the art of convincing the reader that a particular product is good for him and he must buy it. There are many techniques in copywriting. Maria Veloso, for example, lists several of these in her book, Web Copy That Sells:
  • Zeigarnik Effect--the state of mental tension and unbalance caused by uncompleted tasks. This is related to the Cliffhanger. (c.f. p. 126-128)
  • Embedded Commands--An example of this is "I wonder how quickly you are going to buy this product" (c.f. p. 129). This sounds like a Jedi mind control trick as used by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Rey.
  • Presuppositions--When the brain is bombarded with multiple thoughts, it is forced to presuppose (assume) and accept suggestions as facts. For example, "What will you do with the extra $2,500 you'll earn next month?" (c.f. p. 130-131). Well, this assumes that you'll earn the money--which you may not.
  • Linguistic binds--This is a form of syntax that connects what is obviously true with what is not necessarily true. For example, "Now that you've read this special report, I'm sure you realize that you must get a copy of The One Minute Cure...." (c.f. pp. 132-133)
When used well, copywriting techniques can really increase sales. But they can be abused and turn marketers into hypnotists like vampires luring innocent virgins to their grasp to bite their necks and drink their blood. The primary purpose of advertising is to tell the truth. The only problem is that people tend to purchase based on emotions and rationalize their decisions with their heads. So marketers sell the sizzle and not the steak, in the same way as when Satan gives Christ a vision of the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence provided that Christ must worship him first.

We have seen many kinds of products that are sold by marketers without serious scientific research to back their claims.  At best these marketers would use physics concepts like Quantum, Energy, and the like to mystify the reader who has no physics background and give him visions of cancer cure, eternal youth, and goddess-like beauty.  The One Ring of Sauron, for example, is one such product. The Ring tempts glory in the battlefield for Boromir, a kingdom-size garden for Sam, and all the fishes in the world to eat for Gollum. All that the Ring bearer needs to do is to put his finger on the Ring and all these will be his, but in so doing he will be enslaved by the seduction of the Ring and his mind laid bare to the Eye of Sauron.

So what does a marketer do when tempted with the magnificence of the wealth and power in exchange for marketing a product based on lies and deception? Take off the Ring. You can see the world better without it, despite its bleak jaggedness and broken stones, as Sam realized in his entry to Mordor. Marketing is hard, because marketing is evangelization: to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them all the good things the product can do for them (c.f. Mt 28:19-20). Marketing means to write with barely not enough money in your pocket, going from house to house, from one social network to another, proclaiming the good news and blessings to the first customer who opens the door of his heart to you. And for those who won't buy from you, you just shake off the dust from your sandals, click the Not Follow button, and move on.

To set our marketing perspectives right, we ponder on the words of Christ: "Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” St. Ignatius makes this more clear in his Principle and Foundation:
Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it. For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.
Content marketing is a vocation. Even though marketing has sometimes been associated with avarice and deceit, it is ultimately a work of man, the fruit of his labor and the work of his hands, which he can offer to God as a sweet-smelling sacrifice for the sanctification of the world and the salvation of souls.

Conclusions

Just as Christ was tempted by Satan in the desert with comfort, fame, and glory, content marketers are also tempted with the same things, such as content scraping, content virality, and idolatry by worshiping the idols of Google Page Ranking, PPC clicks, and Popularity. That is why some of these marketers opt to use unethical techniques to increase the number of their visitors and income: (1) steal other people's content and pass these off as their own; (2) black hat SEO, self-clicking of PPC links, and deceptive images to make their content go viral; and (3) psychological manipulation by using hypnotically suggestive yet deceptive phrasings to make readers click and buy. In order to fight off these temptations, content marketers must learn to write excellent prose, apply the legal SEO ways provided by Search Engines, never use deceit copywriting, and promote only trustworthy and edifying products.

Notice

The author is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for him to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.