This arrangement may sound complicated, but it let me save tens, maybe even **twenties** of dollars. And in return, when I needed to unexpectedly delay my flight home for family reasons, I had to make multiple phone calls, spend multiple hours listening to smooth jazz waiting for my “turn in the queue,” and pay multiple $150 change fees.
So, yes, I learned the hard way: don’t be clever. Book with one airline. Nonstop flights. Single itinerary. No messing around.
Some years ago, a friend of mine tried to get me into SEO. “It’s super-simple,” he said. “Google will rank your site higher the more other sites link to it. So we’ve created a program that automagically creates hundreds of new one-page sites that link back to your site, and your ranking will go through the roof.”
This was early enough that I don’t think my friend had ever even heard the term “black-hat.” Yet his tactics clearly were. They sounded too good to be true -- and, luckily, I was skeptical enough of his proposition to avoid it. While at that time I was still trying to be clever with airlines, I sensed being clever with Google wouldn’t pay off for very long.
Eventually, this philosophy became my filter. When something comes up that is too-good-to-be-true, I ask myself, “Am I just trying to be clever? Am I trying to subvert a system that is actually designed to give me and everyone else who engages with it the best possible long-term outcome?”
I’ve been reminded of this question as I’ve watched Internet companies come and go: watched, for example, Zynga ride the tide of free Facebook advertising only to plummet when users got sick of Farmville invitations and Facebook yanked them from the Newsfeed. I’m sure, for a brief, sparkling minute, someone at Zynga thought, “This is super-simple. Facebook will let you automatically post status updates to your users’ pages. So all you have to do is push those notifications and the virality will go through the roof.”
Zynga was trying to be clever, but its strategists learned two things the hard way. One is that people will quickly get sick of a repetitive and formulaic call to action. The other is that it’s not wise to rely exclusively on a third-party platform -- especially a free one -- as a channel to market.
And now BuzzFeed is learning this lesson the hard way, along with similar sites like Upworthy and ViralNova. These companies, as my MediaPost colleague Jamie Tedford reported earlier this week, are about to penalized by changes to Facebook’s algorithm. Facebook is aiming to “weed out stories that people frequently tell us are spammy and that they don’t want to see,” by reducing “click-baiting headlines.”
“ ‘Click-baiting’,” said Facebook’s blog post, “is when a publisher posts a link with a headline that encourages people to click to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see. Posts like these tend to get a lot of clicks, which means that these posts get shown to more people, and get shown higher up in News Feed. However, when we asked people in an initial survey what type of content they preferred to see in their News Feeds, 80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through.”
Of course they do. People will quickly get sick of a repetitive and formulaic call to action. And it’s unwise to rely exclusively on a third-party platform -- especially a free one -- as a channel to market.
These publishers were trying to be clever. And I only have one word for them: Don’t.