Do you believe in ghosts?
Of course, you don’t. You’re a well-educated member of society who is old enough to know that spooky spectre you thought you saw last night was just your imagination playing tricks on you.
But what if you were wrong? What if we told you ghosts are everywhere; you probably already interacted with some today! They’re everywhere you go, and influence what you see and do.
However, these aren’t ghosts of the shadow realm ready to steal your soul - they’re digital.
From SEO and social media to analytics and web design, we at here at Möbius deal with ghosts on a daily basis (and not just the ones haunting The Grand Opera House where we call home).
In light of the spooky season, here are four-and-some-change ghosts you should know rule in our digital marketing realm.
Just like the separate spectral dimension, websites can have unlinked “shadow pages” - ever present, but unseen. These pages float around the main page, and can usually only be accessed by search engine crawlers, increasing a website’s search ranking. When used “ethically,” they can be a boon for users and search engines alike. Pulling in views to a page that is user-friendly and helpful is certainly no black hat SEO move. But as always, tread carefully; pages that are duplicates, or crammed full of keywords are more likely to be penalized by Google. Keep your pages clean, with unique and useful content. Additionally, keep your expectations tempered, and don’t expect a sudden increase of traffic from the addition of a few ghost pages. According to SEO analytic firm Botify, “Ghost pages are less effective in SEO than the pages which are present in the [linked site map] structure.” If you should find a ghost page that is either underperforming its SEO potential or is at risk of causing a penalization, we advise you do your best Dr. Peter Venkman impression and put that ghost out of its misery.
Pioneered by Snapchat, the latest trend in social media is allowing users to create content, only to have it disappear seconds or hours after it is created. Snapchat’s logo, appropriately, is a ghost, reemphasizing the vanishing aspect of their photo, video, and text functions. Initially only hosting a person-to-person disappearing photo feature, they branched out to include “stories,” which allow individuals to upload a series of pictures and videos for others to watch in a stream. These stories, unlike the direct messages, are viewable for 24 hours before they vanish. Instagram, not to be outdone, modeled their own “stories” after Snapchat’s, and now boasts over 200 million story views per day, about 40 million more than Snapchat. Facebook, meanwhile, seems a bit out of their element in a failed attempt to keep up, with a dismal level of usage of their app’s story feature (just ask any millennial nearby). In a bizarre twist, those who don’t update their Facebook stories are “ghosted”, becoming a sad, grayed-out profile picture, haunting everyone’s Facebook feed. All of these apps allow a small number of ads between select stories, which when combined, garner advertisers hundreds of millions of views a day.
The latest hot-button issue among web designers. Named for being see-through (like a ghost!) as opposed to a solid color, there is a big divide between those who see it as trendy and tasteful, and those who think it’s the worst thing since bevel and emboss. While it can look sleek under the right circumstances, there are several UX issues you can run into. If the page is too cluttered, or the color or contrast is too similar, it can make it difficult to read, and users can often not even realize it is a button at all. A test done by CXL concluded that while aesthetically pleasing, ghost buttons had lower click rates by 20%, as well as having higher click errors and average time to click. This isn’t to say we should all repent and abandon the ghost button. Instead, make an effort to design a page that works no matter which button you choose.
Receiving spam is not new to any seasoned company, but dealing with them is annoying as ever. Ghost spam, in particular, muddies up the waters when using your analytics for website visits. Ghost crawler spam is different from regular crawler spam - it never visits your site, instead, it sends the info directly to Google’s Analytics server. Dealing with this can be a headache, especially because you cannot block the crawler since they never visited the site in the first place. There are techniques available in dealing with ghost spam, and when done correctly can vastly improve the accuracy of your analytics. We should know - our Digital Marketing Strategist Heather implements valid hostname filters to shoo away those pesky ghosts!
Bonus: Real Ghosts
We weren’t joking when we said we had our own office ghosts. We’re located in the arts district of Wilmington, DE, at the Grand Opera House, a building with over a hundred years of history. There have always been rumors of haunting spirits wandering the halls; the phantoms of on-stage accidents, theater fires, and long-lost patrons. Our own Tech Warrior, Jim, has seen one himself. While walking through the theater halls to our office, a woman wearing odd, outdated clothing was sitting just outside of the concert hall, staring straight ahead, unblinking. A disconcerted feeling washed over him, as he realized her face was covered in mysterious dark, scuffed marks. He quickly hustled along as she continued to stare forward, eyes bugging out. After gathering the courage, he made his way back to the hall to confirm what he saw, only to be met with an empty hallway, with the mystery woman nowhere to be seen. While he hasn’t been able to prove what he saw, he’s been honest about most everything else (like when he admitted he “accidentally” ate that Twix bar you were saving in the office fridge as a special treat, JIM) so I suppose we have no reason to doubt him!
So no matter what sort of ghost you’re dealing with this Halloween, take our advice and don’t be too spooked to take them on!