What would you do to get those clicks on your website?
It depends on the era.
As I said in Part I, in the early days you just had to have an idea, a domain name and a website with pertinent content. Find a few relevant forums and share some links. I’m going to quickly talk about how I promoted a real website for a number of years and then take it into the realm of fiction to explore how things might have gone if the site hadn’t folded before the advent of social media. I’ll endeavour to make the distinction between real and imagined as the tale progresses.
Take, for example, my old recording studio website. It had a fairly unique name, good equipment and was located outside a city in the South West of Ireland. Its main selling points were that it had some great equipment, we could record up to 24 things at the same time, it was in a lovely rural location and could host a full band with self-catering accommodation. I looked at a few other studio websites from around the world and got to work. There was a main page with updated news (who was recording, etc.), a gear page for those who searched for this, a bands page with outgoing links to their websites and Myspace pages, and a contact page to make sure nobody had to put too much effort into getting in touch. Now that I had my lovely new website, it was time to reach out.
Nobody likes irrelevant information and it was important to me to advertise in the right places and not to annoy any forum moderators or webmasters. This was the main reason that I didn’t want to use that forum spamming software from Part I in the wild – there was enough noise out there and I didn’t want to add to it. I kind of miss that now.
I proceeded to identify forums that would attract musicians and friends-of-musicians – music sites, local and Irish. At the beginning, it was enough to announce the mere existence of a new recording studio across a number of forums. After this I could post about recordings and releases from bands that had hired the studio, and post about special offers when clients were sparse or the studio just needed a bump. There were industry sites like Mandy and general business directories which I also submitted links to. All I wanted was to get as many credible links into – and out of – my studio site as possible, without overdoing it. I wanted to give these mysterious search engines the impression that there was some kind of conversation going on in the internet about the studio. We also used more traditional methods to get the word out – flyers, business cards, banner ads, gigs, prizes, interviews and the occasional remix.
It was an organic, hands-on process. Always looking for new places to get those links out and the awareness up. Trying not to overdo it and get a bad name. The internet was a smaller place then.
In time, if you wanted to find a half-decent – cheap – recording studio in Ireland, Blue Monkey Studio would likely appear on your first search page. Job done.
The studio shut down in 2007 and the website faded out a year later. If it had gone on longer, I would have had to engage more with Web 2.0 – social media and a more involved marketing strategy. A sharing place.
Let’s project into a retrospeculative future, and imagine what a potential story would be for Blue Monkey Studio as the internet turns into the 2010’s. Facebook and YouTube are becoming the face of the internet for most – smaller and more niche sites are getting side-lined by these giants’ ease of use and public engagement.
***Start of fantasy.***
My first instinct would be to write interesting audio-related articles that might have a broader reach and could be shared on social media. Perhaps a piece on the Loudness War. Whatever gets clicks on the site. Lower quality, but higher traffic. People will come for the article and maybe they’ll be musicians, or they’ll know musicians, and those musicians will want to record in the studio? I write and I share. The article goes a little viral. I make a short YouTube video to accompany it and keep writing – 10 Things To Know Before Recording In A Studio, Analogue & Digital: What’s The Difference?, Drummers! What’s Really Going On In Their Heads?, etc.
I’m getting plenty of site visits (according to my web stats), but business isn’t increasing. The problem is the geographic agnosticism of social media. The whole (internet) world can access my shared articles and, as such, most of my visitors are coming from the US. These clicks are not likely to be booking into my little studio any time soon. I have the clicks, but not the right product.
I’m now going to tell you how to get EXTREMELY RICH on the internet. Just do EXACTLY what I do – or not.
Around this time, a friend had been asking me about binaural beat frequency music. He’s a yoga guru, psychedelic meditator and always looking for the next big thing (this part of the story is true – now back to the retro-fantasy). I’ve helped him produce meditation music and generative visuals before, and this sounded interesting. Maybe something I can leverage with the website. I get the synths out and start making little generative music apps and tunes with MAX/MSP. In a short time, I have a few CD’s and some software that may, or may not, help with stress, anxiety, concentration, calmness – and maybe even motivation and confidence.
So, I have a product and a hook that I need to market to my internet audience. Let’s get back to the #informationsuperhighway.
My first instinct is to write an article on Binaural Beat Benefits and start sharing it on new-age-y meditation Facebook groups and forums. All links lead back to the new e-commerce shop that I’ve since added to the website. Then I follow up with a video about my ‘process’, with a few ‘clients’ talking about how my products have changed their lives. I film in my studio control room with all my impressive tech and hang a few dream-catchers up in the background. I can feel a small part of me disappearing. Ethics? A conscience? Never mind.
Digital downloads start to take off and word is spreading, so I add higher resolution recordings for a premium price. Better quality sound makes for a better results, right? People will pay that extra price to remove any doubt. I’m starting to see dollar signs and I’m all over it. I need a niche and I need to own it.
Trawling through boards and forums for patterns, I start to see strata of concerns bubbling away in the background of these groups. Nutrition, pesticides, GMO’s, electromagnetic radiation, fluoridation, vaccination, alternative cures, Big Pharma and government suppression. Maybe I can hop on one of these trains and exploit some fears for money?
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS): “a claimed sensitivity to electromagnetic fields, to which negative symptoms are attributed.” I don’t believe that it is a real ailment, but plenty of people do, and I’m going to help them.
I begin to ask around online to see if there are any specifics and to gain some knowledge about the scene. It’s a lot of things, but the area I seize on is the 50/60Hz EMF sensitivity and also the perceived flickering in LED lights. Taking my cues from anti-EMF sites like Life Energy Solutions, orgonite pyramid peddlers and others, I get to thinking…
Falling back on my software and electronics skills and building on my beat frequency meditation products, I might come up with a product like this:
CalmSense™ – “a technology that synchronises with our surrounding electromagnetic fields and cancels out their harmful effects using peaceful beat frequency waves.”
- Uses our radical EMphase™ Technology to rephase your audio to create beat frequencies which cancel out surrounding electromagnetic waves.
- Comes preloaded with 3 full courses from the Blue Monkey Premium Meditation Series.
- Uses rechargeable Li-Po battery technology to isolate from 50/60Hz EMF sources.
- Rephases external audio sources and integrates with home Hi-Fi equipment.
- USB version interfaces with CalmSense™ software on your PC or Mac!
I won’t go into it too deeply (I may do another article on the imagined tech), but it’s effectively noise-cancelling headphones for those pesky electromagnetic waves. I’ve no idea if it works, or does anything, but it does looks good. It’s a physical product that can’t easily be copied. It costs about €25 to build (although this could be significantly reduced with mass manufacture) and I can add a significant mark-up on the cost price – say $250 per unit, plus shipping.
I’ve stepped away from good sense or science at this stage, so let’s get the word out using our new-found mercenary tendencies.
To build up trust and credentials, I start to ask around about symptoms within some more specific EHS forums, mentioning that I am working on some new tech to alleviate these effects. I’m not interested in symptoms, I already have my product and I’m not changing it, but I do want to leave a paper trail and start some subliminal buzz. I also drop in references to my own sensitivities and non-academic (self-taught) background in electronics, physics and therapeutic audio. On Facebook I start making memes, videos and animations about EHS and CalmSense™, and begin to make a name for myself as a source of knowledge and curiosity.
Soon, I launch CalmSense™ properly and the orders start rolling in. I continue to aggressively promote, building up an army of supporters on social media who instantly re-share anything from me in the interests of public service. Soon I start to roll other unfounded claims into the product. People ask if it will cancel out Wi-Fi radiation – I say it does, and also 4G data signals, satellites and energy weapons. My website barely mentions a recording studio anymore, except in the back story – now it is a lab for EHS research and an expanding online store. The CalmSense™ brand is put on anything that remotely fits with my marketing – pendants, biofeedback goggles, vitamin gels, colloidal silver, EMF meters, etc. I jump on every bandwagon that helps shift units – mind control, MKULTRA, Area 51, off-grid living, preppers, chemtrails, cold fusion – you name it. I give talks at alternative health conferences to cheering crowds.
By 2019, I’m a millionaire and life coach, have written a number of books on EHS and how to be financially successful, and have changed my middle name to “Calm”. Blue Monkey Studio website is now a hub for conspiracy production and speculation. It’s never been busier. I regularly appear on alt-right channels to promote my products and discuss the conspiracy-du-jour.
A lot of people think I’m great, and so do I.
My latest product is a 5G-blocking NanoMesh™ filter film for windows and doors – $29.99 per sheet (4’x8’). Franchises are open for tender.
***End of fantasy.***
Although none of this happened, I wanted to use this tale to explore and illustrate a way that conspiracies and pseudoscience can be used to generate money off the back of a deeply flawed idea, and also how a person with enough desire for this money could slip gently into a less-than-ethical world.
In Part III I’m going to use this story to reflect on some real-world examples of Conspiracy Capitalism from the early days of the WWW to the present. We might even find some earlier examples and try to see what’s coming down the line.
Finally, as I’ve reread this article I’ve stumbled across some other articles which talk about some of the methods I might have used to obscure and distract from the fundamental uselessness and snake oil of the CalmSense™ device. I could go into it, but this article is already long enough, and enough of a rabbit-hole for me. So I’ve made you your own rabbit hole:
Targeted advertising on Facebook for pseudoscience interests.
Click Farms to boost comments and likes.
Review Farms to produce video reviews, Amazon reviews and push back against negative publicity.
Bots to automatically spread the word and boost my own Twitter channels.
Buying followers and influencers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
See you all in Part III, and if anyone does make CalmSense™, I want 15%…