heart engine optimisation

SEO it with Love. Heart Engine Optimisation.

This week, millions of us around the globe will be giving or receiving gifts and romantic gestures for Valentines Day to the ones we love. When we love each other we go the extra mile for those we care about, share our belongings, have an open forum for communication and stay loyal and faithful.

I believe success in Digital Marketing benefits from the same principles. Love for what you do, love for what you offer, for the people you are providing products, services or content to. In this article I wish to focus on how the principles of love can be applied to ensuring that you, your business, your product or your organisation’s content is up there on the “most desirable” list, i.e. the first page of Google. You could look at it like an online dating site. Finding the right (long term) match it what it’s all about.

SEO as a Science

Often SEO is referred to as a science and there can be no doubt to some extent that is so true. Mike Baxter of e-consultancy certainly believes in SEO as a science and in many ways, rightly so. There are important aspects to SEO that are driven by coding and  technical principles.

christopher-lloyd-doc

SEO is a Science

Much like with scientific discoveries there are probable outcomes based on actions and then tried and repeated experiments to achieve success. SEO experiments are no different. These actions take into account specific keyword references, the quality of a website’s mark up (HTML / CSS), highly targeted link building activities, highly relevant internal anchor links, finely tuned meta descriptions and fresh content added with military precision for targeted keywords published to an exact frequency for key pages

There is no doubt that by investing in the best practice technical, analytics driven and scientific principles of SEO, success can be achieved. Some customers may find your product or service, may indeed buy, may become a customer for life and may tell others. Job done. If this though, is where your activities start and end and you lose sight of why you are investing time delivering an online service or product and the needs of your customer you will inevitably fail in the long term. If a scientific principle was applied and relied upon in life to match individuals romantically I believe it would be largely unsuccessful. Falling in love is emotive, subtle and about how you feel, not based on set experiments or probability.

Love your Job. Love your Customer.

Content Marketing is the hot topic of 2013 and a discussion on it is for another post but I find it strange that it is being portrayed as so new or forward thinking or innovative. Surely it’s just about doing what those delivering a brand or product experience online should  always be doing or have done. Delivering fresh, engaging, contextual, relevant and timely content about your products, services and your industry. My point for referencing, is that it is clear to me that for SEO, a content strategy driven by love and passion is where long term success is conceived. Love and passion for your content, products and services and for your customers; their needs, their expectations and their loyalty, should be the heartbeat of your SEO.

cast of cheers

Love your job

If you look at some of the world’s biggest brands such as Apple, Starbucks, Amazon, Virgin and Nike they do have huge resource to invest time and money in content and online service of of value, and their rankings on search for what they offer are high, but you can tell they have a love and passion for their own products, their own values, their customers and the desire to do and be better. Of course they are in business to make money but their sustained growth and brand loyalty is driven by love and passion, listening to their customers and delivering products to make them happy. The late Steve Jobs is the embodiment of success through an approach driven by love and passion of what he wanted to achieve, what he wanted to offer and how he wanted us to love his Apple’s products. Citing one of dozens of inspirational quotes Jobs’ infectious passion is put eloquently in a quote from a speech at the Stanford University’s Commencement address on June 12, 2005: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

Science, analytics and best practice should not be ignored. Invest time to get your digital channels set up using best practice for SEO and use analytics to gain insights into which key phrases are delivering and which are not, but don’t let this get in the way of what should come naturally. If you are in, or are thinking of starting an online venture I want you to ask yourself these questions; Do I love what I do? Do I love what I offer online to my customers? Do I have a passion for excellent customer service? Do I care about what others think of me or my products? Do I want to make it easy for customers to access, engage, and share what I have to offer? Do I have an opinion in my sector worth sharing or can I provide value to my peers to improve standards in what we do collectively?

Tying the SEO Knot

If the answers are all or mostly yes and you have the motivation to succeed, then rewarding natural and effective SEO will happen, metaphorically tying the knot to a marriage between you, your products and your customers. It will happen because out of all of these factors comes a motivation to say and do the right things online, deliver fresh and relevant content about what you offer in the language you and your customers speak and you will listen to your customers and update your online content accordingly. If you love your product and your customers, you will produce content that is highly accessible, engaging and in the right format for their device, you will use social channels to aid customer service and differentiate your product and tailor it to the right audiences. If you love the industry you operate in you will engage in online communities to learn, advise and share and improve how you do things online and offline.

It will be no accident that by investing time in these activities, driven by love of what you do and your customers, you will succeed in SEO. You’ll also succeed in terms of sales, brand awareness, loyalty and advocacy as a result. Of course it’s an investment. An investment in your time and no doubt some others who need to share your passion and love for what you are trying to do. But if you know you can be successful and want to invest in relationships with your customers, this investment will come naturally from a passion within. It will not be a chore, it will not be driven by a scientific schedule of activities  it will not be highly analytical in it’s approach. It will be natural, rewarding, enriching and just feel right; just like a happy marriage, or falling in love.

Happy Valentines. x

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social media olympics

Why I’m Tired of the “Social Media Olympics”

So, right now the world is caught up in Olympics fever and most of us will, or will have at various times settled down onto our sofa’s and assumed our roles as cut-throat judges and highly qualified experts in a variety of athletic specialties, including me. Nothing has changed over the years. Before and after the Olympics were televised or on radio, those lucky enough to see or hear the action live or recorded thought and said exactly the same things, though largely to the people they were with at the time.

But what’s the most extraordinary difference between this year’s Olympic Games and those from years past? Well, we no longer have to limit sharing our brilliant scoring or athletic critiques to those stuck with us in our living rooms. THIS year we are using a plethora of social platforms so we can connect with other fans and share our opinions about who deserves what. In fact, this year we can even follow our favourite athletes as they post in real time, too. Awesome.

It’s not Awesome…

Personally, as a fan of social media and also of the anywhere, anytime content strategy that inparticular the BBC has magnificently executed – I feel that misuse, overuse, or perhaps a better term “erratic” use of social media by athletes and observers is more of hindrance to my enjoyment of games than a help. Here’s why.

Gaudy Caps

I’m not a fan of the overshares by the athletes on Twitter and I have now un – followed the majority that I only recently followed less than a week ago. The height of Michael Phelps’ commentary for example during my ‘3 day’ twitter following period, was that the Olympic Swim caps are ‘gaudy’. My perception of Phelps has now changed. He to me before ‘attempting’ to engage with him on Twitter was the image of a top athlete, record breaker, an inspiration to millions, the greatest Olympian ever. He is still all these things of course, but to me and a I imagine a good few others, he is now also a bit boring. It’s a shame because he probably isn’t, but his Twitter content doesn’t do him justice.

There’s boring and then there is just inappropriate. Athletes are doing themselves no favours it seems and for me it takes away the status and super – human mystery behind top athletes when not only are they so open, but they damage their own and sometimes other’s reputation.

For you too reading this, no matter who you are in business, what you are selling, sharing or commentating on via social media, just be aware that the world and more importantly your customers are watching, you must stay true to your brand and the image you wish to maintain.

From the ill toned/derogatory tweets to Tom Daly, to the inappropriateness of US Olympics Hurdler Lolo Jones tweeting about America’s prowess in gun shooting in the wake of the Colorado massacre. These superstars need to realise that they are brands and as brands, they must protect themselves and maintain their positioning as global icons and role models.

Brand You

For you too reading this, no matter who you are in business, what you are selling, sharing or commentating on via social media, just be aware that the world and more importantly your customers are watching, you must stay true to your brand and the image you wish to maintain.

In Conclusion

To the formerly iconic, mysterious and idolised athletes who via Twitter are now showing themselves as boring, inappropriate or over-exposed, please stop tweeting, and focus on simply competing. I liked you before Twitter; when you were iconic, mysterious, superhuman and no – one, including you could convince me otherwise. You were untouchable.

To the sofa “experts” who only ever commentate and share their unqualified opinions on sport via the web for 3 weeks every four years, stop tweeting about sport. I liked it before when you tweeted about how cute your dog is, or how tasty your lunch was.

I may have made a false start but right now, I’m making a point of trying to not take part in the Social Media Olympics. I might not win any medals for my real time knowledge of who’s won what during the working day, or what Usain Bolt ordered in McDonalds before his 100m heat, but I don’t care. I’m setting time aside each evening to start really watching and enjoying the greatest spectacle on earth.

ad age digital 2012

My Experience at “Ad Age Digital” 2012

A few weeks ago I jumped on a plane across the Atlantic to New York to go to one of the highlights of the 2012 Digital Marketing Event Calendar; Ad Age Digital 2012. This 3 day event was where marketing, technology and media combined; where the biggest brands meet the most innovative start-ups and the new technologies that are transforming business.

In terms of key things to take away from the event, yes there were business cards, mints, pens, goodie packs and insight into some fast moving Digital Technology on the way. Above all of these things though, the one thing that really resonated with me as a marketer and creative thinker was that technology and innovation mean nothing alone. Of course they open up new possibilities and ways to distribute and engage with content, BUT without a strong brand, a story, and an audience that will connect with these things and share it, technology is simply an engine without fuel.

The Online Advertising Game is Changing

Digital advertising is a beast of an industry across desktop, mobile and apps. It has for a decade or more and still is being been sold, viewed and clicked on a massive scale in largely a (from the advertisers perspective) “You are on a digital platform that my ads are on, and you fit a demographic that says you might click, so I’m okay with that…” model.

One of the key aspects of the conference talked about by many speakers such as David Karp, CEO of Tumblr and Tim Ellis, CMO of Activision, was that to consumers of digital, which is basically everyone, content is what matters to us most. They talked about how there was much more activity and engagement on content driven ads for instance off the back of articles, after exposure to the brand in context to a video clip or social mention. In short it told us that users have a “Tell me something that interests and connects me to you, and then ask me to engage further, and I just might…” approach.

It’s no longer enough to have a social presence and not have content that emotionally connects with your audiences.

It really remains to be seen how long traditional online advertising will be around for. The signs aren’t good. People engage with brands and their stories and this is the traffic builder and driver behind connection to their audiences. That’s how the Nike, Old Spice and Starbuck’s of this world do it. They invest in brand and content; content that connects with their audiences and that encourages their customer’s to become brand advocates online and offline.

Emotional Media: A New Name for Social Media

So we all know that social media, along with mobile is a leading growth area in digital marketing right now. If you aren’t visible on social networks, you’re going a long way to becoming invisible, full stop. This event reinforced that fact. One of the resonating things that I was left with from the event was that social and digital engagement is increasingly emotional. It makes sense if you think about it but you have to keep reminding yourself about it when looking at digital strategies.

It’s no longer enough to have a social presence and not have content that emotionally connects with your audiences. There’s too much choice; if you don’t give audiences what they need to satisfy them emotionally, you can forget it. The internet used to be a task based platform, a place to get stuff done and find things out. Not any more…

Jonah Peretti founder and CEO of social-focused news site Buzzfeed put it brilliantly in his keynote at the event:

“Marketers and media companies need to tap into their emotional sides to understand what works. But first, they need to get beyond their bad habits formed by the portal-and-search era… We started thinking it’s a game or an algorithm when really it’s about humans and what we want to share and making things that are worth sharing,” he said.

If I saw this on my Facebook wall would I click it, would I have an emotion, would I laugh and then would I want to share it with other people. And when I share it with other people would it make me look like I’m a good person or look smart or would it make me look a jerk?

“Understanding the social web doesn’t mean [just] being smart. Too often we’ll sit in a conference room and brainstorm the smartest strategy and try to find the smartest person to figure out how to get stuff to work on Facebook and Twitter.”

“Instead it’s about “looking at a piece of content and saying, ‘If I saw this on my Facebook wall would I click it, would I have an emotion, would I laugh and then would I want to share it with other people. And when I share it with other people would it make me look like I’m a good person or look smart or would it make me look a jerk?” That is so true; every interaction in the social web is emotional on so many direct and indirect levels. That makes a social marketer’s job a very difficult one indeed.

So Finally…

Ultimately it was a great event and certainly I am aware now more than ever, that digital media and strategies will not fully realise their potential without a strong brand focus, a brand story to tell, time spent investing in content and making emotional connections that people will engage with, advocate and share.