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Why I’m Not A SEO

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Why I’m Not A SEO!

Yes I spent a week in Mill Valley, California with Bruce Clay (back in the day). Yes as an Ecommerc Director my site had a handful of “top listings” back when there was such a thing. Yes our website made millions on organic search in my 7 year tenure as Director of Ecommerce. Yes my SEO for Web Designers Haiku Deck has more than 13,000 views. But I am NOT a SEO.

Darwin SEO Web Designers image & link

SEO stands for Search Engine OPtimization. When I climbed up on a soap-box in 2003 and tried to proclaim the need for content marketing as well as commerce no one cared. I cared because of the numbers. Email marketing was our most profitable channel coming in at a massive 35% profit net, net (after all expenses and believe my my DM bosses could lay on the costs).

#2 on the profit side of the “multi-channel marketing” equation was organic search. I played my Profit & Loss (P&L) statement a tad fast and loose on organic search. Fully loaded with ALL of the expenses we incurred we may have trimmed it from 25% profitable to 20%. Not a battle I wanted to fight.

I sensed that the future was about CONTENT. Then Google’s Panda confirmed that thought. AND everyone is creating content marketing.

Community: A Different Soap-Box

Now I’m hoisting myself and our team on a different pitard – community. If content marketing is a red ocean what’s next? Since Google et al. have confirmed their use of social signals as confirmation markers community or your ability to win hearts, minds and loyalty is what’s next. Let me go further. CREATE LESS CONTENT.

Crazy right. You finally get caught up to the herd and I’m telling you to skip right by and do something else you don’t believe in…yet. Content marketing is dead man walking. We marketers are in the process of doing what we do – piling on to whatever works a little so it doesn’t work at all.


Create less content DOES NOT MEAN you NEED LESS CONTENT. You need MORE content, but you need content people LOVE, CHERISH and SHARE! After publishing more than 2M words online in 5 blogs, 7 social nets and sandwich boards on the sidewalks guess what kind of content gets the most LOVE and adoration? THEIR CONTENT! Their content is customer content or “User Generated Content” (UGC).

Yes is the answer to a question a friend asked me. Yes that last paragraph changes what you do. The friend’s title was Web Manager and he asked if it should be Web Curator. Yes was my simple answer. I even provided a general rule of thumb – Curate 90% of the content on your sites and social nets, create 10%. Most sites, and he was not an exception, have this formula backwards. They TALK more than they listen. Curation = “digital listening”.

How much money do you think you can make playing yesterday’s game? Better to scrunch up some courage and be slightly ahead of the next BIG THING. And here is the even better part of that advice – NO ONE and I mean less than 5% of all Internet marketers – has the courage required to take the advice we outline. NO ONE.

Tactics are Over

What advantage can you rack up against me and teams I’m managing with tactics? I built my first B2C & B2B website in 1999, one of the first of those dual customer and wholesale sites now common. Teams I’ve managed have made over $30M online using TACTICS such as:

  • Email Marketing.
  • Organic SEO.
  • Content Marketing.
  • Cause Marketing.
  • Contests & Games.
  • Mobile marketing.
  • Social Marketing.

I’m not saying we are such studs you can’t beat us. I am saying we’ve been at this, online ecommerce, long enough you won’t beat us for long. You won’t find a blue ocean where years worth of amazing Return On Your Investments (ROI) lives in tactics. Whatever piece you move I (or someone) can move in opposition. The game is Zero-sum, someone wins by making others lose, and the net net result is we fight over the wrong things, at the wrong times in the wrong ways.

Tactics are over.

Ringling Brothers poster image

Community Isn’t A Tactic

Not completely true. Creating online community isn’t a tactic long term. You may need to package your online community in tactical pieces to get it past your C level gatekeepers, but, long term, community has many online marketing advantages including (but in no way limited to):

  • Uniquely YOURS and hard to wrestle from you.
  • Don’t have to pay gatekeepers to scale (Google).
  • Drives costs of content marketing and other marketing communications DOWN.
  • Drives your “customer IQ” way UP.

The reason community drives marketing communication costs down is you learn to edit, modify and evolve your language, product positioning and branding based on feedback loops with customers. You reduce the distance between YOU (as a marketing team) and THEM (those your content / products serve).

Costs lower because your strike rate goes up, you are more aligned with major traffic sources (Google) and you are speaking in keywords that are rich in relevance (for your content, strategy…and Google).

Community has a handful of important elements (okay tactics) you can use to Lego your marketing into an inexpensive positive virtual engine where you get more and more faster and faster while putting in less and less. Our favorite online community building tactics include:

  • Ambassador or Buzz Teams (ask for help).
  • Some low-level gamification such as Linkedin or Audible.
  • Some “Ambassador” landing page with monthly, weekly and/or yearly features of great contributors.
  • Badges mapped to specific things you need like reviews, social shares, blog posts, regular visits, long time on site.
  • Galleries where you show yours a little so, eventually, your tribe shows theirs a lot (see Haiku Deck).
  • Ability for your Ambassadors to talk to, follow and interact with each other.
  • Some non-spammable Digg-like voting engine built into an algorithm.
  • Profiles.
  • Digital Listening Skills (follow back, Retweet).
  • Defined “levels” for contributors.
  • LOTS of social rewards (much more important than money, read Drive by Pink to know why).

The list could go on, but you get the idea. Community is tactics you can use to signal the importance of collaboration, feedback and interaction to and with your tribe. Those signals act as S-R encouragements where the stimulus of sharing is reinforced by your tactics making it more likely sharing will occur more and better tomorrow.

Cirque du Soleil image

SEO Isn’t What You Think

SEO isn’t what you think and many pitch. Not anymore. Not post Google’s Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird etc. algorithm updates and the frank admission of the use of signals even if those signals aren’t Google-based. SEO is becoming the search for blue oceans – uncontested space you create to develop competitive advantage instead of running with a slowly starving herd.

Think what Cirque du Soleil did to “circus”. They redefined core “circus” values and in so doing quadrupled their value:

  • Circus Comes To You.
  • YOU go to Cirque du Soleil in places like vegas.
  • Circus has animals.
  • Cirque du Soleil mines the cultural zeitgeist and NO ANIMALS (costly and not PC).
  • Circus costs $20 to $50.
  • Cique cots $100 – $500

You know you’ve won when, as Ringling Brothers recently did, your competitors begin to copy your blue ocean innovations. No “SEO” gets there alone anymore. Cirque du Soleil’s blue oceans is all but impossible to create by firing tools and playing for an inch of tactical advantage here and a foot there. Tactics are gone, over and so I’m NOT a SEO and neither are you.

Find the other half of this post, the apparently more controversial half on LinkedIn.

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