SEO experts take on editorial roles

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A recent Businessweek blog posting suggests that “the world is shifting towards editors who can anticipate the preferences of machines-and reverse engineer their algorithms.” In other words, SEO experts are becoming much more important in the editorial process and traditional editors who don’t understand the world of ranking, link building and online marketing will soon find themselves standing in the unemployment line (if they aren’t there already). I agree with this idea to a certain degree. I believe there has to be a balance of algorithmic strategy with a generous mix of engaging content. Finding a hybrid SEO/editorial guru is difficult, if not impossible. Partly, I believe, is because you would have to find someone who can switch from right-brain to left-brain expertise with equal aplomb. The best results, in my opinion, is when you have an SEO expert and a good editor work together to form a strategy and execute content that targets both machines and humans. It’s a balancing act to be sure. But one that can help to build brands online in more efficient and lasting ways.

Predicting keyword trends. SEO art or science?

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I came across a great blog entry that offers links from various search engines and social networking sites that help you predict keyword trends. Google trends, Google Insights for Search , Twitter Search and Twist were among the many solutions available for the SEO expert who has his eye on future trends. While the solutions mentioned above offer graphs and charts that can help you identify trends, there is also a certain art to determining which keywords may trend higher in the near future. This process is part science, and art. I think of keyword trending in the same way I think about stock picking. There is lots of data out there for the savvy investor, but when it comes down to it, there is no perfect science that will predict which stock will rise up and which will fall. There is some art to picking a raising stock, just like there is some art to discovering future keyword trends.

The old Zen vs., the new Zen

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I just read an insightful article titled “Zen and the art of online selling” that appeared in a recent MediaPost blog. The article states that in order to be seen as a leader, you must first have an intimate knowledge of your target audience. This means engaging with them and collecting their thoughts, concerns, likes, dislikes, etc. While this may come as a revelation to smaller businesses in the online business world, the idea of doing a deep dive with your target audience is not new. Traditional advertising agencies have employed strategic planners and researchers who’ve been probing people like ethnographers for decades. A good strategist can uncover golden nuggets of useful information that can give a marketer an edge or point of differentiation that they weren’t previously aware of. Using this edge to put a business ahead of the pack can turn a perception of leadership into a reality. While the above-mentioned article has some solid practical steps to get you started, may I suggest you get professional help if you’re serious about getting to know your audience. A strategic expert can help you most effectively engage your audience, gather data and then make sense of it and give you real suggestions to improve your business. Nobody knows your business better than you. Just keep in mind that someone else may be more qualified to tell you about your consumer.

The revolution will be televised. And supported by really cool online ads.

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All the data in the world can’t tell you if an ad campaign is responsible for increased sales. The success or failure of any sales effort involves so many factors. It would be impossible to credit or blame an advertising campaign on the data collected. In the fast-paced world of Internet marketing, it is possible to get far more analytic data than we once had to track the results of any online campaign effort. And clients and agencies alike seem to be relying more and more on the numbers and less and less on whether or not it is a good ad. Just because we have more data doesn’t mean we know any more than we did ten years ago. I once heard a creative director at a very large advertising agency tell a very large client that advertising doesn’t make people go out and buy products. The client was dismayed and asked why he was advertising with the agency then. He replied, “The only thing you can hope for is that someone will like you a little more because you just made them laugh or cry.” That’s it! I tend to agree. Any client who thinks a piece of communication is going to get people to remove their rotund arse from a warm comfortable seat and head over to a store with cash in hand is fooling themselves. So why do we have a confluence of analytic tools and measuring methods that are all tethered to sales results? In a recent Adage article, Hernan Lopez, president of Fox Networks and chief operating officer of Fox International Channels said, “the most important factor behind successful TV campaigns was the quality of the creative” .  You go Hernan! He goes on to say that “the industry’s obsession with click-through rates, despite evidence of their small correlation with total sales, results in messages that are rarely entertaining or amusing and are overly reliant on verbal hard sell.” Mr. Lopez believes the answer relies on a creative revolution. As a former creative, I couldn’t agree more. But don’t expect me to move my arse any time soon.

How much E-mail marketing can you stuff in your mailbox?

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According to a recent Adage article, email marketing is expected to more than double in the next five years. How is that possible? I’m already getting enough email to choke a digital horse. Advertisers are projected to spend 2 billion dollars in e-mail marketing by 2014. The reason for the increase is that marketers have figured out that doing an email campaign is cheap, can be easily tracked and will report whether the campaign is working or not in an instant. It took them a while, didn’t it? Wouldn’t it be great if your mailbox could hold a finite amount of marketing mail? Just like in the real world, your mailbox is only so big. In some European countries I’ve even seen neighborhoods that had two mailboxes for each household”“one for mail, and one for marketing materials and newspapers. If someone were smart, they’d figure out how to deploy the same kind of two-mailbox system on the Interwebs and offer it to “target markets” so they could sort their mail without having to click delete a thousand times. Maybe I should do it. But who’s got the time? I’m too busy reading emails.

Branded content. It’s a jungle.

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In 2001, advertising agency BBDO launched a series of online mini-movies called “The Hire” . The films showcased the latest BMW cars and were viewed over 11 million times in four months. The Hire caused a flurry of interest in branded content and the production of branded entertainment. Fast-forward to 2009, where marketers are doing an about-face and clinging on to the traditional forms of advertising because they know exactly what they are getting with a TV buy. In hard times, tried-and-true measures trump taking a risk on the untamed world of the Internet. YouTube spawned numerous viral videos for big brands that were seen by millions. But, who was watching? And did it move the needle for sales? Being able to target and track audiences online is like herding wild water buffalo. According to a recent Adweek article, “an oversupply of content for what is now a trickle of advertising dollars, the recession, a lack of metrics and a fragmented market” means that branded content has taken a back seat for most marketers. But branded content isn”™t a new idea. Remember “Mutual of Omaha”™s Wild Kingdom” ? Mutual of Omaha was a good example of how a brand could create content that had nothing to do what they were known for; insurance. But it worked. And perhaps, if the stars align just right, it will work again.

I want my Wikipedia TV.

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A recent MIT Technology Review entry claims that Wikipedia will soon offer video clips. The importance of video on the web is ever increasing, and so is the attention put on companies to either offer video content or support it on their websites. Is it any wonder that Google threw down 1.6 billion dollars for YouTube? Having video content on Wikipedia seems like a natural progression. What got my attention was that Wikipedia also plans to, “offer ways for users to search the entire Web for importable videos, and plans to provide tools to edit, add to, and reorganize the clips within the Wikipedia website, just as is now done with text.” So now any regular Joe can become a Ken Burns while still in his/her underwear at home. Sounds like a really powerful tool. But, in my opinion, it points to the overall flaw of Wikipedia; the information is being provided by and maintained by regular Joes. I’d rather have the real Ken Burns.

When slow growth gives way to slow death.

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I’ve been privy to working with big brands that were making the transition from the brick and mortar world to e-commerce. In the B2B sector, clients were always very afraid of pissing off their sales channel, VARS (Value-Added Resellers) and third-party dealers who were pushing their products and services. The thinking was, if they upset those channels, their sales would take a hit and they might loose some valuable partnerships which means lower sales. But consider the speed at which change happens on the internet and you’ll soon realize a slow approach to supporting your online efforts could put your business in the slow lane, or worse, standing still in the emergency lane. When you consider a story about how Dell earned $3 million through their Twitter strategy in less than 24 months, (nobody had even heard of Twitter 24 months ago) you start to see just how fast results can happen. A recent Mediapost article states, “by easing towards online at a safe, incremental rate because you’re mitigating risk to your core business, you’re allowing your critical mass of customers to get in front of you. Whenever a mass of customers is underserviced, someone will fill that gap, and you can bet it will be a nimble, online pure play that’s moving at light speed compared to you.” I agree. Smart businesses are realizing the power and speed of implementing targeted strategies and aren’t afraid to allocate resources to solidify their leadership position online. More companies are brandcasting and migrating their budgets toward SEO and SEM campaigns. But most are not. If you haven’t seen a threat from a competitor who is putting more effort online, then either you’re just lucky, or you’re moving too slow to seem them whiz by.