Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

One of the sessions at SES Toronto 2011, Next Gen YouTube Marketing, will address questions like: “Do you really have to blend an iPhone or sit on a horse backwards pitching shower gel to have a successful video marketing campaign?” Well, June 14 is still a long ways off, but I’ve started to gather new examples of contagious viral videos that are being shared on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs….

On Thursday, I asked, “Are the Brains of Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization Sartorially Challenged?” And I put together a list of the Top 10 SEMs who were working hard to change the industry’s collective image — “sometimes in unpredictable ways.”…

If anyone tells you that one vote doesn’t matter, go to Yahoo! News or Google News this morning and search for “too close to call.”…

At a recent SEO conference there was a question asked about getting a geo-local page to rank better for their own specific brand + the location (where they were competing against resellers & aggregators in that vertical). I was a bit tired at the end of the day, so I am not sure if I got my point across well enough there…so I figured it would make sense to follow up here. :)

When the above question was sussed out more fully it turns out that the core issue was not that of rank, but rather one of demand. Even with them + all the aggregators that particular branch was simply not profitable, especially when compared against other branches in neighboring towns.

The core issue here is this: SEO fulfills demand, but SEO doesn’t create demand.*

* There are some exceptions to that, like in complex long B2B purchase cycles & people selling abstract products & services like art, but generally its true for most businesses.

Where SEO is Exceptionally Valuable

If you are selling a commodity product that is similar to other commodity products (or you are 1 of 1,000 similar reviews on the web – like an affiliate) then ranking a bit better for the brand you are targeting will lead to more conversions for you the affiliate.

But all of that opportunity is built on the back of arbitraging existing brand equity & consumer demand, it doesn’t really create new demand in and of itself. Sure some sorts of reviews can make certain products seem more compelling than others, but the sort of demand creation needed by the above organization has to come from broader generic search queries and/or arbitraging competing brands.

How to Create Demand

If someone ranked just below us in the search results for “seo book tools” with reviews of our exclusive domain finder tool, our competitive research tool, and a few other tools we offer then they might make a limited number of incremental sales for us, but if we wanted to create significant incremental sales we have 3 options

  • build our brand
  • cross market
  • try to gain exposure on broader related generic keywords

Brand Building

There are many ways to build brand, from public relations to offering additional products and features to interacting at more events to writing more frequently on our blog to advertising, etc. etc. etc. The good thing about building brand exposure is that branded keywords tend to be the keywords with the highest conversion rates…so when you build your brand you create a surge in traffic and a surge in conversion rates.

When I lived in State College, Pennsylvania the guy who owned mentioned that at one point he put a huge blimp up in the parking lot of the football stadium advertising his domain name. He was fined for doing it, but it was just a cost of doing marketing…a cheap source of exposure.

As a regional office you might not be able to do that much with brand though: you may lack the budget for branded advertising & there might be some types of restrictions on the types of things you can do to gain awareness.

Cross Marketing

This is an area where the people asking the question at the conference could have done well. They could have done more aggressive cross marketing within their organization and with other organizations.

Part of what created demand for this whole region / area was a huge theme park of sorts. So in theory they could have also ran special promotions with that theme park offering discounts to frequent visitors. Perhaps they could have found out who went to that theme park and sent them mailers with seasonal discount offers.

If neighboring branches were frequently sold out and this branch was not then what they could have done is find out who amongst there customers are frequent customers and who amongst those people are budget conscious…promote the concept of saving a lot by being a bit further away amongst those who value money more than time.

Further segmentation could be done separating out business functions from tourists. Offer businesses that are holding meetings a discount on meeting room rentals at the cheaper spot that is further away & try to load most of the tourists into the venue with higher demand. Beyond that, demographic targeting can be a strong option. Some areas hold yearly festivals for certain alternative lifestyles.

In the online sense of cross-marketing, both SEOmoz and Raven have been aggressive at running conference discounts and/or offering free conference passes when you set up at one of their higher tiered account levels.

Coupons and loyalty programs can also help on this front. One could also petition the local chamber of commerce to create some sort of seasonal celebration or promotional hook for the town, which would help almost all the local businesses. Is your town the home of the cranberry? There has to be some type of hook or angle.

The world is full of unique places & there is something interesting in your back yard if you look close enough.

Exposure on Broader Related Keywords

The above company which thought they needed to rank better for “their brand name” + “their location” could have driven some additional incremental volume by ranking better for the related query stream, like:

  • “their product category” + “their location” (putting themselves in front of more of the generic related traffic stream … they can also run direct ads on other sites that rank well and have relevant traffic streams)
  • creating a page focused on “their product category” + “near popular local attraction” (coming up with alternate ways people search with the same intent … there are boatloads of options on this front for those who create content focused on solving specific business problems)
  • running ads on competing local brands stating things like “free ___ feature” or “up to _% cheaper than brand x” (arbitraging competing brands … this can be effective, but can easily be misplayed & lead to blood + tears)

Marketers often rely on a facade. If marketing and advertising were truly transparent few marketers would ever be seen as heroes ;)

When information didn’t spread as widely it was easy for one public relations hero to scam one country into bombing and destroying another for the benefit of their client.

Distortions and misinformation can work in the short run, but with the web people are connected all the time and the memory is deep.

What is risky about the gap in the narratives is that it gets harder to cover over as time passes. And if you are aggressive + swim with sharks eventually one of them will get mad at you…so your inside voice goes public.

This sort of parallel is almost everywhere in business. Google’s Eric Schmidt highlighted how amazed he was at how lobbyists write legislation. In the same way, Google writes their guidelines for webmasters to follow. Follow them or accept great risks.

How do you know a person is a big link buyer? If they tell you not to buy links and that they don’t buy links then they are probably lying. It is a lie you are *expected* to spread to minimize the risks of Google coming down and crushing you.

Some of the most profitable businesses rely on having multiple business models and multiple brands that monetize markets in different ways. To the person who is afraid of risk you sell the fear – don’t buy links. To the person who wants the juice you sell the juice. Then you use the data from their link purchases to figure out what keywords you should be targeting and what domain names you should be buying.

When DIY SEO launched one of their “advanced” tips was to ensure you were not buying or selling any links. And that is from a person who sold a text link network for north of $30 million & is rumored to be associated with yet another text link network. If a person tells you that the links they are selling you are giving them the information needed to figure out what domains to buy then they lose the data source.

But if the person comes out and tells you that you should buy links then that puts all their other publishing enterprises at risk. For me to even write about this weird dichotomy would make some people think “well that person is black hat” when in reality simply observing and stating truth is as white hat as you can possibly be. So as an SEO you either have to lie, or absorb additional business risks for being stupid or naive enough to be honest in a market dictated by a monopoly which preaches the value of openness.

The weird thing about that appreciation for openness is that (beyond a marketing & public relations angle) it never applies to anything core to their own market position, but rather to competing business models. With their own business they don’t have the time of day for their paying customers.

It is hard to beat someone by following their lead. As a new business with limited leverage & capital you must create your own value systems if you want to find opportunity & create a lasting business. This is especially true because many value systems are arbitrary.

Early Google research highlighted how they hated ad based business models and how they felt that having a pure search service was crucial. After they gained market leverage they also gained amnesia. Now on some searches half of web users see nothing but paid ads above the fold. :D

Certain markets & certain business models rely on using a key piece of misinformation to dupe consumers (even Google highlights how searchers do not realize AdWords ads are paid placements). If you are new to market and you have nothing to lose then one of the easiest ways to cause a stir and get noticed is to highlight those types of issues and/or cannibalize those business models.

There is a bit of a water cycle to businesses and business models. Notice how Blekko is pushing hard on openness and sharing data? Great market entry strategy.

Once you are more established the risk/reward ratio is significantly different. Which is precisely why you rarely read a blog post like this one. By the time a site is as wide read as this one is there should either be a bit of common sense or an investor who has me on a short leash. :)

I should be telling you to not buy links and stay away from the types of folks who have ever even considered thinking about it. :D

The point of this post isn’t really about link buying, but rather that you need to consider risk and reward with anything, and do so using your own value systems if you want to compete. Most media has some fibs in it, as concision requires reductionism & it is rarely profitable to give away the farm.

We promote how fair society is and how important meritocracy is. But the conclusion I have come to is that the concepts are largely a farce. Your job as an entrepreneur is to succeed *in spite of* the lack of meritocracy, the extreme corruption, and the debt slavery that are core to modern living. And the first few years are the hardest part!

And I am convinced that this sort of dichotomy isn’t unique to the field of SEO, but is rather well ingrained in every large highly-profitable market. It is core to capitalism. After all, there is the a reason the banking class can get away with repeatedly systemic violation of the rule of law and you can’t: lobbyists write the laws.

He’s done it again. Lee Odden, the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, has just launched a new Facebook Group called “Marketers with Beards.” And even people without facial hair are begging to become members….

The latest video from Matt Cutts talks about the value of SEO to Google.

The questioner asks:

“Why does Google support SEO specialists with advice? Google’s business is to sell text ads…”?

Matt explains that Google sees SEO helping, rather than hindering, their business model long term.


SEOs create – and encourage site-owners to create – the very sites that Google’s technology demands i.e. context accessible by an automated crawler, largely text based, and clearly marked up.

By having sites that jive well with Google’s technology, this lowers Google’s costs, and helps make Google results more relevant in the eyes of the end user. The larger their index, the more chances Google has to answer the query. SEOs love creating crawlable content!

This means the end user keeps coming back, which in turn translates to Google’s bottom line.

It’s also a good idea to give webmasters something, else Google risks an more adversarial relationship, which again can cause Google problems.

So SEO is good for Google’s business – the “good” type of SEO, as defined by Google, of course.


Matt, as always, is giving the side of the story Google wants you to hear.

His position sounds reasonable, generous, and inclusive, and it is – in many respects. But make no mistake – Google aren’t there for webmasters. Google will do what is good for Google. If SEO was bad for Google, Google would not be reaching out to the SEO community, in much the same way they don’t reach out to, say, the malware writer community. They just stamp it out.

Matt is a master of public relations. Webmasters can learn a lot from Matt in terms of how to handle their own public relations challenges.

Here are a few pointers, based on Matt Cutts approach:

Public Relations Is Relations With The Public

Matt doesn’t talk from on high. He doesn’t talk at his audience. He talks with them. He attends events where his audience congregate, and he encourages interaction and questions. This activity serves to build a personal relationship, which helps make his messages easier to convey and sell.

Look for ways in which you can go *to* your audience/customers. Where do they hang out? Address them on their own terms, and in their own environment. Regularly encourage questions, criticism and feedback. When it comes time to announce new products and services, your audience is likely to be more receptive than if your communications are anonymous and sporadic.

Ok, this might be all very well for Matt Cutts. Everyone pays attention to Google, because Google are important. However, no matter how big or small your audience, you still must find a way to relate to them.

These days, it’s not so much what people say, it’s often who is saying it. Modern media is driven by personalities. The content of the message is seldom good enough to stick, unless it is truly remarkable.

People listen to Matt in ways they don’t listen to an anonymous Google press release because of the personal relationship he has worked hard to establish. This works just as well for small businesses. In fact, this is one of the big advantages of a small business – the personal touch. Google is a big company, but they work hard to appear like a small one, at least in terms of their personal relations approach with webmasters.

Matt also gets out in front of issues. If there’s something going on in the web community relating to his area, he’s almost certainly quick to comment on it. By doing so, he can control and frame the conversation in terms that suit Google. If there are industry issues that relate to your work or company, use them as an opportunity to grab the spotlight. Try to become the media go-to person in your local community for issues by building relationships with media and news outlets.

PR consultants aren’t quite as necessary as they used to be. They aren’t redundant, but the most important lesson to learn from Matt Cutts is that PR is something you need to embody. It’s not just a function that you slap on, or hire in, when it suits, and still be as effective. Make PR flow through all you do.

Matt’s greatest skill is not making it look like PR at all.

I recently came across an interesting stream of search traffic.

The demographic using this search stream was one I had no direct experience of previously. I was amazed at the high level of site interaction this group engaged in. It was related to the wedding of two people I’d never previously heard of – Ti & Tiny. From the names of the people who responded, I determined the traffic was mostly African-American. Pretty obvious given the topic, right.

What was interesting was this group engaged and responded at a much higher level than other groups I was targeting on similar campaigns. It was a reminder of the different ways some demographics choose to participate online, especially when the marketing pitch reflects them.

Target Marketing

Target marketing, otherwise known as market segmentation, is marketing focusing on specific groups of people.

Marketers use demographic profiles to break down groups into a series of traits, such as gender, race, age, income, disabilities, mobility, educational attainment, home ownership, employment status, and location. This helps marketers determine the correct pitch, language and approach to use when trying to appeal to a given audience.

When we use search keyword lists, it’s often easy to lump people who use the same keywords together. However, if we add demographic information into the mix, our marketing can become more focused, which can translate to higher conversions, and higher returns.

For example, according to a recent demographic study, the African-American market makes up 13 percent of the U.S. population and spends more than $600 billion every year. African-American buying power is expected to reach $1 trillion this year. 26 percent of African-American households had incomes of $50,000 per year. 64 percent of African Americans—versus 51 percent of Caucasians—spend more on products they perceive as being “the best”. That last piece of information is very useful if you were designing a page to appeal directly to this market.

How about the gay market. This market tends to be affluent. The average annual income for a gay household is $61,000, 20.4 percent higher than in a heterosexual household. This group tends to have a high level of education. Some 83 percent of gays and lesbians have either attended or graduated from college. This market is also brand-loyal. Approximately 89 percent of gays and lesbians are brand-affiliated and are highly likely to seek out brands that advertise to them – i.e. advertising that depicts gay lifestyles and models, for example.

How about women. Women make up 51 percent of the US population and influence at least 80 percent of all spending on consumer goods in the United States. By 2010, women are expected to control $1 trillion, or approximately 60 percent of the nation’s wealth. Retail stores are designed around women, and it would be interesting to note how women and men may respond differently to the online retail equivalent.

General marketing one-size-fits-all messages may miss such groups. How much advertising language is geared towards white, middle class family groups, for example? That’s fine if a white, middle class family group is the target market, but it pays to be aware of groups we may be missing.


Relevance is more than matching a search keyword to page topic.

“Know they customer” and reflect your audience in your site design, language and pitch. Do your pages reflect your world view, or the world view of your customers? Is there a difference? Can you use keyword terms to identify and segment specific demographic groups? Are there keywords that women are more likely to use than men? Keywords that Hispanics are more likely to use than African Americans? Think about the ways different groups in our society use language.

Your website should hold up a mirror to your target audience, using their language, depicting their lifestyles, and speaking directly to their wants and needs.


In my Ti & Tiny example, the demographic was pretty obvious. It was easy to picture the fanbase, and adjust the language, and pitch, accordingly.

For more in-depth demographic information, you could look at census data, available at the US census beureau, or your regional equivalent. Check out the Country and City databook.

Using keyword research tools, look for broad keyword associations to get a feel for language use and associated areas to target.

The Inside Facebook Blog often provides interesting snippets of demographic data about Facebook usage and trends, which will likely be reflected in the wider online community.

Professional data mining companies, such as Nielsen, are great sources, if you have the budget. And if you want to dig even deeper, check out the VALS survey.


Effective marketers leverage marketing channels.

Scammers & spammers ruin them for everyone else.

There is a long line of this on the web…

  • Email was personal, then it was easy to automate & done in bulk.
  • Guest books and blog comments were a way to add value, then they were sources of free links.
  • Links were a signal of relevancy, then they were bought and sold in bulk.

As people get burned the web as a whole gets more cynical. The scammers steal from the plates of honest folks as the web adjusts to a new level of cynicism…each round more cynical than the last. This is why you have to prove to people that they are going to get a 20x return when they buy from you, because a half-dozen scammers already ripped them off, and by the time they find you they simply have no trust in internet marketers (and perhaps none for humanity).

This is why people view SEO as a scam like anything else in marketing…most people who jump online get hosed.

Sometimes cost protects a channel. For instance, since people have to pay to be a member of our forums we don’t really have to deal with spam in there. But as far as media formats go, things that start off as expensive can often be made cheaper through systemization & outsourcing … so any given format that was once too expensive to do poorly eventually becomes accessible to do in bulk with marginal quality (blogs can be autogenerated, so can books, video is getting cheaper, and infographics can be done cheaply if you are not concerned with quality).

The thing about infographic promotions is that they are easy to like…part of what makes the media so appealing is the great lengths they go to in order to find new, innovative, and interesting ways to format content. Years of learning go into creating a graphic like this – which can be consumed in 5 minutes. But any interesting format gets used then abused.

Are most infographics created by independent webmasters designed for promotional purposes? Absolutely. They cost thousands of dollars to create (in terms of research, editing, formating & promotion) especially if you do good ones.

The big issue with any format is not the format itself, but pollution in the marketplace. Pollution leads to cynicism, which destroys the market for EVERYBODY who is not the bulk spammer churning out trash.

Not too long ago there was an IamA thread on Reddit highlighting how infographic promotions work & making them seem seedy. That led to an infographic being created about how off-topic infographics are being used to promote sites of marginal quality.

What did the guilty parties do in response? They not only didn’t stop or change strategy, but they increased their volume and started offering to pay people to syndicate their infographics.

I know you’re really busy, so I will try to make this quick and painless. My name is Sarah and I work with a company that creates and distributes infographics. I was wondering if you’d like to be part of our infographic distribution list. We are willing to pay you for every infographic you post.

Here are a couple examples of the work we do:

We would love to provide you with content while paying you for it. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. I hope to hear from you soon!


What does Super Mario Bros. have to do with Home Owners Insurance? It’s an easy way to buy links. But likely one that won’t last long given that these people are killing the medium with irrelevant trash.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been on vacation in Ireland. My wife wouldn’t let me bring my laptop or cell phone, but that didn’t mean my interest in marketing was left behind in Boston. That’s why I know today is “Arthur’s Day,” which celebrates the birth of Arthur Guinness and asks us all to raise a glass “to Arthur” at 17:59 in Ireland (which will be 12:59 p.m. this afternoon Eastern time)….