Kevin Newcomb, Managing Editor, Search Engine Watch
Greg Jarboe, President & Co-founder, SEO-PR
Mike McDerment, CEO & Co-founder, FreshBooks
Making Love to Your Customers
Mike began, speaking about how, instead of making linkbait, he likes to focus on “how to make love to your customers using social media”. Hm. Love is unmeasurable. I wonder if that’s where he’s going.
He just got into a fair bit of biographical information, which I just noted down, but I fear will not make it into the final version. Maybe he’s just one of those guys who’s incredibly wise and insightful as long as you follow him down his roundabout path.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaand no. Irrelevant path. Noted deleted. Reader spared. Sorry Mike. His whole personal shpiel was to get to his new-agey company philosophy of offering an experience to users, and how as long as you do that, you don’t need to get too SEO technical. FreshBooks’ original incarnation was as a navy blue bank-looking secure-seeming site fully optimized for the search engines with clunky keyword-rich meta-titles. Now he’s talking about making his meta-titles more human/sentence like, and how it made for much more clickable SERP results (didn’t talk about click-through rate %…) and much greater activity in del.ici.ous. (While I think the long-term future of the meta-title is uncertain for this very (impresonal/inhuman) reason, he isn’t mentioning that aspect. Woulda sold me!) He’s saying he still ranks, and now his site is much more natural seeming.
Basically what he should be saying (as a summary) is that if you’re willing to cut online keyword cheese, you might benefit offsite enough to compensate as far as links and mentions and come out ahead rank-wise. Instead he’s talking about how his numbers have increased since the changes, which I suspect had more to do with his actual service than his meta-title change.
Now he’s talking about Triscuits. I fear another roundabout journey…
Ok, he’s explaining how basically customers interacted with his business through various platforms, and that FreshBooks responded in a personal and personalized way. I’m reading this to mean when customers do anything that creates an excuse to send them a gift, do it. Each of his examples (details only semi-relevant) basically cites a person with a problem and FreshBooks being nice, sending them something sweet, and them getting talked about. Welcome to ass-kissing 2.0. Not that he’s wrong. I am thinking of their branding through word of mouth gift giving, and my rant about the McDonald’s in the convention center here charging me 11 cents for a barbecue sauce after I paid for my meal, and all the negative branding I’m giving to pretty much any stranger I bump into, telling them I’m also an internet marketer who builds brands and am doing my part to slowly chip away at theirs, as an example of terrible word of mouth. (Who charges 11 cents to anyone for anything?! C’est ca que j’m pas. (sorry french McDonalds slogan joke))
Mike’s slides at the end say:
“Design for people, not engines”
“Don’t be paranoid” (speak to them like a human)
“Be open and authentic” (started as support/service)
“There are countless ways to deliver experience”
“That word of mouth rules them all, and the web is a word of mouth machine”
While I see his point, and I think he gets a lot right, I’ll still be keeping my keyword-rich meta-titles as long as they’re a major search engine ranking factor, because I like search engine traffic on high volume keywords, and don’t think that, on balance, I’m losing out with some crafty meta-title sentences.
Creating Content and Leveraging with Press Releases
Now for Greg.
He’s shocked to see that he agrees with the other panelist! Omg!
He’s just explained that too often we get hung up on begging for links, and that those days are long gone.
“You can’t buy them, bartering is discounted, painful, humiliating.” Calm down shock-jockey.
Apparently, “with a little bit of creativity, a whole lot of humanity” you can go about doing what you need to do. The key difference is… storytelling! More anger from Greg at linkbuilding.
This is from a slide: “Focus on the underlying quality as well as ingenuity needed to get other websites to link to you early and often” I’m wondering how this is not just linkbait. We shall see.
He’s just explained that back in the day, links used to not affect rankings, but people still sought them to drive traffic. He’s stressing the value of the traffic long-term. Sure. Back on to linkbaiting (or rather, going beyond linkbaiting)
“Linkbait without a hook is a funny way to fish.” Back to story telling, based around an optimized press release and blog outreach about survey results:
For his client Harlequin, they surveyed and found that 55% of American men and 41% of American women said “I love you” in hopes it would lead to sex, creating good content which is NOT BORING.
Here are the results of the press release around those stats:
1 press release
11 news stories
80 influential bloggers
190 blog posts
202 inbound links
Ranking #2 and #3 in google for romance report
Mention in Jay Leno’s monologue.
Again, not sure how this isn’t pure linkbaiting, and I’m not so convinced about romance report as a keyword ranking worth boasting about. Ok after a quick check, romance report gets searched 28 times per month now. Let’s be fair - this campaign was in 2007, so maybe the thing died out. Maybe focusing on enduring search terms would have brought better long-term value. Or maybe he should use an example from more recently than 2007…
More about optimizing press releases, that rank well in Google news for the spurt. According to him, press release optimization is underused. Fair enough. Temporary, though.
Talking about hitting up bloggers now, recommends contacting them the day before the press release to give them time to cover it properly. They pitched bloggers before the press release came out.
He then gets into bragging about some results he got with a press release about, with the lesson being build links around news, since it it never goes out of fashion
Next example is about a Yell (UK Yellow Pages) campaign that focused around ranking for a term that was invented for the ad campaign, based around a character called “magical trevor”, and how it wasn’t a search term before. He seems to be making a point about creating a new more fun keyword to rank for, bolstered by whatever outside of the SEO you’re doing. This has advantages as far as branding, but I can’t imagine it creates longterm value, and I also imagine it’s not that difficult to rank for a keyword you’ve made up, so I’m not exactly blown away by his #1 ranking in Google News UK for Magical Trevor. He’s finishing by saying that buzz and links are good, whether positive or negative. Greg’s version of there’s no such thing as bad press.
Basically, his point is that if it’s newsworthy, it’s linkworthy. That’s called linkbait buddy. Presentation over, and we are far from… beyond.
Audience & Moderator Questions
How to optimizing press releases?
Greg: Which newswire service used to matter (they used PR Web), and now a lot of smaller ones have caught up offering SEO advantages. They use PR Web to optimize their press releases. Not much of an answer.
How to pitch to bloggers?
Greg: “Pitching to bloggers is like meeting a new person at a cocktail party.” What works well is to know the blogger a bit. Don’t go in cold. Read at least 5 posts before reaching out to a blogger. While I very much agree, I’m not sure I see any parallel with a cocktail party that isn’t creepy.
Never do a hard sell. Encourages something like “I wanted to introduce myself, read all these topics, good stuff, if you’re curious to know more about relevant xyz, let me know”
A bunch off-topic, before another question, this time by the moderator:
What’s another hook that you use to attract attention?
Greg: I tried humour, but I’m not funny enough. Unless you have a great comedian on staff, I don’t know if I’d bother with that.
Not really offering that much as far as a substantive answer, he’s at least correct about what he said. Which is why we at NVI hired a great comedian to help build content. Woo.
So - in conclusion, maintain good relationships with the online social world (sending gifts helping the process) and build compelling content. Linkbait.
- PR Web on Optimizing for Google News
- Highlights & Lowlights from SES Toronto 2009 - Day 1
- Optimizing Press Releases for Search and Usability
- SES Toronto Live Blogging: Copywriting: 45-Minute Boot Camp
- Using Google Universal Search to Achieve Top Rankings