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I just got back from a search conference this week, SEJ Summit, down in Dallas, Texas, where I had the chance to hang out with some of the folks from the Copyblogger team, including Jerod Morris, whose official role is the VP of podcasting. He also runs The Lede over at Copyblogger, and I walked away from that conference so excited to have the chance to sit down with Jerod, watch his presentation, and everything else that I really wanted to start changing up the format in what I’m doing with podcasting and audio. Let me get into that before I get into the main part of the show today.
What I’ve been doing to date is inviting people on as guests. Not really interviews, but more so discussion, guest discussion with some respected leaders and authorities in the world of Search. What I’ve found is that sometimes you can’t get a call or a time settled on, and you have to push back or whatnot. But there’s so much content and conversation going on out there that there’s really no room to delay from a content perspective.
I really got to thinking about it and listening to some other podcasts. I think what I’m going to do here moving forward on Search & Deploy is really utilize the show and the format to share what’s on my mind. Because at the end of the day, that’s what podcasting is, and blogging, and anything else. It’s the capturing of content. If I have something on my mind and I don’t get it out and documented, chances are it’s just going to disappear. That moment, that spark of genius, or maybe the lack thereof that I have in my head at that time may not be a spark anymore. Getting it out there in the time and place is the right thing to do to make sure it’s communicated properly and acted upon.
The Content Rashomon Effect
I really got thinking about this. One example is, in the corporate world when you’re in a meeting or a call, you typically have someone there to dictate the notes and to put tasks out and put together bullet points based on the discussion. Because without that, you have no capturing of the content. What you have is the Rashomon effect. If you’re a fan of Akira Kurosawa films, you may have seen Rashomon, but you may want to pick that up as well.
Basically, Rashomon is a tale, basically burglars of Ronin jumping a cart of a princess on her way to Nara in ancient Japan, and it’s a telling of that story through three different points of view — the Ronin, the princess, and the guards — and exactly what happened.
Without having someone there to capture that content and turn it into something that’s readable for everyone, you leave that conference setting, that meeting setting with the Rashomon effect where people think they got the point across. Maybe they don’t think they’re going to have to do that task. Maybe someone else will.
If you take that same mindset to the world of content, the fact is that there’s content happening everywhere you go. Conversations, ideas, everywhere else, and one thing in the world of SEO is that people really sometimes tend to struggle when I go to them and tell them, “Look, we have to start a blog on your site,” or “We have to start producing more content,” because they’re not sure where to obtain that content from.
The Concept of Capturing Conversation and Ideas
I was having a really good conversation at SEJ Summit with some folks about the concept of capturing conversation and ideas. What we did is turned Dragon softwareon — It’s an iPhone mic app — to try to capture our conversation from an audio perspective. It didn’t work too well. It was full of Siri typos, but it was a start. What it got me thinking about was, I’ll wake up in the morning with an idea in my head — and I don’t commute — but typically when I did or if I drive somewhere, ideas will pop up in my head.
There’s cool tools like Jot and stuff to get that down, but what better way to expand the overall Search & Deploy podcasting experience than to document my thoughts from a content perspective in an audio fashion, and then have it transcribed into the equivalency of a blog post right on the site? By recording what I’m thinking about every day from a search perspective, from an SEO perspective — maybe not every day, but when I do have these ideas and things that come to my mind that I want to get out there — what better way to document that than in a simplified audio process where I’m recording my speech patterns. Then that’s being transcribed into multiple forms of content that can get out there, whether it is the blog post, the show on iTunes and everything else.
Content is Everywhere
The point I want to get across is that content is everywhere. I was sitting in a Panera one day years ago. I had a client who was in the automobile insurance space, highly regulated space, highly financial oriented. I had another client that was a bank. I had just had a meeting that morning with one of those client’s points of contact, and I really wanted to get them to launch a blog. Sounds simple enough, but sometimes our challenge is in terms of getting a blog launched, in terms of who’s going to be creating this content.
As I was sitting there in Panera probably eating a Frontega chicken sandwich or something like that, there were these three middle-aged gentlemen at the table next to me. They were having a conversation. It was something financial at the time. It was in 2008, so there was all the stuff going on with sub-prime and everything else. They were talking about mortgage leads and how they’re monetizing them and how they’re adjusting their business.
It was probably a good thing that this conversation was not captured via audio for them, but as they were going on for 10, 15, 20 minutes and going back and forth, I was just imagining to myself, “How great would it have been to have a microphone on that table and to document everything they said,” because as they’re saying that, and as they’re getting their points across, if they’re not absorbing that internally and going home and writing it down, all that content is basically disappearing.
We live in a world where content is being created left and right, and it’s up to us to be able to document that. At the end of the day, I also feel that is the flaw in Meerkat and also with Twitter Periscope. I’m not a fan of self-destructing content. If I have a Meerkat stream — and I get the whole living in the moment thing. Everyone lives in the moment until iPhones came out, and then we didn’t live in the moment. Now there’s a struggle to live in the moment by buying productivity apps and self-destructing content apps — so I get that.
What I don’t get is, if I’m recording something spectacular — whether it’s someone like Jerod Morris speaking at a conference or whether I’m witnessing something — and I want to share that with my social networks, I know that not everyone can jump on at that time. So I am doing a disservice to my friends and connections who are busy at the time or maybe are with their families and not on their phone by destroying that content. Point being is that I really think that’s a flaw with Meerkat and even Periscope at the end of the day because, if that content is not captured, then what’s the real long-term value?
Especially from a monetary perspective and Twitter. We’ll get to that later, butUstream came out with the ability to broadcast and archive video content, what, 8 years ago? What I always liked about Ustream was I had the ability to share that content via my social networks, but then it archived it in a form that was almost like a YouTube video. The people that couldn’t make it at that particular moment in time had the ability to go back and look at that content. My biggest concern with self-destructing content is not only if you’re filming a video or a stream on an app like Meerkat or Periscope and destroying it, but you’re also not owning that content in the long run.
The one thing about Brian Clark and the team over at Copyblogger that I really like is that he’s always been incredibly gung-ho on the concept of owning your own content. When I hear them speak, I can’t help but think back to when and why I started Search Engine Journal in the first place going on 12, 13 years ago. People ask me a lot of the time, they’re like “Wow,
how did you start blogging,” and “How did you write so much,” and “What made you do that?”
When I Started Writing About Search
The thing is that I didn’t start writing about search when I started Search Engine Journal. I started writing about search in ’98 when I was contributing to Usenet groups, to the iSearch email newsletter, to the newsletter at the agency I was working at, at the time, then also the online advertising discussion list. That’s really when I started writing about search, asking questions, contributing to the conversation. Putting together tidbits and tips into long-form educational format for the company newsletter. I guess building my own following before there were social followings.
When I launched SEJ, I had the inherited privilege of having done this for, at the time, 5 years. The thing was is that, in my head, I love the fact that there were audiences to communicate with in these formats. Usenet groups and everything else were all the precursor to social media. At the end of the day, it’s all community. The reason why I started SEJ was because I got really excited about blogging, and I guess I evolved from email discussion lists to forums.
I was very active on SitePoint Forums and on Cre8asiteforums, and High Rankings forums, and multiple other ones. I felt that even though I was contributing to the community there, I was losing the ownership of my thoughts. That’s why when I started the blog, when I started SEJ, after reading about Google acquiring Blogger, I thought, “Hey, this is it. I now have the ability to get my thoughts and everything that I’ve been contributing to other people’s, other company’s properties, and reworking my overall content strategy to where I’m the center hub now. And now I can syndicate that content out to multiple locations.”
And I fear that with Meerkat and the tendency to jump on these shiny objects in social and in search, what happens is that people stop documenting things on their own, and you’re spending your own time and energy building that business. You’re spending your own time and energy building Meerkat. You’re spending your own time and energy contributing to Periscope, and Twitter’s benefiting from it on the stock value side of things.
Unless you have a centralized hub — there’s going to be apps coming out that capture the stream for Meerkat and put that onto YouTube, right? That’s still owned by Google, but at the end of the day, it’s the closest many of us are going to get to owning our own video content and deploying and archiving that for the future. Those are my thoughts on self-destructing content, not self-destructive content — that’s a whole different story — but self-destructing content and the importance of documenting your thought process, documenting your ideas, getting them out there from an ownership perspective.
I thought of this, this morning, “Wow, it blows up,” or “These are my thoughts on — April 21st is being referred to in the world of search as the mobpocalypse, like the mobile apocalypse — when Google starts rolling out their mobile-only rankings — so these are my thoughts are the mobpocalypse. I got them out months ago,” and then add to the conversation from there.
Content Marketing in SEO is Nothing New
So the ability to be the core or the original influence or add to someone else’s conversation but own your thoughts on that is the key to the end of the day and has been the key for years. Again, this is a search-oriented podcast, but as we all know, in the world of search — and this is nothing new, by the way — content has been the core of SEO from the first time that people started optimizing websites for search engines.
Content marketing in SEO is nothing new. I’ve been doing content marketing in SEO since 1998. The first SEO I ever did was changing the content on websites. The first SEO I ever did was building sections of websites that were content hubs that spoke to the audience of that site, and an ability to get those sites to rank, and to get those sites in front of influencers in those spaces. So content marketing is nothing new to the world of SEO, but what is kind of new is for sites to become their own publishers because previously it was a little bit harder of an upsell to do so, and to convince a website.
Sometimes, even back in the day, it was very difficult to convince someone that just spent a $1,000 to launch a website that they should add this free blogging software called WordPress and pay a company basically a smaller percentage of their overall dev budget to implement that. That’s more of an internal politics thing. After someone signs off on a $100,000 site, then signing off on a free platform that’s going to take them over the top kind of makes that initial decision look pretty dumb.
That was one of the struggles back in the day with getting people to blog, but actually getting people to put the blogging platform up on their site, whether it’s a sub domain, or in a normal directory sub folder structure, or launching their own third-party blog on its own domain was a struggle. As blogging has grown and been adopted, so has the world of business blogging. Quite frankly, too, a lot of folks were scared of business blogging early on because they didn’t know what to do.
The one story I always tell people is, back before content really blew up and blogging blew up, after I started SEJ, I used that as a case study for about three different clients. One was in the world of plastics fabrication. As you can expect, plastics fabrication is not the sexiest content there is in the world, but we got them to launch a blog to talk about their industry. What that did was it attracted others in that industry that would link to them or interact on their blog and help them get business.
Another was a plastic surgeon, and their blog and the content that the surgeon put together on the blog over the past 10 years has been their key differentiation point in owning the space. They own the conversation around almost any procedure, and since the client is a true surgeon, not just some quack, it’s become a resource that’s competing. This local surgeon in Maryland is competing with some of the top cosmetic surgery platforms and websites in the world, which is pretty amazing.
Third was a project that I did not get complete, but it’s a great story. As I was working, I was managing the PPC campaigns and the SEO campaigns — so the paid search and the SEO campaigns — for a client that was in the home remodeling, home repair space. They did fences. They did pavers. They did siding, but the one thing they were really excited about was they had just licensed this thing called Gutter Helmet, so to speak, or gutter guards. Basically, they are these caps or hats that you put over your storm gutters on your house, so leaves and rocks and birds and nests and stuff like that don’t accumulate in your gutters, and then you have to pay big money to either replace them or clean them out, and there’s fire hazards involved, and yadda yadda yadda.
They were really excited about this project, and it was bringing in mad loot on the PPC side. Everything you did from PPC side was bringing in mad loot back then. On the search side, one of their biggest struggles was they were based in Maryland, but they serviced the entire mid-Atlantic area. So we really couldn’t go for a local search thing, and then, back then also, local search was like searching for a term and then adding the city, right? There was no 8-pack or anything like that. We’re talking like 2002, 2003.
I pitched them on a master plan of turning their site from basically a four-page landing page site to a content hub. My point of contact at this company, he was pretty high maintenance. He would call me every day, and his background was in sales, did a lot of sales for decks, and gutters, and siding, and stuff like that. He would call me every day, and we’d go over the PPC numbers over the course of four minutes. I’d be like, “Your CTR is this. Your CTA is this. You guys are bringing in mad lead revenue compared to everything else that you do.”
Then he would just start telling me these crazy stories about stuff the sales teams were doing and where to find houses with gutters or houses that may have leaf problems in their gutters. They were targeting neighborhoods that had pools because most people that have pools have leaves top of mind because they have to go out and clean the pool every day.
Their sales team was also going out and giving free leaf blowers to people in order to get a lead or to give them an estimate on doing their gutters. Because if someone needed a leaf blower, then chances are their gutters are full of leaves as well. Crazy stories about injuries of folks that fall off their roofs increase, not only during the pre-holiday season when folks are hanging lights, but also in the spring because they’re going up there to clean their gutters, and how they want to save lives.
About the tenth conversation, I pitched him on the blog. I’m like, “This is what we got to do. This is the future. This is how you’re going to position yourself.” Like I said, this was back in 2002, 2003. I don’t even think we called it a blog then. It was like an article section of the site. But, “This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to write stories about gutters with long tail key terms and great titles, and we’re not just going to hit words like ‘gutters,’ or ‘gutter helmets,’ or ‘gutter guard.’ We’re going to hit words like ‘how to clean your gutters,’ ‘how to avoid gutter injury,’ or ‘how to maintain gutters’ and things like that. That’s really based upon what you’ve been telling me. That’s what your customer is talking about or looking for.”
And I showed him some search volume and stuff like that, and the guy immediately came back to me, he was like, “I understand the idea, but how are we going to write this? Gutters are so boring. No one’s going to wonder about gutters. We’ll probably get four articles out, and that will be it because there’s nothing else to write about.” I say to him, “Andy, you’ve been calling me every morning and talking my butt off about gutter this, and windows that, and energy efficiency this, and everything else.” He’s like “Yeah, but I don’t think we’ll be able to get it through. Let’s do some more PPC.”
I got on a call with him. The next week when he called me, I started taking notes on the phone call. I put it on the speakerphone, and I had one of the assistants in the office start putting together bullet points. What happened was, just like any other phone call, we went over the PPC numbers. That took about a minute, and then he started telling me some crazy story about this person in Virginia that had fallen off their roof when they were trying to clean their gutter, this and that, and how they sent their sales team down there to basically hit all the houses in that same neighborhood because everyone in the neighborhood had heard the story about the guy falling off the roof.
What I did was, I didn’t mention the blog thing. After the conversation, I got the notes. I wrote out a blog post. I wrote out an article and sent it to them. Anyway, that helped with them making that decision to actually get an article section of their site launched and get into blogging down the road. They’re doing quite well, and they’ve seen a lot of results from hitting the natural search language, which is becoming even more and more important.
The point is that every day that I would get a phone call about crazy gutter stories, or crazy roofing stories, or crazy window stories, birds flying in the windows, yadda yadda yadda, targeting neighborhoods that had more birds of this species because they tend to fly into windows more. That is the kind of stuff that needs to be documented. Because if it’s not, you’re never benefiting from a business perspective. Like I said early on, when I started today’s recording, my goal with this podcast and in publishing in general is not only to share useful information, but to document what’s on my mind in the world of search.
Content Marketing and Search
The reason that content marketing has become big in search in the past three years, even though it’s always been a component of it, is because Google cracked down on linking. Now, in order for people in search, SEOs to get links, they have to have content. They can’t just buy links and sidebars and stories. I was actually one of the first people that started doing in-text linking and stories to help our customer base back in the day.
It’s just amazing how many people in search did not utilize content as part of their linking strategy. And a lot of them got hit really hard when Google cracked down on linking, so point being is that, from a search perspective, content has become extremely popular. I really feel that it’s up to us as SEOs or as content marketers to capture that content, to utilize that content, to make sure that, “Hey, this session I did at this conference is not only documented in the form of SlideShare, but maybe there’s a video of it. Maybe there’s an audio of it. Everything I said has been dictated and placed into a blog post because that helps me at the end of the day.”
Quite frankly, I used to blog a lot. I have 10,000, 15,000 blog posts under my belt, and about four or five years ago, I just became exhausted. It’s not that I got blogger’s block, I don’t think, because I still have the ideas in my head. But when you wake up in the morning and you write emails, and respond to emails, and you write out client reports, and everything else, the last thing you want to do at the end of the day, or even before you get your day started, is to write a blog post.
For me, I would write a blog post with all kinds of grammar issues and typo issues and stuff like that, and people would call me out in the comments afterwards, and then I’d change it. When you have someone out there that’s a perfectionist and they’re expected to write one blog post a week, two blog posts a month, or whatever, sometimes that can take them weeks to get that post together because they are comparing it to others and making sure that they didn’t say the same things, and this and that.
That’s what I see as the blessing of podcasting — the ability for me to instantaneously take what’s in my brain and put it out there via this giant microphone in front of my face, and not only share it with the world, but document it for the future, capturing content. And after these conversations that I had at SEJ Summit, I really feel like this can be something big, which is ironic to say that on Copyblogger because that’s what Brian and the Copyblogger team has been doing forever. It really is something that — capturing the conversation, capturing the content, getting it documented, getting it out there — is going to be one of my goals, not only on the client side, but also on the information sharing/thought leadership side of things.
Chew on that if you will and how to deploy it into your marketing strategy. I think by just documenting, when you’re interviewing folks or you’re looking for content creators, here’s how you deploy this. When you’re looking for content creators, don’t just look at writing ability. Look at ideas. Get that person in the room that will talk your ear off forever. Get a microphone in front of them. Get a video camera in front of that person. That kind of content and brainstorming ability is what’s going to differentiate you from the pack. Now we’re at a point where it’s not a zero-sum style equation, but if everyone is blogging and fighting for, not just fighting for links, but fighting for engagement, and rankings, and blogging, and writing about the same material — and this happens — what can you do to better differentiate yourself from the pack?
As we see Google implementing more things like direct answers, and the knowledge graph, and rewarding the influencers out there in spaces — and they started doing this with authorship last year. They canned the authorship photos from the results and stuff like that, but I truly think that overall authority and the ability to be an influencer in the entire authoring concept is alive and well. If it wasn’t, there would not be in-depth articles. There would not be specialized stories chosen from Google news to show in the one box above the results. The QDF probably would not exist.
I really feel that the ability to get out there and be an influencer and differentiate yourself from the pack is what’s happening in the podcasting and video world. It’s just a question of making sure that one, you’re taking that content from the content creators, or from your brainstormers, or from young kids in your company that will talk your ear off all day because they want to get up in the world or make themselves known. Capturing that content and transcribing it into various forms to get out there and going beyond blogging as the publisher.
Don’t just become the publisher in your space. Become the network. Become — and please don’t judge me — but become FOX. Because when I think about this, when I grew up — I’m really dating myself here — but there were three networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX came along in the early ’90s and started putting out stuff. FOX only came on in the early ’90s on Saturday nights and Sunday nights. The local independent affiliates would switch over to FOX broadcasting and show things like The Tracey Ullman Show, which later became The Simpsons, or 21 Jump Street, or Married… with Children.
All of that stuff, at the time it was launched, was controversial and against the grain, and it got people thinking and got people talking. If there’s one thing that FOX does well, it’s understanding their target market.
The same company that brings us FOX News also brings us FX, so they really understand. The same company that brings us FOX News brought us Married… with Children. That show was so controversial at the time because it was so anti the conservative establishment that it got all the ratings because everyone wanted to see it.
Not that you have to bring politics into your business content, but look at what everyone else is doing. If they all have the common zero-sum denominator, if they all have the common denominator of zero, then how can you become a one? How can you become a three? How can you become a five? How can you become a seven? How can you become an eleven?
Really break that out. Break through that mold. And if you’re like me and you were an influencer early on who stopped blogging and then now you’re in the rest of the pack, like “How do I break through?” I start podcasting and webinaring and looking at new material in the same way that I was when I was blogging early on when no one else was doing it.
Having that jump and knowing what to avoid as well, like Meerkat, for example, is really what’s going to differentiate you from the pack now and solidify your business marketing content strategies for the future.