About two years ago, a friend of mine sold his SEO company to a larger competitor. Not too long ago, I caught up with him; we talked about his decision to sell and whether he was happy with the outcome. Between twinges of regret and lessons learned, he said one thing that has really stuck with me.
He said, “I got tired of pleading with clients all the time to invest in unique content assets that get people talking (sharing, linking, etc.), but in really competitive markets, you can’t rank well on Google without them.”
Although my friend’s comment is an oversimplified view of reality, its relevance was really thrust into the limelight today when a story written by an Oregon newspaper went viral:
The world’s first amphibious baseball pitcher!
If you want to get people going nuts on social media sites, mix up two words with radically different meanings. An ambidextrous pitcher is newsworthy, but an AMPHIBIOUS pitcher is a viral sensation!
As the article was shared on social sites such as Facebook, commenters went nuts. What editor in their right mind could have let this get past his/her desk?? The conversations ranged from how quickly it would be until the editor was fired to how this is the result of the economics of modern-day journalism and how we should expect a lot more of it in the future.
Well, I agree that we will see a lot more of this in the future, but not for the reasons you might think.
The economics of modern day journalism are brutal. Some writers have to publish 8-10 articles a day just to stay off food stamps, and they’re working for BIG name blogs, digital magazines, etc. In publications that make their money from impression-based advertising, everyone is a slave to the almighty pageview. More pageviews equal more advertising revenue.
As social media grows as a traffic source for major media sites, you’re bound to see more and more edgy (to the point of inaccurate) headlines. In the industry, these are known as “click-bait” headlines. You know them when you see them because they border on ridiculous.
The reality is, idiotic or not, the amphibious pitcher article generated exponentially more attention, pageviews, and likely advertising dollars than it ever would have in its correct state.
Even Google’s search results reflect the buzz:
The amphibious ambidextrous pitcher is pure, unadulterated click bait gold:
Local Business SEO Lessons
All joking aside, there’s an important lesson here to be learned by local business owners–especially those in what are sometimes thought of as “boring” industries. If you want to get links and have your content shared, you’ve got to get edgy.
For example, let’s say you own a local plumbing company. Around Thanksgiving every single year, plumbing companies all over the country do a blog post and/or an infographic detailing what you should NOT put down your garbage disposal and/or toilet.
But, how many local plumbing companies write a tell-all blog post leading up to Valentine’s day (or Spring Break) about the problems caused by flushing condoms down the toilet? Not. That. Many.
Of course, not all of the content on your website needs to be—or should be—edgy. If you own a local, home service business (roofing, hvac, plumbing, landscaping, remodeling, etc.), there are about 50 – 100 word pages of “foundational” content you need to effectively convert visitors into leads and sales.
However, once you lay down your base of content, your focus needs to expand. You’ve got to start thinking about your website as if it were a digital media channel. And when you’re thinking like that—like a publisher—you’re faced with the same economic and promotional challenges they’re facing.
Gone are the days where blogging alone made you unique. Increasingly today, standing out means investing in videos and creative content—including the occasional gimmick. How are you going to cut through the clutter and get your business to stand out amongst all your competitors?
Any press is good press. There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Bad press is good news.
In his book Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, Ryan Holiday (the former Director of Marketing for American Apparel) details his strategy of:
Purposely creating controversial advertisements
“Leaking” these advertisements to small bloggers
Waiting for larger news networks to pick up the stories from the smaller bloggers
Reveling in all the free press
While the amphibious pitcher is likely not a result of intentional media manipulation, it’s hard to argue that bad press isn’t good SEO. But unlike media outlets, where pageviews = payday, small businesses need leads. So while being edgy can get you attention and maybe earn you some SEO points, make sure you don’t do it at the expense of your customers.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get started on my next post “Choosing the Right Pornographic Images for Your Plumbing Website.” Oops… I meant Photographic images!
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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