I have been doing more than my usual share of hardcore surfing in preparation for the launch of a new “digital venture.” Much of this has been related to SEO and online marketing in general. This post has been “brewing” for more than a week now and I finally found some bandwidth to get it out.
Some posts are obviously “routine” and others require much more thought/editing, and hence the delay. I have great admiration for those bloggers that apparently can consistently write long “stream of consciousness” posts while at the same time making them eminently readable and coherent (either they have more talent or they don’t sleep much—likely both). I admit that for me these kinds of posts are a bit more painful to write.
I had the opportunity to listen to Chris Matthews speak a few years back and wanted to borrow his five key points with respect to “why it is early in web years?” I am neither a big fan (though I admit to watching “Hardball” in a past life when I watched more TV than I do now) nor a Matthews’ basher, but he was quite interesting and entertaining. His talk had nothing to do with the web. I am just using his five key points (I’ll call them rules) as a metaphor (while giving Chris his “props” at the same time).
Note to self.
Rule #1: Get in the game
It has often been said, but bears repeating, to “get” the web you have to “live” the web. You don’t live the web simply because you use Google and read the web. You have to join the conversation. You have to make some mistakes. If you want to leverage enabling technologies, whether it is blogging, social media, twitter or the next new thing, you need to start experimenting with them. If you want to learn about SEO you have to do some SEO. The same holds true for PPC. No, you don’t need to press all the buttons, but you are not going to “get it” if everything is delegated either. Why? Because you won’t understand what it is you asking someone else to do, since you don’t have the first clue. In short, if you want to play the game you have to get in the game and get off the sidelines.
Rule #2 Listen
Listening is painful because there is a lot of “snake oil” being sold and sometimes from corners that you least suspect. You can waste a lot of money and time (wasting the latter may have even more negative implications) if you don’t learn to listen. But, with the noise to information ratio so high, the first problem is figuring out whom you should listen to. There are more “experts” than “Carter has pills” (who the hell is Carter?) and you must sift through and triangulate the BS before you arrive at any sense of clarity. This is not a trivial exercise and it can’t be accomplished from the sidelines (see rule #1).
But lets just limit the conversation to online marketing. Sure SEO is important, but that is only a piece of the puzzle. If you are going to completely turn your online marketing over to Google and the SEO rabble (unless of course you find the needle in the haystack) then by all means plow ahead. But your business judgment should guide you online as it does off line. Online marketing is mostly about having a strategy and building key relationships (same as off line). If you think that all you need are links then it is clear that you haven’t been online long enough to realize that that particular game has been over for quite some time. What you really need is an interesting story to tell. You tell a story with content. Content is hard. That is the dirty little secret.
Rule #3 Ask
Sure you may eventually have to drop some coin on the problem. But you just might be amazed at what people are willing to tell you for free (often precisely because they believe you will drop some coin). Get engaged. Listen. Ask for some advice. Here’s some free advice, yeah you didn’t ask but I am giving it to you anyway. There are no solutions to the online marketing problem. There are processes that you need to develop and maintain over time. If you want a quick fix go to Starbucks and buy some espresso. Hey, I would like to press the PFM key and get results just like everybody else, but we all know (or should) that is not the way it works. Yeah asking might be humbling but there is simply too much complexity in the world. Get over it.
Rule #4 Get along with your competitors (practice civility)
The distance between two points on the network is zero. The circles are small. Be careful. How many reputations have imploded due to an organization’s own actions? Sure, there are powerful ways to leverage the network, but the network can also punish with devastating ferocity if you don’t understand its ethos. There are acceptable and unacceptable modes of behavior. You can run but you can’t hide. The network will find you. You can disagree. It is important to disagree. You can have controversial opinions. It is important to have controversial opinions. All of that is fair game if you practice civility. There are no reasons to create acrimony where civil conversation works just as well.
Rule #5 Wherever you go that is where you are (huh?)
Ok, I have no idea what Chris meant by this one but it is a “five rule post” so I have to give it a shot. This is how I think this one works for the web. The web is a journey. It takes us to places both near and far (i.e. to our understanding of the evolving “digital universe”). We must travel often and travel well. There are lots of opportunities for exploration. This journey that we are on is in its infancy. You are not too late. The journey has barely gotten started. It will continue to surprise us. That is, if we let it. It is still early in web years. If this were a book we don’t as yet have a table of contents. Yeah the ship has set sail but we have no earthly idea where it is headed.
Find a good story and tell it. Get in the game (find a boat). Listen. Ask. Practice civility. Wherever you go that is where you are.