August 11, 2010

SEO as a Copywriting Tool In the old days – 24 months ago – copywriters never heard of SEO. They bridled at the thought of being told where or how to start the creative process. Today, according to Bryan Cummings of The Garrigan Lyman Group, writing in Adweek, “For creatives, SEO is like handing a composer the most popular notes, as identified by research, and demanding a hit song. Or giving a writer word magnets from the refrigerator and expecting the Great American Novel.” And while Bryan offers tips to help writers square up contemporary language and creativity with search imperatives, he overstates the case. Effective key words and phrases can be creative cues for other forms of branded customer engaging messaging. But too few creatives mine the insights from SEO analytics. Maybe its because SEO is considered to be an arcane art like alchemy or maybe because the data-centric nature of SEO puts off copywriters, but there is little connection between these two; which to my way of thinking, is missed cue and waste of resources. It seems to me that effective key words or phrases -- defined as those words and combinations of words that prompt significant clicks -- are proven indicators of rational or emotional brand or behavioral triggers. Something about these words or phrases instantly communicates a brand value or a proposition that searchers understand, believe and are willing to click on. What better cue about how to craft messages that will resonate with target audiences. And while two-to-five words do not an ad or an e-mail or a sell sheet make, there is an explicit direction to be discerned. Writing effective key words is like origami. You have to twist, turn, fold and re-fold your ideas, expectations and standard copy points in unusual and sometimes surprising or convoluted ways to create a short pithy and motivating message that strikes a chord with searchers. The task is daunting. The writer is trying to psyche out potentially millions of searchers coming at an information problem or a question from an infinite number of perspectives with an infinite number of expectations, points of view and search habits. So when you craft a phrase that attracts a significant amount of traffic, its a fair bet that something in the choice of words and/or the sequence of words creates a meaning, an understanding or an answer that speaks to potential customers. Is anybody willing to ignore this ind of intelligence? I'm advising everyone I work with to mine keyword successes and draft contextual language and proof points around them to build compelling marketing communications assets for use on-line and offline. I'm also insisting that we export the test-and-learn sensibility and discipline from the SEO world into the creative and design process.
4 Ways to Think About Social Media The land rush is on. Marketers are embracing and planning to embrace social media. Nobody wants to be left behind and no brand wants to be perceived as trailing the pack. In a July 2010 survey of 137 marketers conducted using email and social media for the Pivot Conference by Extra Mile Audience Research, two-thirds of respondents were already using social media and 78 percent of them were planning to increase their investments over the next 12 months. And while the intended increase comes on top of a small base, social media accounting for less than 20 percent of total online marketing spend, the rush to stake a claim and learn something about Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or Foursquare seems to be ubiquitous. Only the real stick-in-the-mud brands aren’t going social not to mention mobile, location-based or into gaming.The logic appears to be … · These are much hyped emerging marketing tools · Customers and prospects are using them a lot · Social media users consume media differently · Social media users gather information and think differently · We have to be there keep up with the competition · Things are moving fast, we can’t dilly daddle. Deals, discounts and couponing plus customer service inquiries consume the majority of current brand interactions on social media. There is a horse race within vertical and industry categories to collect fans and “likes” though there is little evidence to link fans to sales, referrals or repeat customers. Many brands and organizations have a hard time understanding and operationalizing the concept of listening to customers and prospects. And use social media as another “push” channel to get the word out. Many initiatives are considered “successful” if something can be learned about customers, the social graph or the individual platforms. The burning issue seems to be what to do about what you did. There are plenty of brands amassing fans, distributing coupons, collecting comments, suggestions photos or videos that don’t know what to make of the response or what to do next. Part of the confusion has to do with measurement. There is no clear standard for success nor is there a benchmark for gauging communication or engagement efficiency or effectiveness. As a result we are counting clicks, fans, submissions, mentions, tweets, pages viewed, time spent per page or per session and frequency of comments and trying to determine if the results add to brand awareness, preference, purchase or loyalty. And if they do, are the costs acceptable? Yet even with these doubts, 59% of those surveyed declared themselves “somewhat successful” as social media marketers. We are clearly in the creative chaos stage of social media development. But consider these 4ways to focus your efforts. 1. Focus on Business Results. If social media is an innovative coupon and distribution mechanism, count how many deals get distributed and how many get redeemed. If fans expect exclusive access to discounts and merchandise, study the rate of uptake and the rates of repeat purchase. 2. Assign a Role to Social Media. Figure out what kind of tool social media will be for your brand and assign it a measurable role. If TV is your mass reach tool, maybe social media becomes your way to reach segments, your feedback loop or the added real estate you need to develop a deeper, textured story for your brand. Understanding the marketing role in your overall brand universe will give your efforts strong direction which, in turn, will dictate what gets measured and how. 3. Engage and Connect. If the idea is to build an emotional link to your audience, shape the campaign to deliver an emotional response. If consumers are submitting photos or videos or essays there has to be pleasure and fulfillment in the act of engaging and there has to be validation, acknowledgement and response from the brand. 4. Ask About Things that Matter. Don’t begin a conversation unless you know where it’s headed and are sure that its contents will be meaningful to your customers. If you ask for their input, votes or opinions be sure the results are communicated and that they matter. Don’t squander the opening you have.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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