While my roots rest firmly in the camp of search engine optimization and search engine marketing, I've spent the last year or two leaning more heavily toward the blogging, social media, viral marketing side of things. I'm often struck at the similarities between these methods. For instance, knowing your audience and creating content that makes them happy is generally the key in all four areas. Yesterday, I also realized the similarities in terms of pet peeves.
When it comes to both viral marketing and search engine optimization, companies tend to put the cart before the horse.
The Dreaded New Client Call
"Hello, we've just launched a new web site and we're trying to find a company to handle the search engine optimization for us."
At this point, most SEOs put their forehead in their hands because they know these calls usually end with the phrase "if you'd only called me six months ago this would have been a lot simpler."
You see, search engine optimization is one of those things that needs to be considered before you ever even begin building a site. You need to do keyword research to understand what your content focus should be. You need to do competitive research to create a link building strategy. You need to make sure the site is built in a manner that is search engine friendly.
While it's always possible to go back and "fix" a web site to make it optimized, the greatest majority of sites would be much easier to optimize if the SEO had been called prior to the site design and build. When I talk to search marketers, calls from companies who want SEO services AFTER a site launches tend to rank at the top of the list for client pet peeves.
Viral Works the Same Way
"We've just launched (a web site/media campaign/online game) and we'd like you to make it go viral."
At this point, I tend to put my head in my hands because I know the conversation is going to end with "if only you'd called me six months ago, this would have been a lot simpler." In many cases, I have to flat out tell them "I really can't help you, but if you call me BEFORE you get ready to launch your next viral attempt, I'd be happy to help."
You see, viral marketing is one of those things that needs to be considered before you ever even begin building a campaign. You need to go through brainstorming sessions on your capabilities, your goals and your customers. You need to track their conversation and understand what motivates them. You need to learn how to identify passion points, you need to build relationships with influencers and you need to have a strong feel for what plays and what doesn't play with your target audience.
That all sounds difficult and complicated, but it's really not. Unfortunately, most companies are used to building marketing campaigns that focus on what they want to say instead of focusing on what their customers want to hear. They're used to pushing their ideas by buying ad space for their fancy (and often appealing) campaigns. They're not used to turning things around and seeing their products and ideas from the perspective of a consumer.
It's Easier to do it Right Than it is to Fix
Now it's completely and totally true that you don't always have to go back and fix these things from the start. Sometimes you come across a site that was built properly and simply needs a bit of a boost. Sometimes a company has a fantastic idea or campaign with great viral potential and they just need help seeding it and tracking it.
But 95% of the time, that's not the case.
Calling in help "too late" generally means a lot of wasted time, money and energy on both sides of the table. Consultants have to charge higher fees because they have to work around what already exists and companies often end up spending just as much time as they would have if they'd called in help before they got started.
It's never "too late" to get help with a viral or SEO campaign...if you're willing to invest the time and money in doing it right and not simply determined to find a quick fix. If a quick fix is what you're looking for, I'd kindly point you toward paid search advertising and media buys and suggest you hold off on search engine optimization and viral marketing plans until next time.
Just a friendly reminder from your local neighborhood marketer.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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