A few days after this article was originally published, Esteban Glas, the prime technical lead for the Lenovo Voices of the Olympics site wrote an excellent response to this critique.

As I find myself drifting further and further from my search engine optimization roots to focus more time and effort on exploring the worlds of social media, blogging and viral marketing, I'm sometimes astonished at the misunderstandings between these two worlds. Search engine marketers look to social media as a vast expanse of link opportunities, almost completely missing the true potential of social media. On the other hand, social media types tend to look at SEO as some type of dirty game of tricks and scams that would tarnish the pure image they hope to build in their social media utopia.

The reality is, there's simply a slew of misunderstandings on both ends. The true potential for massive reward comes when someone who really understands the value of conversation in social media comes together with someone who understands the technical aspects of search engine optimization. Otherwise, we have campaigns that miss their full potential. Yes, they'll do well and yes, they'll bring on more business, but if you pay attention to both sides of the equation, you'll increase the impact of your campaign dramatically.

Case in Point: Ogilvy's new Lenovo Summer Games Campaign

When I saw Rohit's announcement that Lenovo had partnered with 100 athletes from 25 different countries to give a behind the scenes blogger perspective of the Olympics, I could have cheered. I love the idea of gathering together so many different perspectives of the same event and using the buzz that will surround it to drive traffic to a sponsored site.

Since I'm still an SEO at heart, my first thought was of the link and traffic potential of putting together a site like this. True social content that allows people to interact around current events and hot topics is killer in terms of traffic. There's a reason for that...it's because good social media initiatives capture people at their passion points and gather them together. For that, I say kudos to the team at Ogilvy who dreamed this idea up.

High Expectations, Saddening Reality

Unfortunately I didn't have to spend but two minutes on the site before I was shaking my head sadly at the enormous missed opportunities. In fact, within five minutes and a few instant messenger conversations with Matt Bailey and Scott Allen, I've compiled a list of four major issues that will keep Lenovo from maximizing the impact of their Olympic social media campaign.

1.) The Site is Not Search Friendly

In fact, almost none of the juicy content on this site is being indexed. Take the Contributors page. Aaron Cohen sits up there at the top, an American Athlete competing in Judo. With a search friendly site, there's a darn good chance the Lenovo blog campaign site would rank well when someone searched for him on Google during the Olympics. But it doesn't.

Why? Because the text on the Lenovo site that mentions Aaron Cohen is locked behind Ajax powered Javascript that isn't being read or indexed by the engines. (Want proof? Run a quoted search for any selection of text in the main body of the recent posts area of the site. Try this, this, this and this and you'll see Lenovo doesn't' even register.)

Only the athlete bio pages are designed in a search friendly manner. Granted, that's something in terms of content, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to what could have been indexed.

2.) The Site Isn't Link Friendly

Here's the second key issue. The Lenovo site is using an Ajax driven pop up box to display the content from each of their bloggers. That means you don't get a unique page and a unique URL related to each entry, which means bloggers cannot link to a post on the Lenovo site.

Don't understand what I mean? Let me show you.

Here's a screen shot of the Lenovo site:


Now, here's a second screen shot after I've clicked on one of the blog posts. You'll notice it's simply loaded in a floating window:


Because the web site loads the content in those floating windows instead of linking to a unique URL on the Lenovo Olympic site, there's no way to link to specific content. (This is the same problem sites that are built entirely in Flash have, you cannot deep link.)

Now, Lenovo and Ogilvy have gone to the trouble of recruiting 100 different bloggers from more than two dozen countries to cover the Olympics for them. That's a lot of link potential...especially on a site as high profile as the Lenovo one will likely be. Unfortunately, the site was built without search engine optimization in mind and they won't be able to reap any of the benefits of all those links that could have pointed their way.

In reality, there's an even bigger issue at play that will keep the site from living up to it's linking potential.

3.) The Lenovo Site Doesn't House the Content

When I first heard about the Lenovo Summer Games site, I thought they had gathered together bloggers to build a giant group blog. I imagined a hundred voices coming together in a collective environment and I imagined the number of comments, trackbacks and social bookmarking submissions that would be generated. I pictured a comprehensive blog roll that would link me to other Olympic related blogs and a resource area that compiled the latest Olympic news and links to the official Olympic sites of each country's team.

Instead, I found what amounted to a glorified RSS feed.

While the Lenovo site serves as a one-stop spot to find all of these bloggers, it doesn't house the content. Instead, it offers up a bio of the blogger and the text of their latest post. If I want to see the images that come with the post or leave a comment in response to the post, I have to click through to the original post on the blogger's web site.

That means Lenovo's Voices of the Olympic Games site simply serves as a road map, not as a destination. When it comes to social media and search, companies benefit far more by creating a destination site that generously links out as a resource. A better option would have been to have the athletes write unique content for the site in exchange for their laptops, digital cameras, exposure and links from the Lenovo site to their personal blogs.

This would have created a treasure trove of indexable content that would have ranked for and driven oodles of long tail traffic to the site. It also would have given readers a reason to return to the site again and again as they spotted posts via RSS or Twitter that sparked their interest. Add in the user generated content of blog comments and you've got a content gold mine of Olympic proportions.

Which brings me to the next problem.

4.) There's No Interactivity or Reason to Return

By the time I wrote this article, I'd spent about an hour clicking through the site trying to get a feel for what the goal was. Obviously the most interactive part of blogging is the comments area. Unfortunately, you can't comment on the Lenovo Olympic site. When you pop open the window containing a blog post, the blog post is all you get. There's simply no comment option available:


If I want to comment, I have to click on the "show original" link, head over to the athlete's blog and leave my comment there.


Because the site is set up this way, Lenovo loses the content AND shows me I don't need to visit their site to read the blog post. Instead, I can add the athlete's blog directly to my feed reader and by pass Lenovo completely.

Even beyond that, there was so much potential for content and interactivity on the site. Yes, they've done a good job integrating videos and photos (yay! they're using Flickr) and they do have a poll in the sidebar...but where's the true resource and interactivity? Where's the pooling of community resources?

Where's the reason to return over and over and to link to the site as a resource?

Take a look at the featured story page again:


Take special note of the two red boxes.

The first is the icon that tells you what sport the blogger participates in. The second is a flag letting you know what country the blogger competes for. Neither of these icons are clickable. They don't lead anywhere.

Think of the potential here.

Imagine if that sport icon linked to a page on the Lenovo site that aggregated content from sites like Technorati and Twitter to let you see the latest conversation about the sport. Imagine if the team behind the Lenovo site built out a blogroll for each sport and included links to related content on Flickr and YouTube.

Imagine if that country icon linked to a page that did the same thing for country specific coverage. What if it also included links to each country's official Olympic site. What if you could subscribe to receive updates on medal counts, sports and so on.

Imagine if they just took the concept a tiny step further.

What a true social media masterpiece and absolute link magnet the site could be. Traffic from search engine would come pouring through the web.

No Links + No Content = Massive SEO Fail

The reason search marketers have come running into the social media space like bulls in a china shop is because they recognize the extraordinary potential for links and the potential of long tail search traffic.

When it comes to generating all that lovely search engine traffic, links serve as the primary currency to earn those rankings. Build targeted links from related web sites (and do so in great enough quantity) and your site is gold. You'll rank well, you'll drive traffic and the cycle will continue to escalate upward in an ongoing circle.

Now, there's no doubt this site will generate links. With the power of an agency as large as Ogilvy and pockets as deep as Lenovo, they'll find ways to drive traffic and attention. Of course thanks to the issues I listed above, they'll drive only a fraction of the links they could have.

Of course none of that really matters because there simply isn't any content for the engines to index. No indexable content means even a site with a million links won't rank well for very many keyword phrases. You simply have to serve up the content if you want Google to serve up the traffic.

So Why is all of this a Problem?

Searches for Olympic related keywords are going to be through the roof the next month or two. I know hobby bloggers who are already seeing extraordinary upticks in traffic and links simply because they've made one or two posts about the upcoming games.

The traffic potential for a site with massive amounts of Olympic related content is extraordinary. Add in the branding benefit of having your name plastered all over that content and some well placed related offers and you've got a campaign that's bound to be successful.

The Lenovo Voices of the Olympics Games site has amazing potential. It's a great idea and I have enormous amounts of respect for the team at Ogilvy who put it together. Unfortunately, the campaign has fallen prey to one of the most common pitfalls of online campaigns. It was designed without search engines in mind.

The entire site could have been built with the same functionality it has now and still be indexable by the search engines. The site is running on Wordpress, a blog platform that is notoriously search friendly. Unfortunately, the site developers decided to throw the Wordpress functionality by the wayside in favor of the flashy (but non-indexable) Ajax content.

Social Media and Search Have to Make Friends

Which takes us all the way back to my original point. All too often, Social Media mavens eschew search engine optimization. They don't understand it and sadly, many don't want to. But just as the search community needs to take the time to learn how to use social media properly, the social media community need to learn the very basics of search engine friendly design. Otherwise, each group of marketers severely limits the potential of their campaigns.

Why focus your efforts on one side of the solution when focusing on both leads to such a stronger reward?

July 8, 2008

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.


A great idea is only that -- a great idea -- if it isn't implemented well. I've been amazed again and again at how poor Olympic coverage is online. I've been looking for information about the equestrian events for my hobby blog and I'm just not getting anything from the search engines. After a few hours digging around, I discovered that the information is out there, it's just hidden behind coding that isn't crawlable by the search engines or content that isn't optimized. Lenovo isn't the only Olympic site with this problem.

It's too bad because a website that provides strong, well-optimized content on a world-wide event like the Olympics is going to go through the roof in traffic, links, and loyal visitors.

If you really want your social media campaign to succeed, you have to pay attention to elements of good SEO--including usability. If a site doesn't perform well in the search engines, that's a pretty good indicator that it doesn't work well for people either. If you design a site in which people can easily find the information they're looking for and that has well-written, targeted content, you'll do well.


As the prime technical lead behind the "Voices" site I can't start to underline how valuable your feedback is. It is thanks to people like you who share their knowledge in such an open and uninterested way that the web evolves. I might not see eye-to-eye on everything you post here and we have reasons for making some choices, but overall I am agree on most of it.

Note duely taken and thanks a lot.



Kudos to you for taking this post in the context it was intended. I have no doubt there were good reasons for not doing a lot of the things I mentioned (way more work on the content side of things).

My primary frustration and point was the search accessibility side of things. There is almost never a reason to lock search engines out of a site. That means it's generally an issue of it simply not being considered. Search still has a long ways to go before it's part of the checklist of every single site.

I see a lot of resistance to search engine optimization in the social media and agency communities, and the Voices site gave me prime opportunity to address the issue and explain why it's so essential to have at least a baseline understanding of how SEO works and how to build with search in mind.

I was sincere in my appreciation for the campaign as a whole and what your team is trying to accomplish. Hopefully you'll be able to pull some things from my suggestions that will help improve the site and hopefully others will read this and consider search more carefully before they go about building their own social media campaigns.


Wow, very comprehensive review!

I love how "good web practices" overlap, regardless if you consider them to be matters of SEO, accessibility or usability. While I certainly don't know the ins and outs of seo, the idea that you can't bookmark a specific element, nor comment to it, just seems poorly executed..

what a review, very open and straight to the point, you really say what's in your mind. Everyone is entitled to our own opinion. I also need to look for that site for me to see what's the truth.
Precious Anderson
Need natural backlink growth and residual referral traffic? Social Media Marketing

Jennifer, that was well researched and very comprehensive look at a site that on the surface appears to be all together. Unfortunately search and in particular usability are still thought of as an add on service or an after thought when it should be the cornerstone of any website build be it social media focused or not. I admire Estaban for being open to this constructive criticism and believe he will certainly look at ways to incorporate your feedback. Overall I think this is a microcosm of what is happening globally with companies who still haven't grasped the fundamentals and are forging full speed ahead.

Cannot say I am surprised in the slightest coming from an age old traditional PR firm.

Great post, Jennier.

Looks to me like someone high on the totem poll said "AJAX" and the project team jumped without looking at all the consequences.

The practice of loading blog posts into AJAX windows does two other bad things:

1) It doesn't act the way people expect blogs to act.
2) It doesn't let Lenovo push up any other relevant content (or admittedly, ads)

@Andreaa Hill - Yes. Most often I find that Good usability and accessibility practices = good (internal) SEO by default. It's a classic garbage in/garbage out scenario. If you have one, you usually have the other.

Excellent post. You hit the nail on the head. While SEO should not be the core focal point of social media; it's definitely something to think about.

Jennifer, this was an excellent and comprehensive review that deepened my understanding of SEO. It is always helpful to look at real world examples and learn what opportunities could have been maximized. I also applaud Esteban for taking the feedback in the manner intended and participating in the discussion. Thank you so much for this post!

good article and good website review.. but. that is where it stops..

a. mobile... some of the thing that they did "wrong" for your view of seo.. work freakin awesomely in mobile. (remember this is Asia, mobile has wickedly different penetration there)

b. not all SEO people are all about the links... a 0 PR (google pagerank) page can rank #4 out of 472,000,000 million results on google.. (or #1 out of 52,000,000 if you are a perfectionist), the days of links being the SEO big tool are over baby.. social media is about buzz not SEO...
(no gender disrespect intended =) )

c. the blogs are "blogger" blogs and as such will spider just fine behind the lenovo website, so as the content is posted and combined with any flurry of activity with unique vistors, those blogs will be, (or should be), roughly between 14 minutes and 2 hours behind on any search results as they are updated.
i've seen a at best 2 hour refresh rate on my blog in Google SERPs.. but i wasn't looking within the 2 hours and the olympics should have a hell of a lot more traffic than 10k uniques a day.

d. the "old traditional PR Firm stuff actually works.. Google "lenovo sponsored blogs", yeah it's out of date.. BUT it's first in the SERPs, then again i think we have like close to a month before the olympics start... so a press release from may is old news.

e. you are 100% correct on the lack of SEO AND the lack of consideration of social media and how a good internet strategist, (based on what you posted.. i can say, "like you"), would have seen the simple, OBVIOUS things you point out.. except.. big companies like IBM (lenovo) haven't really seen the big picture ever.. cough microsoft, cough apple, cough xerox...

F. Lenovo, while not being an OLD domain.. i'm guessing has a bit of authority in the indexes.
Created: 2002-09-05 00:00:00
Expires: 2016-09-06

and last but certainly not least,...

did ya google

"olympic summer games blogs"?

check out #4

"Voices of the Olympic Games" umm.. #1

with your suggestions, they wouldn't be near the bottom of the front page (top 10) for "Voices of the Olympics".

but then again those are the obvious phrases, not "120M hurdles (participants name)"

that would mean they would have done what you described above to pull that off.

and remember.. lenovo is going to have a bit of "free", (it comes with the "sponsorship"), TV time..

and of course a whole bunch more of that "old traditional PR" crap...

(DISCLAIMER: i am an SEO and work at an advertising agency and PR firm)

again.. GREAT WEBSITE REVIEW... they missed the boat on a bunch and you picked up most of it.

Such a fantastic example of something we have all seen time and again. The intent is there, but the execution is all wrong.

It makes me wonder why *someone* on one of these implementation teams didn't stand up and say how retarded this is... Was there really no one who noticed such a snafu? This isn't even advanced SEO stuff - this is SEO 101 stuff.

Very nice post!

Laura Alter

I really enjoyed this post and if anything, it's great feedback for a development team to go back and make some key improvements to the site. Definitely some great points to think about in terms of the various components that can have such a major impact on a site's success.

Thank you so much for this post.

My interest is in the design of communities. Later today I will try to recast your advise for community designers and track back.

Many thanks,

Your analysis of the need for understanding SEO and Social Media are so spot on!! The lines between the disciplines are becoming blurred. Having recently re-entered the consulting space, I considered a title of "SEO Gone Social" for business cards.

Your website review also shows a required understanding of usability and conversion. Thanks for such a detailed, educational review that many of us can use as a case study.

SEO & SEM? Dana Larson of Top Rank came up with an idea for National Search Engine Optimizers Day. She and I have been collaborating and want to celebrate online disciplines and raise awareness with topics and best practices like this post.

Our flag is a take on the Olympics with 3 rings for SEO, SEM, SMO. http://nationalseoday.com (Site isn't ready for "prime time," but there are too many coincidences with the timing of your post.) This will be one of the first "best practices" we discuss and link to and would love to have you contribute. Awesome work!

Jennifer I would have to totally agree with your assessment on the misunderstandings between these two worlds of SEO and Social Media, for they are in many ways very different. It is going to be very interesting to see how people take Social Media and either run with it or totally fail. That is why we need great valuable content posts like this one to help everyone succeed.


Garrett Pierson

I wish you could hear clapping through a screen. Great job, great article and an amazing example to make your point.

Thank you for this post which I found inspiring and educational. There is so much opportunity for marketers to broaden their skill sets and be more effective in this new world we live and market in. I don't understand why there is the resistance you mention. Who would not want to be more effective and continue learning? Great post.

There is nothing better than finding a post that expands my personal knowledge horizon exponentially in a single read. As the CD at an agency that is truly concerned with understanding how SEO can serve as a foundation for success in the social media realm, I will be sharing your post with my team (and reluctant clients)! Thanks.

More Kudos on your post!
As a search marketer at a large company with many departments and leaders thinking about Search and Social Media, I understand the huge potential here to truly solve for great searcher experiences. SEO should be foundational and constant in ALL of our efforts - here's to blogs like this helping get the word out!

Great post.

I tend to disagree a little with the title though. I don't think it's so much a case of "the Social Media World NEEDS to Understand SEO" as "Why Social Media Needs to Keep it Simple". While the bells and whistles are great they often take away functionality that a simple, flat, plain, text, html website (that's a mouthful) can offer. As you mention you just can't deep link (or bookmark!) a particular page. While many consider these SEO/SEM critical I can't help but think of the old saying - build your website for human visitors.

After all, who reads the whole newspaper? I simply jump to the back and read until it gets serious. Now imagine I had to read through the whole paper to get there? I wouldn't bother.

Thanks again for a great post.

"Why the social media world needs to understand SEO"

Who or what group are you defining as the "social media world"?

You are suggesting that Lenovo splog and steal traffic away from the bloggers they are getting the content from.

Good for SEO.

Bad for users.

Bad for bloggers.


Where did I ever suggest they should splog or steal content? Lenovo has an agreement with each and every one of the atheletes they featured on this site. They gave them a digital video camera and a laptop in exchange for being part of the Lenovo Olympics blogging team.

How in the world would it then be splogging or content stealing to require that the content be housed on the Lenovo site?

That's like saying I've stolen all the content from my team of writers here because they also have their own blogs.

It's a simple matter of how you set up the arrangement.

Fantastic post Jennifer.

I visited the site first, perused a bit and had the same first impressions as you. I then did some research on who was behind this venture and found your post hitting the nail on the head. What are they thinking with the structure of the blogs, content and possibility for linking?? Ogilvy obviously has little emphasis on SEO's role in this project and I'm shocked Lenovo's fairly robust in-house marketing teams didn't plan accordingly.
Search Google for "laptop", "laptop computer", "desktop computer" --- they're nowhere to be found except in PPC.


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