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.
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?
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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