SEO Is The High School Cheerleader

Imagine you’re back in high school (painful for some I know). You’re parents are going away for the weekend and you want to have a party; a big party. You want as many people as possible to attend. Unfortunately you only have one invitation to hand out, which asks the person receiving it to invite more friends. There are three people you genuinely like and hope will come to your party, but you can only give out the one invitation. The first person is the school’s computer geek, the second is your English teacher, and the third is the head cheerleader. Who gets the invitation?

I’d give it to the cheerleader too. And not because of some teenage fantasy where she only invites the rest of the cheerleading squad. I’d give her the invitation because it leads to the best chance of getting the most people to my party. I also have a hunch she’ll know the right people to make the party a good one.

In many ways the clearly contrived scenario above describes seo and marketing. You have a goal, you have finite resources, and you want to maximize the return on your investment of those resources.

I’ve been guest blogging for Outdoor Blogger Summit the last few weeks and one of the comments on my post about marketing your blog led to this comment about commenting on other blogs as a marketing strategy.

I have a tough time with the whole commenting thing – I say as I comment.

It feels false to me. Almost like people only comment on each others blogs so they can get comments back. That isn’t necessarily true but that’s how it feels.

I want people to want to read my blog, because they want to know what I said today. And I want what I said to compel them to write. I don’t want them to feel like they have to slog through it just so they’ll get a comment in return. Do you see what I mean?

I understand the sentiment and know that many feel similarly about all things related to seo and marketing. I’ve mentioned myself that leaving links inside comments often feels wrong to me, but it’s not wrong by default. Marketing doesn’t have to be sleazy or make you feel that way. It’s about identifying an opportunity and taking advantage of that opportunity. It’s about understanding how things work and maximizing your chances for success. There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of an opportunity.

If you have something to say and want to leave a comment on a post there’s nothing wrong with filling in the URL field to turn your name into a link. It’s just another opportunity to bring someone to your site. It doesn’t make your comment any less valid. Hoping that someone will click the link doesn’t make your comment invalid either. As long as you took the time to add something to the discussion there’s nothing wrong with getting something back in return.

You can have the most remarkable blog that ever was, but if you want people to read it you need to make them aware it exists. Most of us have limited resources to spread the word and we need to take advantage of all the opportunities that are in front of us.

I spend time trying to understand how search engines work and what they want to display in their results. I spend time trying to understand how people work and what they’ll respond to as well. I want to understand so I can make better and more informed choices about building websites and creating content for those sites.

You give the invitation to the cheerleader, because she’s the site that can drive more traffic. She’s the optimal combinations of keywords that will bring more people to your party. She’s the one who will impact the results most favorably to you. You weren’t attempting to manipulate the situation by giving her the invitation. You simply understood that giving it to her would give your party the greatest chance of success.

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  1. My scenario is very much contrived, but the rules were you couldn’t ask anyone to specifically invite someone else. It was up to them. And you could only invite one person.

    I wasn’t specifically thinking of the Tipping Point when writing this, but the idea is definitely in there. I guess the ideas in the book are in me too.

    I know I have SEO in the title, but the point of the post wasn’t meant to imply SEO is more important than real people. I hope that came across The point is really not to see marketing as something sleazy. It’s just understanding what works and what doesn’t and taking advantage of the opportunities for what works. Everything here applies equally to understanding people as it does to algorithms.

    I agree you can run a successful site without search engines, though I still enjoy learning how they work and using that knowledge to my benefit.

  2. I might invite the computer geek, and tell her to invite the cheerleader. It would probably make more sense to invite the cheerleader directly, and maybe a few others informally.

    When I read the opening line in this post, I immediately thought of The Tipping Point. How did Hush Puppies become popular…?

    I spend time trying to understand how search engines work and what they want to display in their results. I spend time trying to understand how people work and what they’ll respond to as well. I want to understand so I can make better and more informed choices about building websites and creating content for those sites.

    Given finite resources, understanding people in general is probably more important. Google is a set of assumptions a bunch of very intelligent people made about people in general. I don’t want to try it, but a person could conceivably run a healthy site with no search referrals.

  3. Some marketing is sleazy of course. If the subliminal message is along the lines of buy this product and all of your twisted little dreams will come true – that’s sleazy.

    SEO can be about helping people to find what they’re looking for. Nothing sleazy about that.

  4. True. There will always be sleazy marketers and sleazy SEOs. I just hope the point is made that marketing and SEO are not sleazy by default. There are unethical people across all industries, but that doesn’t make any of those industries unethical, just some of the people.

    There are some who have a hard time promoting themselves because they think there’s something wrong with promotion. Self-promotion is a necessary part of business. The promotion can be taken too far at times, which I think we’d all agree, but self-promotion is an appropriate part of running a successful business and no one should feel ashamed just because they promote.

  5. I would invite the cheerleader too. She has hot cheerleader friends.

    Just playing but, not really. The hot cheerleader saying I’m going to a your party is like Micheal Jordan and Cuba Gooding Jr telling wearing your t-shirts and telling everyone they are great. It totally works. That hot cheerleader is coming to your party like having a link on the homepage a of bunch of really great websites.

    That’s a good analogy for me.

    Great insight Steve.

  6. Thanks Buck. You’re right that the cheerleader being there brings in people just because she’s there. I assume she also knows more people than the computer geek, though that doesn’t have to be true. And I assume she brings more fun people to the party than the English teacher.

    Glad you like the analogy.

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