Sunday, June 25, 2006

Smackdown Matt

If I couldn't tell it was summer by the 90+ degree heat and humidity we've been having, I would know by all the camps, swim meets, and playdates I've been schelping the kids to. Add a super busy work load, my new garden, on-going work to the house and this poor little blog gets neglected!

Thankfully Matt has come off the ropes and to the rescue by sending us a new article he's written in between the camps, vacations and playdates he's been driving to -- so wrestle up a cool drink, crank up the AC and enjoy!

Search Marketing Smackdown
by Matt Williams, Prominent Placement

Prior to jumping into the relatively young world of search, my career was similar to many of those now in the industry – something else. For me, it was 15 years of media and marketing research, mostly with various Time Warner business units.

One of those assignments landed me with a job my wife used to say made me the “most popular guy at the party.” What possible job in research could turn a discussion of regression analysis into stimulating cocktail banter? Director of Research for WCW – World Championship Wrestling.

And just to get it out of the way, here’s the answer to “the” question – professional wrestling is as real as you want it to be. Okay, done.

But what on earth can search marketing, an industry with sooooooo many smart and talented people, ever learn from another industry? Much less from WRESTLING?!?!? Here are my thoughts on how search can benefit from a few wrestling pointers:

· Access: Your brand needs to be visible anywhere your audience is to be found. Just look around and you’ll see wrestling everywhere – broadcast TV, cable TV, pay-per-view, magazines, Internet, arena shows, video games, 900#s, toys and too many licensed product categories to list here. Is your site visible where your audience may be searching – the main search engine index, news engines, directories, local search sites, IYPs and/or verticals?

· Content: Engaging, relevant, but most importantly, unique content. As with everything, the majority of any population is average. Only a few within a population are above average, and fewer still are exceptional. Is your content really unique?

· Conversion: Wrestling is not out to make the world a better place. Its sole purpose is to make money. If you’ve “stumbled” across a wrestling program, here’s why they beat you over the head with pay-per-view promotions – the product is high volume AND high margin. If you don’t buy a PPV event, it won’t be because they were unclear about what they’re selling or that they made it hard for you to purchase. How clear and easy to understand is your value proposition, call to action and conversion process?

· Ethics: Good always beats Evil in the long-term. A wrestler’s D-cup companion may be able to gain the attention of the referee (i.e., the search engines), enabling a win by the Heel (i.e., a Black Hat), but even the lamest ref begins to learn after being duped a few times. Once the ref recognizes the “introduction of a foreign object” into the ring, the match is going to end in a DQ (that’s disqualification for those of you who have “never” watched wrestling). If you have followed this genre at all, you’ll know the classic DQs occurred during the “money” matches where the title belt is at stake. Are you doing anything that will get you banned, and if so, is it worth the price?

· Branding: Be what you say you are and deliver what you say you’re going to deliver. If not, you’re irrelevant to what your audience is seeking. For years, the tagline for Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) was “Attitude,” highlighted within a logo that looked like it had been hastily drawn by some disenfranchised teenage boy. What did the creative and art direction within their marketing promote? Attitude. What was delivered within every brand touch point (on-air shows, website, magazines, etc.)? Attitude. Say what you will, but WWE continues this excellence in knowing their target audience and then delivering brand experiences in a highly relevant and engaging manner. Do your SERP listings and PPC ads reflect your brand message and promise? More importantly, does your site deliver on your brand attributes?

· Becoming “The Man”: For all the search engines striving to knock Google off its perch as #1, I recommend they heed the immortal words of “The Living Legend” Ric Flair: “To be ‘The Man,’ you gotta beat ‘The Man – WHOOOOOOO!’” So who’s Ric Flair? This guy is incredible – he’s been a wrestler for decades, probably nearing sixty years of age now. But he’s still performing, still packing the house as a crowd favorite. He’s been World Champ so many times I think everyone’s lost count. And during the times we’d do research within the arenas, this guy would have as many, if not more, groupies waiting for him at the hotel after the show as any of the younger stars. Why? Because he continues to adapt to his environment, effectively countering his competition, delivering what the crowd wants. Yahoo, MSN, et al…, until you deliver (or are perceived of delivering) a better experience, you still haven’t beaten “The Man.”

Take the tips for what they’re worth. If you see some benefit, remember, you don’t have to let anyone know they’re from wrestling. We can agree to keep these between us and in the closet. After all, search is different. Search is special.

And just to bring this full circle, sometimes I can still gain the attention of folks at parties, but it’s different now. Saying I had a conversation with a “search rock star” at Search Engine Strategies only seems to impress other search marketers. Not that that’s a bad thing. But I long for the day when someone not in the industry will know I’m a search marketer and say to me, “I don’t ever really go on the Internet and search, but I happened across Matt Cutts’ blog the other day, and it was unreal – he says Google is tweaking its algorithm to devalue purchased links – wow, that was a callout to link brokers if I ever saw one! Boy, that’s going to be grudge match!”

Matt Williams, Managing Partner, oversees Data Analysis & Reporting, New Services, Operations, and Marketing for Atlanta Search Engine Marketing firm Prominent Placement.

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