What Online Marketers Can Learn from the Arts Sector (and vice versa)

I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference on digital engagement in the arts sector. The conference took place in Brighton and was hosted by Culture24.

Culture24 is a non-profit organisation with a mission “to support the cultural sector in reaching online audiences”. The conference was in some sense a launch event for their newest research, in the form of a report titled Let’s Get Real 2.

[Quick sidenote: The first Let's Get Real report was released in 2011, and became the starting point for an 11-month research project which brought together 22 cultural organisations to learn about "the practical use of technologies to gather data and how to draw meaningful insights from this". The result of this research is the Let's Get Real 2 report.

The full report can be downloaded from the Culture24 website.]

But what I want to talk about today is how we, as SEOs and digital marketers, can learn from this research coming out of the arts sector and use it to help us do our jobs better. So I’ve put together a few  general takeaways from this conference which resonated with me, and which I’d like to see us SEOs and online marketers thinking about more:

1. your target market is an ‘audience

One of the recurring buzzwords of the day was ‘audience’. I know that we as marketers do sometimes use the term ‘audience’ to describe our target market, but how often do we think about what that word means?

Consumers and customers seek you out in order to satisfy a need for a product or service. This is not engagement, this is purely transactional.

Audiences, however, come to see and hear you because they are interested in what you have to say and/or show to them, and in some sense they want to engage with that. For performing artists, the audience is an active participant in the performance.

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Gimme My Money

Recently we’ve seen several SEOs fussing about not getting paid, resorting to outing the offenders. Everyone’s favorite Dutchman-in-Ireland Barry Adams wrote “How I’ve Been Shafted By Darryl Collins from Banjax and Gingerparts” (which sounds so much like a revenge porn title) and the comment section is completely full of people coming forward to say that they’ve either also been shafted by Mr. Collins (that is so hard to type without giggling) or that it’s been a problem for them with someone else. Suffice it to say, it IS a problem. In my Link Club, we’ve recently discussed how to avoid this and let me tell you, it’s definitely a huge problem and I’m still trying to collect on an account for a client who left us years ago and still owes us a small fortune.

money

When you’re starting out, it’s tough to demand payment upfront because you might not think you have the credentials to back that up. Hell, you might not have them to be honest. However, we’re in an industry where some people feel that if we don’t get them the exact results that they think they deserve, they think they can screw us. The client I mention above signed off on buying links, saw the link report each month, and was happier than a pig in shit as long as he was making money but when he gets slapped by Google? He doesn’t want to pay us because we “got him into trouble” doing what he knew was risky, what he asked us to do, and what he was informed about every single month without fail. Funnily enough, this trouble of his happened 2 years after we stopped working with him and was never mentioned as a reason why he couldn’t pay until Google sent him the warning. Before, he’d just say something about it being hard to pay but he was working on it, but the second Google gets him? He can’t pay because it’s all our fault.

We’ve had other issues with various excuses attached, such as “we didn’t know what you were doing, not REALLY, because we didn’t have time to read all your emails or the actual contract which clearly listed exactly what you’d be doing” and “we were thinking that when we did not say yes please abide by the contract and continue working as we’ve both agreed, you’d know that we didn’t really want you to keep working.” If you went to the dentist and had a tooth filled, would you refuse to pay because you didn’t understand the chemical composition of the filling? Can you get out of a late payment for your mortgage because you didn’t like the color of your roof? Why do SEOs keep getting screwed like this?

screw

Here’s another problem: to get a client, you have to lay out enough strategy and tactics that you plan that they can just take you out of the process, do it themselves, and screw you. If you try to be vague enough to hook them but not give too much away, you might not land them as a client. Do you have any idea how many proposals I’ve had to clarify where I’ve had to list out actual ideas, because the general ones didn’t make the potential client feel comfortable that I could do a good job? Too freaking many, and guess how many of those came through? I can’t think of a single one, and after the last go-round with it, I just walk away if they don’t want to pay me upfront for the ideas that I want to implement, because I do enough work for free. I don’t make money off writing for any site but there’s always the person who comments that I should have given them more information and more tips. There’s always someone adding me on IM or emailing me, asking so many questions that I finally have to point out that I have a company to run and things to do for my own work and that I cannot continue to dig into THEIR problems, and every time I say this, I don’t get an apology. I get a comment about how they thought I was supposed to be a nice person and then they go into the guilt phase of being sorry they wasted my precious time.

I’ve always been against outing sites for doing bad things so logical thinking dictates that I should feel the same way about outing clients that don’t pay, but I’m not. I’ve never personally done it but will I? Who knows. I’d rather spend time brainstorming with my employees than sending the 15th email saying “we still haven’t received a check from you and I’m making a very indignant frowny face due to it.” When I hit my first non-paying-client roadblock, I sought the advice of other people as to how to handle it and the number one response was “threaten to out them somewhere for it.” However, I’m still uneasy with doing what Barry did although I respect him for it, but I’m still uncomfortable with it because with my luck, I’ll out someone who has been in the hospital in an iron lung for 3 months or something. Is it bad karma to do it? It’s certainly bad karma not to pay someone who worked for you in good faith. Some people are crazy though and will do whatever they like whether they’re right or wrong, and since I am Dr. No, all I can imagine is that I’ll pick the true psycho to out and say hey, Mr. Po Pants didn’t pay me for my link audit. Mr. Po Pants will end up burning my house down and since all my vinyl is in storage, he won’t even have any problems from toxic fumes.

In the end I suppose that the way around getting screwed like that is to demand payment upfront and in full. The first time I did that I was slightly embarrassed (thanks Mom) but I laid out my reasoning to the client and to my great surprise, she said “no problem. It’s happened to me too so I respect you for it.” Wowzers. Sometimes when something isn’t going to cost much, I’ll just do it and bill the client later but I’m now chasing payments from two people because I was that stupid. So I’m going to get better about it, and the second someone screws me on my money, I’m shutting them down. If a client felt like I was wasting their money and doing nothing, I’d expect them to shut ME down so I need to do the same right? Right.

So get your money upfront if you can. Get a downpayment if you can’t get the full amount, but don’t let it slide when things start to go wrong, not even for a second, because if people think they can avoid paying you, or that they can pay you very late, they’ll do it. If you’ve never worked with the client before, get at least a percentage of the amount before spending time on it and lay out the contract so that you have legal recourse if they don’t pay. Make a plan for how you’ll handle this if it does become a problem for you, and let clients know as soon as they sign on. Put details about payment expectations on every invoice, even if it’s just that payment is expected within x number of days. If payment isn’t made by the due date, stop working and tell the client you’ve stopped and will continue when the check arrives. It’s actually starting to work well for me, so no outing for me just yet. However, give me a few more months and if I’m still chasing that one client, it might just happen.

 

What Is ‘Mobile’?

Mobile traffic, mobile websites, mobile apps. These and similar phrases are increasingly being discussed in SEO circles, but sometimes (and I am as guilty of this as anyone) we forget to define what we actually mean by the term ‘mobile’.

The Official Definition

The Mobile Marketing Association recently defined ‘mobile marketing’ as “a set of practices that enables organizations to communicate and engage with their audience in an interactive and relevant manner through and with any mobile device or network.” [emphasis mine]

But to the average person (at least here in the UK), ‘mobile’ is a synonym for ‘cell phone’. No one says, ‘let me look it up on my mobile’ and then takes out an iPad. Tablets, smartphones and feature phones are all very different devices, and encourage different behaviours, and therefore require different marketing approaches.

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Could A Chimp Still Do SEO? A Followup

In 2007 I was much more obnoxious (and had more free time) and I wrote a post about whether chimps could take over our jobs.

I’m still sure that they could definitely perform certain functions in this industry, besides being DAMNED cute even if they are fairly deadly, but what about some of the new roles that have come about or gotten more important in the past 5 1/2 years? Could a chimp do those too?

Damn right she could.

DentalChimp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Content Marketing

Create sites that are great and useful, totally relevant, and constantly updated with new and brilliant content that people love, socialize, and editorially link to? Um, no, but can you do that either? Enough said.

AMAs

The beauty of chimps, as well as any other animal, is that you truly can ask them anything. They may not answer but you don’t have to get all cranky about it. In fact, some of their answers may be much less evasive than those of other popular SEO figures. Chimps may actually know what they’re talking about, too. Chimps can type (better than some of you, you lazy sods) and use sign language so I imagine a chimp AMA would be enlightening, entertaining, and you’d come out of the whole experience a better SEO. Just don’t ask them anything stupid like “how does a monkey get an Adwords account?” because remember, a chimp is not a freaking monkey. Are you a monkey? NO. Neither is a chimpanzee.

ask me anything

 

 

ASK.

ME.

ANYTHING.

 

Answering Questions On Quora

First of all I would like to say that in doing some research for this piece (because it’s so scientific) I came across the best chimp question ever outside of “Can a chimp impregnate a human?” which was “Would a chimpanzee enjoy going on a roller coaster?” My god, the imagery!! The answer is obviously yes, by the way. The difference in an AMA and Quora is that questions on Quora are much funnier and the answers given by people who are total idiots are really fun to read. A chimp could totally give a senseless answer that would make you wonder if you were actually the moron. You know those people who say things like “well it depends on 200 factors, none of which I can really talk about because I could get into trouble with Matt Cutts but I do have it on good authority that those 200 factors are subject to change but again, I can’t say any more. I’ve said too much already.”?? Well, a chimp could absolutely outclass those losers. A chimp could answer much more definitively and could back it up because who’s going to mess with one of those big hairy bastards?? They’ll rip your arms and genitals off, and don’t you ever forget it. You’ll read their answers and you’ll damn well like them, then follow them on Quora because they’re experts. And you don’t want to lose your arms and genitals.

Ranting Online

I think that a chimp would excel in this area because they are very good at waving their arms around, loudly chattering, and looking like brats. They also seem to be photographed in diapers or toddler attire on a regular basis, again fitting the profile of some online fussy pants. An online rant isn’t too different. You think a chimp’s post is crap or adds no value to the topic? Go ahead and tell her that and stand back. Hell hath no fury like a chimp, um, told that her post is crap or adds no value to the topic. Chimps are known to occasionally turn on people that they love, so imagine if they don’t like you and you talk some trash. You’re dead meat. They’ll get in your car after maiming you and probably get into a bit of a fender bender which YOU will end up paying for of course because I bet you didn’t think to add them to your insurance policy did you? Fools.

Negative SEO

Any animal known to regularly fling poo is an animal that could be brilliant at negative SEO. Research has just shown that female chimps can get really nasty in female-on-female interactions  (I swear to God that is not a dirty story) so imagine what they could do if a competing site, run by a female of course, continues to beat them no matter how many networked links they buy or how much content they spin. They will take it DOWN. They could bang out fake negative reviews on their internet-connected typewriters (since they like typewriters, being all old school) and diss you on Twitter. If their avatar is seductive, chances are they’ll have many male SEOs in the industry backing them up, too.

pissed off chimp with gun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit goes to ebaumsworld.com for this wonderful image.

Link Cleanup

Chimps are brilliant at making a mess but can they clean one up? No, but how successful are your damn link cleanup jobs??? Have you just restored your site to its former pre-Penguin glory? Have you done fewer than 18 reconsideration requests? Ok then. You can hush.

Building Tools

Chimps are great users of tools, and can make weapons out of lots of things and not just their own poo. That horrible chimp Travis (who names a chimp Travis?) was known to drink wine from a stemmed glass, something I still haven’t mastered. (Note: I am not making fun of anyone Travis hurt. Only Travis himself.) They can also ride on segways which some of our local police can’t handle without running someone over. Any chimp who can do that can build a tool to knock someone’s teeth out or tell you what your percentage of brand anchors is.

Community Management

Chimps ARE fiercely protective, so this would be a natural fit, plus they’re terrifying when they’re angry, like some of you. If they could figure out how to be online most of the time and set up brand alerts, I’m pretty sure a chimp could kick ass at this job. You talk junk about a chimp’s online member community, you’ll probably end up having your genitals ripped off.

I’m sure there are many others tasks and jobs that are suited to the chimp mindset and lifestyle (open air offices will always be a plus and they may smoke less than some of your coworkers…maybe) so will we be in danger of being replaced? Who will be the first to hire a chimp intern and try it out? Is that tax deductible? Could using chimps for SEO become the new thing, and if it can and does, will we need to rebrand the term used for it in a few years, causing tons of SEOs to have to change their titles? How can we get on top of this potential new chimp movement and future-proof our link building strategy so that we don’t get kicked out of Google???? Will “use of chimps” be added to the Webmaster Guidelines violations???

I’m going to have to take a Xanax now.

How to get the most from your data

Web analytics is a topic that gets mixed reactions, much like SEO really. Some people think it’s a myth, others are intimidated by the data, some know it is important but are limited to the basics and others can’t get enough (that’s me!). As an analytics specialist I find that my role includes the bits you would expect – implementing tracking code solutions and analysing data – but it also requires offering assistance in making the most of the data, from changing clients’ attitudes to encourage them to use their analytics more, to showing how the data can be used much more effectively.

The big thing behind this is that analytics isn’t about numbers.

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Musings on the Bottom Half of the Internet

“Never read the bottom half of the internet, that’s where the bad things live.”

It’s mantra repeated by many.

I’m referring of course to the comments, which as ‘bottom half’ indicates are situated a long old scroll down the page at the bottom of a post or article.

bad-things

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