Beginners guide to SEO

London underground

Seeking a simple metaphor to explain how SEO fits into a digital strategy to a “digitally challenged” client running a successful small business, I struck upon the map of the London Underground.

If you look at the map, there are stations on single lines, stations with several lines running through, and stations with multiple intersections, some to other networks outside the underground, busses and British rail.

At any time, there are people in various stages of a journey. Some are waiting on a platform, some travelling towards the underground entry and exit points, and some on a train going to some predetermined end point of their journey.

Imagine now that every person had a descriptive tag attached, which was stored waiting for a request about that person, that could be read, and communicated to anyone asking.

SEO calls this process of asking for a location and description as  “Crawling” and “Indexing”.

Each piece of information, if it has been appropriately tagged, or described by the person putting it onto a site, is “indexed” by the search engines, and when someone types a search request into a box, the engine crawls through the indexed material and returns a link to the location and description of the item to the searcher.

Back too the metaphor.

Each person with the tag on the underground, can be found, and returns the requested information to the enquirer. Location, what they are wearing, who they are, what they look like, with links to others who may  be with them, and where they are going.

There are just two dimensions to having an effective SEO strategy.

  1. Get the technical stuff right, and this can be really complicated, and to the novice, even many professionals, is challenging. Find someone you trust to get it done for you.
  2. Have a strategy and action plan, without which you will be lost irrespective of the quality of the SEO.

Back to the underground metaphor. You never (perhaps rarely, a late night can make a difference) climb onto an underground train without knowing where you are going, and what the best route is under the circumstances that prevail.

Why should it be any different for an SEO strategy?

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The sure way to make a significant profit.


How many monopolies have you seen that do not make a good profit?

Very few I bet.

On the other hand, how many very sensible, responsible, customer focussed businesses in competitive markets have you seen go to the wall?

Which would you rather be?

Our consumer regulator works to achieve as competitive a market as possible, so it must be good, or at least seen as good, but good for whom?

If you take a broad view of what constitutes a monopoly, a situation where there is domination of a niche, you do not necessarily have to be a massive multinational, or legislated infrastructure supplier to be a monopoly. As a kid, there were several milk bars in the suburb I lived in, one of which had a monopoly on milkshakes sold to schoolkids, and as a result all the other stuff the kids in the area bought. They had a monopoly in a niche, and even as a kid, I knew it was good business.

GoPro went from a idea to a billion dollar company by seeing a niche in the camera market, and going for it. There are two in my household, 2 of my three sons, mad as they are, use GoPro’s to document their lives, and there is even now several years later, no alternative.

Perhaps the most common conversation  I have with my client base is about the need for and means of differentiation. What makes you different? Why should people buy from you?

The ultimate differentiation is to have something that nobody else has, that some people want, and it does not have to be a superior milkshake, or innovative piece of camera technology, it can just as easily be a re-engineered supply chain.

The Dollar Shave Club delivers a product you can get in the local supermarket, difference is the way it is delivered. They have created a monopoly in mail order razors, who would have  thought? Certainly not Gillette.

When you figure out what you can do for a customer that nobody else can do, and that customer is not satisfied with an alternative,  you have what is in effect a monopoly.

Seems to me that the objective of differentiation, and a sure way to make a significant profit is to find a way to create a monopoly.

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6 reasons you might be “engaged”.

Many put forward the notion of “Engagement” as the objective of Social Media and web based activity, it crops up with the regularity of a hot dog seller at a big football game.

However, I have yet to see a definition of “engagement” that I am comfortable with. Sticking it in Google is no help, 374 million responses, most, probably predictably, about the lead in to marriage from rings to places to blow the house deposit on a reception.

Wether you are setting out to “engage” a potential customer on social media, have employees contribute some of their ideas and brainpower to the enterprise, or just having a casual conversation with someone, if  “engagement” is what you are seeking, it will only evolve  after one or more of several other things are in line:

  1. What you have to say is interesting to the  other party.
  2. The other party or audience has a need or desire for information you can deliver
  3. There is something your audience  wants from you
  4. There is a specific problem you can solve.
  5. There is the opportunity and desire for a two way flow of conversation
  6. You have met “the one”. This has nothing to do with this blog and its contents, but good luck to you.

“Engagement” has  many meanings, and I suspect most would define it in the context of what they are seeking. For me, as a marketing professional, it means there is mutual value in some activity, from a simple conversation, to someone reading and commenting  on this blog, to a collaborative effort with a colleague, to adding value to one of my clients. Whatever “engagement” means you, it is certain that there is a lot of other stuff to do first to build the foundations that make the interaction worthwhile, and offer the chance of becoming an “engagement”.

Engagement is an outcome, not a strategy, and successful strategies are always about doing something that matters, that makes a difference.


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2 vital and connected KPI’s for SME’s

share of attention

Share of wallet, share of attention

Share of Wallet is, very simply, your share of an existing customers total purchases in a domain you service. You can fiddle at the edges in the way you define the domain, but it remains that better servicing an existing customer to get a greater share of their wallet is almost always more productive than going hunting for a new customer.

Share of attention as a measure can be as simple or complicated as you like. Definitions vary widely, but usually include measures of  aided and unaided brand awareness, and the awareness  of a specific marketing activity amongst the target market of that activity.

Share of wallet is the measure to be applied at the bottom of the sales funnel,  share  of attention the measure at the top. It is unlikely that a marketer will ever get to have a share of wallet until there has been a share of attention established.

Share of wallet always has been, and still is, a simple measure of great power. Share of attention used to be pretty simple when the communication mediums were limited to the few TV and radio stations, magazines and newspapers people consumed, but has become remarkably more complicated since the fragmentation of media.

Attention is the thing that those with whom we wish to communicate allow us to have from them, it is a gift of  their time and intellect, and we so often undervalue or even abuse it.

We have 8 hours sleeping, 8 hours working, that leaves 8 discretionary hours to be spent, broken up into social time family time, entertainment, and all the other things we do with our lives.

Gaining peoples attention amongst all the competition, the first and necessary task in a marketing program is a huge task, but the benefit delivered by digital media is the huge palette we now have where creativity, innovation and an intimate understanding of the market and customers inhabiting the market pays dividends.

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The 3 things that REALLY matter in social media?



There are lots of so called “measures” that get touted as  being able to deliver useful insights into the effectiveness and productivity of investments made in Social Media. Many tell you nothing of value, and are often misleading, but because they are easy and obvious,  are often the ones used. Measures such as friends, followers, number of posts, even quasi mathematical ones that measure nonsense like the ratio of followers to followed are touted, but really tell you nothing of value, nothing that assists the process of building the returns from your investments.

However, there are three measures that will give a very good view of the productivity of your investments, the first two are easy, the third takes more work and understanding, but nevertheless can be accessible to even a small business without great technical and financial depth.

  1. Conversion rate. Not necessarily to a sale, but to something that you are asking visitors to do. Download a whitepaper, enter a contest, comment, offer a suggestion, etc. This requires the receiver of the message to actively participate, and take an action, to be converted in some way.  The word “engagement” is often used in this context, and is a reasonable simile, but can mean different things to different people, so is more “fluffy”
  2. Amplification rate. This is just the number of shares, retweets, reposts, and embeds, and backlinks that an individual piece  of content generates, and the rates overall of what you achieve.  If your first level contacts amplify for you, over time, their contacts become yours, and evolve into your sales funnel.
  3. Financial value. This is obviously the holy grail, and there is no way I know to measure easily, but it is the reason most of us invest out time and resources in Social Media. Setting out to create a measure requires that you build a picture of your sales funnel, and have sufficient sensitivity in your data to be able to follow a prospect from the lead generation stage through to a transaction. This can be done with the integration of CRM and web analytic tools, but is generally pretty  challenging for small businesses. However, if you know your average sales cycle times, sales numbers, and track the investments made in Social Media, you can get a reasonable picture using excel.

Being without a simple, and consistent way of measuring the impact of your investments when the tools are available and easily deployed should never be tolerated.  The days of “black box” marketing are well and truly over.


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6 ways to increase the impact of your story.


Marketing is all about stories, the journey taken that the reader can identify with in some way. Blog posts are just short stories, by another name, and by following the rules of stories, can be more interesting, engaging, and ultimately, deliver a commercial result.

So how do you tell as story?

I have 4 kids, adults now, but as kids I read stories to them, regularly. This is not the same as making up a story as you go, and for a good storyteller, perhaps a cop-out, but the stories of others were usually more engaging than my top of the mind make-ups.

As they got a bit older, it became clear that each preferred a different type of story, and they seemed to fall into a small number of themes, always around a common “backbone” of a hero undertaking some sort of quest, confronting dangers and failure, then finding the only escape route, which was about to close, then revelling in the redemption.

The storylines around the backbone were:

  1.  Rags to riches stories, these were favored by my boys. The protagonist drags himself from the streets to the heights, overcoming the disadvantages of injury, lack of education, or being abandoned in some way, and ends up giving back.
  2. The travelogue, the journey  from A to B via the rest of the alphabet, with adventures and barriers at each letter.
  3. Tragedy, the hero saves someone from a fatal flaw of their personality or circumstances, and the difficult situations that flaw creates.
  4.  The quest, which travels  with the protagonist seeking a solution to an insoluble problem
  5. Beating the Demon, who keeps on coming back, and usually saving the damsel in the process.
  6. And finally, comedy. Funny but often sad things that happened, centred around peoples lives, shortcomings, and loves. I found that stories that were able to deliver a message with splashes of humour were always the ones that the kids remembered the best.

A great story, well told will be remembered, whereas a recitation of facts passes from memory quicker than an iceblock on a hot summers day.



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You can go nude at home


Your facebook, linkedin accounts, and all the other social media platforms with which you interact are not home, they are places you visit, and perhaps rent a space to leave something behind for storage and easier access and use. They can be taken away, moved, or you can be banned, excluded, or diminished without being able to do anything about it.

Just like renting a house, you have some rights, but ultimately, you do not own it, and the ones who do hold all the cards. When you own the house you live in, you can do pretty much anything you like. You own it, and it cannot be taken away.

When you think about your digital life with this simple thought in mind, it should change  the way you behave.

You know the old story, rental cars go really fast in reverse, they can be abused by those renting them, simply because they do not own them, and are not responsible for the damage done beyond the superficial. That is also true for rented space on the digital platforms others own. Your content, presence and connections can be misused, abused and lent to others without your knowledge or consent. Just ask the B class celebs who recently have had their nude pictures shared from the Apple servers.

Should, have kept their nude antics at home.

Anything you want to own that is held on a public platform, your mailing lists and personal photos for example, must be assumed to be at some point, compromised. If you do not want the risk of it being on the front page of the paper one day, keep it at private, at home.

At the very least, back them up onto something you own, leaving it where it is on a rented or worse, free platform, anything can happen.

ecosystemFor business, it comes back to the notion of owned, earned and paid media. Each has its place, and can be complementary as well as synergistic, but make sure you get the mix right, and that you understand the implications.


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