Sunday evening last week I settled down to watch one of my indulgent guilty pleasures, CBS’ The Good Wife. And for the second time in the show’s history they once again went after the SEO industry. Last year in an episode entitled “Two Courts” the lawyers defended a client who didn’t want the jury to know he worked in search engine optimization because he was worried it would negatively colour the way they thought about him. In the recent episode “Two Girls, One Code” the case being tried was about a business that was suing because it had gone belly up when its rankings had plummeted overnight on the fictitious search engine ChumHum. One of the witnesses was their SEO contractor whose job was explained as trying to “game” and “spam” the search engines. I don’t know who is in that writers’ room, but it is clear someone has had a very bad SEO experience. In this issue of From Search to Screen I want to take a look at why The Good Wife’s negative interpretation of SEO is incorrect and why this is such a critical and foundational tactic all screen media should be using (including television shows like The Good Wife).
The SEO “Game”
“Gaming” or “spamming” the search engines implies manipulative, dishonest behaviour. While there are SEO practitioners out there who employ “black hat” techniques to misrepresent websites (make the engines believe they are about something they are not), reputable search engine optimization is simply about playing by the rules Google, Bing and the other engines set. I believe strongly in what I call authentic SEO, using relevant language that does not misrepresent what you are optimizing to provide real value to those searching. That moment when a person is typing a search query is incredibly powerful. If you can connect to someone actively looking for what your screen media project is about then you are well on your way to creating an audience and that is ultimately the goal when you put your content online. The key to this is using the same language people are using to search (keyword research) and then applying best practices (SEO). Play the SEO game, but do it with integrity and authenticity and you will have created a powerful opportunity for your project.
All digital marketing plans for indie film and screen media I have seen now include social media marketing. There is no doubt this is an important tactic for building an engaged audience for your project, but not many include or acknowledge search marketing as a valuable part of the online promotion strategy. And even worse, many screen media websites are still built to favour the “cool” or “wow” factor which is often opposite everything you need to do to make them search friendly. So it is important to take a moment to reiterate why it is important to include SEO as a digital marketing strategy for your project:
1. EVERYONE searches. When you are looking at demographics and who you are targeting you need to know that search still remains one of the most common online activities. It crosses ALL age groups, cultural backgrounds, socio-economic classes and special interest groups. Your audience will be searching online. It just makes sense to make it as easy as possible for them to find you.
2. Global, around the clock access. Anything online can boast 24/7 worldwide access, but the wonderful thing that once you have optimized your project for search it does not necessarily requite active attention in the same way that, for instance, social media tactics do.
3. Connecting with your niche/core audience(s). Every indie screen media success story seems to begin with finding the right niche audience. How about helping them find you? Search is a brilliant way to do this. By including the language used by an interest group in everything you do online, you immediately become more search friendly to them and increase your chances for discovery. You are telling their story in the language they use. This is a very powerful combination, one that dramatically increases your chances of online success.
4. Inexpensive promotion that gives great bang for the buck. Indie screen media is often about a lot of DIY marketing. It is important to find effective tactics you can do for free or very cheaply. SEO is invaluable in this regard. You are already building out a website and social media profiles. If you do it with keyword awareness and an understanding of what makes these elements search friendly, you are adding a powerful, strategic layer. There is an additional investment of time (and perhaps money) required up front, but it is relatively inexpensive in terms of long term payoff.
SEO Tips & Advice
Besides the articles on search engine optimization above, I have also written a number about some other issues related to search and keyword research you may have missed and find interesting. I encourage you to spend some time exploring and reading these articles when you start to plan out the search marketing strategy for your film, TV show or web series:
- Social Media Optimization vs Search Engine Optimization for Video
- 6 Tips for Optimizing YouTube for Internet Search (YouTube SEO)
- 6 Tips for SEO of Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn
- Search & Crowdsourcing: How to Find Community, Content & Cash Online
- Top 10 Search & Social Media Marketing Resolutions for 2012
- 5 Uses for Your SEO Language Ecosystem
- Getting Found: 5 Paths to Online Content Discovery
What Do You Think?
Have I convinced you that SEO isn’t a sleazy digital marketing gimmick Are you willing to try to tap into the power of online search for your film, TV, transmedia or web series project? I’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts, ideas, questions below or send them to me at annelise (at) veria.ca or on Twitter @veriatweet.
Or revisit the previous issue: The Creative Brain vs. the Marketing Brain