Tropical Storm Ernesto meant yesterday's Daily SearchCast never happened. The studios in Florida had to batten down the hatches! But I didn't want to leave listeners looking for search stuff from me in audio format hanging.
Last week, I partnered up with Vanessa Fox from Google Webmaster Central to do a special edition of WebmasterRadio's Good Karma show. Vanessa's a big Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan. So am I. We thought there were search marketing lessons to be learned from Buffy. This MP3 file is the result. You can also listen via the player below:
Weird, freaky, scary? We weren't sure, but the reviewers gave it a big thumbs up. OK, one review from Google Operating System that said it had both "interesting tips" and was "really entertaining." Hope you like it! If not, don't worry -- the regular Daily SearchCast will be posted shortly.
Below, some of the tips discussed in the Buffy meets SEO show:
Upcoming Seminars: SEO and Conversion Rates: Hand-in-hand - RX for Large Paid Search Advertising Campaigns: Anatomy of an Enterprise Solution - Big Brand Search Engine Optimization: Managing Large Campaigns
How to be a better webmaster and search marketer by watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Do you want to know the secrets of search engine optimization? Do you want to bring traffic to your site? Do you want to know how to make sure your site is well-ranked in search engines for your preferred keyword phrases? Look no further than Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
When you are designing your site, think to yourself: what would Buffy do? And if the answer is that Buffy would do something dumb like wear uncomfortable yet flattering shoes on a night that she needs to chase down vampires, then just think: what would Giles do? Giles would never wear uncomfortable or flattering shoes.
Anyone can have power
Buffy was a tiny blonde girl with a pointy stick. But she had skills. She knew her mission and went after it. And she was unique: in every generation, there is a chosen one, and all that.
You don't have to be the biggest site out there and you don't have to have the most experience. You just need some basic skills and some unique qualities. Ideally, your site would be the only one in a generation, but that's hard to come by, so just do the best you can with what's you've got.
"The part that gets me, though, is where Buffy is the Vampire Slayer. She's so little."
Consider your audience
Buffy always brought the right weapon for the job. She was always well-armed with stakes, holy water, etc., but she knew when to break out the rocket launcher.
Who is your audience? What are they coming to your site for and do you deliver that?
Read up -- but don't believe everything you read
Giles always consulted his books, even though he was pretty smart without them. He got different perspectives and learned about the experiences of others. But learn from Giles' mistakes. He read of a prophecy in a book but didn't realize ""Prophecies are tricky things. They don't tell you everything." Don't only rely on what you read. Experience things for yourself too!
Get advice from those who have been there
Even though Buffy was the chosen one, she always came back to Giles to ask for advice. And sure, sometimes his advice was something like "the Bay City Rollers. Now that's music", but most of the time his advice was pretty sound and kept Buffy from dying... at least very often.
It's always good to check out forums, ask around, see if others have any good advice.
"I knew it! I knew it! Well, not 'knew it' in the sense of having the slightest idea, but I knew there was something I didn't know."
Regroup and share ideas
What would the Scooby gang have been without the library? Or, once the library was totally destroyed because they had to blow up the mayor who had turned into a gigantic talking snake, Giles' apartment? Or, once Giles' had his mid-life crisis and pierced his ear and got a red sportscar and then the owner of the local magic shop died -- again -- and Giles decided he needed something to do, the Magic Box? Or, I suppose once the Magic Box got all destroyed by evil, veiny Willow, Buffy's house? Or, once Sunnydale sunk into a giant pit, the big yellow schoolbus?
"Ah, I've seen the library. It's gone downhill since you left."
The point is that the gang always had somewhere to go to regroup and relax and talk about stuff. You should have that too. You can chat on discussion forums, but nothing beats a good conference. You can chat, see people in person, and have drinks. There is no downside. Unless you have too many drinks.
"Well, a gathering is brie, mellow song stylings; shindig, dip, less mellow song stylings, perhaps a large amount of malt beverage; and hootenanny, well, it's chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny."
Be prepared for anything
Things are always changing. Buffy kept hearing about how she was the chosen one, the only one, no one else in her generation was like her, and then suddenly another slayer showed up. And then there was that one time when she had a sister all of a sudden. And that sister never did go away.
The search landscape is jus like that, only without the slayer and the sister. The web itself is always changing. Who did you know with a blog five years ago? And even if you knew bloggers, did you call them bloggers? Search engines are always changing to take advantage of what's new and to stay one step ahead of those who might try to exploit them. You have to just roll with it.
Things can always get better
Look at Buffy. She died. Twice. She came back better and stronger both times. And Willow turned evil and flayed a guy alive and yet by the end of the series, she had the glowy white hair of Gandalf the White. And Angel became a vampire, then got his soul back, then lost it and killed a bunch of people, then got it back again but Buffy had to shove him into the swirly hellmouth pit anyway, but then he came back from that and one day got his own show! If he can bounce back, anyone can!
If things aren't going so well for your site, if you lose ranking, lose indexing, don't lose hope. You can come back, better than ever.
"Do you think she ... walked around on clouds, wearing, like, Birkenstocks and played a harp? 'Cause those are just not flattering. You know, the clonky sandals, not a harp. I mean, who... doesn't look good with a harp?"
Duplication is confusing
When suddenly there were two Xanders, no one knew what to do. Which was the original, true Xander? Which was the copy? They both looked like him and both claimed to be him.
Duplicate content on your site is confusing to search engines too. If you have multiple URLs that point to one page, you can block all but the URL you want indexed using a robots.txt file. If you have multiple pages with very similar content, take a close look at them. How can you make each page unique?
Have a soul
Angel was so much better with one. So was Spike!
And so can you be. A site that speaks from passion,that does more than just tries to sell you stuff, that isn't brochureware or aproduct catalog, will attract users, search engines and love.
Own Your Soul/Domain
Don't let the gypsies have a hold on you by outsourcing your domain name. Wanna be like Angel and spend over 100 years trying to get back your life? Be the master of your domain.
In the early years, Cordelia was icy and unapproachable. Sure, she was popular, but it was shallow. No one knew what she was really like inside.
Make sure your site isn't like Cordelia. Make sure that it's easily crawlable and accessible -- by search engines and by visitors. You want visitors to see more than just the surface. Is your home page a big Flash animation or does it have HTML links to the major sections of your site? Do your URLs have parameter after parameter or are they straightforward?
"It's against all laws of God and Man! It's Cordelia! Remember? The, the 'We Hate Cordelia' club, of which you are the treasurer."
Being popular is important, just ask Cordelia. It's true in life and it's true on the web. The more popular you are, the more the search engines are going to notice you.
How do you become popular? Just have a likeable site that people want to link to.
Warren and Spike both had robots; Joyce and Willow accidentally dated robots, but those relationships weren't as satisfying as those with actual, real people.
Pages with automated articles or cut-and-paste with a few words just can't match up to real, unique information. Visitors want real, thoughtful, useful information.
"Oh, that girl. Tara and I met her. She speaks with a strange evenness and selects her words a shade too precisely."
Use the right bait
Sure, you can go looking for vamps, but how about making them come to you? Buffy is never happier than when she's setting traps for vamps.
Draw links the same way, with compelling content.
"You don't hide. You're bait. Go act baity."
Have a scooby gang
Killing vampires is tough work. It's so much better if you have friends. When Spike came to down, Buffy's mom even helped out, whacking Spike over the head with an axe. And Spike, big bad vampire, who thought he could take on anything, didn't know what hit him. ("Buffy's mom with an axe" was the last thing from his mind!) "A Slayer with family and friends, that sure as hell wasn't in the brochure."
See, also, defeating Adam. The guy had like a nuclear core or something. The only way Buffy could take him out was to do some crazy spell that joined her up with her friends so she could just reach right in and grab that core out. And turn bullets into doves and dodge things in slow motion. Of course, The Matrix came out around the same time, so maybe the show was just hopping on a bandwagon, but still -- she couldn't have done it without her friends.
So work the crowd online, get to know people, be part of a community. Remember, sites that slay together ah stay together?
Don't hang out in bad neighborhoods
Riley thought the initiative was so great, but they were trying to poison him and turn him into some weird soldier zombie. And no good came from Willow hanging out with Amy -- Amy ended up trying to steal sage from Buffy's kitchen and Willow lost her girlfriend. Not to mention when Riley was hanging out in an actual bad neighborhood with vampires and ended up off the show. (Well, him being off the show was good for us, but maybe not so much for him.)
Hanging out in bad neighborhoods only leads to trouble. Don't get caught up in linking schemes or other nefarious doings. You don't want to end up stealing sage, do you?
Don't be tempted by the dark side
The dark side might seem tasty as first, but can you control the power (assuming you really even get powerful)? And who wants to be all veiny? Willow thought she could just dabble and be OK, but then she got hooked. And it was very obvious with the veins and the flaying people and the wanting to end the world. It's not like you can hide something like that. She was all strawberry at first, but you can't maintain strawberry when you're floating on the ceiling, looking for another hit.
"Think your little witch buddy's gonna stop with us? You saw her! She's a truck-driving magic mama! And we've got maybe seconds before Darth Rosenberg grinds everybody into Jawa burgers. And not one of you bunch has the midi-clorians to stop her."
Walk in a triangle
Fans of Buffy (and Angel and Firefly) know that it's always better for the group to walk in a triangle: your most important person first, then all the back up people coming from behing in a flying wedge. Triangles on the web work well. make a site that clearly guides people from your most important page, listing all your content, to that scoobie who they most want. And remember, triangles are also great because the broader the base, the bigger the funnel it makes when you flip it over in terms of catching search engine traffic.
Be in a band
Being in a band is cool. Oz was in a band and he was the coolest. So, try being in a band or having some other cool thing to talk about on your site. People will visit it more.
"What kind of band plays during an apocalypse?"
Don't be afraid of things that don't obviously go together.
Try something new and different. It might be really good. Look at Buffy and Spike. Or for that matter, Cordelia and Xander.
Just because your site is about one thing doesn't mean you can't talk about something else. You don't need a bunch of subdomains either. Just add some new pages and see if people like them!
People, and sites, can change
Anya got to Sunnydale as a vengeance demon and ended up engaged to Xander, helping the scoobies fight evil.
Google provides a reinclusion request form just for people like Anya.
Get a good soundtrack
The music made the opening credits of Buffy, especially that last scene when Buffy looks all tough. You can make multimedia work for you too. You probably don't want music to play on your site because we will all visit and then leave right away and never come back, but you can have videos or podcasts or something else available on demand that doesn't play automatically when someone visits the site.
Beware of puppets, dummies, and clowns
Just generally good advice whether you're a webmaster or not.
"I saw a dummy, it gave me the wig. There really wasn't a story there."
Hard work pays off
Every time a new big bad came to town, the scoobies stayed up all night researching, and they always managed to find just what they needed. Sure, sometimes they didn't manage to avert an apocalypse, but even then they pulled through. And thanks to Willow's mad computer skills, they always could find blueprints of building and sewers and anything else they might need.
"I'm not ashamed. It's the computer age. Nerds are in. They're still in, right?"
Wear interesting outfits
They get you noticed. How could you not notice Willow. Hey, it's the girl with the fuzzy sweater/floppy hat/eskimo outfit.
Your site should be like an eskimo outfit -- in words though, not in dizzying background colors or flying cursors.
Can your cloak repel sunlight?Tempted to do cloaking? Sure, wearing a big duster coat might seem an easy way for Angel or Spike to run around sunny Sunnyvale. But in reality, they don't go out in the sun much. They tend to use sewers. If you decide to cloak, expect that living underground will be a way of life. Is that the life you want? If so, remember that the only sun you're going to see will either be when you stumble across a fake beach on a movie set or end up on an alternative planet where sunlight doesn't hurt vampires. That might work for Angel, but will it work for you?
Have a life
It's easy to live on the web, and live only for your web site. And the Buffster certainly let her life get sucked into battling vampires and assorted demons. But occasionally she wished she could do something "normal." You need a balance. Set limits and get away.
Slaying is a non-profit job. The Watchers Council doesn't send Buffy a stipend. Eventually, she even ended up flipping burgers to keep her side job of slaying going, plus she had a brand new imaginary sister to take care of. Your web site needs to earn for you in some way, or you need to know something else is doing so.
Humans are only one of many audiences in the slayer universe. Being human, Buffy pretty much only operated in the dimension of earth. But if she really wanted to slay well, she would have reached out to the many demon dimensions out there. Don't limit your audience like Buffy. Understand that email, RSS, chat, MySpace profiles and more are all other ways for you to reach out beyond the dimension of your HTML web site.
"It's possible that he's in the land of perpetual Wednesday, or the crazy melty land, or you know, th-the world without shrimp."
Buffy couldn't let opportunities pass her by. If something is timely, don't wait! People are interested now.
"I'll just jump in my time machine, go back to the 12th century, and ask the vampires to postpone their ancient prophecy for a few days while you take in dinner and a show."