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How to Prep Your SEO Strategy for a New Website

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How to Prep Your SEO Strategy for a New Website

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

From web development to branding and design, there are plenty of moving parts when launching a new website, but your SEO strategy shouldn’t be an afterthought.

In fact, your SEO strategy should be one of the primary considerations before you even start your website. To take things a step further, the best case scenario would be that your website structure is fully built based on the SEO strategy you already have in place. Doing this from the get-go saves lots of headaches for things like web development, content formatting and design, URL structures, and more.

So instead of fighting to make your website SEO-ready later on (which, trust me, is always an uphill battle), start with this holistic SEO checklist for new websites and save yourself valuable time and resources, and experience the beauty of good SEO (i.e. revenue) in a fraction of the time.

Why is SEO valuable for new websites?

New websites are like infants. They can’t comprehend language yet (no indexed pages), they don’t have many friends (no backlinks), and thus also have no authority (aka they can’t do much for society, yet).

As time presses on, Google starts to sniff out and apply changes as your website matures (assuming the SEO strategy is done right), and you’ll soon see that there are some big kids on the playground to contend with.

But don’t be afraid, all you need is a clever SEO strategy.

A baby website can start by focusing on longtail, low-competition keywords until it works its way up to toddler, then teenager, then full-fledged adult. Over time, with some tender SEO love and care, your new website can grow to compete and even overtake the strongest of competition.

So, if you’re ready to fast forward your baby website to an adult and beat the competition, just follow this SEO checklist for new websites!

1. Pick the right domain name (you can’t change it after!)

The right domain name is associated with SEO equity, so aligning your company and brand name with your domain name is critical. When you have a new domain, you’re essentially starting your SEO from scratch.

So, how do you find a domain name?

Here are some popular options to check if the domain you’d like to purchase is available:

Bonus points if your brand has a keyword similar to what you do as a business. It’s helpful, although not a must. If in doubt, choose a smooth brand name over a keyword.

2. Choose a high-speed website hosting provider

I personally recommend Siteground for its 100% uptime reliability, quick page time loads, and support (specifically for WordPress users). The host’s quality has a gigantic impact on your site’s performance, especially when it comes to a dedicated IP, SSD, HDD or other forms of storing, processor, and operational systems.

And, let’s be honest, the average Joe won’t wait longer than three seconds for a website to load, so ensuring an excellent host is the first step of your SEO strategy.

3. Set up Google Search Console

Google Search Console is like your SEO fairy godmother. It’ll provide you with tons of that that you need to achieve SEO success. With Google Search Console, you can check things like:

…and much more!

Google Search Console

But before we get too ahead of ourselves, make sure to verify your website in Google Search Console, so that it starts to collect data. You’ve got a few options to do this, which are outlined here.

Once you buy your domain name, Google Search Console is up and running, and you’ve got a speedy host, you’ve built the bare minimum for a website, and it’s now time to focus on developing your SEO strategy.

Quick note: at this stage, you may want to also consider adding Google Analytics to your website, as that is often the starter database for all of your marketing data. However, with recent updates regarding data privacy changes in the EU, I suggest not to rely too heavily on it and check for an analytics platform that matches your country’s customer data privacy laws.

4. Study your SEO competition

Once you’ve completed the essentials for your website, it’s time to study the competition. When analyzing and making a list of your competitors consider these questions:

  • How is their company similar to yours? How is it different? Check out their unique selling points.

  • What topics do they write about?

  • What keywords are they already ranking for?

One super important thing to consider here is your true “SEO competitors”. Every business has product and service competitors (people who sell similar stuff), but that doesn’t mean they have an SEO strategy that’s worth trying to outperform. The key here is to identify who sells similar stuff, writes similar content, and is piling up top keyword rankings. Those are your “SEO competitors”, and they’re who you want to beat.

Once you’ve identified your SEO competitors, it’s time to perform a keyword gap analysis. A keyword gap analysis uncovers the keywords you need to rank for in comparison to competitors, in order to close the gap. And with a bit of intentional filtering, you can indeed use this information to soon outrank them.

Here’s a snackable checklist to perform a keyword gap analysis:

  1. Add your root domain versus your chosen competitor root domains into an SEO tool like Moz.

  2. Review the competitor overlap and shared keywords.

  3. Export that into a spreadsheet and filter for the keywords that are relevant for your website (this is where the manual work comes into play, but it’s time that’s extremely well spent, especially because it helps you build your keyword map).

Keyword Gap

For more information on how to perform a keyword gap analysis with Moz, check out this guide and free template.

5. Research keywords and create your keyword map

Keywords are at the center of your SEO strategy, because they’re what connects search queries to your content listed in the SERPs.

Google’s goal is to use the keywords used in search queries to identify and present the most valuable information to searchers, otherwise known as “search intent”.

For example, let’s say you live in Los Angeles and you want to order delivery pizza, so you Google “pizza delivery Los Angeles”. Something similar to the image below pops up (though it can vary based on your search history and IP address):

Search Intent

As the searcher, Google has understood that your “search intent” was to order delivery pizza from businesses in Los Angeles, so the SERPs directly show businesses that match that criteria. Google uses that concept to match keywords with content all day, every day, no matter whether someone wants to buy pizza, compare CRM software, or find socks for their boyfriend.

A keyword is only as powerful as the search intent it matches.

Say you want to make some vegetarian dishes, but you don’t have all the time in the world to do it so you type “quick vegetarian dishes” into Google.

You tap the first one and find it takes two hours to make.

“Ugh! That’s not the one” you think to yourself.

You’re onto the next one and then the next.

Finally the third link down only takes 15 minutes to make.

“Okay, now we’re talking!”

If there are enough people intending to find a quick vegetarian meal and discover that the third option delivers on that “quick” part, then chances are that page will rank higher for intent and keyword matches and eventually overtake the first option.

Let’s now put this into context for your SEO strategy.

Search intent and the buyer journey

If you can uncover longtail, low competition keywords that exactly match what you’re selling, that’s your direct path to ensuring SEO has a major impact on your revenue and long-term profitability.

Understanding search intent plays a major role with buyer journey stages, so ensuring that you’re crafting content that’s appropriate for buyers in the awareness, consideration, and decision stage is crucial to carrying out the most effective SEO plan.

Buyers Journey

I often create SEO strategies for the B2B world, so understanding where the reader is in their decision-making process is crucial. If someone searches “what is marketing automation”, you wouldn’t want to give them a full-blown software landing page, because they’re probably not even ready to buy it yet. They just want to understand what marketing automation is. That’s where SEO comes into play and provides that informational content in order to build up brand credibility — emphasis on the “informational” part there. When done correctly, that same reader will come back to you when they’re ready to buy.

As with all things in marketing, being helpful is always more successful than aggressively trying to sell something to someone who isn’t ready.

So when choosing keywords, you’ll need to consider both search intent and the buyer journey by asking questions like:

  • Does the keyword truly match my product or service?

  • Does the keyword match questions that customers have asked (or might ask) throughout their buying journey?

  • What is the keyword’s difficulty? (level of competition to rank for that keyword)

  • What is the search volume of the keyword?

  • What page types appear in the SERPs for this keyword? (blog vs landing page vs home page)

The number one SEO strategy essential: your keyword map

At AS Marketing, we make this keyword selection process simple by using an SEO playbook to create a keyword map, which ultimately becomes the content strategy for new websites:

Step 1: We review where the website is now in terms of what’s ranking, what the top pages are, and create benchmarks for key SEO and website engagement stats. With a brand new baby website, this probably zero, but that’s ok, because this playbook also turns SEO zeros to heroes!

Step 2: We do a keyword gap analysis based on top SEO competitors, expand on the keyword list with our own keyword research, and then create a website structure that can achieve the desired business goals. If we know where the website is versus where it wants to be, we can strategize to make that happen. We also consider how users will find content coming from Google organic search as well when searching around on the website, so we always strive to find a balance.

Step 3: We then build a thorough keyword list that spans across the entire buyer journey, including all relevant product or service keywords and organize that into the main content verticals (content that scales and compounds organic search volume over time). Content verticals are often website sections such as industry pages, the blog, use case pages, product pages, and more.

Step 4: Now it’s time for the keyword map – the most important part of your SEO strategy. When creating this map, we cluster keywords (put related keywords into groups), so we know exactly what pages to create in terms of landing pages, blog articles, services pages, or collections and products. Importantly, we’re also getting aligned on the most efficient keyword for a website to try and rank for. Once we know this, we write out the URLs, headings, meta data, and more.

To give you a better idea, here’s an example of a keyword map in a spreadsheet:

Keyword Map

Now comes the fun part, building out your content calendar and breathing life into your website.

6. Build a strategic content calendar (and keep posting)

When done consistently and with intention, a strategic content calendar naturally attracts customers and helps you rank for keywords.

Here’s how to build such a content plan:

  1. Prioritize sections of your keyword map: You might well end up with a keyword map that spans 100+ pages. This is actually a good thing, as it means you have a lot of space to accumulate organic traffic (remember, even multi-million monthly traffic websites like HubSpot began with zero!). To start, you’ll want to prioritize pages that your website needs right away, such as product or service pages, as those have the highest likelihood to result in conversions and generate revenue for your business.

  2. Optimize your content: Writing content that ranks does take some best practice flex. Don’t forget to use keywords in the H1, URL, and metadata. If you’ve truly matched keywords with search intent, this comes naturally through writing anyways – keyword stuffing be gone!

  3. Track your keyword rankings: Once you publish content, keep an eye on how it’s performing. Even if you start out way down at the bottom, content can absolutely move up over time as Google perceives your content to be trustworthy, you provide a good user experience, and your Domain Authority increases. Patience is a virtue here!

  4. Post consistently: In order to improve those last three points, you need a consistent publishing schedule. There’s no one exact number, but I often recommend at least 4 new website pages per month. Remember that SEO has a compounding effect, so the more individual pages rank, the more likely it is that content across your entire domain ranks.

7. Ensure an optimized URL structure

I mentioned putting keywords in your URL briefly above in the content calendar section, but I’ll mention it again, because it is super important for ensuring that your content is being set up properly.

Here’s how this works with a fictional website:

  1. www.catsinabag.com is your official domain

  2. www.catsinabag.com/blog/ is the URL for your blog, in which /blog is the parent page

  3. www.catsinabag.com/blog/cat-food-for-cats is the URL for a blog article focused on ranking for the keyword “cat food for cats”

In the words of Rand Fishkin, “if there’s other keywords you haven’t used, or URLs you haven’t targeted with certain keywords, you do so during this process. This way you’re covering your tracks, making certain there are words and phrases that are covered early on.”

Also remember that URLs are permanent, so changing one is like starting any SEO attached to that URL from scratch. It’s always best to choose a URL-friendly system and stick with it to avoid any sudden drop in organic traffic or rankings. And if you have to update them, be sure to redirect the old URL to the new one, so any backlinks attached to it don’t disappear.

8. Review Core Web Vitals and page experience

Just like you go to check your core vitals at the doctor, you should do the same for your website to steer clear of any unnecessary issues.

Why does this matter?

Here’s my two cents as a seasoned SEO plus a bit of information from Google on their related algorithm update:

SEO has been around for a while. There’s tons and tons of content out there and more is being published every day. This means that Google is having an increasingly tough time differentiating who to give the top spots, so CWV and page experience are a way to differentiate the SEO winners and losers. SEO is no longer just about putting keywords in the right places, it now also involves content format, design, page load speed, as well as user behavior — like time on page and bounce rates.

In a nutshell, sustainable SEO success no longer ends with the click, you have to wholeheartedly satisfy your readers while they’re on the page in order to consistently rank.

The simplest way to review your website’s Core Web Vitals and site speed chops is to pop your domain into PageSpeed Insights.

While this is an extremely technical part of SEO, PageSpeed Insights quickly identifies errors and suggests how to fix them in plain English.

Here’s an example of what the results might look like:

Core Web Vitals Assessment

If you have a score that comes up as yellow or red, you’ll see suggestions you can show to your developer in order to improve.

9. Observe accessibility

Accessibility simply means how easy it is for users (and search engines) to access the information on your website. This element is taken into consideration as a ranking factor. You want an accessible site for everyone, right? Of course, you’ll want to make sure that your content is being indexed and crawled correctly, but you can also take these steps to ensure that happens:

  • Optimize alt text in images (for screen readers)

  • Use enough contrast (make sure your colors are easy on the eye)

  • Correctly label elements like buttons

  • Make your font size big enough to read

10. Promote, promote, promote

Whether for SEO or not, your website content shouldn’t just be published and sit there. The phrase “build it and they will come” is completely untrue when it comes to SEO.

You have put in the effort to create your content, so it deserves to be shown to your audience. Think about where you already have a strong presence and harness that. Maybe it’s on social media, YouTube, or your email list. Whatever the case may be, think about how you can use other channels to drive even more traffic to your website. This in turn improves your SEO, because the more people who spend time on your website, the more Google identifies that you have trustworthy content.

And if you aren’t getting the traction you hoped for when all your SEO efforts are said and done, you may even think about paid traffic for the first few months (after all, Google loves their money, and rewards those who pay). Doing this will help you to test your website design and content with pay per click visitors, so you can use this data to quickly adjust your SEO accordingly!

Now you’re set for SEO success

Ultimately, SEO is a marathon, and not a sprint. Your overall focus point should be laying down a strong website structure from the get-go, so you can scale easily and accumulate monthly organic traffic.

As you move along with your SEO strategy, continue to monitor and update so you can optimize for the best results. With ever-changing competitor strategies and trends, your SEO strategy should never be put in autopilot. Consistent hard work brings in consistent results.

Bam! There you have it – a bulletproof SEO checklist for new websites!


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Top 3 Strategies for Success

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Top 3 Strategies for Success

With the advent of e-commerce, manufacturers have unprecedented opportunities to expand their reach, streamline their operations, and enhance profitability. Amidst this digital revolution, adopting Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) is pivotal in optimizing production processes, quality control, and resource management.

As the lines between traditional brick-and-mortar sales and online commerce continue to blur, manufacturers increasingly realize the need to adapt and thrive in this new digital landscape. This article explores the top 3 strategies manufacturers can employ to succeed in e-commerce.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

MES (Manufacturing Execution System) is specialized application software designed to solve the tasks of synchronization, coordination, analysis, and optimization of production output within any production. MES systems belong to the class of shop floor-level management systems but can also be used for integrated production management at the enterprise as a whole.

MES collects and analyzes production processes, product demand, and inventory data. This allows manufacturers to adapt more quickly to changes in the market, reconfigure production to meet current requirements, and closely monitor trends. As a result, manufacturers can more easily predict and meet customer needs, which helps increase online sales.

MES helps in maintaining accurate inventory records and managing inventory turnover. This avoids overstock or shortages, which can affect a company’s ability to meet online demand and maintain customer service levels.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) enhance transparency and automate operations, reducing human errors and operational costs. Integrating Manufacturing CRM streamlines customer data, allowing manufacturers to tailor products, respond to market changes, and offer competitive prices in online stores. The synergy between MES and CRM creates an agile manufacturing environment, optimizing efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Content Marketing

Kapost’s research shows that companies in the B2B segment that blog get 67% more leads on average than companies that don’t. However, it’s worth remembering that content marketing requires a lot of resources to prepare and regularity in publishing it. This content can be, for example, brand identity and E-commerce logo, articles and videos, webinars, research, and interviews.

The content should help solve a specific problem to create the image of an expert and thus influence the decisions of potential customers. The topics discussed should not be chosen randomly. A little research in Google Trends will help select the main topic, discussion areas in the video, phrases, and words that should be included in the article. Publishing content based on such a prepared analysis allows you to achieve high positions in search engines. It provides a good user experience for customers looking for answers to product/service questions, comprehensively covering the subject matter.

The benefits of this e-commerce strategy are free traffic, increased user confidence, and the creation of an expert image.

Content marketing is a form of promotion that requires patience and time. Its effects will also depend on the quality of thecontent itself, its optimization, and promotion methods. No specific terms can be specified here.

YouTube channels as a form of content marketing

You can discuss your production process and show and test products on your YouTube channel. If someone is looking for information about a product and is unsure which brand to choose, they will likely find your video and maybe make a purchase. Remember to choose a title that matches the search query and prepare a video description with product links. You can send out an email to announce when new videos are released. Whenever you have particularly compelling videos, you could also promote them via texting notifications to drive even more traffic.

Utilize user-generated content and social media

Not utilizing the content that your users generate is a huge issue. This is because it’s not easy to refresh an e-commerce website and keep it alive. But photos and videos taken by real customers are great for this purpose.

Adding a “widget” that connects your online store’s website to its official social media accounts brings significant benefits. These include revitalizing your social media accounts, increasing your credibility as a manufacturer, inspiring other customers to buy, and encouraging repeat purchases.

Snapchat Planets

Snapchat’s “Planets” feature provides a unique and interactive way to engage with your e-commerce store’s audience. Here are some creative ideas on how to leverage Snapchat Planets to create engaging content:

  • Virtual Store Tours: Use the AR feature to create a virtual tour of your store. Each planet can represent different sections or categories of your store. For instance, one planet could showcase your latest collection, another could highlight bestsellers, and another could offer exclusive deals.
  • Product Launches: Announce new product launches by creating a cosmic journey. Users can travel from one planet to another, each unveiling a new product with engaging visuals and detailed descriptions. This creates a sense of excitement and discovery around new arrivals.
  • Interactive Shopping Experience: Create interactive shopping experiences where users can explore products in a fun and engaging way. For example, users can navigate through different planets to find hidden discounts or special offers, making shopping more interactive and rewarding.
  • Customer Rewards and Loyalty Programs: Develop a loyalty program where users earn points or rewards by exploring different planets. Each planet can offer unique rewards, such as discounts, free samples, or exclusive access to new collections. This gamifies the shopping experience and encourages repeat visits.
  • Themed Campaigns: Align your marketing campaigns with planetary themes. For instance, during holiday seasons, you can create a holiday-themed planet where users can find special holiday deals, gift ideas, and festive content.

By leveraging Snapchat Planets, you can transform your e-commerce store’s content into a captivating and interactive experience that keeps your audience engaged, entertained, and coming back for more.

Use newsletters to captivate your target audience

Newsletters can strengthen the connection with the consumer and demonstrate that shopping with you is safe and profitable. Remember that the more personalized the message, the more effective it will be. It should contain a call to action (CTA), such as a button that redirects to products.

Don’t forget to put a box to check for consent to process personal data when subscribing to the newsletter. Also, add an option to unsubscribe from the newsletter in each email.

A regular email account is not adapted for the newsletter, so do not use your everyday email address. This way, you risk being blacklisted by spam filters. The benefits of newsletters are optimizing advertising costs, increasing loyal audiences from different channels, and building mutually beneficial relationships with partners.

Print and PDF Channel

1716522964 432 Top 3 Strategies for Success

In the digital landscape, the significance of Print and PDF channels cannot be underestimated for manufacturers engaging in e- commerce. The tactile experience of print offers unique psychological advantages, enhancing comprehension and retention, which are vital for technical manuals and complex product details. PDFs merge this benefit with digital accessibility, ensuring wide reach while maintaining format integrity. This dual-channel approach not only caters to diverse consumer preferences but also bolsters marketing efforts, making technical content more engaging and understandable. Utilizing catalog software further streamlines the integration of Print and PDF channels into e-commerce strategies, enhancing product presentation and distribution efficiency.

Contextual advertising: Google Ads

1716522964 713 Top 3 Strategies for Success

If you want the advertising you invest in to have an immediate effect, it’s worth turning to Google Ads. Google displays paid ads in search results and on Google’s network of partners (on-site ads in the form of banners).

You bid when you search for a keyword for which advertisers have set up a campaign. The search engine determines who will appear in the search results and at what position. When assigning bids, the quality of the landing page, the quality of the ads, and the stated maximum bid per click are all considered.

To start setting up your campaign, simply login to your Google Ads account. Using the service is free, and you’ll find plenty of online tutorials on creating a campaign. However, you may find that it won’t generate valuable traffic if you don’t set it up optimally. Your budget will be wasted on clicks that won’t lead to conversions. This is why most companies resort to the help of agencies, including specialized agencies.

There is probably no industry in which Google Ads campaigns cannot be used. However, advertising can be moderately profitable if there is a lot of competition in the industry and margins are low.

The benefits of this e-commerce strategy are large audience reach, the ability to get the target audience as accurately as possible, and very detailed statistics on results.

The effect of launching a campaign should appear almost immediately. A properly set up campaign will increase traffic to the website. By systematically optimizing the campaign, you can achieve much better results.

You also can use paid Facebook Ads post promotion. It is important to pinpoint your target group, but how do you do it? A popular way is to draw up a customer portrait, that is, to make a collective image of your customer.

This considers age, gender, income level, location, interests and hobbies, and online behavior. Such a person will display a group interested in your services or goods.

Implement personalized product selections

Recommended product block and cross-selling are very powerful internet marketing strategies. In addition to the recommended product block, which shows the analogs of the product being viewed, it is worth paying attention to the website’s functionality.

As a rule, the products in the “You may also like” block are selected based on the pages previously viewed by the customer, his previous purchases on the website, as well as what was purchased by other customers with similar tastes. If this functionality is implemented technically sound, it can lead to additional items added to the shopping cart. “You may also like” block partly acts as an alternative to the advice of a specialist or consultant.

With blocks for cross-selling related products is a similar situation. Usually, in them are placed products from the same product line, collection, or simply those that perfectly match the product being viewed. You can use AI-powered live chats to proactively engage in customer conversations and suggest products based on their behavior.

Conclusion

E-commerce for manufacturers is a vast field, and in this article, we have presented the most popular and most effective forms of selling online. Remember, no effective e-commerce strategy exists. Each industry and business will have specifics. Try combining the above mentioned e-commerce strategies to maximize your chances of success and increase your profits.

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”

“Exactly!”

“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 



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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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