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SEO in Real Life: Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

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SEO in Real Life: Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

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.

The most exciting thing about visual search is that it’s becoming a highly accessible way for users to interpret the real world, in real time, as they see it. Rather than being a passive observer, camera phones are now a primary resource for knowledge and understanding in daily life.

Users are searching with their own, unique photos to discover content. This includes interactions with products, brand experiences, stores, and employees, and means that SEO can and should be taken into consideration for a number of real world situations, including:

Though SEOs have little control over which photos people take, we can optimize our brand presentation to ensure we are easily discoverable by visual search tools. By prioritizing the presence of high impact visual search elements and coordinating online SEO with offline branding, businesses of all sizes can see results.

What is visual search?

Sometimes referred to as search-what-you-see, in the context of SEO, visual search is the act of querying a search engine with a photo rather than with text. To surface results , search engines and digital platforms use AI and visual recognition technology to identify elements in the image and supply the user with relevant information.

Though Google’s visual search tools are getting a lot of attention at the moment, they aren’t the only tech team that’s working on visual search. Pinterest has been at the forefront of this space for many years, and today you can see visual search in action on:

In the last year, Google has spoken extensively about their visual search capabilities, hinging a number of their search improvements on Google Lens and adding more and more functionality all the time. As a result, year on year usage of Google Lens has increased by three fold, with an estimated8 billion Google Lens searches taking place each month.

Though there are many lessons to be learned from the wide range of visual search tools, which each have their own data sets, for the purpose of this article we will be looking at visual search on Google Lens and Search.

Are visual search and image search SEO the same?

No, visual search optimization is not exactly the same as image search optimization. Image search optimization forms part of the visual search optimization process, but they’re not interchangeable.

Image search SEO

With Image Search you should prioritize helping images to surface when users enter text based queries. To do this, your images should be using image SEO best practices like:

  • Modern file formats

  • Alt text

  • Alt tags

  • Relevant file names

  • Schema markup

All of this helps Google to return an image search result for a text based query, but one of the main challenges with this approach is that it requires the user to know which term to enter.

For instance, with the query dinosaur with horns, an image search will return a few different dinosaur topic filters and lots of different images. To find the best result, I would need to filter and refine the query significantly.

Visual search SEO

With visual search, the image is the query, meaning that I can take a photo of a toy dinosaur with horns, search with Google Lens, then Google refines the query based on what it can see from the image.

SEO in Real Life Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

When you compare the two search results, the SERP for the visual search is a better match for the initial image query because there are visual cues within the image. So I am only seeing results for a dinosaur with horns, that is quadrupedal, and only has horns on the face, not the frill.

From a user perspective, this is great because I didn’t have to type anything and I got a helpful result. And from Google’s perspective, this is also more efficient because they can assess the photo and decide which element to filter for first in order to get to the best SERP.

The standard image optimizations form part of what Google considers in order to surface relevant results, but if you stop there, you don’t get the full picture.

Which content elements are best interpreted in visual search

Visual search tools identify objects, text, and images, but certain elements are easier to identify than others. When users carry out a visual search, Google taps into multiple data sources to satisfy the query.

The knowledge graph,Vision AI, Google Maps, and other sources combine to surface search results, but in particular, Google’s tools have a few priority elements. When these elements are present in a photo Google can sort, identify, and/or visually match similar content to return results:

  • Landmarks are identified visually but are also connected to their physical location on Google Maps, meaning that local businesses or business owners should use imagery to demonstrate their location.

  • Logos are interpreted in their entirety, rather than as single letters. So even without any text, Google can understand that that swoop means Nike. This data comes from the logos in knowledge panels, website structured data, Google Business Profile, Google Merchant, and other sources, so they should all align.

  • Knowledge Graph Entities are used to tag and categorize images and have a significant impact on what SERP is displayed for a visual search. Google recognizes around 5 billion KGE, so it is worth considering which ones are most relevant to your brand and ensuring that they are visually represented on your site.

  • Text is extracted from images via Optical Character Recognition, which has some limitations — not all languages are recognized, nor are backwards letters. So if your users regularly search photos of printed menus or other printed text, you should consider readability of the fonts (or handwriting on specials boards) you use.

  • Faces are interpreted for sentiment, but the quantity of faces also comes into account, meaning that businesses that serve large groups of people — like event venues or cultural institutions — would do well to include images that demonstrate this.

Visual Search Element

Corresponding Online Activity

Priority Verticals

Landmarks

Website Images

Google Maps

Google Business Profile

Tourism

Restaurants

Cultural Institutions

Local Businesses

Logo

Website Images

Website Structured Data

Google Merchant

Google Business Profile

Wikipedia

Knowledge Panel

All

Knowledge Graph Entities

Website Images

Image Structured Data

Google Business Profile

Ecommerce

Events

Cultural Institutions

Text

Website copy

Google Business Profile

All

Faces

Website images

Google Business Profile

Events

Tourism

Cultural Institutions

How to optimize real world spaces for visual search

Just as standard SEO should be focused on meeting and anticipating customer needs, visual search SEO requires awareness of how customers interact with products and services in real world spaces. This means SEOs should apply the same attention to UCG that one would use for keyword research. To that end, I would argue we should also think about consciously applying optimizations to the potential content of these images.

Optimize sponsorship with unobstructed placements

This might seem like a no brainer, but in busy sponsorship spaces it can sometimes be a challenge. As an example, let’s take this photo from a visit to the Staples Center a few years ago.

Like any sports arena, this is filled to the brim with sponsorship endorsements on the court, the basket, and around the venue.

1656542574 386 SEO in Real Life Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

But when I run a visual search assessment for logos, the only one that can clearly be identified is the Kia logo in the jumbotron.

1656542574 593 SEO in Real Life Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

This isn’t because their logo is so distinct or unique, since there is another Kia logo under the basketball hoop, rather this is because the jumbotron placement is clean in terms of composition, with lots of negative space around the logo and fewer identifiable entities in the immediate vicinity.

1656542574 849 SEO in Real Life Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

Within the wider arena, many of the other sponsorship placements are being read as text, including Kia’s logo below the hoop. This has some value for these brands, but since text recognition doesn’t always complete the word, the results can be inconsistent.

1656542574 794 SEO in Real Life Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

So what does any of this have to do with SEO?

Well, Google Image Search now includes results that are using visual recognition, independent of text cues. Meaning that for a Google Image Search for the query kia staples center, two of the top five results do not have the word kia in the copy, alt text, or alt tags of the web pages they are sourced from. So, visual search is impacting rankings here, and with Google Imagesaccounting for roughly 20% of online searches, this can have a significant impact on search visibility.

1656542574 717 SEO in Real Life Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

What steps should you take to SEO your sponsorships?

Whether it’s major league or the local bowling league, in order to get the most benefit from visual search, if you are sponsoring something which is likely to be photographed extensively, you should:

  • Ensure that your real life sponsorship placement is in an unobscured location

  • Use the same logo in real life that is in your schema, GBP, and knowledge panel

  • Get a placement with good lighting and high contrast brand colors

  • Don’t rely on “light up” logos or flags that have inconsistent visibility on camera phones

You should also ensure that you’re aligning your real life presence with your digital activity. Include images of the sponsorship display on your website so that you can surface for relevant queries. If you dedicate a blog to the sponsorship activity that includes relevant images, image search optimizations, and copy, you increase your chances of outranking other content and bringing those clicks to your site.

Optimizing merch & uniforms for search

When creating merchandising and uniforms, visual discoverability for search should be a priority because users can search photos of promotional merch and images with team members in a number of ways and for an indefinite period of time.

Add text and/or logos

For instance, from my own camera roll, I have a few photos that can be categorized via theGoogle Photo machine-learning-powered image search with the query nasa. Two of these photos include the word “NASA” and the others include the logo.

1656542574 598 SEO in Real Life Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

Oddly enough, though, the photo of my Women of NASA LEGO set does not surface for this query. It shows for lego but not for nasa. Looking closely at the item itself, I can see that neither the NASA logo nor the text have been included in the design of the set.

1656542574 784 SEO in Real Life Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

Adding relevant text and/or logos to this set would have optimized this merchandise for both brands.

Stick to relevant brand colors

And since Google’s visual search AI is also able to discern brand colors, you should also prioritize merchandise that is in keeping with your brand colors. T-shirts and merch that deviate from your core color scheme will be less likely to make Visual Matches when users search via Google Lens.

1656542574 339 SEO in Real Life Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

In the example above, event merchandise that was created outside of the core brand colors of red, black, and white were much less recognizable than stationary typical colors.

Focus on in-person brand experiences

Creating experiences with customers in store and at events can be a great way to build brand relationships. It’s possible to leverage these activities for search if you take an SEO-centric approach.

Reduce competition

Let’s consider this image from a promotional experience in Las Vegas for Lyft. As a user, I enjoyed this immensely, so much so that I took a photo.

1656542574 374 SEO in Real Life Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

Though the Viva Lyft Vegas event was created by the rideshare company, in terms of visual search, Pabst are genuinely taking the blue ribbon, as they are the main entity identified in this query. But why?

1656542574 672 SEO in Real Life Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

First, Pabst has claimed their knowledge panel while Lyft has not, meaning that Lyft is less recognizable as a visual entity because it is less defined as an entity.

Second, though it does not have a Google Maps entry, the Las Vegas PBR sign has had landmark-esque treatment since it was installed, with features in The Neon Museum and a UNLV Neon Survey. All of this to say that, in this context, Lyft is being upstaged.

So to create a more SEO-friendly promotional space, they could have laid the groundwork by claiming their knowledge panel and reduced visual search competitors from the viewable space to make sure all eyes were on them.

Encourage optimized use-generated content

Sticking to Las Vegas, here is a typical touristy photo of me with friends outside the Excalibur Hotel:

1656542574 302 SEO in Real Life Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

And when I say that it’s typical, that’s not conjecture. A quick visual search reveals many other social media posts and websites with similar images.

1656542574 210 SEO in Real Life Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

This is what I refer to as that picture. You know the kinds of high occurrence UGC photos: under the castle at the entrance to Disneyland or even thepink wall at Paul Smith’s on Melrose Ave. These are the photos that everyone takes.

Can you SEO these photos for visual search? Yes, I believe you can in two ways:

  1. Encourage people to take photos in certain places that you know, or have designed to include relevant entities, text, logos, and/or landmarks in the viewline. You can do this by declaring an area a scenic viewpoint or creating a photo friendly, dare I say “Instagrammable”, area in your store or venue.

  2. Ensure frequently photographed mobile brand representations (e.g. mascots and/or vehicles) are easily recognizable via visual search. Where applicable, you should also claim their knowledge panels.

1656542574 505 SEO in Real Life Harnessing Visual Search for Optimization Opportunities

Once you’ve taken these steps, create dedicated content on your website with images that can serve as a “visual match” to this high frequency UGC. Include relevant copy and image search optimizations to demonstrate authority and make the most of this visibility.

How does this change SEO?

The notion of bringing visual search considerations to real world spaces may seem initially daunting, but this is also an opportunity for businesses of all sizes to consolidate brand identities in an effective way. Those working in SEO should coordinate efforts with PR, branding, and sponsorship teams to capture visual search traffic for brand wins.

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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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