How Brands Should do SEO – Martin MacDonald at #SearchLove

How Brands Should do SEO – Martin MacDonald at #SearchLove

25th October 2011

All right folks, this will be my last bit of coverage for the event and one that I’m really excited about. For those of you who know Martin (or who happen to work for him ;)) know that he has done some seriously blackhat stuff in his past and is a very creative guy. As his presentation at Distilled’s LinkLove conference last year Martin caused a bit of a stir so I, for one, am very happy to hear that today he’ll be imparting some of his wisdom from his more recent efforts of doing big brand SEO.

Without further ado, let’s hear whether Martin’s white hat tactics are as entertaining and inspiring as his black hat ideas…

Martin at last year’s event: via Distilled

Martin started by saying: We are not talking about big internet brands here this is all targeted at traditional offline brands that are just now trying to get involved in SEO.

Martin then went through the good folks; ebay, amazon, etc. All of these sites started as online companies and built it off the back of this. And of course the ultimate brand: Google. Google and the others have built themselves up as brands. However, on the other side of the coin we are only now starting to see the Big Brands getting involved in SEO and a lot of them don’t get it even if they are starting to get involved. This is, as a result, going to completely change the way SEO works.

In the US only the SEO spend (only SEO) is going to be $5bn in 2011.

How will this impact the SERPs?

Martin thinks this will change drastically and pointed no further than the SERP for “soft drinks” and walked us through the results. The first SERP that has a brand result ranks in position 5 and this SERP should be destined for brand dominance [agree to disagree here – think brands would want to dominate this space most if they were looking to do SEO, but not what a searcher would necessarily be looking for).

So what will it look like when these people finally sort their websites out? As Martin says almost all of the big brands have horrible websites – overdependence on Flash.

Martin thinks in 2014 it will be completely dominated by big brands and how would this happen? Simple ABC/bog standard SEO will get the job done as far as Martin is concerned. On page report cards if you look at it for these brands all rank just about “F” when using something like SEOmoz’ report card suite.

Why? Because all of these big brands already crush it on PageAuthority and other metrics like this… they just don’t have any clue what they are doing with regular best practice. Martin also saying that all of the companies like Amazon couldn’t get started now because there will be no chance for the “mom and pop” style shops [again, don’t agree with this for the reasons he earlier mentioned and because of SEO’s bad reputation… but that’s another post].

How else? We need to evolve more if we want to get a piece of the pie. We can’t be spamming and buying links and so forth like we used to do. We need to move away from tricks and actually start reporting on things properly and so forth.

How to look like a big brand?

Without spending a million trillion pounds.

1. Create a buzz.

Martin mentioned “The Museum of Me” as a perfect example of what Intel did to boost their “like” account on Facebook – and consequently got over a million thumbs up. This may be a social thing but it’s ALSO how to do SEO.

The next example Martin showed was Take This Lollipop which freaks out entire offices. What is this advertising? Probably nothing but it’s gotten loads of links, shares, etc. When the true site gets launched it will probably get 301 redirected and passed along.

The next version of the pre-built brand was MahiFX.

2. Create brand evangelists.

What is the biggest brand? Religion. Primarily distributed by evangelists and word of mouth (though Martin jokes they may have published a few books as well). He references Gianluca and SEOmoz again but also the other members. You really need to get the evangelists onboard – to do so sometimes it’s good to look outside the marketing sphere.

At this point reiterating some of the gamification stuff that Richard spoke about earlier.

3. Give a shit about your brand.

The internet is littered with carcasses of websites of people who don’t give a shit about them. Any of the millions of blogs that launch could be “the next big thing” if people were willing to put the time in to do this.

The example Martin then gave was MC Hammer and the new search engine that he has launched. He may not be funding it but he’s engaging, engaging with the industry – Martin said MC Hammer speaking to him was a much bigger deal – he gets it and is engaging with the community. “MC HAMMER IS THE KIND OF PERSON THAT THE SEO COMMUNITY NEEDS” … wow actually can’t believe that was just said.

However, it’s not ALL about evangelising your brand

We as an industry have a serious problem. For the first time in over a decade we’re actually losing data. Martin is referring to the Google SSL fiasco of last week. How on earth would you build an online brand with no ranking or keyword data?

SEO needs everyone to seriously work on this or we will be in trouble. The entire marketing mix will be very seriously negatively impacted if we lose ranking data and keyword data. The entire internet is based upon giving things away – Martin suggests the hyperlink could have been patented and someone could be filthy rich, or their might be no internet.

However, SEO and building online brands are dependent on this freedom and the open exchange of information. Google was built on the free and shared information and he thinks the entire “do no evil” thing is about to expire.

Martin is looking at an account that receives 5,000,000 visits per month. Based on his maths we are going to look at 72,000 data points that we can no longer claim and look at how our keywords are performing. If this continues to go up, how the hell do we do SEO?

But what can we do?

Martin has started a petitition to give to Google about Keyword Transparency. He’s saying how this really takes the piss and so forth and how the capitalist people now have the dream. Once you have a Google wallet, Martin is suggesting that you will be paying for maps, etc.

Interesting way to close the event think people got sufficiently riled up, very exciting. In the meantime for a bit more of a read on the SSL thing please feel free to have a read through this that I wrote last week.

Thanks very much to the Distilled SearchLove team for organising another great event.


Written By
Sam Crocker is SEO Associate Director at OMD UK. Sam focuses on increasing traffic and conversions for websites whilst always keeping his eye on a company’s bottom line.
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