Stephen Logan

Why Lateral Thought is Important in Online Marketing

8th Dec 2011 SEO Blog 4 minutes to read

Brain lobesIt’s easy to follow the masses in SEO, social media and the various other disciplines of online marketing. If they’re getting results, so should you. But you will forever be hindered by your inability to innovate and reliance on other’s knowledge and techniques.

The truth is that all the information that you could ever need is out there. The required skills are also well within the grasp of most. Whether you choose to use them or not is your choice entirely. But whilst it is essential that you build knowledge, it is easy to become over-reliant on it. So this is where a critical mind and a little lateral thinking are so important.

Marketing is fundamentally a logical process. If you understand your customers and the medium, there’s a good chance that your campaign will succeed. But it is often those who take chances or are prepared to stray away from perceived logic who achieve the very best results. This is for no other reason than the fact that it helps them to stand out.

Taking a Considered Approach to Innovation

This can be applied to SEO, social media and any other form of online marketing. However, you can’t just throw caution to the wind. There are plenty of well-worn examples of companies doing just that and discovering only disaster. This is why testing and crowd sourcing are still so important.

SEOs should be testing constantly. Not on client sites or even their own, but on a range of purpose-built domains. This will provide the perfect platform to develop theories and see what impact this has on search engine rankings. If it works, then you can apply elsewhere; if it doesn’t, forget it and move on.

Search Engine Optimisation doesn’t generally stand still for long and it is only through testing that practitioners can crack the complex code of the Google algorithm. Whilst this information will generally be shared, with kudos and links providing ample reward for the originator, there is certainly a lot to be said for being the first to unearth these little gems.

Combining Knowledge with Beliefs

Lateral and critical thought can help you to identify potential avenues. By understanding what has worked historically, reviewing the latest findings and focusing on particular elements (link building, coding, content etc) you can unpick the algorithm tapestry thread by thread. By assuming that something will work you can take the theory and put it into practice to verify or bury any such notions.

For another example, look no further than social media. Some companies get it and others don’t. When you take the safe option, you can develop a cozy community, never offend a soul and get some reasonable results. There’s nothing wrong with this at all.

Do Something Different

Look at the fake Shippam’s Paste Twitter account. It was so completely left field that nobody knew whether it was real or not. Here was a relatively small company gaining tens of thousands of followers and endless column inches all through a single account. It worked because it was a one-off. People related to the ‘intern’ who was tasked with providing updates from the world of fish paste.

If this was created by a real company and for a genuine purpose, it would have been lauded as one of the great marketing campaigns. Whilst it can never be replicated, it can still be bettered. This is why it is important to learn from others, whilst incorporating your own ideas.

The Guardian is also famously interactive on social media. Journalists are provided almost free-rein to provide correspondence on events, interact with the wider world and even source stories. This has worked extremely well for them, and all it required was a little lateral thought to devise a strategy that would become the envy of others.

After all, most people are quick to acknowledge innovators. Success can snowball once people begin to appreciate what you’re doing and whilst others may follow, there can only ever be one original.

Finding Opportunity in Adversity and Second Guessing

When Panda came along, it suffocated some but provided opportunities for others. There is always the potential for seismic shifts in algorithms and the best practices employed in other disciplines as both remain out of your control. But being prepared and versatile enough to counteract any such alterations or even using them to your advantage is what can help set you apart from others.

So don’t always look at the most obvious answers. Consider what the search engines are really looking for, what they’re likely to reward and what could soon be cause for punishment. Where could you get links that nobody is currently uses? What is the impact of fresh content on your site’s rankings? How will usability factors affect your authority in the eyes of search engines? Are social signals being used?

If there wasn’t opportunity for improvement, there would be no point in SEO or online marketing in general. Everybody would be using the same techniques, have identical link profiles and content would be blandly predictable. The fact that difference exists shows the true value of thinking laterally and considering things beyond the obvious.

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