Lisa Myers
Verve Search

About Lisa Myers

Lisa Myers is the CEO and founder of award-winning international SEO and content marketing agency Verve Search, based in London.

Lisa has been working in marketing since 2001, and in SEO since 2005. She is a regular speaker at digital marketing conferences worldwide, and contributes regularly to the digital marketing press, both on and offline, as well as authoring several best practice guides and white papers for industry associations including eConsultancy. She is also the founder of Women in Search and co-founded (now known as State of Digital.)

In her Learn Inbound talk, Lisa showcases some of Verve Search’s award-winning creative campaigns that have generated the big links. She also shares the “secret” to creating these successful campaigns, which might not be what you think…

Key Takeaways

  • You need to “attract rather than sell” by “MAKING GOOD SHIT”. Generate the best content you possibly can and then your audience will be intrigued.
  • Coming up with great ideas is dependent on hiring the right people and training them in the right way to think creatively.
  • It’s how you think that makes the difference about whether you’re going to succeed or not.
  • It’s very important to believe in what you do. If you’re determined about getting big links then you will probably get them.

Video Transcription

As she said I run a SEO agency. I've been in SEO about 10 years. I am a geek inside. I'm originally from Norway which is why I have a bit of a funny accent. Back in London most people think I'm Irish but I'm presuming you don't get that bit so for some reason then they say, "Oh you mean Galway?" No I know where I'm from I'm from Norway for God's sake.

I blog, I write but SEO is basically my big passion. I started my own agency about seven years ago and now we're about 20 people and we, this year, won Best Small SEO Agency at the European Search Awards along with Content Marketing award and best Pan-European. Thus obviously we didn't think we would win so we were already pissed by then. We basically love what we do.

I'm going to talk about creative campaigns. It's actually really nice to go after Stacy because what we'd be talking about is quite similar but it really compliments. I want to just start off with talking a little about what has happened in the last couple of years. Don't worry it won't be too long. 2012 was basically when a lot of SEOs were still buying links. In fact, I know several SEOs that quite shamley still build directory kind of links and they were a very few amount that were doing some article marketing. So 2011, 2012 that was pretty much the biggest part of what people were doing for the link part.

Now the interesting thing with that is the few people that were doing article marketing which we now call kind of content marketing but that's kind of a part of content marketing. They were doing it and not many were doing it so it was really standing out so people that were creating good quality content were getting some good results because they were standing out. No one else was really doing it. At Verve we had a content department where we had mostly journalists, standard writers that would produce loads of written content.

Now I would say that has changed quite a lot after we've heard about these two animals before today but the Penguin and the Panda had quite a lot of kids and after these updates, things really started to change. By early 2014, most SEOs were knee deep trying to resolve penalties and any SEOs in this agency they'll say they have no manual penalty is probably lying and the Black Hats were now charging for taking the links away that they gave you the year before. That's Paul Madden if anyone knows him. I just added that in. He would love that. I'm sorry Paul, no I'm not. By now everyone was desperately trying to get onto the bandwagon of content marketing the problem with this is that there were so many doing this that now every site would be contacted several times a day with some article and most of it would be mediocre, so even if you created really good content it was so difficult to be noticed.

We quite quickly saw that the graphs were going like this. This is example of actually link scoring metric that we use at Verve Search so from 2011 to 2015 in terms of doing article marketing and content in a written form you can see that the score was going down. That was because so many people were doing it and so many were doing it so badly that the whole world had had enough. Then obviously like Stacy said people then started doing info graphics like they were doing articles and mostly really shit info graphics so this is how SEOs like to work basically. Someone talks about it we all start doing it, 90% does it really awful and then you have to start thinking about the new thing.

This is a slide that I saw Dave Trott show at BrightonSEO which really resonates with me because if everyone is drawing crosses you really need to draw a circle because the one thing that you can see from this is the circle hopefully. So it just shows that you really need to think about doing things differently if everyone has started doing something, then you probably shouldn't start doing it. It's a bit like trends in general, in fashion, in whatever. You need to think like a 50s ad agency and execute like a geek. This is obviously my amazing Photoshop skills. I have a designer don't worry.

You need to attract rather than sell. You need to create content that serves those links and then you need to market and promote that content. That's what I'm going to be talking about. You need to make good shit. Getting the big links, how do you do that? Basically in 2014 end of 2013 beginning of 2014 once I saw this graph really going down I realized there is no point in having a content team that writes loads of content we need to start developing other types of content and we need to think creatively. I think for SEOs, this shouldn't be difficult. For any digital marketer, this shouldn't be difficult because what we actually do in digital marketing in general is solve problems. We should always be able to adapt and if we can't adapt then we aren't really digital marketers.

For me it made sense that instead of creating one piece of content, one piece of article for one site and get one link we would create bigger pieces that would attract more and it's not link bait per se because quite often we will also work with sites. So I have a few examples to show you.

The secret will come at the end for anyone wondering about that. Our mission is always link equity. So we do international SEOs, so a lot of examples I was showing you is in other countries as well. I particularly got some examples from Norway because if you can get a link from a Norwegian you can get it from fucking anyone.

This is a campaign we did for Hotel Club. So I want to really point out it doesn't need to be rocket science. It doesn't need to be a meerkat, I fucking hate that meerkat. It just needs to make sense. It needs to be related to what the client does. For Hotel Club that does hotel's really only and travel. It doesn't need to be about hotels, but it needs to be related to travel. So we had this idea about creating a campaign that was about languages. So languages are a big part of travel.

What I find really fascinating, being a multilingual person myself, is that the thing that they teach you last is the kind of sayings and the idioms and stuff that usually completely gobsmacks you when someone says it. You're like, "What the fuck?" For the first 10 years in the UK I had no idea what two people were talking about when they would say, "Pull the other one." or something, they would just make stuff up. I swear the English speaking language they have more than any other languages for these sayings just because many people can speak English.

We then teamed up with an artist that had been featured in the VNA so he was an up and coming artist. We got him to visualize these idioms in different languages. So this is an example of two. My favorite one is the Polish one which is, "Not my circus, not my monkeys." Which apparently means it's not my problem. I've started using this because this sounds so cool. I spoke at a conference in Spain a few months ago and I showed this one to give someone pumpkins and they all just bust out laughing because no one had realized how comical that would sound to someone else and when you had actually the picture of it. They were like, "Oh yeah, that totally didn't get that that would sound funny to anyone in a different language."

We had about 10 of these that we had created and then the very important part, because if you create something really good creatively, you can't just put it on your site and wait of course. It's very important that you then have the right people to do the outreach. We then started contacting some of the top tier sites like Stacy was talking about and the bigger the better.

For me, it really is about going to the very top. What is the best fucking site we can possibly get? You work your ass off to get that site. Our target for this one was Mashable because Mashable had the really big reach and would also have the reach for links as well as social etc. Because as an SEO social equity is great but it's the links I'm doing it for.

The result for this campaign was any big links? We got Mashable, Huffington Post, and MSN. When I say Huffington Post I don't mean like this spammy kind of members site where any old donkey can get a link, the Business Insider, Boing Boing, BuzzFeed, AOL, The Independent, BT, Daily Mail and a total of 339 linking route domains. That is still counting, still going on. Addition to this, we got a total of 2.4 million views. Which to be honest completely like we were like what? Because that is not what we expected but this shows that the really great content you should be expecting really good results in terms of views and social as well. That is the kind of content that will give you the links.

We recently got so many views where primarily because it also hit the homepage of Reddit which contributed to about 633,000 of those views and that's when it really started booming. If anyone that has been in SEO for a while and try to get to the homepage of Reddit it's fucking impossible when you try. But if you don't try, apparently that actually works. Social as well; we got some really good social shares. Mashable shared it. There were some really accounts that shared it and also quite funnily, The Observer, which is one of the biggest Sunday papers, as the Guardian Sunday paper put it on their site but also decided to publish it in the Sunday paper which for an SEO agency is like fine but we don't give a shit, but a PR department of the clients were obviously completely ecstatic and thought it awesome.

But that is the kind of thing though if your main objective is to create really, really good stuff then this will be the side effect of that. Keep your eye on the prize of course. The link is the thing you want to get out of it because that can impact the revenue and the rankings and the revenue etc. later. It's not bragging if it's true. I'm Norwegian so I don't feel bad about bragging.

Another example I want to show you and this is where the Norway examples come in. We have worked in the Nordics for a few years and it’s a really difficult market because they have laws that change all the time and they get stricter and stricter. Like it's nearly impossible to get a blogger to link to you in Norway because they are so many rules of what you can and cannot do as a blogger. So we realized quickly that the strategies that we had been using 2010, 2011 weren't going to work. I think, in fact, our work with the Nordic markets was probably what started moving and shaping the agency to become more of a creative lead.

In the Nordics this year in fact all of these examples are just a few months old. This is one was last month. This is the English version. We started the year, this year, working with the Northern Norwegian Tourist Board on a... not an info graphic but like a visual story of a fairy tale from Northern Norway. As we put that live on the Visit Northern Norway website, loads of these tourist boards were interested but they were like, "Oh, you haven't mentioned us." So then we realized that then we could start working with them to create other assets. From that relationship with this Northern Norway we started talking to Visit Narvik.

Narvik is a tiny little place in Northern Norway which happened where the war started in Norway the World War II, the Germans came in via Narvik, the tiny little place, and there was a huge battle with ships and stuff that happened there so we realized that there was a lot of history within this tiny, little place. So we suggested creating this interactive kind of micro-site about the happenings because it was 75 years just last month that this actually happened.

We also managed to organize some interviews with war veterans that had actually been there at the time. The war museum in Narvik where the collaborators; they gave us pretty much everything to do with pictures. They organized the videos and stuff. We also did an interactive map of all the ships that are still in the field where you can then click and learn about each ship and if you are a diving enthusiast you'd also figure out where everything is and such.

It's a good campaign. It's an interesting campaign. It doesn't sound like a huge campaign but so far, and this is still going, obviously we very importantly got a link from Visit Narvik which is the local tourist site and for our client Expedia, this is a very important link to get. So already now they have links from Visit Norway, Visit Northern Norway and then they started to get from the smaller ones because we're cooperating with them. We're not creating; we're not shoving SEO shit at them. We're creating stuff that is useful for them and working with them.

Obviously featured on the site quite heavily on their site, but also interestingly, the kind of coverage we got for this and NRK is like the BBC of Norway and I don't know any other SEOs in Nordics that have got links from the actual TV channels. We got a big feature on the NRK website. We also weirdly, got a link from the Norwegian Royal Family and we're like, "Sure, brilliant!" And this is the Royal Norwegian Army. So we got links from the Army, the Royal Family and the biggest TV channel in Norway. There is only two so that's really not much.

This has got some insane coverage and also very importantly for this, a huge amount of visits. Expedia is still a relatively new brand in the Nordics so this has also had a huge PR impact obviously what we're interested in again is what the impact has on rankings. Now I'm not allowed to share that with you but it has had a lot of impacts on the rankings. I'm sorry I can't say any more.

The other example I have from the Nordics again Expedia and this was launched two or three weeks ago, it's an idea around immigration. So in the Nordic countries there was a huge immigration to the U.S. where I'm surprised there is anyone left. In fact a lot of Northern of the U.S. states are mostly Scandinavians. It's why they say "yah" and stuff. We created this immigration map which is simply ... Well it looks simple but, holy shit it's a lot of data behind this. We basically managed to talk to a lot of these agencies like statistic agencies to get the data we needed to show a map throughout several 100 years of immigration and which states they went to and the growth of that. It's just a neat kind of idea and we knew that it would be interesting but from the results we got so far we're really shocked at how well it really has done.

So far we have had links from the ABC News in Norway. We've had NRK again turns out to be our best friend. We also had a lot of coverage from the genealogy sites so this is just an example from the Norwegian sites but we also have links in Denmark, Finland and Sweden from big, big sites and maybe most interestingly is how much traffic is generated.

We've also had social shares from some really big social accounts like the U.S. Embassy in Oslo and the Norwegian American Historical Association and so on. So the share count is really going up which gives us more and more chances for generating more links continuously.

This is not a campaign that is likely to just last for a couple of months, you can continue on it. So far we have about 15 big links so there is no small links they're all very, very big links that has impact on rankings and about 40,000 visits. If you think about Norway its 4.5 million people so in Norway alone I think the number was 20,000 so far which is actually quite a lot considering how few people are actually there.

I have another example that I literally just added while I was sitting there because I just thought about it while Stacy was talking, as Stacy mentioned; the importance of tracking social influencers. This is a perfect example for how valuable that can be. So we regularly track journalists, track, stalk journalists online to see what they're interested in, what they're talking about, what is it that they need that they don't have etc. About late April, we saw a journalist from The Mirror saying that she wished she had an asset which would tell her which music, which artists were in different festivals that didn't... that weren't really popular, which were really popular and which all the songs like the actual songs for each of the artists from each of the festivals and so we thought how hard can that be? Surely we can do that. We looked at the Spotify API and created in pretty much a week and a bit, this pretty awesome campaign for Expedia which is called the Festival Playlister where you can search any festival anywhere in the world in the last 30 years and it will give you a playlist from the artist that were at that festival. It will also give you the lesser known artists and like in a positive way, not so good artists from the different festivals. So we have created, quite easily, using Spotify and a lot of people said, "Well can't you already do that on Spotify?" Yes, but you have to do everything manually. This is literally all the festivals, all around the world and you can download the Spotify list for that festival directly. This campaign was created because the journalist asked the question "Is there something like that?" Well there is now.

This campaign so far has been featured in The Mirror three times and each time we're getting an obscene amount of traffic. Like the traffic for this has been crazy. We also, a couple of days ago, realized that it's been picked up by Forbes and that wasn't an outreach email. In fact, I don't think you can get better a headline and coverage for Expedia. It's even in the Total and this kind of coverage you only really get when you haven't asked for it. But then it has to be really good and it has to be something that people need. All the music journalists really caught onto this.

"How?" I hear you say. I get asked this a lot. Like okay, so you come up with all these ideas and you make them buy it. How the fuck do you come up with all these ideas? It's a lot about people. It's very much about people. It's all about people and how you train them to think in the right way. I just want to show you a few things.

I'm a big Star Wars fan so Luke said, "I can't believe it," and Yoda said, "That is why you failed." That is exactly why people fail. They don't believe in it. They don't think they can do it. You sissy Luke.

Elon Musk; what is the biggest difference between Elon Musk and someone in a dead-end job. I think a few of you are probably thinking IQ, education maybe, upbringing, luck a lot of people will say luck. Now before I answer that let me just tell you about this theory.

It's a very common theory in CBT Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and it's basically if you have a hundred people in this room let's say all of you that are here now are the same age, you had the same education to the same level, let's pretend you're all female and you have two kids and you're married, when you were young you had a difficult relationship with your mom. Let's say that. Do you think all of you would act the same way and have the same kind of personality traits? Why is that? What is the biggest reason why that wouldn't be the same? It's how you think. How you think is what makes us different and it's how you think that makes the biggest difference whether you're going to succeed or not.
Okay bear with me. This is a little experiment. Can you all do this? Basically you put your fingers together like this and you look at your fingers and then you say out loud, "Fingers come together. Fingers coming together. Fingers coming together." Come on now I want to hear you, "Fingers coming together, fingers coming together, fingers coming together, fingers coming together, fingers coming together, fingers coming together, fingers coming together." Anyone feeling anything? The really odd thing here is that your body is doing what you tell it to. It's so amazingly important to believe in what you do. The reason that this is so important is because we think we're made up of our conscious part of us but the real big part of who we are is actually our subconscious just like an iceberg. This part is what needs to believe and the thing is that I believe that I can get a link from Apple and I have. I believe I can get Apple as a client one day and I fucking will. You know what? You really have to believe these things.

So when you work with people especially in a creative environment you really need to give them everything so they understand that what they want to do they can actually achieve. It sounds a bit like hippy dippy but it's so true. I can really promise you that from the background of where I came from and my background from education etc. there is no reason why I should be where I am today. In fact if you read the story of my life you'll say that there is no way. But the thing is that the reason I am the way I am today and why I am successful is because the way I think; it's got fuck all to do with my past or who my parents were or how much money we had or anything like that. I do think there is a link with like, you have to have a certain amount of IQ and you really have to have a good attitude but that is all from the thinking. That is the big secret. I know it sounds really silly and small but it really, really isn't. So next time you think or say out loud to yourself, "I don't think I can do that." don't be fucking surprised when you can't. Try to say that you can and you might well. That is the last thing. I just want say it's not who you are that holds you back; it's who you think you are. Thank you very much.

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