Today on the Edge of Innovation, we are talking with Ed Alexander, founder of Fan Foundry, about developing your Website Content as well as content segmentation and publishing.
Paul: Hello, and welcome to the Edge of Innovation. I’m Paul Parisi, your host, and today I have Ed Alexander, founder of Fan Foundry.
Ed: How are you doing? Nice to be here.
Paul: Great to have you.
Content Development and Cross Pollination
Paul: So now, we moved into the area of content development and what it is and the cross-linking and things like that. What are the other steps? Those are certainly not simple. But is it really those two steps? Make sure you have good content and then make sure you cross-pollinate that. Is there something else?
Ed: I think that making sure that whatever structurally you do with SEO on any given page of content is congruent, it resonates with the actual content on the page so that people don’t get false positives, get led someplace they don’t deserve to be or look for something and find something else that’s less relevant or not always as satisfying. That’s a mutually supported proposition.
But we know you hear and anybody can read Google’s and Alphabet, their parent company’s, intention was never to build an ad network. When Sergey Brin and Larry Page first founded Google, one of their first statements was, “No, we’re not trying to build an ad empire, although that’s going to be a byproduct, and it will help fund our operations. What we really want to build is an artificial intelligence machine.” In the year 2000 when Google was founded, the words in their mission statement were, “Don’t be evil but we’re going to build an artificial intelligence machine.” What does that mean? They meant something different then than it does now, but they’re eyes were on the prize.
So we’re now living in the world of natural language processing, artificial intelligence, where computing power enables computers and machines to interpret our podcast, for example, turn it into an article, for gosh sakes, pass it by an editorial filter, and one final pair of eyeballs later, you’ve got a printed article that transcribes our podcast. This is the world we live in today. If that’s feasible, then think again about the value of the content. You can only be so manipulative about your content before it begins to deteriorate in terms of the value it’s giving to the customer. Start first about delivering value to your customer, to your buyer, to the family or the other people who are constituents to the buying decision.
I’ll give you an example. My yacht charter client realizes a lot of people who take yacht charters are families. They’re bringing the kids along. It’s a legacy. It’s a, you know, it’s a bucket-list opportunity. Never had a webpage before devoted to kids. Why is yachting cool for kids? Well, you’ve got to be reminded about that and when you think about it, if a family travels to a hotel, the first people to complain are the kids because the Wi-Fi is not good. You know, when they’re coming back again, no matter how lavish the treatment might be, there’s no Wi-Fi. This is going to miserable for everyone. Let’s fix the Wi-Fi.
So guess what? Hotels now know they have to have the best Wi-Fi coverage and the best cellular coverage. They have to have repeaters everywhere. And that becomes the competitive differentiation. Your customer is not just the buyer. It’s everybody in the buyer’s entourage. Have content for them.
Ed: So if you’re the doula, you want to have content not just for the mom but for the father.
Paul: That’s true. That’s a great idea.
Ed: But for the family.
Paul: Yeah. What’s a doula? You know, because somebody tangential to the, to this is not going to understand what that is.
“I Drink Your Milkshake.” How Synonymous Bridge Words Seed Markets.
Ed: That’s right. And analogy for it, that’s not exactly accurate but people think of it often in the same sentence, is midwife.
Paul: Right. Yeah, so would you suggest that a doula do deliberate content things to get the searching from midwives?
Ed: Sure. Why not?
Paul: How would you go about that? So, I mean, you’re not a midwife. And I honestly don’t know the difference.
Ed: Me either. Let’s assume they’re so different that you really can’t say one is the other. I guess you would say one good piece of content to put in your website is, “We’re a doula. We’re not a midwife. How do we differ?” Explain that.
Paul: What if they are similar?
Ed: It might still require some explanation. There’s enough nuance there that a person making the decision would like to know the difference.
Paul: So probably, if I went up to this doula and said, “What’d the difference between you and a midwife?” That’s a great blog post.
Ed: Exactly right. Think about the questions the customer would be asking.
Paul: Ask the answer, the obvious questions.
Ed: Yeah. As they say in the law business, never ask a question to which you don’t already know the answer. And blog accordingly.
Paul: So now, do you just do this once? Set it and forget it?
Frequency of Blog Post Publication with a Yacht Example.
Ed: I’m frankly, the last, the worst offender of my own pontification about how frequently and how regularly to schedule your content publishing. Frankly, blog articles appear on my site approximately whenever I feel like it. And that’s my schedule, and I stick to it. But in the case of a paying customer, by all means, we make sure they have the appetite, the infrastructure, and can carry on the job of routine, regular publishing of content.
Paul: What is, what is that routine?
Ed: The cadence has to do with the appetite of the viewer. If you have a restaurant and you want to publish weekly specials, you better publish something every week. If you are a charter business, and you’re taking, you’re dealing all over the world, then you have segmented content based on regions of the world, at least once a week.
Paul: So, okay. That’s a great concept to talk about — segmented. So is it different pages on their website, the segmentation?
Ed: Great question. In this particular case, the client’s name, if you don’t mind me mentioning it—
Paul: Yeah, Please.
Ed: Her name is Carol Kent. Carol Kent Yacht Charters has been in business for 30 some odd years. And in her case, since she… Since one of the conditions, one of the trappings, if you will, of a yacht charter experience is that you’re typically working with an executive chef, a good chef, which is no small feat to be able to run a five-star [inaudible 00:34:07] rated kitchen out of a galley of a, of a ship at sea. Think about the planning, you know, the design, and all the features that go into turning out a sumptuous experience for your client.
Paul: A lot of frozen food you got to order. Huh?
Ed: The frankly, it can’t be frozen. It has to be refrigerated. So all the shopping, all the provisioning, all that has to be really, thoroughly carefully planned. That’s quite a ballet to pull off. And it gets done. It gets done. So now, imagine pulling that off. Imagine being that yacht chef. You probably have all kinds of stories. She interviews top-yacht chefs and blogs about them on her top-yacht chefs blog. And she has owed the url topyachtchefs.com, and she points it at that particular site, the blog posts about top-yacht chefs. But she still only has one website, carolkentyachtcharters.com, or carolkent.com.
So you can segment your audiences based on their interests.
Paul: Now, does she have duplicate content? Does she have that blog post on Carol Kent and on yacht chefs?
Ed: It’s actually only in one place. The url points at the same page. It’s promoted differently, but it all looks to the same piece of content.
Paul: So is the idea that, on Carol Kent or… On the yacht chef’s site she says, “Hey, there’s a great new blog post over at CarolKent.com. Go and visit that. Here’s the link.
Ed: It’s a little more transparent than that. It just talks about top yacht chefs, period. It happens to be at Carol Kent’s yacht charters business. But she doesn’t say that the blog post is on Carol Kent’s yacht charters site. It’s on the top yacht chef’s blog. It’s all that the yacht chef cares to know about or the epicurean enthusiasts needs to know about. It may be irrelevant whether it ever occurs on her chef. The point is, it’s great culinary technique, it’s being executed in extreme circumstances.
Paul: So on Carol’s website, does she point back to the yacht chef? Say, hey, there’s a new review over there?
Inbound Links and How They Help
Paul: Okay. Because I’m thinking, if this doula wanted to do this, would she say “Let me give you the best hospitals to birth in Massachusetts.” Starts a new website, .com or something like that and does reviews of that. And she would be the person doing the writing. She would refer back to her site. But on her site, would she say something about this site or not?
Ed: I can’t imagine why not. Rather than that, it would make a lot more sense and be a little less confusing to have one page of content, but have it be referred to from a number of different conduits, your referral sources, your landing pages, your links, your posts.
Paul: Okay. So the idea isn’t necessarily to start another website, it’s to get more inbound links.
Ed: Exactly. Right. What it does is it enriches the value of your main business site by having other content channels link to your relevant content.
A Microwave Example: Have Interesting Events and Content.
Paul: So on the microwave idea, I just made the better, best microwave in the world, you know. And it’s really great. Would I go and… Obviously, I’d try to get Consumer Reports to cover it and all the different consumer magazines. But I might want to go to who knows what, Appliance daily, and get them to cover it. Is that what I want to do? Or do I want to say, “Let’s do a comparison of that on my own?”
Ed: Yeah, let’s do a bake off on the expression. Right? Or a nuke off, and talk about the different kinds of microwaves and what the results are. Maybe do some actual technical challenges, replicate them, and then blog about them.
Paul: And blog about them on that, on the company’s website.
Ed: Absolutely. Or ask people who, ask a top yacht chef who uses that microwave to blog about why they like that microwave better. Maybe it’s less, you know, tippy at sea. Maybe there’s something electromechanically about the microwave that makes it superior, and you can taste it.
Paul: So let me ask you, with the, with the doula. Would it be reasonable for the doula to say to a mom, “Would you be willing to do a blog post on your experience?”
Ed: Satisfied customer.
Paul: And would that go of the doula’s site or would it go on her, the, the mom’s blogging site?
Ed: Why not both? Or why not just link to the mom’s site if the mom is looking for attention as well, for whatever the righteous reason might be. Maybe that mom has got a home-based business but talks about parenting and raising kids and so forth. Likewise, Stephanie Arnold who I mentioned earlier, the AFE survivor, does exactly that. There are plenty of great stories to be told — frankly some tragic ones as well that are deserving of attention because they point out the need for more research and funding toward AFE, solving the issue. She’s happy to link to people whose stories deserve to be told. She doesn’t have to re-tell them, and she doesn’t have to acquire the traffic. That’s not the point. The point is the stories need to be told.
So you really look at the, frankly, the altruistic, best outcome scenario and say, “How does, how do more people benefit from this?”
Let’s bring it back to your microwave manufacturer. Dynamite microwave oven. Is it that the chrome is shinier? What is it? Why is a superior microwave? Have people tell the story about what they learned. Maybe the microwave oven saved my life. I should tell the world, “That microwave oven saved my life.”
Paul: It’s a bulletproof microwave.
Ed: Exactly. Right. Bulletproof microwave. That’s right. Yeah. It even missed Obama’s head.
Paul: Well the cameras. This one doesn’t have any cameras in it, so…
Ed: Oh, it’s one of those. Yeah.
How Do You Measure Content Marketing?
Paul: So we’ve talked about some really innovative ideas here of how to actually think through SEO and your pages, your whole marketing, really, in the way your posture out in the world as it’s represented on the internet. How do you measure this stuff?
Ed: That’s a great question. The most low common denominator, which is available to anybody with a website is Google Analytics. You can look at the extent to which a blog post sends traffic to your website or if that page on your website caused the person to bounce, if you’ll pardon the expression, and instead leave your site to go read the real factual story about the person who is the subject of the story. If your intention is to help that person benefit as well, then the bounce from your page to another page is a benefit you intended, and that’s a successful result.
So when we think about these websites as being acquisition targets, I think of them as more as being conduits for learning. If my intention is to help that rising tide lifts all boats and help other people in this lives, then it’s okay to me that someone left my site to go someplace else. I was directing them there Paul: Right. So you helped them find the answer.
Ed: Exactly right. When someone, as a habit, for example, on my own blog on the Fan Foundry blog, I typically include a link or two to either foundational or supplemental or supportive articles, content that either was the basis or the reason for my writing or it was additional reading if the person wanted to look into it more. Since I, you know, none of us wants to be discovered for the frauds that we are. I always, I always like to refer to other people who think like me because in that echo chamber, we seem to support each other’s theories. So why not link to further reading if a person is curious about the subject? I do that. And so to the extent that person clicks that link in the bottom of a blog article, I know I’ve found a reader who is really enthusiastic about the subject. Guess what happens? I get more blog subscribers because people go to my blog article to find the jumping off point to get everything else.
Paul: Interesting. So now how does Twitter, Facebook, all that stuff go into here? Because it sounds like a way to announce something is really what Twitter and Facebook are. Or is that a destination in itself?
Ed: Yeah, well we’ve heard quite often that Twitter is really turning into the headlines, the up-to-the-minute headlines. And that’s sort of a byproduct of where people seem to find the most value, which broadcasting or announcing or, if you will, pardon the expression, bull horning, your content. If you use Twitter for both that purpose and its original intended purpose which was to support chat among people who are like-minded at a point in time.
Case in point, today, I just came to this meeting with you, Paul, from a North Shore Technology Council event where part of the digital ventriloquism I do for them on a pro bono basis is I’ll go to an event — in this case it was a sustainability forum — to take a photographs with the presenters and the host and a few other dignitaries, luminaries, funnel those photos over to my Twitter account that I manage for the North Shore Technology Council, @NSTechCouncil. NS Tech Council. And then initiate the tweet/chat process. Now, my job is done. I could leave and other people in the room are carrying on the conversation. I had to jump over here to meet with you, so it’s almost like touching a match to the tinder and letting it burn away based on however people want to carry it forward.
Likewise, social channels to me, can be extremely effective for helping pollinate your message but also support like-minded messages. I have an equal number of people I follow as follow me. Frankly, Twitter actually has limits. You can’t just do nothing but follow other people and not acquire any followers of your own. After a certain point in time, you trip over a wire. Then Twitter says, “Sorry, you can’t follow anybody else until you’ve acquired some followers,” or word that to effect. If you’ve ever seen that message, you know you’re doing a lot more following, and you’re not contributing content. Where’s the balance in that conversation? They’re there to enforce chat, conversation, and the idea exchange.
Wrapping It Up
Paul: Discussion, hopefully. Alright. So, we’re talking with Ed Alexander. Are you the founder of Fan Foundry? What’s your title?
Ed: Chief digital ventriloquist. Yes.
Paul: Chief digital ventriloquist. Well, we’re going to cover that in our next podcast. This digital ventriloquist guy and kind of thing. So we won’t get into that too much. But anyway, we’re today talking with Ed Alexander.
Well, it’s been a fascinating discussion about SEO and understanding, really, marketing in the web world. We’re going to be talking with him over several podcasts and I think you’ll find some very interesting things. So, Ed, I want to thank you for being here for this first podcast.
Ed: It’s been fun, Paul. I’m looking forward to what comes next. Thanks for having me.