I wanted to take a stab at the whole Reservation Road Challenge throw down. We decided to take on this site as a group SEO project to show readers how different SEO strategies and tactics can be applied.
There have been some interesting columns and articles on the topic here at Search Engine Watch. Our SEW Experts and bloggers addressed fundamental issues such as the domain (reservationroad.net) as destination site instead of just redirecting visitors to the main focusfeatures.com site.
Here's my two cents from the link building perspective. If you've read virtually any of my articles here, you likely know my mantra: good content gets you good links.
It doesn't work any other way.
The problem with that whole philosophy: great content isn't easy to come by. If everyone could come up with super content, you wouldn't need the likes of me spouting off about link building.
The "Reservation Road" website is your pretty standard milk toast variety of a movie Web site. It's the kind of site that may impress anyone who had a hand in creating the movie. From the user perspective, the site wouldn't be your main source of information about the movie. Any user can tell all the information you find in this corporate Web site is going to be glowing. The only user interaction on this site is to register to hear about upcoming films from the studio.
This boring style shows in the search results. The studio website is buried by other much more interesting sites.
Why's it boring?
It all comes down to three words: controlling the message.
That's the mantra of every brand manager on the planet. The problem with that ideal: in a social media world, you have some huge horse blinders strapped to your head if you think you are controlling your message. All you are doing is not participating in the part of your message you don't like. That attitude is dangerous.
The most interesting sites discussing the film showcase user-generated content. In a recent Nielsen study, Word-of-Mouth the Most Powerful Selling Tool: Nielsen Global Survey, they found that the number one thing people trust is recommendations from consumers.
It's no wonder that all the sites that beat out the studio site for "Reservation Road" in the search results are social media-type sites. They are places where the average consumer can chime in with his two cents, no matter how trite and ridiculous his opinion might be.
So, to stand out and create some interesting buzz, what's a marketer to do?
Next, marketers need to get above the noise by doing something remarkable. The problem with that is remarkable is always risky. "Corporate messaging" is pretty much a synonym for "boring messaging."
Marketers must understand the human psyche. The human mind has a hard time understanding negative modifiers. For example, the phrase, "Don't fail," is actually reinforcing failure. The mind doesn't innately understand "don't." A better phrase is: "Succeed." Likewise, a phrase like, "don't watch this movie," gets played back at a certain level like, "watch this movie."
Furthermore, scandal is scintillating. A phrase like, "this is the worst movie ever," is compelling. It's much more interesting than, "this is the best movie ever." No one will believe that. But, for some reason, people are open to believing it just might be the worst movie they have ever seen -- however unlikely.
It follows, if the human mind doesn't process negatives and scandal is compelling, then "all publicity is good publicity." It's what you do with the publicity that matters.
Understand these principles:
- People love rumors and scandal.
- Never get lost in the crowd. Never.
- Notoriety brings power.
- Crowds are created by being different and odd.
- All publicity is good publicity.
If you embrace the principles of this column, then content possibilities for "Reservation Road" become limitless and exciting.
Here's a brainstorm of content possibilities:
- Video interviews from hit-and-run convicts.
- Video interviews from hit-and-run victims and their families.
- The creation of an organization supporting families who have lost children in violent ways.
- Become the John Walsh of hit and run with an online show.
It's not easy. Any one of those ideas will make the site stand out. The trick? Do anything to escape the endless din of milk toast movie studio websites. Just do it.