Search Engine Marketing 21st Century Manifesto

The allegory of the meatball sundae is completely relevant to the world of link building.

I had the good fortune of attending Search Engine Strategies Chicago where keynote speaker Seth Godin discussed his most recent book, “Meatball Sundae.” He may as well have been holding a private conversation for link building specialists.

Linking Meatballs to Sundaes

If you haven’t heard of it, here’s the meatball sundae wrap up. Imagine staring down at the finest sundae you’ve ever seen. I’m talking about a big, juicy, sweet Maraschino cherry glistening on top of a fluffy white marshmallow whipped topping delicately sprinkled with bright red, green and yellow sprinkles. These are surrounding by fresh chopped peanuts which are all held in place by warm hot fudge that flows down the inside of a beautiful old-fashioned sundae goblet.

You take your long ice cream parlor sundae spoon and start to make your way into this beautiful work of culinary art. Your spoon pushes through the whipped topping to get to a delicious mouthful of … meatballs!

Top Links, Bottom Line

That, my friends, is exactly how we create our link campaigns. Obviously, Godin was describing a much bigger business dilemma. He’s making the point that most businesses today are trying to make themselves stand out by working really hard on the toppings when they really need to be working on the ice cream — the products and services they’re offering.

We link builders do the exact same thing. We’re obsessed with the links and completely ignore what we’re asking people to link to.

Backward Links

Why has this happened? Why have we developed a strategy that’s completely backwards? Somewhere in our hearts, we all know links are supposed to be given to helpful, interesting and entertaining sites that deserve them.

Yet our clients’ sites are boring, mundane, and useless. They’re covered in a branded corporate shroud of sundae toppings.

I love whipped cream and nuts as much as the next guy, but even I can’t eat a bowl full of the stuff. I need quality ice cream to go with them. There’s little ice cream in the corporate Web world. It’s all fluff.

Meatball Sundaes and Small Potatoes?

The core of this problem stems from the belief that Web marketers are just small potatoes. We’re a small cog in a much larger marketing machine. There are many marketers perceived to be smarter and richer than us who make the big marketing decisions.

That’s no longer a business reality, even though it might still be a business perception in the C-Suites of America. Mastercard Advisors report holiday sales increased a weak 3.6 percent over the same period last year. In contrast, there was robust growth of 6.6 percent in 2006; and even stronger 8 percent growth in 2005.

ecommerce bucked that trend in a big way with a 22.4 percent growth rate, making it the strongest sales category of all 2007, according to Spending Pulse. “Amazon said the number of items ordered on its busiest day, December 10, rose about 35 percent to 5.4 million items from ‘roughly’ 4 million items during its busiest holiday shopping day last year.”

Target, predicting 5 percent growth, now reports a plus or minus 1 percent growth for the five weeks ending January 5. In blunt terms, online is coming to kick offline’s ass.

What Time Is It? Our Time. Now.

As Web marketers, our time has come. We must stand up to our clients and demand they build sites worth linking to.

No one has more experience and understanding of how to make a successful Web site than a Web marketer. We know what works. We know what success online looks like. We have to scoop out all those gross meatballs and fill our clients’ sites with delicious, creamy ice cream.

Go to your clients and tell them about community, content and creativity. Show them:









We’re the leaders of our generation’s industrial search revolution. We’re the people who will bring traditional business into SEM (define) with a social twist. We’re the gateway to 21st century business success.

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