Enlightened blogging part 1. Search-less and clueless.

A few years back, I sold my green brand agency to an innovation firm, Maddock Douglas, and went to work as their VP of Green Innovation. A very heady title, I agree, great for cocktail talk. But what exactly did a VP of Green Innovation do?

My enlightened boss told me my job was to become a thought leader. Again, sounded great. But what exactly do thought leaders do?

Is posting a blog on your website a lost opportunity?

Three things, it turns out. They pick an area of thought leadership they can own, they surround themselves with complementary thought leaders, and they write. Or, in my case, blog.

So blog I did. Over the course of the next year, I posted a story a week on green innovation. At first, the posts ran solely on the company’s website. Seeing a lost opportunity, I created my own WordPress site and began posting them there as well.

Although enjoying this exercise, I was dissatisfied with the perceived non-result—after all, weren’t there legions of readers out there looking for original green innovation content? Was I getting them? Who knew?

Free brand audit ad

My gut reaction was to reach out to larger audiences. I spoke to friends at several journals—Sustainable Brands, Triple Pundit and GreenBiz—to see if they’d run the posts. They all generously agreed. Then, after a few months, I was recommended to the good people at Huffington Post and Fast Company. Like the green journals, they agreed to start running my posts. I was in heaven.

I parted ways with the innovation firm and began my consulting practice in 2013. Blogging was a habit I packed with me. Although I had no hard proof beyond the cryptic visitor stats provided by my website hosting company, I believed thousands of people were reading my blogs. I was getting comments. I was making friends.

I believed people were reading my blog posts. What did I know?

The only problem was, I got zero new business based on my writing. I back-rationalized, saying potential clients may not have come to me based on my blogs—but they certainly checked out my blogs to see what sort of a person I was prior to engaging me. Again, I had no proof of this. But it made me feel good about writing, all the same.

Rubber, meet road

In 2014, I was brought aboard a tech startup called Dtermin. Dtermin’s mission was to make it easy for the “non-technically oriented” (A.K.A. me) to find terms and words to incorporate into their product or service message. These terms and words aligned with the terms and words “searchers” were using to look for aforementioned products and services online. Done properly, the searcher would find the searchee, and all would be bliss.

A large swath of people doing business online don’t ‘get’ search.

It was the perfect gig because Dtermin needed to get their brand and language right for an audience I belonged to. All I needed to do was create the brand, then hang around to see if all the technical genius being built into the tool would actually be understood and used by people as clueless about search marketing as myself.

Yes, clueless. After three years of writing blogs, I understood little about search marketing and search engine optimization. True, I knew what a keyword was—WordPress asked me to add them to every blog post. I just had no idea what they did, or how they helped me, and I certainly had no idea how to harness them for my personal gain.

The more I dug into the topic, the more I discovered I wasn’t alone. The whole area of search marketing was a black art to a large swath of people trying to make their way (and a living) online. Which brings us to today.

The grand experiment

The founder of Dtermin and I had an idea. To use this blog post as a sort of Grecian Formula ‘before and after’ demonstration of the power of search term optimization.

Here’s how it works:

I’ve created this post without any help from the search company. Nada. As soon as it goes live, I’m going to start monitoring how many people read it.

My goal is to help you learn how to use search. Will it work?

Next week, I’m going one step further. I’m going to consult with my friends at Dtermin, and together we’re going to try and find search terms that might connect me with more readers. I’m going to rewrite this post—and highlight for all of you the tweaks I’ve made. With any luck, as soon as that post goes live, we should start to be able track higher readership numbers.

Finally, in week three, the Dtermin guys are going to do a full court press. We’ll rewrite this blog incorporating a honed list of search terms. Not just that, but we’ll make a Google AdWords campaign.

Again, I plan to make every step so clear that even I could follow it.

My goal: to help you learn as I learn. And help you tweak your blogs so they reach more people.

Will it work? Stay tuned, amigos.

This story first appeared in Unreasonable.is March 9th, 2015

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