For Best Results 
Learning from experience while marketing in a digital world

NZ Transport Agency leads the way in using Snapchat as a campaign platform

“What should we do about our social strategy?” “Do we need to do more than Facebook?” “How can we keep up?”

“Everything is changing so fast.” “We can’t do it all.”

If you’re asking these questions or feeling these emotions, you certainly aren’t alone. I hear these phrases on a pretty regular basis.

But fear not—while online communication and social media platforms have multiplied like rabbits over the past decade or so, the rules of the game have ultimately stayed the same. Marketing is and always has been about knowing your customers, understanding where they are and what they want, and creating meaningful dialogues and experiences with them in order to foster a relationship of trust.

This message will self destructOne platform that has been gaining ground especially with millenials over the past few years is Snapchat. If you’re not familiar with Snapchat, think of it as Vine meets Instant Messenger meets Mr. Quimby’s self-destructing messages for Inspector Gadget. As of August 2014, it had a user base of over 100 million users, 70% of whom were <25 years old.

Like most social platforms, Snapchat started out as a way for people to keep in touch. Until now it has been largely free of ads, marketers and all the noise—pure in content—if not by moral standards, at least from a marketing vs. native conversation standpont. But like with any fast-growing communication platform, these things never last very long.

In August NZ Transport launched a drug-driving campaign aimed at marijuana users and leveraged Snapchat to do it. Only a handful of other marketers have dipped their toes into Snapchat so far, but NZTA’s work is a great example of smart targeting a storytelling strategy fit for the medium. They started by creating a series of videos by a likeable, entertaining group of pot smoking guys under a user the organization dubbed “tinnyvision” and published the videos to Snapchat followers. After having sent a number of playful and goofy videos, they hit followers with one that graphically demonstrates the consequences of reduced reaction times when driving under the influence of marijuana. Immediately after, followers receive a simple message from NZTA, “Stoned drivers are slower to react.” Check it out here:

On a related note, yesterday SnapChat confirmed that the platform will be introducing its first ad product imminently. Find out more about CEO Evan Spiegel’s announcement yesterday on Mashable.

Is your organization using Snapchat? Seen any other cool campaigns on Snapchat lately? Share your comments below.

"[...] if you make something that's compelling then it would be much easier to get people to write about it and to link to it. [...] a lot of people approach it from a direction that’s backwards. They try to get the links first and then they want to be grandfathered in or think they will be a successful website as a result.

– Matt Cutts in an interview with Eric Enge

An SEO Success Story Worth Sharing

I spend a good chunk of my time on my clients’ organic traffic performance. In fact, this year I’m proud to say that, while representing Miles, an agency that services destination marketing organizations around the world, I was able to help one client recover from a 30% drop in traffic following the launch of their new website in late 2011, and achieve record traffic levels within a year.

Year-on-year organic traffic performance

Within 6 months of project kickoff, the client recovered from a 6-month ~30% year-on-year loss in organic traffic. Over the next 6 months, from November 2012 to May 2013, we were able to hit record organic traffic levels, 100% over the baseline.

How we achieved record organic traffic volumes –

On-page improvements, content development, and off-page promotion.

In other words, it was hard work. Here’s what I did:

  • Recommended tweaks to the client’s CMS setup so editors could manually manage page titles, meta descriptions, alt tags, etc.
  • Revised the default rules for dynamic pages so page titles, headers and meta descriptions would be more relevant to the content they presented.
  • Used data to inform planning and supplying content about visitors’ key interest areas.
  • Worked with the client to make social media a key part of promoting new content so followers would know it existed.
  • Recommended tweaks to the code base to tell a better story to search engines about where the content on the website lives and how it relates.
  • Supported the client’s efforts to modify page templates and menus so information was easier to find and more usefully presented. This included the release of a responsive website.

We did all this while continuing always-on PR efforts, seasonal marketing campaigns and optimizing online advertising investments, which without a doubt also had an effect on organic visitor volumes.

The role link building plays in SEO

When I ran across Matt Cutts’ quote this morning, it struck a chord.

There are lots of best practices to follow and a host of little things a person can do to help a website perform organically, and together they can create some massive gains, but messages about the ranking algorithms often get mixed up. In those cases, organic tactics can become myopic, focusing on measures like links and rankings instead of the factors that drive them: audience appeal and quality.

Create a good customer experience

A big piece of organic performance is about creating a good customer experience—presenting information in a way that gives people what they want. Some of that’s about setting up your website so people can find the information they’re seeking easily. Some of it is about presenting them with the words and phrases they’re looking for while they’re quickly scanning the search results and your page. Another piece is about providing quality visual tools like photos and videos so people can get the information in a way that suits their style. If you do these pieces well, and that includes marking your content up in a way that search engines can understand it, then you ought to see organic search success.

It’s a lot like creating and selling a quality product. If there’s demand for it, and if it works well and gives people what they want, then you should be successful…as long as people have a way of knowing about it.

Treat links like PR

My advice for my clients right now is to think of link building as a form of PR. Traditional word of mouth will go so far, but if you want to launch something quicker than that, there are tactics you can use.

If the right influencers grab hold of your news and love it, then you’re on your way, but the key is starting with a quality product that people want. Poor products at best will get no traction on their PR, and at worst will see negative reviews and commentary hit the market, with influencers slamming their product for its lousiness. Unnatural link building can cause your website to experience the same effect, from both search engines and people.

I’m not going to say that links shouldn’t be part of the picture. They very much should be, especially as a performance benchmark, but the way we go about building these links—like all good marketing—needs to be about the customer. It’s about creating a quality product that people want, and want to share.

If you believe you’ve done that, do some PR:

  • Tell people about your content by posting links to it on your blog or social media outlets.
  • Include it in your email newsletter.
  • Mention your content to key influencers with whom you have relationships. Invite them to give you feedback.
  • Monitor what your followers do with your content. Invite them to give you feedback.
  • Improve your product.

When you’ve created something people want and can use, those relationships will come back to help you. People will tell people about it, and that’s what the focus of your “link-building” efforts should be about.

Link building’s role in this project

In the year I worked on SEO for my client, links played a role, especially as part of partner relationships. Where there were content improvements made on the site, we encouraged our client to share updated resources and to tell their partners, but we didn’t buy directory links, and we didn’t push for links in marginally relevant places. Total external links to the site increased in the range of the upper 5-digits over the course of a year, not because we put them there, but because others had heard or seen remarkable content and chose to share it.

That’s what link metrics are meant for, and with the latest updates to Penguin, Google is getting and better at holding us to it.


It’s time to stop thinking about link building first, and start focusing on creating a quality, useful product that people want to share.

Social networking for job seekers

StopPress' Movings/ShakingsIt seems like something’s in the air on the job front this time of year. Maybe it’s the approaching holidays, and the perceived ticking time clock on seizing that new opportunity before New Zealand’s annual Christmas exodus and subsequent doldrums. The Movings/Shakings column in StopPress is full as ever, and even I’m tempted to jump on the bandwagon, if only to avoid the creeping sense of FOMO I’m getting from all the news.

Several of the people in my circles who’ve been thinking about making the leap are choosing November to jump ship, and with this has come a barrage of LinkedIn alerts.

Former direct reports, bosses and colleagues are shining up their LinkedIn profiles. I’ve received a total of 7 requests in the past two months, some of which I was glad to attach my name to, and others that…well…others I haven’t…erhm…well, others I’d rather not address at all.

This got me thinking about the etiquette (and basic, screamingly obvious logic) of making reference requests. So for the punters, here they are.

Five rules of social networking for job seekers

  1. If someone fired you, they probably aren’t the best person to write you a recommendation about your skills as a [insert job you were doing when I, oops…they…fired you].
  2. If, upon your departure from a company, you chose to use the company Christmas party as your opportunity to publicly deliver to every colleague who ever worked closely with you a special, drunken holiday message containing personalized messages like, “your partner is way too old for you,” “you think you’re so awesome at everything, but really, you know nothing,” or “your shaved chest makes people think you’re gay,” it’s probably NOT a good idea to ask ANY of them to connect on LinkedIn, let alone ask for a recommendation.
  3. When asking for a recommendation, if it’s been awhile since you worked with the person, say 2 or 3 years, it helps to catch up a bit and fill them in on what you’re doing these days, lest they describe you as the raw and inexperienced talent you once were, instead of the polished and accomplished professional you are today.
  4. If you worked with someone and they really were good, like REALLY good, tell them that. Do them a solid and tell the world that. If you can, do it before they ever even ask. Good people are hard to come by, and while it’s not always easy to get a glowing written recommendation, there’s very little that’s as powerful as one from someone who is worth their salt, and knows you’re worth yours. Help foster your own network of great talent by cultivating connections between other great talent.
  5. The whole of your public online identity exists on the web for everyone to see. I know we’ve heard this a million times before, but if you aren’t fond of using the privacy settings on your social media profile, and your soon-to-be-boss is subjected to drunken photos of a triple-kiss between you and your two besties at Ultra, you deserve what you get—whether that’s a sad, skinny rejection letter or an offer of employment by the shadiest boss ever for a way fatter salary than you know you’re worth.

This blog is relatively new, so I won’t pretend I’m expecting lots of comments yet, but for future readers (I know I’ll grab you one day), what experiences have you had with social networking while you or a former colleague were hunting for a new job? Do you have any good ones to add to this list?

The Cure for Hiccups – and an intro to this blog

I was on a road trip with the fiancé this week, when I was hit with a case of the hiccups. These weren’t just measly little hiccups either, they were violent and body jolting—so bad that I was making squeaky drunk-Dumbo-the-elephant noises in the passenger seat.

One heart-stopping fright from the fiancé, and several rounds of ineffective breath-holding later, he decided to let me in on a little secret of his.

In less than a minute, my hiccups were gone, never to return since. Apparently he’s used this method for years, and it has never failed. Who knew?!?

There are lots of places this post could go with hiccups as a metaphor, so I’ll try not to get too cheesy, but having the cure to hiccups did get me thinking:

  1. Sharing information is really helpful. One small tip you learned along the way in life can go a long way toward curing others’ “hiccups.”
  2. Proper technique is key to consistent outcomes. Sometimes all it takes to cure a really bad case of hiccups is to slow down, and take a few deep, technically sound breaths.

In each post here, I’ll share an experience or technique that served me well for preventing or curing business-, marketing- or design-related “hiccups,” in the hopes that it’ll help you out too, or at least kick start your ideas and send you down a track toward a solution that will.

I hope you’ll also share your own successful experiences and techniques with me in the comments.

Oh and by the way, in case you only came for the hiccups, here’s what I learned –


Breathe in and out, yoga style, where your belly rises as you inhale and sinks as you exhale, 10 times.

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