Ep 17: Chris Dickey: Search Engine Visibility

This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart’s interview with Chris Dickey on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!

KEYWORDS

people, search, nonprofit, PR, visibility, consumers, brand, website, keywords, search engine, clients

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Chris, welcome to the show. Super excited to have you joining us to talk about marketing for good and all the cool stuff that you’re up to. And you are joining us from Jackson Hole, Wyoming?

Chris Dickey 

That’s correct. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

And from there you actually manage two companies Purple Orange Brand Communications and now Visibly.

Chris Dickey 

Right, yeah. So, Purple Orange is a PR agency. We deal in active lifestyle and outdoor consumer brands is for the most part. So stuff that you would play with. Being based in Jackson Hole, it kind of makes sense. It’s like the stuff that you would put on your body to stay warm or go skiing with or go running and all those kind of active lifestyle brands you might find at REI. Those are a lot of our clients. And then Visibly kind of morphed more recently out of out of Purple Orange and so Visibly is a response, it’s a software platform. It’s available for everyone. It’s currently free, so there’s no there’s no subscription. Visibly was the idea of how do we do we do a better job identifying, tracking and improving our brand and product visibility and search. And a couple years ago, as a PR agency owner, I started realizing the most valuable PR hits that we were acquiring for our clients were the ones that were showing up at the top of search for popular keywords. And it was it wasn’t really there wasn’t a strategy behind it at the time. It was every once in a while one of our PR, you know, one of our PR heads would just kind of like magically appear at the top of search results, and it would just have this massive impact on our clients. And it was it was pretty awesome. And I also had another kind of anecdote that kind of drove me in that direction. And that was, we work in the outdoor industry and we had we had acquired a large award for one of our clients. And it was it was a gear of the year from Outside Magazine which is the kind of the pinnacle outdoor publication in the outdoor space. And it was, we got the best sleeping bag award of the year you know, and they give one of these out once a year. Yeah, big deal to big audience, a big online audience, a big print audience, they give you a full page spread. I mean, it’s everything that you want from, you know, from a PR placement. And we, we circle back with the clients a couple months after we landed this and you know, and they were still a client of ours, and we work in multiple different campaigns. And I said, you know, tell me about that sleeping bag. How’s that doing? How’d that how’d that work out for you guys? And they said, you know, we’ve sold like, some small amount, like very small amount. It just it didn’t really needle.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Really?

Chris Dickey 

Yeah, I know. Right? Like that was my response is like, how, how can you win the pinnacle award, you know, in the pinnacle publication for a product and it really isn’t, wasn’t moving the needle from a sales perspective. And it was at that point we were like, I was really scratching my head and feeling kind of down in the dumps about PR. I’m like, Oh my god, like we really have to figure this out. And, and so I just I kind of went online and I typed in best sleeping bags 2017 that was the year this happened. And that particular endorsement for Outside Magazine was on the second page of search for that non branded keyword, best best sleeping bag of the year. And I realized at that moment that winning a PR placement, no matter what, like how many key messages that you might win or how amazing the photography that went along with it was or the publication got that you know, your choice publication, if it didn’t live beyond the flicker of the moment that it was published, it would have very limited value for our clients. And you know, I think I think print is a fantastic medium but it’s not a great medium to sell stuff.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

What is it a fantastic medium for?

Chris Dickey 

It’s a fantastic medium for like, you know, you sit down with a print publication and there’s a visceral quality to it, right? And you’re not there to buy, you’re, you’re there to consume, you’re there to read stories. And you don’t want to be, you don’t necessarily want to be sold. This is my opinion. I actually was a circulation director for a publication many years ago. And so, you know, I, I still think print has like, a good future, but it’s a different future than it maybe was 10 years ago. But anyways, so really, when you need to find this ROI, I found that I felt like there was a huge opportunity to search. And when you step back and think about what search is and that is, like I’m speaking about search engines here is it’s a massive product discovery zone. It’s where people ask questions and the search engine returns answers, and there’s actually around four to five billion people, or billion questions being asked to search every single day. That’s like 60 to 70,000 every second. And what’s even more interesting about that, so it’s obviously a central piece of our lives. We asked, you know, whether it’s our phones or our desktop computer, we’re asking all sorts of questions and we need answers. Turns out that over 70% of all the, all the traffic, all the answers will be consumed in the first five organic results on a page.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah, right.

Chris Dickey 

And, effectively, if you don’t find what you’re looking for there, you just move on, you just you just change your keyword, search query, you don’t you don’t go deeper. And there’s this there’s this crazy curve that I could show you that’s, that shows you like, you know how people click and it’s, it does, it’s like so consistent month to month, year to year across different categories. But the very first organic result on a search query gets around 30% of all the traffic and then it drops down to like 18 and then drops down to like 14 or 12. And it’s just this logarithmic curve that just just drops off exponentially toward the bottom of the page, the 10th, or the or the typically there’s around 10 organic results at any given search page, the final result on the first page of search results are only around 1% of the traffic.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Oh.

Chris Dickey 

I know, right? So it’s not enough to even be on the first page of search, you need to be at the top of the first page of search. And that needs, when you step back and think about it is an Olympic level podium position. Especially for a popular keyword. And one that you know when talking about a popular keyword is you know let’s step back and talk about like top of funnel marketing for a minute, like how do people find you that’s the that’s the kind of constant kind of marketers dilemma.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yes, it is.

Chris Dickey 

How do people know that we exist, or even an option for a thing that you need or how we can help you and, you know, I think, so search allows you to get in front of people who need your product or service, but don’t know you exist. And so say you’re looking, in our case for like a new tennis racket and you don’t know where to start. You don’t know who to like, who makes a good tennis racket, so you just type in best tennis racket. That is exactly the kind of customer that if you make tennis rackets you want to get in front of right, because it’s like, here’s somebody who has a high intent to buy is very interested in the subject matter and is not brand loyal,  by definition, the fact that they’re not searching for a specific brand. And the thing about search, is that you can you know, exactly or pretty precisely how many people a month are searching for that keyword. There’s your customer base, you know exactly where they’re clicking on the page. So then where the challenge becomes is how do you get in front of them? How do you get your brand within that top of the page and that, that’s effectively what the SEO industry is right? Like in, in SEO, it’s great if you can do it well, but you really don’t have a lot of power around it. Because fundamentally SEO is about how to get your own website ranking better. And I think as a PR practitioner, and as somebody who leverages third party endorsements for a living, we are like, it’s not about your, your own website, it’s about your brand. How do you get your brand in front of that person. And when you step outside of the box from talking about, oh, just my own property, my own website and just thinking about, it doesn’t matter how somebody finds you so long as they find you. Then you think about PR placements, you think about your e-commerce partners, you think about all these other channels that might show up in those top five positions in a search page, where you can create product discovery or create a point in the direction. And that’s and that kind of comes back to what Visibly is so Visibly is the idea of it’s a it’s a term that I call search engine visibility. And it’s what is the likelihood that somebody is going to discover or find your brand in search? And it’s not the likelihood someone’s going to discover your website, let’s just talking about the likelihood that someone’s going to discover your brand.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah, that’s an important distinction, I think. Yeah, and I think, you know, it’s when you think about just focusing on your website, it’s just a very narrow you know, thing and at the end of the day, getting your website in that top five position for a popular keyword like the best tennis racket. It’s almost impossible. I hate to say that it’s, it’s it’s kind of defeatist but honestly, like, it’s just not gonna happen. And if you talk to an SEO expert, they’ll quickly agree, they’ll say you’re never gonna get there because you have to, you have to outfit Amazon and you’re gonna have to outfit like any of these massive media organizations that have written reviews about the best tennis rackets, and Google assigns kind of a page authority or like a domain authority to every single website out there. And it’s like this kind of complex algorithm nobody really knows the secret sauce to, but it generally, they’re looking at how many incoming links do you have from other important websites coming to your own website, that’s the idea of a backlink. They’re looking at your overall traffic, how many people like how popular is your website, you know, in the scheme of things, and they’re looking at a variety of other factors as well. But when you’re literally up against sites like Amazon, or say the New York Times or something, I mean, you literally- That’s a high bar.

Chris Dickey 

Yeah, yeah. So I think my point is like, why don’t you work with those brands, those publishers to find ways to introduce your product on their pages. So like, for instance, with Amazon, Amazon does a fantastic job with organic search. And they show up very frequently for non branded keywords, especially ones of commercial intent. And what if you’re selling through Amazon, they’ll have a landing page that will, you’ll click on and it’ll recommend the best tennis rackets for the space. And the question then becomes is not how do I get a better ranking than Amazon? How do I get my product on that landing page? Right?

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah, that’s a very different goal.

Chris Dickey 

Totally. It’s a totally relevant goal. You know, it’s like again, like if you if you’re looking to get in front of the customer and the other thing about Amazon from marketing perspective is that there’s there’s just a lot of trust with that website because almost everybody has an account there and there’s they make it very easy to sell and they make it very easy to get refunds and it’s a familiar property, and that familiarity actually increases the likelihood that you’re going to click there, psychologically speaking. So there’s a lot of reasons why you would want to work with Amazon rather than try to like beat them at their own game.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah, that seems, seems almost impossible, especially if you’re small to mid size or anything like that. I feel like people a lot of people have such a love hate relationship with Amazon. They’re like, Oh, there’s like, you know, this huge empire and, but when push comes to shove, if I need a new tennis racket-

Chris Dickey 

They’re the devil you know, right?

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah. Yes, I confess to having that moment frequently where I’m like, okay, well, like books I definitely I have my biggest tension from a brand perspective around books because and now I will go to local bookstore in order that way because it feels so important. Yeah, but they have made it like, every, you know, this idea of friction, and they’ve just removed all of it. And so so I think I, you know, values thing. They make it really easy for sure.

Chris Dickey 

Right?

Erica Mills Barnhart 

So I love this the specificity of the tennis racket example. And a lot of our listeners actually are working for nonprofits. So I was hoping you could talk a little bit about Climate Neutral, which is a relatively new nonprofit that believes companies plus consumers can help climate change, which is very pithy and catchy and I love it. And was named the 2020 world changing idea by Fast Company magazine, will you talk a little bit about, I mean, stay a little bit more about what it is, and then also how you’ve helped them and maybe, if you can use it as an example of this new way of thinking about search engine, that’d be fantastic.

Chris Dickey 

I’ll do my best. So with Climate Neutral, climateneautral.org. And they are a new nonprofit 501c3, they’re a client of ours at Purple Orange and they recognize that there’s no corporate standard for measuring and then ultimately giving companies a path toward climate neutrality or carbon neutrality, if you will. And I think there’s there’s a lot of pros and cons, you could say to the like carbon offsets. And so, but I think we need to do what anyone needs to do, who has a who has a negative opinion of, of a climate of carbon offsets is recognize that none of us, not any of us can eliminate our carbon footprint to zero. We just can’t do it. You couldn’t go to the grocery store and buy vegetables if you want to have a zero carbon footprint. You couldn’t I mean, how would you heat your home you know, there’s there’s all these kind of, you know, external factors that especially for manufacturers, and anybody producing any kind of goods, a lot of the production of those goods, they’re not doing themselves. They’re outsourcing they have, they have factories overseas, they have farmers that they buy those things from. But all of those products, all those, every single piece in that supply chain has a smaller carbon footprint, right? Like from the time that you harvest a vegetable or the time you manufacture or textile and you ship it wherever it needs to go. And that’s ultimately that the complexity of that of that supply chain has been a major barrier for companies to measure their own carbon footprints. And what Climate Neutral is trying to do is simplify how you measure the footprint and take the pain out of it because before you’d have to hire a third party consultancy, it would take them weeks if not months, with a team of people charging very high rates per hour. And it would it just to understand, like, what how much carbon your your company was responsible for was a very painful process. And it was it was a barrier to getting more companies to do it. And I was hit a lot of these are interested genuinely in trying to be better at this, but it was just so challenging and so expensive that it just made it really hard. So Climate Neutral was like how can we streamline that process A) and then B) how can we provide a way for them to if they can’t reduce down to zero, how can we provide like a verified offset program to at least remove those carbon emissions elsewhere in the atmosphere so you have a carbon neutral business. And then lastly, once you do all those kind of rigorous checkpoints and Climate Neutral verifies you’ve done it, you get a label. And it’s very similar to like USDA Organic or non GMO verified. It’s the idea that here’s a third party independent auditor who has verified that you have accurately measured offset and reduced as much of your footprint as possible and that you have a net zero impact on the on the, on the climate. And the idea is that we want both consumers and companies to step up to the plate here, you know, and consumers can vote with every single purchase that they make-

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah they can, and do.

Chris Dickey 

Yeah, they do. Absolutely. I mean, you know, I mean, I can tell you I’ve worked in the organic food industry. That’s actually one of the kind of tertiary areas that that Purple Orange Agency works in. And organic labeling has revolutionized the natural food space in this even really kind of a big deal in conventional grocery store. It’s now. And it’s been a really, really positive impact. And I can tell you that there’s a couple different organic labels in by far and away the USDA Organic label has the most consumer trust and in drives the best point of purchase stealthier. And so labels have like this really powerful effect on the consumer at point of purchase. And we felt that if we could label the carbon footprint, in the same way that people would, if they had a choice between two products, they would pick the one that was the less harmful environment.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Right. And there’s a lot of research to support that, you know, in different in different ways, right, all things being equal consumers would like or I think they’re 82% more likely to purchase from something that has some sort of feel good or do good component to it. And it has to be all things being equal.

Chris Dickey 

Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

They are not really willing to take a hit for, like in this case carbon neutrality, they still want the quality of the products still has to be there.

Chris Dickey 

Entirely. Yeah, and that’s that’s actually an excellent point. I think a lot of people, especially entrepreneurs, like well, under will lead with their environmental message. And I and I, environmental messages, look, I’m actually in a rural studies major in my undergrad. And that was what got me into this outdoor industry because I looked at this industry that was so what I thought was progressive at the time when it came to the environment. These companies like like Patagonia and whatnot, like stepping up and doing things very proactively, but you have to have a good product, your product has to stand up, you know, if you don’t, if you’re not leading with your product, you you have the wrong idea. They product has just gotta be there and then you figure out how can you make it the best way possible and how can you deliver to the customer in the best way possible?

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah, this is such an important point in terms of messaging and sequencing of messaging. So I hope people are hearing that. Because like, you know, and when you’re living and breathing it, and frankly, when maybe you care most about the environmental impact component of the product, you’re sort of projecting into what you want consumers to care about, as opposed to being sensitive and responsive to like, how our minds buy, like the buying process and all of that.

Chris Dickey 

Yeah, at the end of the day, it’s got to work for you. You know, it’s like,  I have a good example years ago. And this is in the outdoor industry. One of our clients was a ski manufacturer was making these new ski boots out of like some recycled environmental plastic. Great, great idea. But guess what the ski boots just didn’t work. I mean, it was it was, it honestly was like almost greenwashing in a certain way because it was like having this this product that didn’t really do what it was meant to do just to have this environmental story behind it and then to have that environmental story kind of somehow play out across the rest of the organization that had no environmental story. So it just it was just it ended up to me as a PR person is a very inauthentic way of trying to tell, I don’t know, it just felt like, like a marketing ploy. You know, it was absolutely and then of course, the boot didn’t succeed, you know. So-

Erica Mills Barnhart 

That’s a tough market. I don’t want boots made out of like sunflower seeds. You need your ski boots to do their job. At some point, you got to draw a line. But recycled plastic bottles, I could get behind all of that, but anyways.

Chris Dickey 

I think there’s a truism to some of the most environmentally friendly products are the ones that just last the longest, and that you’re not replacing them.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Right I mean, so that’s just about good quality products. As opposed to-

Chris Dickey 

I mean, well, it’s about consuming less.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah. Yeah.

Chris Dickey 

Ultimately, it’s like I think, you know, recycling is a fantastic idea on paper, but it actually has a fairly heavy carbon footprint. And I think that if you can just consume less, and that is have stuff that you wear over and over again and works forever works for a long time. Ultimately, that has the lowest footprint.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

It does. I mean, there are some, I think implications that we have to call out around income and equality and the ability to purchase the, you know, the highest quality products and that that’s not how a lot of people are able to make their purchases. So there’s some definitely some work to do around sort of bringing into alignment this this over time, and I mean, I’ve spent some time in Europe but I’m always so struck by whatever country I’m in like that, that really does tend to be more of a the way that things are made because because of longtime consumer demand, so yeah, people did. I don’t know who did a good job around marketing of recycling, maybe that’s a podcast for another day. Because it is intriguing, right? Like, we’re like, oh, look at me recycling all my stuff. But then we don’t think of it like that. It’s it’s a huge carbon footprint to actually do it.

Chris Dickey 

No, you know, and I don’t know if this I think this happens less now than it used to. But I know in years past when recycling was in its infancy, they would literally ship bottles to Asia to get them recycled. Yeah, I mean, you would recycle something in Cincinnati, Ohio, and it would be trucked across the United States dumped into a you know, a cargo container shipped across the Pacific Ocean and then recycled in a plant you know, at a place of using all coal burning energy.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah. Okay, so now that we’ve made listeners feel badly about recycling-

Chris Dickey 

I still recycle, I do, I absolutely.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Keep recycling everybody and compost away.

Chris Dickey 

I just want to say, you know, we can we can always just do a better job. You know, it’s good to poke at ourselves.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yes, it is. Okay, so can we come back to Climate Neutral, the organization and will you share with us a little bit about how you used all of these tools that you have to I mean, ultimately, they were named 2020 world changing idea by Fast Company. Again, that’s a pretty like Olympic level ninja level placement, especially for a nonprofit.

Chris Dickey 

Thank you. Yeah, that was. Yeah, that was a big win. And we’ve, we’ve had a couple others like that as well for them. It’s a fantastic idea. So I don’t want to too much credit for it. But at the end of the day, the thing about Climate Neutral  is that you really have to understand that there’s two there’s two distinct audiences for their company and their brand. They have, their ultimately who they sell to are other business executives. They have to, even though they are in some ways, a B2C company and they have this label that we hope can change the world a lot of ways. They need the buy in from the highest levels of any business to say, well, we’re going to go down this path that is more expensive and more and more costly to have the label. And and so we recognize that, you know, companies like or outlets like Fast Company are really speaking to that corporate executive and helping tell that story to them as well. There is a very much a bifurcated kind of marketing plan there. With when it comes to search engines, we we did a big, deep dive with them. And we realized that I don’t think a lot of people search for climate related stuff. And in so I even though we did all of this work around, I think that Visibly and the idea of search engine visibility works very, very well, for product discovery. I’m not sure how many people use it for nonprofit discovery, if you will. But, But what I can tell you is that we’ve done, is that the PR that we’ve produced, almost completely dominates search results for climate neutrality or like Climate Neutral. And so we not only is climateneatural.org in one year gone from non existence to the very first organic search result for that term Climate Neutral. But all the media around climate neutrality is I’d say 50% of it relates to the organization you know, what the work that the organization is doing. So anybody who’s interested in the concept of climate neutral, they will find what the organization is doing.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

So I’m guessing listeners at this point are like, I want to be number one a search engine. How did you do it? What did you do?

Chris Dickey 

A lot of things. So being the one-

Erica Mills Barnhart 

I have an assumption, actually, which is that you, I mean the name of the organization is Climate Neutral. And that was also the search term. So which is the chicken and which is the egg?

Chris Dickey 

Well, absolutely. Absolutely recognize that like Climate Neutral, and the term climate neutrality was something that we wanted to capitalize on. We didn’t come up with that term. It already existed for us. We did spend the money to buy the URL Climate Neutral. So that’s very helpful. Number two, we needed to develop high quality backlinks and so that’s where PR comes in and we start getting we start telling that story-

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Will you explain what backlinks are?

Chris Dickey 

A backlink is anytime another website links to your site.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Thank you.

Chris Dickey 

It’s it’s, there’s literally in SEO world, they call it link juice. And it’s this, it’s this conception of like going from you have you have the, the domain authority of one site, and they’re sending a little bit of their juice over your site by saying, hey, we recognize these guys are an important voice in the space. We’re gonna link to them and tell people and that link is seen as a vote by Google, that you are a reliable source for this particular subject matter. And particularly, I think, something that, you know, a very, very small thing that I would say, is overlooked by a lot of marketing organizations, or nonprofits is the more creative and unique you are with your name, the harder it is to rank in search. Because people search for very broad terms and they, when they don’t know what they’re looking for they start with the broadest term possible. And if you can optimize around those words, those very broad words like Climate Neutral for instance, I have another company that we work for, in the, in the consumer packaged goods space, and they made bags, and they named their very first bag, the everyday messenger bag and they and they killed it. And everyone looking for an everyday messenger bag, finds this bag.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Wow. So what’s your advice to organizations that already have their name? They’re probably not going to rename because it’s a big hairy deal. So what the next? Where do they go from there?

Chris Dickey 

What’s the next nugget? Yeah, the next nugget, is they, I would, gosh, I think it’s really like you have to look at every single organization in its own light and kind of what they’re doing. But if they have a program or a certification, or what is the what is the core service that they’re providing the community that in and of itself could be seen as a product, and you can name that something that is very commonly known, you know, and I think as a marketer, you want to be really catchy and clever and unfortunately, that doesn’t always help you unless you’re a name brand to begin with. If you’re if you’re fighting for shared voice in a very crowded space, being descriptive in your name and people understanding what the name means is actually to your benefit, especially in search.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah, it is it is a tricky business because a lot of the descriptive names are taken. So that’s it was interesting to hear that Climate Neutral bought the URL, that can be a pretty significant investment in terms of that process, if you’re either picking your name out of the gate or renaming.

Chris Dickey 

They had a lot of corporate sponsors that were that wanted to put them off on the right foot, which I think was smart.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean, if you can pull it off, it’s fantastic. But oftentimes, especially nonprofits or small businesses, you know, B Corps, just don’t, that can be a very expensive investment. So one of the some of the work that I do is around research I do is around brain novelty and what our brains do when they when it gets, you know, and anything that’s novel, actually, our brains aren’t super sophisticated about it. They’re like a new text message. That’s neat. Look at me. Oh, someone’s a jet TikTok great, um, anything sort of novel. And so you know, when I work with organizations, I focus on this idea of sort of the art and science of integrating novel words that aren’t that are not overused. So a lot of you know, words are extremely overused within different spaces with these really straightforward words both from from the search engine perspective but also from just readability you know, reading ease perspective and those types of things. Um, so what I’m hearing you say, which is interesting is if you are a company or organization where being found on search is important to you, let me say, I’m saying if because what is true for the social impact spaces, that word of mouth marketing is still it’s still the big driver, actually, but but I just feel like we’ve transitioned and I would say, you know, COVID, actually is this is one of the impacts it’s going to have is like, we’re, we’re just more reliant on everything technological. So even our connection with cause is really being called into question. Not only question a little bit, but more so how are we going to connect? How are we going to connect?

Chris Dickey 

In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, there’s a ton of nonprofits, and they’re all trying to figure out how to make money this year, because like, they’re all their traditional ways of capturing, you know, development is all is all person to person. Yeah, so all these tools have to evolve.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

All of them have to evolve and that’s super overwhelming. Right? So that’s why I was asking kind of like, alright, so if your name is off the table, where do you go next?

Chris Dickey 

Well, content, absolutely. 100%. I know you cover content on the show quite a bit. But content is super critical, you know, and, you know, we named the software project that I’m working on called Visibly, Visibly is a nonsensical name. And I realized quickly that it’s a plan of words, we were trying to go for visibility, and it’s a simple URL. I think it’s a good one. But ultimately currently because we’re so new and we’re brand new, we just released our beta last week.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Oh, wow.

Chris Dickey 

Yeah, that new, new, new new. It’s been around for, you know, it’s been around for a year. It’s but we were kind of it was a closed beta for a long time so now it’s an open beta. It’s just another step forward. But anyways, nobody, only people who look who who search for V I S E B L Y is someone who’s misspelling the word.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

So what will you do I mean?

Chris Dickey 

Exactly so what we’ll do is we’ll put forward a fairly well thought out content strategy that focuses on existing keywords that we know have search volumes that we think that we can rank for, and that we can actually make an you know, make an impact for us. So more this is now this is more traditional SEO but a lot of people ask questions to search engines. The fact of the matter is like the more colloquial like you respond to those questions, the more Google likes you. Google doesn’t reward robots, they reward people doing good, good work. And they have some pretty specific algorithms. It’s kind of like sniff out if you’re, if you’re a bot, or if you’re a human. And, and so what I would say is, you know, think about what are the what are the most pressing questions, that, that you’re solving as an organization? And what are the pain points? Or what are the things that people will be asking questions about or curious about? Or points of interest that you guys have points like knowledge on and then formulate a blog post around those questions. Questions are a great way to optimize and search and they’re really underleveraged. In the most part, people try to try to optimize for these non branded keywords like I was talking about the beginning of the conversation and well if you can do that, then you’re in really good position. But questions are the next step. And you see these question boxes are really showing up a lot in search where it’s known as people also ask. And people will extract those from websites and they will populate those right at the top of search. And they’re guessing that if you put in this keyword or this query, you might actually mean you might actually want one of these questions like this like they’re like, they have this really crazy, sophisticated algorithm that tries to determine intent of a search. So they’re like, not only they think that if you put in this keyword based on your past search history, you actually you actually want this and they’re actually pretty good at determining.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

That is so freaky.

Chris Dickey 

I know, I know, it’s kind of scary. Yeah. But yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

So from a content strategy if I’m if I’m thinking through this, you know, and a listener is trying to figure out how to apply this, would you literally sit down and say, what are the top 10 problems that we solve as a company or organization? And then you would develop a content strategy around that?

Chris Dickey 

I would do a couple things. I think that’s I think that’s a great way to do it. I think the other thing that it would it makes sense to do is there’s there’s a, there’s a handful of free keyword research tools out there. And I would just jump in one of those keyword research tools. And you’ll find that little iterations in the way that you talk about something have massive, different audiences. The way that you think about something, if you change it, I’ll give you a little anecdote and this goes back to kind of the outdoor industry is we work for a kayak company. And the difference between calling something a lightweight kayak versus a portable kayak is like 10s of thousands of people a month.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Which ones more popular?

Chris Dickey 

The lightweight kayak. Yeah. So you might really think that oh, the value proposition here isn’t portable. But in fact, way more people by a magnitude of like five or six X are searching for for lightweight. So it’s like okay, well lightweight and portable or kind of, you know, the same thing. And maybe we really want to pin it around the term lightweight. So you might find that same thing with your organization. Whereas you really think that the value proposition is encapsulated in this one word. But you find once you do this, this like very simple keyword research that a synonym of that word is the one receiving all the traffic so then you pivot around that and you you try to like start building out stuff around that. So there’s a little pieces of insight there. I think the other thing to look at is how  would you somebody find you? I always try to like, step back from yourself and, you know, what would be the points of discovery? Can you reverse engineer how somebody would find your organization? And when you start asking that question, and you ask other people that question that will bring up a lot of little points of like, oh, I can optimize around this idea and this idea and this question. And I think that’s, that’s a really good way to think about it as marketers. You know, what, what’s that customer journey to discovery?

Erica Mills Barnhart 

I think you’re raising an important point, which is to to reverse engineer and I’m a huge I’m going to add, I’m a huge fan of reverse engineering, in general, but definitely for this because oftentimes what what marketers will do and you see this with strategy, so you know, anybody listening who’s done a strategic plan, you start and you look forward, as opposed to saying as opposed to putting yourself in a future point in time, and saying, okay, let’s assume that, you know, this person found us. What did they do and reverse engineering and actually you get the reverse engineering is much more actionable. I think it’s quite challenging for us to sit in present and look future, like monolithic iceberg that is the future. And the other thing that allows you to do is say, like, do we know, you know, do we know our customers? And how do you know how did Steve get here? And how did you know Jane get here and all those things. So I love that I will also give a little anecdote which is around the word nonprofit and search. And I actually, I’m forgetting which one is most popular, but the difference between nonprofit all is one word which by the way, if you work for a nonprofit, most folks will just write nonprofit no hyphen, no space. So there’s a huge difference from a search perspective between nonprofit all one word which is the least sort of popular in terms of search, nonprofit with a hyphen, and I think it is true that the most popular was non space, profit and one is just, you know, again, a little anecdotal example. But it’s also an example of the way that the folks working in an industry think about the words versus the consumer, or the donor, or, you know, whoever you’re really trying to reach, think and search can be really different. You know, and that brings up a little point, what I love about search is that it is because of its like this aggregate of like human experience, and it’s happening on such a rapid scale every single day, you get to see these trends and human behavior and how people see the world. And it might be in alignment with what you think and it might not be. And that’s why this keyword research becomes really interesting to me. Well, I really appreciate all that you shared, I have learned a ton I confess that I mean, I understand how important search engine visibility to use your terminology is, but it’s not something I’ve done a super deep dive on, I do tend to play more in the sphere of upper level messaging and messaging strategy, and not go as deep. So I appreciate both the sort of strategy tips that you’ve given us, but also the very specific, like, you know, go and put in your search-

Chris Dickey 

I can tell you is I also come from that same discipline is like, I’m a messaging guy. I’m a PR guy, I’m a storyteller. I come from like, an industry that is very rich in storytelling that is the outdoor industry. We love telling stories about the outdoors. And what I can tell you, though, is that without, if you don’t put together a powerful distribution strategy, it’s all for naught. And you have to figure out how am I going to get this message out there? And I think we’ve focused on that more and more as an agency over time, especially as the digital tools have progressed, but, you know, to invest in storytelling is great, but if no can hear the story, then that’s where the frustration comes in.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah, you’re just sitting there in front of the fire all alone, telling your stories, eating your s.mores out there in the woods.

Chris Dickey 

Yeah, totally.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

So, I always end my interviews with the same question. And it has to do with motivation and inspiration. So inspiration, the root of that word means to breathe in. And motivation is about action. So we need both of these things to do what we’re doing. So I’m curious-

Chris Dickey 

I love that.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Thank you. I do too, actually when I discovered that about inspiring I was like, sort of it like opened my mind in a very different way. What inspires you  and what keeps you motivated to do this work?

Chris Dickey 

Oh, that’s good. Um, I love meaningfully connecting with people. And I think that it has become harder and harder as there’s more people and there’s more static and there’s more options and to find the people that really care about your message, your thing becomes more and more challenging. That goes back to my point of distribution. But it’s also a message you want to you want to curate a message that’s going to resonate, connect. But that that facilitation of meaningful connection is what I find to be most satisfying at this point in my career.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah, yeah. I love that. Well, thank you, thank you, thank you for making time to, to join me today on the podcast, I really admire how you’re like applying, like tried and true PR tactics and strategies with much more cutting edge search engine, kind of pioneering in that in that space. It’s really fun to hear about that. And that and also all your examples of you know, of marketing for good from a whole bunch of different spaces, which is what we’d like to talk about on this. So thank you, Chris, for being here. And also thanks to our listeners for joining us for this conversation as always do good be well and I’ll see you next time.