Redefining SEO, with Deadpool and Candy
Earlier this year, I worked on the SEO for a website that no longer exists. We knew, from the beginning, that the site would disappear. Another brief, fleeting microsite that now ends in a 301 redirect. This one, for a collaboration between Deadpool (the antihero) and Trolli (the candy company).
The collaboration itself was a candy called “Tiny Hands”, and the pieces of candy were literally tiny hands (which is also a reference to the first Deadpool film).
Yes, it’s sad that the site no longer exists. But, now that it has ceased to exist, I’ve written a case study about it.
I genuinely believe it’s a one-of-a-kind case study, because it’s the only one I know about doing the worst job you can. While there are plenty of success stories out there about improving your ROI with on-page content written for semantic search, investigations into JSON v. HTML structured data markup, and deep dive into advanced conversion tracking, this is not one of them.
Instead, it’s the story about what happens when you intentionally do the worst work you can, but with a purpose.
Trolli, Deadpool, and SEO
For the uninitiated:
Trolli: a candy company known for “weirdly awesome” marketing campaigns, including collaborations with James Harden, cats and sloths
Deadpool: a crude, funny, violent antihero known for breaking the fourth wall.
SEO: search engine optimization; the discipline of maintaining or improving a website or brand’s presence within organic search results
Periscope: Not the app; the advertising agency where I used to work
I first gave a presentation about this at the Minneapolis Digital Summit. However, instead of reiterating the same points made in the article on Periscope dot com, I’ll simply recommend that you go read that article.
That said, I would like to explore some of the ideas in it on a deeper level. In particular, what SEO even is anymore.
Redefining SEO Success
The main takeaway that I do want to reiterate here—while also encouraging people to read the full case study—is that I think the concepts of SEO and success can both use some deeper definitions than what they typically receive.
It’s important that all brands and companies determine what SEO means for their company and how it integrates into their strategy as a whole. In this case, we had carte blanche to go wild with the metadata and hidden content because the brand bought in, but also because SEO otherwise wouldn’t have been included in the efforts.
I gave a definition of SEO above, which is this:
the discipline of maintaining or improving a website or brand’s presence within organic search results
While I like this definition, I don’t think it always works. It’s also not necessarily the agreed-upon definition.
Here’s an old-school definition of SEO you’re more likely to find:
the discipline of driving more people to a website, by using organic search engine traffic.
In many cases, this seems to be what a Search Engine Optimizer settles for. How do I get more people to my website? How do we rank for terms? How do we drive conversions higher?
All valid questions, yes, but in many cases, this can be increasingly short-sighted.
Here are the two key questions that I think should be asked in any SEO campaign:
How do we want customers to interact with our brand via search engines?
How will search engines integrate into our overall business strategy?
So let’s try redefining SEO as:
the discipline of improving, maintaining, and curating the experience that customers and potential customers have when interacting with your brand and website through search engines.
The days of SEO living in a silo have to end. It’s no longer viable for a company to have creative campaigns and strategic initiatives that don’t consider how customers and potential customers will be engaging with search engines throughout the process.
The Best Part is that People Got the Joke
Again, this is covered in the original case study on Periscope dot com, but there are a few examples that I think deserve some re-iteration.
Or, maybe best of all, this comment on reddit, that proved someone really got it:
There are more examples, of course, but what I think is really worth closing on is that this wasn’t an example of a bunch of out-of-touch marketers trying to crack into a niche user group.
No, this was people who understood the audience and the discipline and, therefore were able to create the exact kind of content that met the audience where they were. We were able to break the rules of SEO because we already knew all the rules.
Not only did we understand the audience (and, a few of us admittedly were the audience) but we even had a writer capable of capturing Deadpool’s voice in a legitimately funny way.
We were able to appeal to Deadpool fans because we broke the fourth wall (of the internet) in a way that made sense for them, without it being pandering or dishonest.
Read More Movie Sequel SEO Thought Leadership by D. F. Lovett!
Okay, maybe not “thought leadership”, as that’s a kinda cheesy concept and I’d like to tread lightly before claiming such things.
But, if you’re still interested in reading more about the relationship between search engines and film sequels, I recommend you read my article about The Hobbit 2 and Google.
Update: I no longer work at Periscope—I’m now the SEO Director at Rocket55—but I am happy to say that this project has apparently been either nominated or shortlisted for some awards that may or may not be a big deal. I intended to link to those awards, but I literally can’t find them via a Google search, so it’s possible that it hasn’t actually been nominated for any awards because Google has been unable to confirm.