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Big Watah: Case Study in Brand Management 
and Viral Marketing

The Case for White Hat SEO

THE USUAL: Coverage of this month's
hot topicsshufflessound bytesshindigs, attaboys
and word on the wire.

FEATURE: Big Watah: Case Study in Brand Management and Viral Marketing
One of the latest memes to hit the search industry this month was Big Watah, a phenomenon birthed at the Search Marketing Expo - SMX East conference. It’s the story of how one man's night of personal revelry ended up benefiting a worthwhile non-profit, and it is a story whose lessons can be learned by individual marketers and large corporations alike. The lessons come out of the brand management and viral marketing strategies that turned a potential reputation upset into an overwhelmingly positive charitable fundraiser. Watch and learn.

BACK TO BASICS: The Case for White Hat SEO

A month ago I spoke with Eric Enge from StoneTemple Consulting on a variety of SEO-related topics, and he wrote up the interview in a fascinating article (no bias here). One issue we covered was the difference between black hat and white hat techniques. This has been a big topic over the last year, especially at conferences. What is white hat SEO, and is black hat SEO evil? When do you have an ethical responsibility to play in the safe harbor?

White hat SEO means operating ethically so that you never bring harm to your client.

Hot Topics
SMX East Takeaways

Danny Sullivan and crew instigated a migration of search marketers to New York City this month for the inaugural SMX East. There was a great deal of coverage on industry blogs, as always, rounded up by SearchEngine Land in an easy-to-digest fashion. Of course, many great sessions were liveblogged and posted on the Bruce Clay blog.

Search marketing events like SMX often address many similar subjects because strategies and search engine recommendations may change month to month, and specific insights on the same topic can change in just as much time. But at this month's event, there were several unique takeaways uncovered through a variety of sessions and speakers.

Learning from the Presidential Election

Several presidential campaigns have seen success diving into online marketing. A stellar panel of Internet strategists, online campaign directors and bloggers for tickets including Ron Paul, John McCain and John Edwards were on-hand at the Search and the U.S. Presidential Campaign. The panelists talked about everything from digital marketing budgets, tailoring ads, behavioral, geo- and micro-targeting, cohesion of Web and traditional media marketing messages, reputation management, blogging, social networks, and more. And what do all those topics have in common with corporate Internet marketing? Everything!

Campaigns are learning lessons about what works and what doesn't work in the Web space -- lessons that are just as relevant to business as to politics. The Ron Paul money bomb. Howard Dean's blog1,000,000 Strong for Stephen Colbert Facebook group. Put your name in the right places, activate your supporter base, and see if success follows suit.

Lessons Gained through Searcher Behavior

It may come as no surprise that you can find out a lot about society by looking at the most popular searches. We can see up-to-date searcher activity through tools like Google Trends, but as Danny pointed out in his introduction to Bill Tancer's keynote, there's been relatively little research done on what searcher behavior can teach us about human behavior as a whole. The keynote, Click: What Search Activity Tells Us About Society, featured the author of the book by the same name explaining what he found after examining the largest worldwide sample of Internet users ever compiled.

His findings include:

  • People won't always report what they really feel: Traditional market research is at a disadvantage when compared to what can be gleaned from behavior. This may not be a revelation, in theory, but now that behavior can be studied in a way that was never before available.
  • The Stacy Keibler Correction Coefficient: Just because someone's name is searched for more often than the competition doesn't mean that someone will win a popularity contest. This can be applied to brand and company names, too.
  • There are three segments that adopt online technology before the mainstream: Meet their expectations and get into their good graces to stay on the cutting edge.
Leveraging the Experience of Others

As with all conferences, many of the best takeaways come from specific experiences shared by speakers -- successes, failures, things they'd do differently next time. One of the sessions where such shared experiences stood out was SEM for Small Businesses. From Lauren Vaccarello's personal favorite tools to Avi Wilensky's story of the world's most expensive hamburger, the small business owners and employees in the room asked thoughtful questions and received generous answers from the panelists.

Oddly enough, an experiment in grassroots viral marketing was being played out right under the noses of conference attendees. Big Watah fever spread like wildfire throughout the conference, making appearances at Search Bash and on blogs, as some exhibitors learned that the thousands of dollars spent on a booth at the event was about as effective as the twenty bucks spent on stickers when combined with the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Read more about the Big Watah phenomenon in this month's Feature article.

Programming Note: The SEO Newsletter continues its monthly publishing schedule and will be published on or near the 15th of each month. Adopting the monthly publishing date allows us to maintain the integrity and authority of the newsletter, while accommodating heavier travel schedules and increasing internal demands. You'll still receive the same great SEO news and educational articles, just in a thicker, more comprehensive format. Look for a return to our bimonthly schedule in the new year.


Most notably for the BCI team, blogger extraordinaire Lisa Barone left Bruce Clay, Inc. at the beginning of the month to get closer to her East Coast roots. Lisa has since joined the team at We Build Pages. We miss you, Lisa! You'll be seeing that white Christmas you've been waiting for in no time!

In other shufflings, Joost de Valk resigned from Onetomarket to take on the role of Internet strategist at Orangevalley.

Incisive Media promoted Stewart Quealy to the position VP of content and Marilyn Crafts to senior program director of Search Engine Strategies, while Kevin Ryan took on the role of chairman of the SES Advisory Board. Ryan also returned to his role as CEO and founder of Motivity Marketing.

Matt McGee ended his stint at KeyRelevance to start his independent business as a search marketing consultant and trainer and to join the Search Engine Land staff as assignment editor. Elizabeth Osmeloskialso joined the Search Engine Land staff as managing editor.

Microsoft recruited social network researcher Danah Boyd to join its New England-based research center. The company also promoted Yusuf Mehdi to oversee a large part of the online services portfolio, while Natala Menezes left Microsoft adCenter to join TeachStreet as director of product management.

At Yahoo, Amit Kumar resigned from Search Monkey to join startup Dapper as VP of product management. Leaving Yahoo is Kiersten Hollars, who will now be leading the communication team at Digg.

In the last month, Yahoo also announced the launch of its Digital Advisory Council to act as a discussion and feedback venue for advertisers exploring the evolving digital marketplace.

Sound Bytes

If you like what you read in the SEO Newsletter, there's more Internet marketing expertise where that came from. Check out SEM Synergy every Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern and Noon Pacific on Bruce Clay and the other hosts discuss industry news, SEO tactics and marketing trends, while expert guests share their insights on methods, best practices and upcoming events. Check out the show schedule below for a look at recent shows and upcoming topics.

October 1
(Listen Now)


Martin Bowling

Social Media Sins

October 8 
(Coming Soon)

Cindy Krum

Eric Lander

Kate Morris

October 15

SMX East Recap

Brent D. Payne

Viral Case Study

October 22

Power of Widgets

Patrick Sexton

Diversion versus Conversation

October 29


Mike Moran/Bill Hunt

Creating an SEM

Got something to say? Contact the SEM Synergy team and share your thoughts, comments and questions. You might even hear your question answered on the show.


At the end of the month, eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit will be taking place October 20-23 in Washington D.C., covering Web analytics, campaign optimization and Web site optimization.

Also this month,Scary SEO mini-con will be held October 24-25 in Boca Raton, Florida, and Bruce Clay, Inc's Director, Eastern Region Operations, Christopher Hart, will be speaking. If you're in the area, you'll want to be sure to attend the IM Charity Dinner October 25, with proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House.

If you'll be on the East Coast in November, check out ad:tech New York in New York City from November 3-6 for a comprehensive digital marketing event. The following week, head west to Las Vegas for Pubcon from November 11-14. Readers of the SEO Newsletter can take advantage of our 20 percent off code (cl-41320) for PubCon Las Vegas! Come meet us there!

Readers across the pond can attend SMX London, going on November 4-5.

For those in the Midwest, head to SES Chicago from December 8-12 for the region's largest search marketing conference.


Congrats to Rebecca Lieb, former head of ClickZ, who was named to the top ten of Silicon Alley Insider's Top 100 digital executives list.

Twitter is experiencing amazing growth, having seen a 422% increase in the last year. Not on Twitter yet? Get to it!

Yahoo offers a shortcut for drivers looking for cheap gas at stations near you.

Google set foot on new ground by unveiling a plan to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil through alternative energy. Google also announced the 2008 Google Anita Borg Scholarship winners and raised more than $3,000 for charity by auctioning off the Google Chrome comic books.

Word on the Wire

It appears that Yahoo has been in discussions with Time Warner over acquiring AOL. Whether it's a done deal or still in progress remains to be seen. It has also been rumored that Yahoo is trying to sell Yahoo Answers as part of a strategy to cash in on non-core assets.

Google AdWords may start using the Twitter account it registered a year ago. Also circling Google in the last month was the rumor that Sergey Brin and Larry Page were not alone in founding the search giant. Hubert Chang claimed that he was the third co-founder who abandoned the company to pursue a doctorate degree.

Despite a continuing growth of registered users, eBay may be trying to sell bookmarking site StumbleUpon, which it acquired May 2007.