5 Questions for Matt Creamer

Four months ago, Matt Creamer, Editor at Large for Advertising Age, approached Reprise Media with a predicament. Despite his renown as a journalist, Matt was not appearing prominently in search results for his own name. A search for “matt creamer” in Google presented numerous unrelated listings, including articles from Gay New Zealand, Wicomico Politics, and Diversity Liason Officers, among others. Because of his position as a journalist, Matt felt his professional reputation was being compromised by these alternate listings.

To help Matt occupy the top search results for his name, Reprise Media created a blog (Mattcreamer.com) that would archive his online published work and serve as the pivot for an extended Search Engine & Social Media Optimization campaign. By coordinating the keyword optimization and cross-linking between 13 different social media properties, we quickly drove Mattcreamer.com to the #1 position in Google for his name. Our network of web properties furthermore gave Matt control over 60%, and a presence in over 85%, of Google’s first three results pages. By the end of our 3 month engagement, we helped Matt rank within the top 10 results for 62% of our target keyword list and successfully pushed all irrelevant results out of the top ten.

Today Matt’s story about the process of being “SEOed” came out in Advertising Age, in “Optimize Me: A Reporter’s Journey into the World of SEO and SEM“. Searchviews interviewed Matt for his take on how SEO and SMM are shaping online media, and for that matter, how the project has changed his perspective on “good old fashioned news”…

SV: Matt, we just completed a 3 month Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Marketing (SMM) project for your story in AdAge. How has your perception of online marketing changed after being “optimized” for search engines and social media?

MC: In talking about digital marketing, it’s easy to get wowed by slick Flash productions, multilayer storytelling, amusing virals, fun games–all the generally cool stuff that’s being done on behalf of brands online. But it’s equally easy to overlook about the crucial, knotty question of how to distribute this stuff so that it actually reaches a critical mass of consumers, which is kind of the idea of marketing, after all. Immersing myself in search really rammed the second point home because it forced me to think about my own work and how it’s being consumed–or not being consumed–and the impact it has on my own personal brand. Producing compelling content is only part of the answer; the rest is figuring out how to get it to people, and understanding the logic and language of the search engines is obviously a huge part of that.

SV: Over the past few months, many web publishers seem to have put a renewed/increased focus on advertising – Microsoft recently announced its intention to become more ad-focused, AOL is re-branding itself as an ad agency, and Facebook is honing an ad platform that target users by profile. How will advertisers need to change their approach to avoid overwhelming online consumers?

MC: The untapped promise of the Internet as a marketing medium is as a place where brands provide true utility to consumers. The Nike+ website is a well-worn example of this. It doesn’t jam a repurposed TV ad down people’s throats. Instead it given them the tools to build and sustain communities around running. There’s real value there and it allows the brand to forge deep, meaningful relationships with its audience. Unfortunately, too many marketers are missing this and they’re merely using the Internet as yet another place to slap ads. The upside is that these ads, at least when compared to TV, are more measurable. Still, I get kind of depressed when I hear people talk of the Internet as a some great ad medium. And I get really depressed when I think that every new web venture that comes along is resting its business model entirely on the promise of advertising, especially when so few of these ventures have the potential to achieve any real scale, which, for all the talk of long tails, is what big-budget marketers are seeking. Those who rely on advertising dollars should be especially wary of an economic downturn. Ad budgets are often the first thing to get cut during tough times.

SV: There are some who believe that Facebook, and social networking in general, is just a fad. Would you agree?

MC: As a cultural phenomenon, I think social networking is more than a fad. So in some form or fashion it’ll always be around. I think the risk to Facebook and MySpace is that the open network idea Google’s pushing will really take off, rendering the walled-garden notions of a network obsolete. This is just anecdotal, but I’m noticing my own Facebook use tailing off. Part of the problem is it doesn’t integrate with the other web services I use, which tend to be Google’s products and include its e-mail program, its RSS reader, its documents program, maps and so forth. I’m increasingly living out of a Google ecosystem that Facebook doesn’t integrate with. So I’m not sure how long I’ll be bothered to keep up with it. And as far as MySpace goes, don’t even get me started. To me, it’s just unusable: pointless, ugly and spamnmy.

SV: You’ve mentioned before that you think social media has created too many “inboxes” – between twittering, blogging, Facebook, Myspace, e-mail, instant messaging, etc, it’s nearly impossible for the average consumer to keep track of daily communications. What company do you think is best poised to take advantage of this fragmentation, or to help alleviate it?

MC: This doesn’t directly answer your question, but my cell phone–a Blackberry Pearl–is a fantastic aggregator of those inboxes you mentioned. Not only do I get my corporate e-mail account and my Gmail, but I get SMS, Twitter, Facebook and just about everything else in one place. It’s where I go when I need a high-level look at the communications chaos around me. Sometimes I’ll even use my cellphone while sitting in front of my computer at work. Otherwise, if you held a gun to my head and made me commit to a current web player, I’d probably bet on Google because…because it’s Google. They get organization and simplification and information streamlining in a way that no other company does.

SV: During our engagement, we helped you start a blog (mattcreamer.com). How has blogging changed your perspective about the future of journalism and online publishing?

MC: I don’t know if it did, but only because blogs have been with us for a while and their role as symbols of the Great Leveling that’s happened in the media world is well-known. I do enjoy maintaining the blog and reading dozens of other blogs on a daily basis, but I view all of that as complementary to a more mainstream, traditional notion of journalism. But then again who knows if the business model that serves that traditional notion of journalism will hold up. Maybe one day we’ll all just be reading Searchviews…..

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