The Cat in the Hat & SEO

Published On November 16, 2011 | By mbalogh | Blog

In the mid-1950’s Theodor Geisel was supplied a list of 348 words every six year old should know and was challenged by his friend to use them in a story for kids no more than 225 words long.  A few short months later Ted, now the famous Dr. Seuss, completed one of his best known works The Cat In The Hat using 223 words from the original list with only 13 not on it.  So what’s that got to do with SEO?

Current theories of SEO keywording go two ways.

#1 First come the words – “The Cat in the Hat”:

Some call it shady, others call it effective but this keyword methodology starts with the words and works backwards.  It starts with the question, “what are your potential consumers doing?”  If your web page has to do with comics, for instance, what are the big key words users out there are searching on?  Superhero names?  “Marvel” or “DC”?  or even the word “comics” itself.  Want to be popular and step up your traffic, here’s the words you need to use, alter your brand to fit the paradigm.

#2 Brand leads they way – “Listerine”:

So much as the previous strategy is a pull, this strategy is a push.  Where the previous benefits from fishing where the fish are, this strategy digs its own pond.  It solves for the problem of too many fisherman by taking a new approach all together.  It’s not an easy task, but the potential payoff is high if you can own a niche of keywords.

In the late 1800’s a powerful new surgical antiseptic, cure for gonorrhea, and floor cleaner slinked onto the market destined for obscurity.  And for nearly 20 years it that’s how it remained.  But around the 1920’s something interesting happened; it was pitched as a cure for bad breath.  What makes it interesting is no one really had a problem with bad breath.  Listerine dug its own pond.

So where’s the balance?

More recently I’ve been hearing about a 3rd option.  One which puts the brand first, but utilizes SEO keywords for what they are – information.  Good information.  Information on what your consumers are doing and how they see your brand.  Instead of taking offline messaging and adapting it for online, aka “the big idea”, analyze behavior online to influence your messaging.

Often as marketers we become blind to our knowledge.  Just last week I attended a conference on user engagement.  The short story is I wasn’t engaged.  As I walked through the isles of brightly colored animated logos I couldn’t help but ask myself, “what do they do”?  And worse yet, “what do they want me to do?”  In this case I became the consumer and I didn’t understand what I was seeing.  I saw the brand colors but they were meaningless.  I saw the logo but it had not yet formed a reference in my mind.  I saw examples of the work but I couldn’t tell you if they were selling the creative, the execution, some backend package or, in some cases, the monitors displaying the content themselves.  All these questions spawned the question, “how do consumers see my brand?”

Enter SEO keywords.  These keywords are the vernacular dictionary of the world in which your brand resides, and they can change how your brand views itself.  While I’ve experienced this several times the most close to home case came in my own identity.  Where I view my primarily differentiating traits as “tall” and “blonde” what I found out the other day is this is not how I’m observed at work.  If I were to be described to a stranger those words may be included, but they also might say “blazer” and “cowboy boots”, with the boots becoming a primary descriptor.

At this point, if I were savvy, I would pick up on that and use it much like Listerine ran with bad breath.


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