As part of the buzz generated by the (should I say Official?) release of the "Voices of the Olympic Games" site there was a certain post that caught my eye as well as the attention of others at Lenovo, Ogilvy and Intel.
That single statement should be enough to corroborate the validity of the article I'm talking about: Why the Social Media World NEEDS to Understand SEO, by Jennifer Laycock (Editor of the Search Engine Guide).
Jennifer basically tears the "Voices" site apart from a SEO perspective. And that is a good thing. We've learnt some things about it, made some changes and hopefully have created a better user experience thanks to that.
I'll do an overview of things that we changed and arguments for the things that we have not taking into account.
True social content that allows people to interact around current events and hot topics is killer in terms of traffic. There's a reason for that...it's because good social media initiatives capture people at their passion points and gather them together. For that, I say kudos to the team at Ogilvy who dreamed this idea up.
Slight correction here: Lenovo's David Churbuck dreamed the idea.
True. And I almost feel ashamed by this. I have been a long time critic of Flash for this same reason (and others). That being said I must admit I never had SEO in my mind while desiging and developing the site. I think the contributors page does a nice job in terms of helping people find athletes. The usage of the filters alows to find relevan athlete(s) by sport, nationality and the language they blog at.
The Lenovo site is using an Ajax driven pop up box to display the content from each of their bloggers. That means you don't get a unique page and a unique URL related to each entry, which means bloggers cannot link to a post on the Lenovo site.
This was a homerun. And we have corrected this. In several ways. We give users the possibility to see the standalone post (example) and provide a permalink to the popup in the main page as well (example II).
We have also simplified opening the original posts directly from the "Voices" site, something that has a lot to do with the vision we had for this.
Thus I get to a point in this post where I think I should explain the vision around the site, and some of the choices we did. After reading this pragraph:
When I first heard about the Lenovo Summer Games site, I thought they had gathered together bloggers to build a giant group blog. I imagined a hundred voices coming together in a collective environment and I imagined the number of comments, trackbacks and social bookmarking submissions that would be generated. I pictured a comprehensive blog roll that would link me to other Olympic related blogs and a resource area that compiled the latest Olympic news and links to the official Olympic sites of each country's team.
I knew I had to blog in response.
There are several reasons on why we didn't want to concentrate too much stuff (as in comments and hosting the bloggers ourselves) on our own site. First and foremost our goal is to "Connect Fans and athletes". And this is not just vane marketing talk. We mean it, and the site / idea / execution reflect just that.
"Voices of The Olympic Games" serves as an entry point for fans. They can look after athletes of their own country, of a sport they like or speaking in their language. We concentrate content fed by the Athlete's individual blogs, with the hope that those interested will go and comment directly to the athletes, not to us. We act as enablers, not as recipients in this case.
If that were not the case we would of taken an approach similar to what Jennifer imagined and would never provided things such as filtered feeds to which people interested in broader or narrower queries can subscribe to what they want.
There was also the notion that there is life after the games for this Athletes. We didn't want to be responsible of deleting the content they had generated after the buzz died out and the flame was put off in Beijing. We know this site won't live much longer after August (partly because Lenovo will no longer be a TOP sponsor anymore) but this athlete's blogs will most certainly continue to exist after that.
That means Lenovo's Voices of the Olympic Games site simply serves as a road map, not as a destination. When it comes to social media and search, companies benefit far more by creating a destination site that generously links out as a resource.
The first part is correct. As I have stated: we want to be a roadmap, the destination is the Athlete's sites and blogs.
As for companies benefiting far more by creating a destination, I don't think I entirely see eye-to-eye with that. The statement would hold true if we were in 2002, not today. The web has become a liquid and distributed place, I don't think much sites can be regarded as a "destination" anymore.
Because the site is set up this way, Lenovo loses the content AND shows me I don't need to visit their site to read the blog post. Instead, I can add the athlete's blog directly to my feed reader and by pass Lenovo completely.
No, you don't need to visit our site to read the blogs. But you can subscribe to more than one blog in a single feed, or just lurk around. And there will be some more content provided by us during the games. That being said this same approach is coherent with us "not being the destination".
The Lenovo Voices of the Olympics Games site has amazing potential. It's a great idea and I have enormous amounts of respect for the team at Ogilvy who put it together. Unfortunately, the campaign has fallen prey to one of the most common pitfalls of online campaigns. It was designed without search engines in mind.
Mea Culpa. Guilty as charged we did not design or think the site around SEO.
We will try to improve SEO for the sake of the users and fans and trying to make it easier for them to find and connect to athletes.
I want to personally thank Jennifer for her very well put and very concise post. As I commented when I first read it I think it is thanks to people like her that the Web improves.
We might not see eye-to-eye on every single point, but I think it is very important to listen to such authorized voices as well as taking the time to reply.
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