Beat Charlie Sheen at SEO

You don’t need to have tiger blood to reach the top of the search engine results pages – though apparently it helps. Just ask Charlie Sheen. More seriously, we can learn a few lessons from the rise and fall of this actor about attracting more traffic to our websites.

I won’t go into too many details about Charlie Sheen’s dramatic downward spiral due to drugs and alcohol. Even before his hit comedy series “Two and a Half Men” got canceled for the rest of the current season, stories of his extreme lifestyle hit the press regularly. His outrageous statements landed on T-shirts and inspired at least one website (WinningAtEverything.com).

Clearly, we’re attracted to those who do things in a big way. Google “Charlie Sheen” without quotes and you’ll get 227 million hits. Interestingly, a similar search for “Charlie Sheen and SEO” yields seven million hits. As SEOs, we’re not impervious to the attraction of Adonis DNA; we’d just like to figure out how to get some of it for ourselves – preferably, without doing anything illegal.

I found a phrase over at SEO Assistant that explains the Charlie Sheen phenomena: “crazy brings the eyeballs.” There’s a big attraction to the weird and the tragic; we want to see it, and it’s hard to look away. How do you harness that for your website? One way is to write controversial content. Consider the things that everyone in your industry takes for granted, and start questioning them. There may be good reasons for doing things a particular way – or they may just be traditions that have long outlived their usefulness.

Let me give you an example that’s a little more down-to-earth than a rock star from Mars. I happened to thumb through a new book on square foot gardening, a technique that lets you grow a lot of food in a small amount of space. It noted that one of the traditional sayings about gardening is to grow “one for the blackbird, one for the mouse, one for the rabbit, and one for the house.” That implies that traditional methods would have you grow four times as much food as you actually need. That’s wasteful – and that’s also where square foot gardening came in to question the traditional wisdom, and provide a solution.

So you can be like Charlie Sheen by having a strong, controversial opinion about something – but you’d better back it up. Be prepared to defend your opinion with some well-reasoned arguments. That’s the way to get people talking about what you have to say, and linking back to your posts.

Winning at Everything

Okay, so you’ve attracted some visitors with a bit of controversy. How do you make them stick around? Well, you’re going to have to remember that SEO is for the long haul. Consider this: right now there are a lot of hits on Charlie Sheen, because he is hot news. But most of my friends have gotten tired of hearing about him, and I’ll bet that’s true of everyone you know, too. Why is that?

The man who claims he’s “winning at everything” is losing our attention because he doesn’t really have anything interesting to offer. For those who take him seriously, he’s become too painful to watch. Those who don’t take him seriously probably lost interest a long time ago. To put it callously, all style and no substance won’t hold a visitor’s attention for long – even if they’re staring at one of Charlie Sheen’s “goddesses.”

That’s why I said you’ll need to back up your controversial point of view with real, well-reasoned arguments. People dismiss Charlie Sheen now because he’s crazy. If you’re going to attract visitors by saying something that sounds crazy, you’ll need to show them that what you’re saying isn’t REALLY crazy when considered from a particular perspective. You don’t have to win at everything. You don’t even have to completely win them over. You just have to start the discussion, and give it enough substance for your visitors to want to continue it.

Treat Them Like Goddesses

Charlie Sheen may surround himself with beautiful women he calls “goddesses,” but one can’t say much for his other relationships. After Sheen’s legal filing, Time Warner shot back with a list of the ways in which he’d breached his contract. Prominent among them were obligations to provide creative input, work with the writers, be on time for rehearsals and filming (and in good shape to play his role), and so forth. The key point is, Sheen made the mistake of creating a toxic working environment for those around him.

If you want to beat Sheen by building success that lasts, you want to treat your visitors well. One person does not make a TV show; it comes about from the effort of dozens of people. One person can start a website, but if it is ever to become a growing concern, it must develop into a community. That means doing things that encourage your visitors to keep returning.

How do you do this? Keep in mind that relationships are precious, and nurture them. Answer questions quickly. Stay on top of comment moderation. Respond to emails promptly. Interact with customers and keep them informed through social media. Reach out to other writers in your niche and work with them. Be generous but not overbearing with your expertise; let other sites in your niche know that  you’re available to write guest blog posts, for instance, but don’t be pushy about it. And don’t be afraid to let another writer pen a guest post for your blog.

Be sure to take advantage of other ways to contribute to a blog’s community by making comments. Most people read more than one blog; if they see good comments from you, they might check out your site and see what else you have to say. Admit it — if Charlie Sheen hadn’t attracted your attention with his work on “Two and a Half Men” (or possibly another project if you’ve seen his earlier performances), you wouldn’t have paid as much attention to the media reports on his erratic behavior. Likewise, if others in your niche don’t see you because you don’t have other relationships that touch them, they’re less likely to try to track you down on their own.

There’s one more great way to beat Charlie Sheen at the SEO game. Consider what stories are making the rounds in the news currently, and find a way to tie them into your field. There’s probably a dentist out there blogging about Charlie Sheen’s dental work, a zoo keeper writing about what really goes into tiger blood, a geneticist pondering what Adonis DNA would look like, and so forth. As I noted earlier, “Charlie Sheen and SEO” racks up seven million hits on Google – which shouldn’t be a surprise, since SEOs try to ride this kind of wave professionally. Think outside the box a little, and you will surely come up with a sweet tie-in (or spin-off, as they call them on TV). Good luck!

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