Easy Guy Cooking is one of my first personal projects taken to the web and really only happened out of randomness. A few years back, my parents got me a Flip camera for Christmas. When I was back at my apartment showing it to my roommate, we were so excited with how cool this new pocket sized camera was and how much fun we were going to have using it. Then we got kinda quiet and started tapping our feet…well, what the hell are we going to use it for??
At the time we were both bachelors in our early 20’s, spending too much money ordering dinner every night. We had always talked about how we wanted to start cooking more to save money. The only problem was that neither of us new how to cook much more than pasta and grilled cheese.
It didn’t take long to dawn on us that we could use the Flip camera to record ourselves learning how to cook! Of course this isn’t something that two fine, young gentlemen such as ourselves could do without pouring a glass or two of the finest $12 whiskey our local liquor store had to offer.
Being a web designer, I naturally felt the urge to build a website around this idea so we could publish our easy recipe videos to the web for the world to see and make fun of us.
I was also a proponent for web standards and accessibility on the web, which I now see clearly aligns with on page search engine optimization. Being that we were in our 20’s and it was 2000 something or other, when we uploaded our videos to YouTube and embedded them on our website, it was only natural for us to share them on Twitter and Facebook with our friends. I even went a step further and joined a few online cooking communities to post our recipes for others that were interested in the same things could try out and experiment with.
Before I knew it, I was getting emails that people had commented on our YouTube video or subscribed to our newsletter! I checked the analytics and we were getting over a thousand visitors a month! This was a big deal for me at the time when the only people who visited my personal site was…well, no one because my mom didn’t have a computer at the time. It would be one thing if a few of our friends had taken a quick look once in a while, but this was real search traffic!
Now after a few years, the latter few having not really updated the site at all unfortunately (who knew running your own business would take up so much time!), we’re still ranking in the top few results for more than a handful of related keywords. More than that, we’ve seen our rankings climb after both Panda and Penguin updates from Google! Why? Because we built our site the right way, offer quality content and have natural links back to our site.
This wasn’t a project where I was out looking to get high search rankings or grow an audience. I was just out to have fun and did things naturally. So what can you learn from my adventures of getting drunk and learning how to cook? Here are some SEO lessons from the Easy Guy Cooking venture:
Build For People, Not Search Engines!
This one is for web developers as well as the content developers. Google has always said to build your websites for people first not search engines. This is even more true when I directly relate it to accessibility and web standards. Not only was our content developed for people instead of search engines, but the site was coded for people (blind people actually) and not for search engines. My coding ethics, for a lack of a better word, were always to code for people because of standards and accessibility, not because Matt Cutts said to (I don’t even know if he had said anything on the subject at that time).
I would poll Twitter, Facebook, our site visitors and email list for new recipes they would want to see on the site, then I would film and post them. It was as simple as that. We asked the people what they wanted and we gave it to them. We developed our content to help other people who were beginners to learn how to cook easy recipes, not for search engines to rank us high in the SERP pages for easy recipes for beginners (number 2 in that SERP at the time of writing).
Provide Quality Content
We wanted to learn how to cook and figured the best way for other people to learn wasn’t by watching world renowned chefs in professional kitchens, but to watch other idiots like themselves try stuff out and see what worked. We also knew people wouldn’t want to watch a video of some kid learning how to cook if it wasn’t fun, educational and most importantly, short. It just so happens that most things that are easy to learn how to cook take about 30 minutes to cook. Also coincidentally, cooking something in 30 minutes really only took about 5 minutes to show on video. Bingo! It was all very serendipitous, really.
Let loose, show your personality, this will make you unique and stand out above the competition. It will also keep people wanting to come back to your site for more. If you just produce stiff, boring content, even if it is useful, people would more likely return to that brand that they remember because they are connected emotionally with it. They remember the fun, good feeling of connected with you through your online presence. People are more motivated by emotion than by facts, remember that!
Post your content on relevant sites because you want to share it and find it useful. This could be social media channels to share with your friends and followers, it could be directory websites that collect information like you are offering or it could be online communities that share helpful resources with each other. Get out and connect with people. It’s good to have a checklist of places to share your new content and ideas for how it can spread faster and farther, but don’t forget that at the core of social media is people.
The Best Way To Build Your Online Audience
If you want to climb the search rankings, build an audience and go viral, just be yourself and have fun. If you’re marketing a company, tell that company’s story. Humanize it. Connect with people. If you can provide quality, useful content in an entertaining way for your target audience and connect with them on an emotional level, you will find success.
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We want to learn about other success stories and when you had your first “Aha Moment” with content marketing. Leave a comment below to share your experiences!