We interrupt our regular dose of SEO and PPC knowledge to bring you some cool thoughts and photos from the world of metalworking.
Last week the Workshop Digital team headed over to Richmond’s Scott’s Addition neighborhood for team-building and metalworking at Phoenix Handcraft.
Kyle Lucia and Johannah Wilsey, Phoenix’s owners and artists, bring a modern sensibility to some very ancient skills—blacksmithing and mosaic-making. After a quick demonstration from Kyle (and admonitions not to touch the very hot forge or turn on the table saw), we set out to make a sign for our new office. You can see the results below. (We’ll be sure to post a photo once Kyle has welded the letters together and we’ve mounted them on the wall.)
During my first month at Workshop, I spent a lot of time furiously taking notes as co-workers rattled off acronyms like KPI, LPO, PPC, and EVA. That’s Key Performance Indicator, Landing Page Optimization, Pay Per Click and ExtraVehicular Activity, also known as a space walk by an astronaut—Senior SEO Analyst Joe Kelly is really into the space program. And now I’ve used an acronym while explaining all the acronyms. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.
At times this month, it seemed like the team was speaking in tongues. Three months from now, I’ll probably be rattling off the same acronyms with barely a second thought. I hope that when I do, I remember that clients don’t live around those acronyms every day, and that a bit of explanation can go a long way toward greater understanding.
Kyle, who has been working with metal since he was a teenager, can effortlessly turn a steel rod into a curled form with delicately tapered ends in just a few minutes. By the same token, our digital marketing experts can spot a website’s strengths and weaknesses after a quick scan of the site’s framework.
Ask us to do some metalworking, and we’ll need two hours for an admittedly amateur product. (Though for all I know, Kyle is also a digital marketing wizard.)
Kyle showed us how to turn the square or rounded end of a steel rod into a cone. After heating the end of the metal in the forge, you place it on an anvil and begin hammering each of the four corners. As you hit each corner, four sides become eight. You then strike each of the eight corners, which doubles the number of faces to 16. As each face gets smaller, the tip of the metal gets longer and narrower, creating a cone.
Simple to describe, and in Kyle’s hands, simple to execute. For the rest of us? Not so much. Though Brian Forrester, Cate Kendig, and I supposedly were creating cones at each end of the letter “T,” my approach quickly degenerated into banging away at the hot end of the rod and hoping I was roughly on the right track. I didn’t have the experience needed to hit a precise target.
Our blacksmithing adventure carried some interesting business lessons. And no, I’m not talking about the stress relief involved in smacking hot metal with a heavy hammer.
Strike While the Iron is Hot
In blacksmithing, this advice should be taken literally. You can bang away at cold metal all day. The only thing you’ll create is a sore arm. But when you’ve heated the steel rod to a hot, cherry-red color, a few steady blows will change the metal’s shape. As the rod cools, each strike gets a bit less effective, and after about two minutes you need to reheat.
The same is true with an online marketing strategy. SEO exists in a world where Google is always preparing the next algorithm update. What worked in 2012 may not serve you well in 2015.
Our clients change, too. That’s why we take the time every few months to perform the same sorts of audits and reviews on accounts that we do at the very beginning. We’re reheating the website —and the client’s digital marketing strategy—in the forge.
This back-to-basics approach can help us identify weak spots that have cropped up in recent months and ensure the site is still optimized and running smoothly. As search algorithms change, and as companies change, the marketing strategy must evolve as well.
Precision Strikes Beat Brute Force
Unless you’re spending lots of time in the weight room, bending a rolled steel bar is almost impossible. But apply some heat, either from the forge or a blowtorch, and that same bar can be snapped in half or rolled in circles with a few fingers.
One of the most exciting parts of the visit to Phoenix was playing with blowtorches. With Kyle’s help, PPC Associate Morgan Moore heated a narrow spot in the center of her steel bar. That hot spot became a hinge, allowing her to turn a straight bar into the letter “D.” Heating half the bar would have allowed the same bend but taken far more heat and time.
Precision also came into play when using the hammers. Rather than taking a big backswing, Kyle urged us to make smaller, controlled strikes. If you swing wildly, you miss the hot metal and hit the anvil. That can cause the hammer to bounce back into your face, or down onto your toes. Ouch.
We run across this in our SEO work on a regular basis. If a client wants to reach customers who are deep into the sales process and ready to make a purchase, we’ll focus content work on targeted keywords that have lower search volume but a strong correlation with buying. If the goal is conversions, there’s little purpose in reaching thousands of people with a general interest topic.
Focus on those key performance metrics. If you’re seeking conversions—whether that’s the purchase of a new car or a phone call to a law office—reporting a surge in traffic isn’t much use unless that traffic growth correlates with more sales or phone calls. Hit the spot you’re aiming for rather than swinging wildly.
Don’t Be a One-Trick Business
Very few businesses can deliver long-term results by doing the same thing every time, or by developing just one product. That means your company needs to have a variety of services available, and a range of options for customers.
We’re a team of unique individuals with varying strengths and weaknesses. And we each tackle a digital marketing challenge from a different angle that best uses those strengths and weaknesses. Check out our finished letters. Some used round steel bars; others are rectangular. Some are big; others are small.
Some involved lots of hammering to create a point; others relied on heat and leverage to shape or curl a letter.
Each of the individual letters, and the employees who created them, has its own virtues. When forged together, they create a complete company.