15 SEO lessons from hard rock & metal

*First published on iProspects blog.


By Kåre Garnes@kaaregarnes

SEO Lessons from hard rock & metal

Ever wondered how much longer it will be before your SEO efforts are yielding results?

seo lessons from hard rock and metal

So was a client of mine, frustrated by seeing only minor improvements three months in. Knowing he’s an avid fan of aussie rockers AC/DC, I ditched the standard explanation of all the variables that affect rankings and how “SEO is a long term strategy” and blah blah – and instead I quoted Bon Scott to him:

It’s a long way to the top (if you wanna rock’n’roll)

Inspired by his positive reaction I dug deeper into my collection of hard rock and metal to see if there were further teachings to be found and shared.

There was.
(You will find a link to all the music at the bottom of this post.)

1: Hallowed Be Thy Name – Iron Maiden

Maiden‘s classic number points to one of the most important and often overlooked SEO factors: A good name.

Your brand or company name can be a free ride into SEO happiness. Choose a name with your location and keyword in it, like “Oslo SEO” or “Hotel California” and your natural URLs, title tags and incoming links will automatically give you an advantage.

This requires only a willingness to be a bit boring when choosing a name …

2: Good head – Turbonegro

Norwegian denim-rockers Turbonegro weren´t talking about title tags and meta descriptions when they wrote this deathpunk anthem, but few bands know more about image and presentation than these underground favourites.

Remember that SEO is not about getting to the top of the rankings, but to get the users interacting and buying. How you look on the Search Engine Result Page determines how successful you are.

That process starts with what’s inside your head-tag. So put some work into making good titles and meta descriptions.

3: Lovercall – Danko Jones

Not only does this song have one of the best basslines in history, it also hints to one of the easiest ways of getting links; Asking your suppliers, customers, partners, employees and other´s whom you already have an established relationship to link to you. Ask and you shall receive.

Pick up the phone or shoot them an email: Learn the lovercall, baby.

(According to Moz the number 1 and 2 ranking factors are incoming links.)

4: Don’t stop believing – Journey

Doing white hat SEO takes time, especially if competition is strong. And when you´ve done all you can and rankings don´t seem to move, this absolute legend of a song can provide some consolation.

It´s a long way to the top.

5: You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ – Judas Priest

Juda Priest Rob Halford on a MC
Google Panda, Google Hummingbird, Google +, Google Places, Google This, Google That.

The only thing certain in the world of search engine optimization is that there will be changes and new stuff you have to learn and employ. SEO means staying updated and agile.

Or as singer Rob Halford puts it in this megahit: it’s a case of do or die. You got another thing coming.

6: Fear of the dark – Iron Maiden

Should Black hat seo be feared?

Employing it can potentially put you out of business if Google find out (and does something about it), so yes. Be sceptical about black hat techniques.

However, don’t be so afraid that you don’t dare getting to know it. You should know your enemy. There might be techniques there that can also be employed ethically.

7: Take it off – The Donnas

SEO is not about rankings, but about getting searchers to find your content and do what you want them to do, whether it is to buy, download, like or read.

If you have content that is not doing this, listen to these fine female rockers advice: Take it off!

Rule of thumb: Anything that doesn´t contribute to you reaching your goals, ACTIVELY contributes to you NOT reaching them.

8: Speed King – Deep Purple

Speed is an important factor for Google – and for users! Google openly states that their main goal is to get people the info they want as fast as possible.

This means not only making sure your load time is superfast, it also means that you should use rich snippets to allow google to put you right on the SERP. (Disclaimer: If your business is clicks: Think twice before using rich snippets)

9: Hellbelly (Jesus without the suffering) – Therapy?

Therapy? Troublegum cover
Troublegum might be the most underrated album in the history of music and in SEO context it gives a number of valuable lessons.

The first is about linkbuilding. Some think you can do SEO without linkbuilding and if you a unice offer and an abundance of creative resources at hand you might. But a competitor with the same resources and a willingness to suffer through linkbuilding will outrank you.

You cannot be an SEO savior without the suffering.

10: Trigger inside – Therapy?

Troublegum´s second lesson is that SEO is about not about rankings, but conversions, and you will never get any unless you have a “trigger inside”.

You need something that makes people take action. This includes urgency factors, uniqueness and simply being clear about what you want people to do.

Without triggers, people will procrastrinate.

11: Green Manalishi – Fleetwood Mac/Judas Priest

This amazing Peter Green classic – done even more amazingly by Priest – has a fantastic line about user experience:

“You come creeping around, making me do things I don´t wanna do”

With Panda the user experience has – thankfully – become an important factor for search rankings, and we need to make sure we don´t mess up the user experience by having flash intro’s, uneccesary form fields and having users jump through hoops to get where they want.

12: Giving the dog a bone – AC/DC

Angus Young og AC/DC
Linkbaiting is a fantastic tactic, but often companies never get around to this as they think it’s about creating “viral” videos.

It´s not. It’s about giving people tools, infographics, videos etc. = content they need in a format they want. Throw them a bone and links will follow.

13: Have a drink on me – AC/DC

Isn’t it amazing how many songs AC/DC have made about SEO? In this 1980 classic they explore the concept of freemium.

The idea that people will like you better if you give them free alcohol is easy to understand, and if you have ever engaged in this activity at your local you might also have noticed that people tend to buy you alcohol back – and throw in a shot. (more on alcohol here)

In the SEO world this translates into you giving away something of value, like a report, a tool, knowledge – and people will say thank you in form of links, PR, social shares etc.

Free alcohol is a brilliant strategy to gather a huge following.

14: Diamond in the rough – Airbourne

As stated earlier, SEO is about conversions and the conversions are more likely found in the long tail. Trick is to find keywords with good traffic and low competion. So do proper keyword research and find those diamonds in the rough.

15: Aggressive Perfector – Slayer

The first song thrash gods Slayer ever recorded teaches us to always be testing – and to appreciate good guitar work!

Thing is, to really succeed online is to always be looking for that little something that increases conversions. Be an aggresive perfector.

Bonus lesson

Remember: The most important teaching to take away from the distinguished gentlemen and women of hard rock and metal is – of course – to:

Please leave a comment with – or without – your favourite metal song with SEO connotations before you head over to youtube to listen through all the wonderful songs above on my SEO Metal playlist. (play all – opens in new tab)

Things I Learnt About Online Marketing While Drinking And Having Fun

*First published on iProspects blog.


I love beer.

And wine.

And cocktails. And whisky. And … I could go on, but you get the point. Drinking with friends is a favourite activity for a lot of us.

kim and I

But have we learnt anything about marketing from all that time spent in bars and at parties?

I have. Or at least I think I have:


Lesson 1: An open bar is a dangerous thing. Respect it.

Being from Norway where a beer sets you back 10 dollars in most bars, an open bar is the most tempting thing in the world. Free alcohol is popular anywhere, but inexperienced drinkers everywhere have a tendency to go ape, drink with both hands and ruin the party for the rest of us.

A lot of internet marketers do the same when they find “free marketing space”. We’ve seen this in social media, and on email as well. Companies overdo the marketing and ruin the whole thing.

If I had a drink for every so called “newsletter” I get that is nothing more than a sales pitch in disguise, I’ld be Charlie Sheen by 10am every single day.

And don´t get me started on Facebook and Twitter… full of “Look at me!”-marketing.

Don´t get me wrong: It’s OK to do marketing in social media and in newsletters, but you have to do it with moderation or you´ll ruin it for yourself and possibly everyone else.


Lesson 2: Silence breeds quality

Trappist munk drinking beer

Some of the best beers in the world are made within the walls of Trappist monasteries by munks who devote their lives to prayer – and the noble craft of brewing.

These munks do – contrary to common belief – not live in total silence. However: they speak only when necessary and take great pride in communicating as effectively as possible. By minimising distractions they can focus on the quality of their work and their quest to receive and exercise the will of God..

Think of the trappists when designing websites. Stop giving 14 call to actions on every page, stop asking for unnecessary info in sign-up forms and stop the marketing fluffy fluff happytalk!

Instead think of how you can install more silence to your website. What can you remove to make your communication more effective?


Lesson 3: Always stick around for one more drink. That’s when things happen.

Who leaves the party early? Bores and people who are not really interested in being there.

Stamina is important whatever you do, and if you really want to succeed – especially in marketing segments like brand building or SEO – you have to stick with it. I´m all for flexibility and speed of change but if you’re leaving too early you´ll miss the fun.


Lesson 4: If she’s still ugly after seven drinks: give up.

Ugly Girl

There is a limit to how long you should stick to it if it’s not yielding results. Know when to cut your losses and look elsewhere.


Lesson 5: If you never heard of it – it’s probably not a good idea.

My wife has the terrible habit of ordering drinks with fancy names. “Hawaiian Honeymoon Hoedown”, “Blue Elephant tail”, “Cinnamon Tropic Infusion” ….  Sound interesting, but they all taste like shit and coconuts.

I constantly tell her that the mixing of drinks is an age-old craft, people have tried mixing alcohol with all other consumable products for centuries. The good drinks are all invented, and given names like “White Russian”, “Mojito”, “Caipirinha”, “Martini” and what have you. Names we know and love.

My point is that if some media (especially catalogue) salesman pitches you a fantastic sounding concept – and you’ve never heard of it – it’s probably not worth it.

Internet marketing is a younger craft than the consumption of alcohol, so there are exeptions. Ask for a free taster.

*For worried Scandinavians: I always end up drinking the her drinks for her. (Wasting alcohol is not an option for us up north).


Lesson 6: Listen to good bartenders

When asked for recommendations on “a good drink”, the best bartenders will always reply with something along this line: “Do you like them sweet or sour?”

Good bartenders know segmentation and tailoring to customer needs. They find the drink that suits you, not the drink that suits them.

Being interested about what the customer actually wants is a very profitable habit.


Lesson 7: If you wanna get to heaven you gotta raise a little hell

Raise hell or go home!

Drinking and raising hell is a very important factor in growing up and evolving as a human beeing. You have to test limits and boundaries and find out where you fit in.

A lot of marketers – especially consultants – are far too afraid to offend managers to get real results. They compromise and never try new stuff as they are too scared of failing.  We need to be braver.

PS: If you wanna get to heaven (you gotta raise a little hell) is also a fantastic song by cowpunk outfit Nine Pound Hammer.


Lesson 8: Always buy the first round

Buy someone a beer, and they will buy you a beer back. And throw in a shot! or a Fernet.

The concept of freemium is well established in the software business, as it is in the “first fix free” drug dealing business, but can it work for everybody? You bet – just look at the rise of content marketing – it is built around giving out knowledge. And nobody knows your business more than you – so start a blog, write a whitepaper or a presentation.

Point is: Giving is a great way to build trust and start a relationship. Give the idea – sell the system.

I remember buying a round of jello shots to a group of Dutch and South African backpackers in Ios, Greece. Turned out one of the best nights out ever. I was getting free drinks left and right. Still email them once in a while. But that night also taught me:

The liver is evil

Lesson 9: NEVER try to outdrink a guy wearing a “The Liver is Evil and must be Punished” T-shirt

I love competition, but some battles you just can’t win. In search, small boutique hotels could never outrank sites like hotels.com or the big hotel chains for high volume searches in Google. And they could never match their PPC or display ad budgets.

So … am I saying they should just give up?

No. But we have to be smart on where we choose to compete. If we can find longtail phrases and get a result, thats great! Can we tell better stories than our competitors, fantastic! And for a small boutique hotel there´s Tripadvisor where size doesn´t matter.


Lesson 10: Too much will kill you

Over time too much alcohol will kill you, and it’s the same with marketing. If you send emails too often, people will ignore them. If you over-SEO your website, Google will throw you out. If you have too many call to actions on your site people will choose the wrong one or give up choosing.

For the PPC-lovers: A friend of mine was doing PPC for a company that’s in the kid’s birthdays business. So he used adwords keyword tool to generate hundreds of varieties around the term “birthday” and thought “I’ll just select all, throw them in there and see what works.” What he forgot was that he had dynamic keyword insertion in his ads – so some of them read: “Hitler’s Birthday: Celebrate it at [Client’s Brand]“..

Market responsively!


Lesson 11: Use a measuring tool

Bartending is a craft, not an art. They use measuring tools to get their mix right.

We still come across huge companies that are not using analytics. Who don’t know which part of their online marketing works, or how the different tactics play together. Who have no idea which terms they are findable for and who even run PPC campaigns without knowing which terms or ads are driving conversions.

Use analytics or you’ll end up with a marketing mix that is either too sweet or to sour – if drinkable at all!


Lesson 12: Never use prefab cream

Nothing beats a good Irish Coffee on cold winter nights, but ordering this drink is always done with a bit of fear. Are you getting the delightful smooth coffee drink, or are you getting the awful prefab aerosol cream version that goes flat after 30 seconds?

Stockphotoes are the aerosol cream of internet.

Men in suits shaking hands? Politically correct/Ethnical diverse workgroups discussing graphs? Older boss younger employee laughing and pointing at computer screens?  Stockphotoes do the same to your website as prefab cream does to Irish Coffee: Makes it bland and tasteless!

ekte irish coffee

Lesson 13: Add some ice

I’m all for being as effective and to the point as possible. A lot of companies overdesign and overemotionalize their marketing when what they really need to do is just say “This is the product. Here´s what it does for you. Click here to buy”.


However, some go full monty – and though effective for some time, the overly simple websites become boring. You have to add some ice, some coolness, to keep people coming back.


Lesson 14: Creative constraints

Ever had a brew in your hand and no opener in sight? I know about 50 ways to open a beer without a bottle opener. I can use teeth, shoes, lighters, knives, spoons, another bottle, belts, iphones … well, I stopped myself that time, but the point is:

When you remove the tool you normally use – it forces you to be creative.

So think: How would you do marketing if you had no money? Or if you had no website? or if…


Lesson 15: Too drunk to fuck

Sorry about the expletives, but if you haven’t heard Nouvelle Vagues version of Dead Kennedys’ punk anthem “Too drunk to fuck” you seriously need to reconsider your musical priorities. It is a thing of beauty.

Some of us have experienced this side effect of too much drink – and as marketers we need to take heed: Sometimes we are too much in love with our marketing that we forget about the end product.


Lesson 16: You forget the good times

There are many negative effects of drinking too much, and blackouts are one of them.

One of the greatest sins in marketing is that we stop doing the stuff that works, we forget doing what we were doing when we’re successful as we chase the next big idea. We just ride the wave. And then jump on the next one. And the next one. And the next one. (Watch the movie “Hangover” for more description on this issue.)

And then: In our quest for new and improved ROI we stop doing the stuff that got us in a position to try all this new stuff.

In my work I’ve come across people who stopped:

  • linking their very popular niche blog to their main site.
  • stopped sending newsletters (Because they got too many email responses!!!!)
  • removed repeating call to actions from their salespages (to clean it up)
  • quit putting ads in their local newspaper

Sometimes the new stuff more then compensate for “the old boring stuff”, but sometimes new stuff proves to be something that just work in a little window of time, and then you sit there panicking.

Should you find yourself in this situation, ask yourself — what did we do differently last year? Or five years ago? Why did we stop? What has changed?

If you are new in the organization ask the senior people – and do not limit yourself to senior marketing people or executives – you’ll get the best reality checks from people in the warehouse, on customer service or my favourite: Economy seniors. (They usually stay at firms for long periods, keep their eyes on the numbers, and get the job on analyzing stuff that doen’t work!) These people can tell you what has worked well in the past, as well as explain why you stopped. Listen to them, they are sober friends the morning after.


These people in some way or another inspired these lessons and/or deserve a thank you:

Leave a comment here or invite me over for drinks at @kaaregarnes

Kåre Garnes enjoying a beer in Sogndal