Is a local SEO campaign like a sitcom?
Strong local SEO is no laughing matter, but columnist Jenny Foster discusses how local search campaigns and sitcoms follow a surprisingly similar formula.
In some ways, running a local SEO campaign is a lot like writing a sitcom episode. Each follows a formula for repeated success, and when you strip both of them down to their cores, their components are very similar. The Venn diagram below outlines the formula for both a sitcom and a local SEO campaign.
These two align in a lot of ways; the technical elements of a sitcom are the joke writing, costumes, sets and so on, instead of keyword optimization and site audits. A campaign strategy is just like character development — both are mapped out well in advance and require high-level thinking. And the client expectations, they’re similar to the heart of each episode. You give a lesson within each campaign as a marketer, same as the sitcom episode does.
Let’s dissect an episode of the popular TV sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory.” The episode I use as an example (“The Skywalker Incursion“) does an excellent job of following the sitcom formula. I’ll use a general attorney’s campaign as an example of local SEO to parallel alongside the sitcom episode. Both formulas are meant to be put on a timeline, one in minutes and one in months, so I’ll stick to that for this scenario.
Let’s begin the breakdown.
The main goal
At the center of the Venn diagram is the main story of an episode, because it’s a lot like a major campaign goal. The main local SEO goal is established very early on in the marketing relationship, just as the start of the sitcom episode reveals its goal.
“Skywalker Incursion” main story: Ensure main characters Sheldon and Leonard have a spirited adventure while away for business. There are 22 minutes allotted to accomplish this goal.
Local SEO main goal: Increase the number of “Free Consultation” forms submitted through an attorney’s website. There are 12 months allotted to accomplish this goal.
This GIF of Sheldon with a mirror on a selfie stick alludes to the spirited fun yet to come without giving too much away. It’s like the tried and true marketing cliche, “underpromise and overdeliver!”
The first sub-goal/subplot
Many times, as a local SEO campaign progresses into its third and fourth months, lesser goals will start to flesh themselves out. In a sitcom, after six to eight minutes, a subplot will emerge.
“Skywalker Incursion” subplot A: Clean up Howard’s garage after the passing of his mother.
Local SEO Side Goal #1: Discover major marketing pillars for attorney.
A secondary goal in a local SEO campaign is often meant to complement the main goal, just like the sitcom subplot is meant to complement the main storyline. This attorney’s side goal is to discover two or three marketing pillars, which will be valuable in assisting the main goal of increased website forms. In the sitcom episode, with Sheldon and Leonard away on their spirited adventure, the rest of the gang will match the excitement by livening up the mundane task of spring cleaning.
The main goal check-in
It’s time to check back in with our main goal of “Free Consultations,” just like the sitcom will revisit Sheldon and Leonard’s adventure about 13 minutes in. We’re not going to let a side goal or subplot distract us from the main task at hand, right?
“Skywalker Incursion” main goal check-in #1: Sheldon and Leonard find themselves taking a detour to George Lucas’s home, Skywalker Ranch, and end up being detained by the security guards for sneaking in.
Local SEO main goal check-in #1: You’re six months into the campaign now, and the feedback of the forms being submitted is that they’re “okay.” It’s a lot of people submitting questions about “low-hanging fruit.”
Both the sitcom and the local SEO campaign are getting close to achieving their main goal but haven’t accomplished them just yet. This is to be expected, though — the sitcom still has plenty of minutes left, and we’re only a few months into the attorney’s campaign.
The second sub-goal/subplot
As time passes, we’re now in the thick of the comedic excitement and excellent marketing. At this point, it’s not uncommon to see a third campaign goal emerge, just like the sitcom will reveal its final subplot in this midst of the created chaos. This is what makes these elements the third center item on the Venn diagram.
“Skywalker Incursion” subplot B: Rest of gang has a ping pong battle for ownership of a freshly discovered Doctor Who Tardis.
Local SEO side goal #2: Become an industry thought leader through blogging and unique online content creation.
Subplot B of “The Skywalker Incursion” is littered with detailed character development, just like the second side goal of a local SEO campaign will require a high-level strategy and approach. For example, we discover both sitcom characters Raj and Amy have stellar ping pong serving skills, but no ability to hit the ball back (an excellent character quirk, if you ask me).
A similar campaign example would be the attorney wanting to take it up another notch and start blogging to become a more authoritative source. It adds another layer to the campaign just like the character development has done for the sitcom.
The main goal: final check-in
It’s time again to check back in on our main story and goal. At this point, the sitcom would be about 17 minutes in, having just returned from one of the last commercial breaks. The attorney’s campaign would be about nine or 10 months in.
“Skywalker Incursion” goal check-in #2: Sheldon and Leonard have a heart-to-heart chat and find that just going to Skywalker ranch was a big step for them, and they have fun in their own way. It gives them a renewed value in their “outside the box” friendship. Mission accomplished.
Local SEO main goal check-in #2: Working through the two lesser goals has helped you discover what major pillars to focus on and helped create unique, authoritative online content. As a result, you’re targeting a more focused audience for the “Free Consultation” forms, and the attorney views the leads you’re generating as more valuable. Don’t forget to check in again at the one-year mark to revisit a main campaign goal and reset the process.
Finally, in the remaining few minutes of the sitcom, we see how the subplots wrap up — subplot B is concluded with Amy winning the coveted Tardis in the hopes of luring Sheldon into her bedroom more often (yet another excellent character quirk).
This leads us to the conclusion that Howard’s garage is now clean, and thus subplot A has also been fulfilled. The sitcom episode will come back next week and reset itself to another point of hilarity, solidifying its formula as one of the greatest of all time.
There is definite method to the sitcom madness. I hope applying it to local marketing campaigns doesn’t seem so outside-the-box now.
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