Towards an “optimized” state of mind

In his new book Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing, Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing offers a practical approach for companies and business leaders to “integrate search and social media optimization with content to boost their relevance and visibility for potential customers” (Lee Odden, Optimize).

The book is organized into three parts or phases:

Phase 1: Explores changing customer preferences and behaviors with search, social media and content and what that means for your online marketing strategy.

Phase 2: Explains online content marketing tactics including developing buyer personas, social networking, content marketing and measurement.

Phase 3: Focuses on scale and the processes and training you’ll need to grow and maintain an integrated social media, SEO and content marketing strategy.

Each part of the book is structured to help business leaders build a foundation for a strong and integrated SEO, social media and content marketing strategy. Statistics and case-studies help illustrate Odden’s points, and he refers to media tools such as Radian6, wordtracker and Up Close and Persona that can help businesses reach their goals.

The strength of the book is in the emphasis it places on the importance of content as the basis of search. Odden explains that in order to attract, engage and inspire customers to buy, marketers must understand how customers like to discover, consume and act on information – at all stages of the buying process. He advocates strongly for “knowing thy customers” and developing “customer personas.”

A concept originally developed in 1994 by Angus Jenkinson, personas are “fictional characters from different segments of your market” (Lee Odden, Optimize). Odden makes a very clear and strong case for why personas, as opposed to keywords, should guide your content creation and optimization efforts. After all, “keywords don’t buy products and services—customers do” (Lee Odden, Optimize).

I also like Odden’s philosophical approach to the topic.  He begins the book with a personal story about wanting to take his public speaking skills to another level, and realizing he could apply the same principles found in Optimize to improve his public speaking skills.  He explains that this experience taught him that anything can be optimized for better performance, and that optimization is as much a state of mind as an approach to integrated search, social and content marketing.

On the more critical side, despite being written for “the masses”, I found the content a little complex and the area covered quite vast. I felt that I lacked some of the conceptual framework for the material that would have led to a fuller learning experience.

This leads me to the main issue I had with Optimize: one of writing style. Optimize reads as if it has been optimized for search, perhaps because some content was originally written for online audiences on the TopRank Marketing blog. The result is writing that is at times mechanical and lacking in a more human touch. To an extent, Optimize isn’t fully “optimized” for print audiences.

Despite this, the book is full of gold nuggets of information. I would recommend it and will return to it again to uncover more of those nuggets.