Marketing August 14, 2017 Last updated August 13th, 2017 2,870 Reads share

Put Some Magic in Your Marketing: SEO Lessons from Disney

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As one of the world’s most well-loved brands, the Walt Disney Company has a special place in the hearts of kids of all ages from all over the world. In its 100 years of history, Disney repeatedly reinvented itself while dominating the market with its high-quality content (i.e. its movies) and its constant innovation.

Walt Disney, the iconic founder, was ahead of his time in many ways, and he famously said that “times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.” That was way before Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web, and yet few would dispute that he could easily be talking about contemporary digital marketing.

In fact, Disney has a surprising amount to

If you’re looking for a checklist or a process that you can follow to hit the top spot on search engines, this post isn’t for you. But if you want to learn how to apply the Disney ethos to your digital marketing strategy – boosting website engagement and creating a brand that people love and keep coming back to – you’re in luck.

Here are just a few of the lessons that Disney has to offer.

Lesson #1: Prioritize User Experience

If you’ve ever paid a visit to Disneyland, you might have noticed that it somehow seems both big and small at the same time. This is due to a technique called forced perspective, in which Disneyland’s designers were able to trick visitors’ minds into thinking that buildings are taller than they actually are.

The park even uses psychology and forced perspective to make the journey home a little easier. Key buildings are slanted away from the park entrance so that they seem to stretch into the distance when you enter – and so that they seem much closer together when you’re worn out and heading for the exit.

This might not sound like it has much to do with SEO, but bear with me here. See, many pundits believe that keywords are dead and that user experience is becoming more and more important. In his 2015 piece for SearchEngineJournal, Roger Montti pointed out that: “The best kind of link is the kind created because of a positive experience (learning, utility, usefulness, fun). Scientific research has discovered that experiences motivate sharing, and positive experiences are shared the most.”

As such, you should take inspiration from Disney to put user experience front and center, whether that’s by reducing load times, streamlining the checkout process or by simplifying information. One thing’s for sure, though – user experience will only become more and more important over time.

Lesson #2: Expand Your Empire

Face it – businesses are becoming more and more like publishers, and no SEO strategy is complete without a focus on crafting high quality content. Unfortunately, not all businesses are able to excel at content creation, which is where they can follow in Disney’s footsteps.

Disney is no stranger to acquisitions. Back in 2006, Disney bought Pixar in a $7.4 billion deal that augmented their assets by adding ownership of Steve Jobs’ animation studio. In 2009 they bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, acquiring the rights to an army of 5,000 characters, and that was followed in 2012 by the purchase of Lucasfilm and the rights to the Star Wars series.

This focus on acquisitions has played out on a large scale in the new age of content marketing. TechCrunch, for example, was purchased by AOL, which was purchased in turn by Verizon. And, as soon as the tech news company changed hands, its owners were able to take advantage of both its resources (in terms of its staff and knowhow) and its impressive digital presence.

But you don’t have to be a huge, multinational company to expand your empire. Smaller, niche companies can follow in Disney’s footsteps by acquiring specific blog sites that deal with their industry. For example, if you specialize in making gourmet cheeses, you could approach an influential food blogger and offer to either purchase their blog outright – thus gaining possession of the domain and its high-calibre inbound links – or to hire the blogger to create content for your own site.

Either way, it’s sure to boost the quality of both your original content and the inbound links that point towards your domain.

Lesson #3: Don’t Be Pinocchio

Pinocchio is a true Disney classic, and it’s held up well in the 70+ years since its release. Better still, it has plenty of morals in store for savvy SEOs who are willing to learn.

People want to be friends with people, not with companies. And yet despite that, most companies are still playing at Pinocchio, shouting “I want to be a real boy.” Worse, many SEOs and content marketers make the mistake of assuming that everyone in the world will be interested in what they’re talking about.

The rapid growth of social media and citizen journalism has given consumers a voice that they never had before. That means that if you’re facetious – or if you lie about your products and your services – you’ll be caught out by the public.

The public is your nose, and they’ll have no problem with growing and growing and growing if you make a mistake – as is shown by Dave Carroll’s United Breaks Guitars, Celeb Boutique’s misguided attempt to hijack the #Aurora hashtag and even in the uniquely bizarre annual Ed Balls Day celebrations.

Don’t be Pinocchio. Your visitors don’t want to read wooden blog posts or follow boring social media updates. Instead, showcase the names and faces of the real people who work for you, and invite them to share their opinions and insights with their own names – but with the power of the company behind them.

Just look at Disney. People don’t love them because they have a nice logo – they love them because of the thousands of characters that make the company what it is, from Snow White to Cruella De Ville and Elsa and Anna.

Lesson #4: Engage with Emotions

Speaking of Elsa and Anna, one of Disney’s biggest strengths is the way that it tugs on the heartstrings. Whether you’re reduced to tears when (spoiler alert!) Mufasa dies or whether you’re laughing at Buzz and Woody, it’s hard to deny your emotional involvement when you watch one of their movies.

Many people see SEO as technology-led and logic-driven, but that’s not necessarily the case. Ahead of her talk at last year’s SEJ Summit in New York City, Keesa Schreane of Thomson Reuters talked to Search Engine Journal about how emotions play into the field of search engine marketing.

“A massive opportunity lies in understanding an audience’s emotional state when they’re engaging with your brand,” Schreane explained. She went on to explain that to leverage the emotional side, the brand needs authenticity – which is helped dramatically when employees are showcased as per lesson #3.

This focus on emotions is echoed by Gyi Tsakalakis in an article for Moz, where the author points out that a primary focus of SEO is to develop content “that makes everyone who sees it want to share it and say wow.”

Of course, there are more human emotions than you can shake a stick at, so you’ll need to match the emotion with what your brand represents. Red Bull, for example, is all about inspiring and exciting people, while AsapSCIENCE focuses on making their visitors feel curious and intelligent.

No emotion is out of limits, as long as it fits your brand. You might want to make visitors angry if you’re pushing them to join a movement or attend a protest, and you might want to scare them if you’re promoting a horror film.

Ultimately, as search engines continue to develop, grabbing visitors by the lapels and engaging with their emotions will only become more and more important – especially as more and more emphasis is placed on visitor engagement metrics such as click-through rate, time on site and loading speeds.

Lesson #5: Build a Legacy

The Walt Disney Company is rapidly approaching its 100th birthday, and there’s no question that it’s built a legacy of magic and laughter throughout the years. Few other brands have the same amount of history, and fewer still have been able to capture the imaginations of generation after generation.

Most modern marketers appreciate that they’re playing the long game. After all, it takes time to see results from SEO and content marketing, and it can take years to build up a decent social media following. We’re all trying to establish a legacy – but how exactly do we do that in the first place? The answer, of course, is storytelling.

Disney’s stories are what established the company as a modern behemoth, thanks to their groundbreaking blend of storytelling and technology – just like what we expect from the best computer games and, dare I say it, the best websites. When Take This Lollipop went viral, for example, it did so because it took something technical (the Facebook API) and blended it with storytelling to create something that had never been done before.

Telling your company’s story over time will help you to boost engagement, establish brand differentiation and help visitors to remember you. Better still, people love stories – and they make up 65% of our conversations.

Establishing a legacy takes time and you’ll need to play the long game if you want to be successful. Even after the best part of a century, Disney still needs to constantly innovate to stay at the top of their field. Luckily, the results are worth it – especially once your brand storytelling starts to take off and the snowball effect kicks in.

Making Magic:

Ultimately, Disney’s strength comes not from any individual aspect of their marketing strategy but from their brand experience as a whole. The company dedicates itself to bringing a little magic into our lives, and they demonstrate this through everything that they do – whether they’re bringing new rides to “the happiest place on earth” or whether they’re releasing a new movie and a range of consumer goods to tie in with it.

The lesson here is that you need to know what you’re good at. Hang everything around what your brand has to offer people, and ensure that it’s reflected throughout your website – as well as offline and elsewhere on the web.

When Walt Disney founded the company, he could never have predicted how it would look 100 years later. But his initial ethos – that of working hard, making magic and never compromising on quality – still dictates how the company acts today.

Now it’s your turn – it’s time for you to learn from Disney and then to go one better. These days, the landscape is so congested that it’s harder than ever to cut through the noise. Luckily, the rewards have never been greater either, and it’s just like Walt Disney said:

If you can dream it, you can do it.

Vikas Agrawal

Vikas Agrawal

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