Dear God, forgive me my sins, for I must speak the name of the Unholy One. I mean Lady GaGa. Let me be very clear on this point: prior to a couple months ago, aside from hearing some passing references to the name, I really had no clue who she was. Frankly… I’m still not entirely sure. But, she does happen to be one of the most unintentionally successful SEO examples in recent memory.
Tuesday morning on the Today show, Marissa Mayer of Google shared the top searches of 2009. Well, more accurately, she shared the top rising searches. Topping the list of rising image searches: Lady GaGa. Now, maybe she’s actually brilliant (or more likely largely messed up in the head), because even though her music is basically crap (don’t argue with me), she’s built an awesome vehicle for herself in her madness. While we can’t go off the deep end in ways that would impress the Lady, we can take away a few things.
“People are always wondering what she looks like. She looks different all the time,” Mayer said.
She has done a number of things very well. First, buzz generation. It doesn’t matter if people care about what she’s doing, they just want to know, because they are pretty sure it will be strange (hint: it usually is). She’s no Madonna, but what Madonna did fifteen years ago, she’s stepping up to now. Don’t worry whether or not people will care, because odds are they won’t anyway. The trick is to simply make them want to know, make them want to not feel left out if they weren’t aware. Wacky hijinks generate buzz and traffic, and students are an endless supply. Not to mention that if prospective students are your target market, they will be substantially more drawn to the site if it has flavor. That’s not to say you shouldn’t celebrate successes, like awards departments win and whatnot, just be aware that information like that is generally very dry, and very dull (though you could and should always try dressing it up), and you won’t hook fish with it. Don’t be afraid to celebrate the occasionally strange and random happenstances on campus; it’s what gives you character!
Be visually compelling! Stand out from the crowd. See the Mayer quote above. This isn’t news to any of us, but it always helps to be refreshed on it, and I’m humiliated that Lady GaGa is so good at it. If you are visually compelling, people will want to see what you are doing, and will return just because of their own curiosity. Examples (all eduStyle award winners, either judged or people’s choice): Boston University - Bostonia, University of Texas - Medical School at Houston: Office of Communications, Humboldt State University- Sustainability in Mind, and the College of William and Mary. The more a user, any user, is at your site, the more chance you have for donations, enrollment, etc.
It’s all about finding a way to stand apart and stand out. Lady GaGa’s music does not make her special. I will line up female singers a mile long that are better. But she took Britney Spears’ crazy factor, mixed in a little Lindsay Lohan, and refined it in to something that was marketable and put her on the map. This is all old hat, but it shows just how effective the right buzz and image can be for a brand, and it shows how high maintenance the process is. If Lady GaGa suddenly started dressing normally and acting like your mom on a day to day basis, she’d lose all her appeal; you must be creative AND maintain!
photo credit: ★ BART