Larry King, the famous TV star, used to say to his audience that his father came to the US thinking that America is the land of all possibilities and that the streets are paved with gold. After arriving, he realized 3 things:

  1. The streets weren’t paved with gold.
  2. The streets weren’t paved at all.
  3. He was the one who would pave the streets.

We often tend to believe that creativity leads to success only when it’s built on clear directives and extensive plans, but, as in the anecdote above, creativity might require courage to let go of certainties.

Is creativity only for the chosen ones?

Conventional wisdom teaches us that creativity means maximum freedom of expression, no limitation of any kind and complete boundlessness. That limits the number of creative persons to just a bunch of people. So, if you’re not a wannabe Picasso or a carbon copy of Shakespeare, not much access to the creative field for you.

All you accountants that find fabulous solutions to all sorts of tangled problems, all you clerks that unravel an impossible number of documents and all you, programmers, that need to face so many challenges daily, we are sorry. All your efforts, as brilliant as they might be, are not seen as being creative from the conventional wisdom point of view.

But things are quite different actually, aren’t they?

Just because limitations are imposed, in order to better respond to the customer’s needs, it doesn’t mean that creativity is out of the question. Quite the opposite! The more challenges it takes to overcome all constraints, the more creative thinking is needed. It’s not just thinking outside the box. It’s creating the box, thinking inside the box and when you find nothing more inside, going outside of it.

Humor me and try to do this exercise:

Take a pen and a white piece of paper and begin to write about anything. That’s right, anything. Pretty hard, isn’t it?

You wished someone gave you some directions, pointed out a domain or any indications about the length of the article or at least the language in which you should write. You wished for some limitations of any kind.

This is not a “How to article”!

If you’re looking for 10 easy steps to become creative or 99 ways to improve your creative thinking, you are reading the wrong article. If only “10 easy steps” get in my way of becoming the most creative person alive then sign me in for that session. With one easy search, Google will happily give you a list of “how to” articles, maybe this one included. But talking about creativity and not actually doing it is like a stand-up comedian coming to the stage and instead of telling jokes, saying : “I am funny! You should laugh.”

Creativity in SEO

In such a data driven industry, what has creativity got to do with SEO? you might ask. I won’t deny that joining creativity and SEO might seem a bit odd but not out of ordinary. You all agree when I say that SEO plays a big part in improving a company’s online visibility. It’s a tool that, when used properly, makes wonders for your business. The way a small company gets to swim with the big fishes and manages to reach the top of the search engine results page is not through shady link building and black hat techniques. It’s through smart SEO that uses creativity, innovation and clever thinking.

I don’t know if you’re a big fan of sports, but given the fact that the winter Olympics are on, allow me to make a sports metaphor. In figure skating, the one who goes home with the golden medal is not the one who can make the most jumps, twirls and has an immaculate technical execution.

The one who wins the prize is the one who knows how to sharply combine the elements and give the audience an execution with a personal input.

By analogy, the best in the SEO industry are the ones who can make the best out of keyword variations, link building or organic ranking. Meaning not only using these concepts correctly and productively but also creatively blending them, continuously improving and readjusting them for each  individual case.

Limitation means Liberation

When it comes to creativity, restraints can be your best friend. Being in your bubble of comfort is very pleasant but when you get out of it, that is when the magic begins and your mind revs up the engines. The comfort zone might be the enemy of creativity as creative thinking comes not only on fertile soil but also from a conflict of ideas. When you clean out a corner of your mind, creativity will instantly fill it. Or at least this is what Dee Hock, the inventor of the Visa credit card believed.

Nowadays, talented people working in the field of SEO must face all sorts of challenges. With Penguin 2.0 and all the regulations that Google has imposed, the digital marketing activity begins to look like a dance in two, where you have to be really careful not to step on your partner’s feet.  Should this make you quit dancing? No, it should make you a better dancer. It should motivate you to find the right moves and the exact balance so that at the end of the dance, both of you leave the dance floor with your feet undamaged.

Changing habits is hard, obstacles are difficult to overcome and barriers just seem like they’re stepping in our way. But all of them give us the great possibility to increase our area of perception and reconsider the whole problem from different angles. They allow us to take into consideration a greater range of ideas or possibilities which until then had never even crossed our minds. Yes, the whole process can be unpleasant and uncomfortable but, hey, creation requires some sacrifices now and then.

Newsjacking

There are people complaining about all of Google’s regulations, there are others that back off but there are also the ones that pull themselves together and transform these obstacles into challenges; into better practices, more creative tactics and, thereupon, into better and more efficient SEO strategies.

Let’s discuss an example, for instance, and see if creative SEO is possible and what lesson we can learn from this.

Although at first sight it might sound like a practice with negative connotation, what we’re actually talking about is a SEO artifice that appears to be successful so far.

In newsjacking, content comes first, marketing second.

Within this technique you don’t just throw keywords around randomly in the digital world. You take advantage of the exposure that breaking news have, you produce high quality content and contribute to the overall discussions related to that news. That means you need to have a proper understanding of the “breaking news” niche, you have to adapt and quickly generate researched content so you can finally “borrow” from the news’ fame and notoriety. It might sound unimpressive at the beginning but in fact it is a very clever and creative way of getting tons of links that will ultimately improve your SEO. Whether you’re newsjacking the Royal Baby, Batman or Christmas shops, the idea is to make use of ingenuity and creativity. Used properly, it blows you up where you dream of, in Google’s first rows, by getting tons of  natural links that will improve your site’s link profile authority.

 

Save the cow! operation

Another creative link building strategy is the one used for John Cow’s blog. I think I’ll bring a smile on your face when I tell you that the owner of the site hacked their own domain. That’s right! Jason Katzenback, the creator of the johncow.com, a full time online entrepreneur that makes a living from internet marketing, hacked his own creation. Extremely foolish at a first sight but incredibly clever at a closer look. The creative idea was to largely involve the audience in John Cow’s brand experience by making the audience responsible for the existence of the site. A sort of brand entertainment. It was up to online fans whether johncow.com, the online making money site that is milking the internet since 2007, was going to “the dark side” or not. With only 1$, you could contribute to “save the cow!” rescue mission. It might be just a drop in the ocean but the ocean is made of drops. Yet, the idea was not to make a bunch of cash, as he donated the amount made to one of his readers.

The idea was to generate “natural SEO”, if you allow me to put it this way, plenty of natural links that highly increased its site authority.

With such a creative stratagem, he reinforced the connection between his audience and the John Cow brand but he also proved that putting “creativity” and “SEO” together is not just a happy coincidence.

May the Creativity be with You!

Lots of creative jugglery can be done in the SEO field if we start seeing the constraints as challenges and, why not, opportunities.

We might have to stop fighting our “enemies” and try to live with them. It is easier and might lead us to unimaginably great results. So, don’t wring your hands and better roll up your sleeves.

And meanwhile, tell us! What creative strategies have you been using?