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Lunch Break with Clayburn Griffin

Clayburn Griffin, Organic Search Director at global leading investment operation GroupM, talks SEO for large industries, online reputation management, and viral marketing. He also shares tips from his new book Mastering the Art of Social SEO.

This week on Lunch Break with Mike King, the Inbound Marketing Director was joined by Clayburn Griffin.

Griffin is the Organic Search Director at GroupM, the world’s number one media investment management operation.

They covered a variety of topics – including what it is like to do SEO for large brands, Griffin’s new book, viral marketing, how to get companies to avoid stale marketing content, and the origin of his unique name.

Announcer: And now, live, from the iAcquire offices in New York City, it’s
Lunch Break with Michael King.

Michael: Welcome back to Lunch Break, everybody. Today we are joined by,
or with, Clayburn Griffin from GroupM Search. He’s the Organic
Search Director, and we also have Brittan Bright, who is our
Director of Client Strategy. So, Clayburn, how are you?

Clayburn: I’m great. I got food from my favorite place. [Great] company.

Michael: Yeah, today we had, where did we order from?

Clayburn: Ted’s Montana Grill.

Michael: And what’d you have?

Clayburn: So I got nachos, which, to share, but of course, I don’t think
Brittan wants any, but they’re pretty good. This is, like, my
favorite thing here in the city and a burger. Bison. Bison
burger. Bison nachos. Ted Turner. Biggest land owner in the
U.S., has a bunch of land in Montana, so what he decided to do,
he’s like, “I have all this land, I like buffalo.” He raises
buffalo. And then he sends them out to his locations to be
eaten.

Michael: Murdered?

Clayburn: Eaten. Well, eaten by us, at least.

Brittan: Yes. The menu was very meat-tastic. Meat-centric.

Michael: What’d you have, Brittan?

Brittan: I had salad minus the meat. That was what was on my [inaudible
01:15]

Clayburn: You go to Ted’s Montana Grill, and you order a salad.

Brittan: Yeah.

Michael: I too order the salad, and you see I kind of killed it.

Clayburn: But you’ve been having some of those nachos, right?

Michael: So, I’ve also partaken in the-

Brittan: Yeah. Lunch with a vegetarian.

Clayburn: But, look, it’s a giant, it’s a giant burger.

Michael: So, Clayburn, when I first met you, you were working at
Promediacorp, and you did SEO for, like, Britney Spears and
stuff like that. So can you, can you tell us a little about what
it’s like to do SEO for big music brands and such?

Clayburn: Yeah, so that, it was a lot of fun, but it was also pretty
frustrating at times. I think you get that kind of happening
anytime when you’re working with any kind of, like, large
corporation, but what’s interesting about the music corporation
itself was that since it’s a creative space, you seem to get a
lot more creative pushback on things that affect SEOs.

So, like, we had Adam Lambert, for instance, insisted that his menu
navigation be symbols. Astrological signs. And so it’s, like,
okay, so, instead of clicking on music, you’ve got to click on
Taurus. It’s like, how do you, first of all, as a user, how do I
know that, but then also search engine, what am I going to look
at this Taurus symbol and know that that’s relevant to music?

So, we had to do a lot of, like, little work arounds on that. Design
was probably the biggest, biggest challenge there. But overall,
it was nice. They were all on Drupal. It was pretty standard
across all of the artists’ sites. Got some free tickets to some
concerts and things, but I never really took advantage of that.
I’m just not a big fan of, like, Adam Lambert, I guess, and
Britney Spears. But, I know [Avi] did.

Michael: It’s kind of funny, because you’re working with all these huge
mega stars, essentially, and you’re just, like, unaffected,
like, “Whatever. Doesn’t matter.”

Brittan: Can you get tickets to Beyonce?

Clayburn: If I could have gotten tickets to Avril Lavigne, I would have
gone. She was, like, the only one that I had ever heard of on
Sony’s label. I guess I’d heard of Britney Spears, but we’re
working with a lot names. I’m not a good music aficionado, I
guess, because I never know what’s going on anyway. But, yeah,
so I was working on all these people; I had no idea who they
were most of the time.

Michael: That’s funny. So, I like the fact that I get to talk to you,
because you’re working at a big agency and we can talk
specifically about who you’re working with and stuff like that.
I know you and Brittan worked on a pretty cool project together.
You guys want to talk about that a little bit?

Brittan: I’ve gotten to talk about that a lot. Would you like to talk
about it?

Clayburn: But you’re such an expert on it already. Plus it was probably
your favorite project?

Brittan: It was definitely fun. But I-

Clayburn: It was all because of me, right? I mean, you got to work with
me on it, so.

Brittan: So Clayburn and I work together with them, and we were working
on a project for Axe, that was very cool. But I definitely think
you’re funnier when you talk about it, so this is your time to
shine.

Clayburn: So, I guess they came at us with this problem of . . . if you
did a search for this term they had that they came up with, this
perfect girl, her name was Susan Glen. And so people are going
to be searching for this once they start the ad campaign,
rolling it out. And they needed it to look like it meant the
perfect girl, and so…

Brittan: They wanted to create a social term, a meme, or just a thing.
They wanted to create a thing that didn’t exist, and they wanted
to make it up, and they wanted it to look natural.

Clayburn: And, you know-

Brittan: And you thought it was stupid.

Clayburn: Well, I didn’t-

Brittan: And you did not want to do it. At all. And I had to convince
you.

Clayburn: The thing is, I don’t know how familiar you are with memes, but
there’s actually a meme about how you can’t force memes.

Brittan: [You and Ken] talked about that was the dumbest thing ever.

Clayburn: It was a challenge, I would say, but…

Brittan: But I was the cheerleader for it.

Clayburn: Yeah.

Brittan: And I enabled-

Clayburn: I had just started there, too, so I wasn’t really familiar
with, like, the process that we would do and, like, I knew how
to do it myself, just as an SEO, but I didn’t know how to sort
of use the procedures that would be there to do it. So I had to
really rely on your for that and that helped.

Brittan: I had to talk you into it, though.

Clayburn: I just, like, this is what I need. This is what I need to do
it. I can get this done. This is what I need. And you went off
and got it done. So I would say that’s really the value in an
AD, account director, project manager, or any kind of support
personnel for an SEO, is that you need somebody who can go and
get the stuff done, because an SEO can say, “I need this in
order to make this happen.”

Michael: But she translates it.

Clayburn: Yeah, she gets me that. She gets me those needs. And so, like,
it’s great having . . .

Brittan: I talk good.

Clayburn: It’s great having that.

Michael: So just, like, more specifically about the project, so it’s
called Susan Glen. You guys had to make their ad campaign into
something that was real, essentially. Because they launched the
Kiefer Sutherland ads and they were saying, “Oh my God, my Susan
Glenn blasé-blah,” but it wasn’t a thing, and you guys made it a
thing.

Brittan: Well, we got to work really, really well. We got to collaborate
with BBH and [Adelman] and they were awesome. They were awesome
to collaborate with. So they were creating a lot of content for
us to have to work with, but what we basically had to do was do
a prep management campaign for a person that didn’t exist, but
make it appear as though it was a social phenomenon, or urban
slang term.

Clayburn: It was, it was-

Brittan: It was fun.

Clayburn: It was fun. It was a really fun project, but it was also just
sort of, like, right in my wheel house, in a sense, because,
like, I always reputation management. Online reputation
management is just so much fun to me, so interesting. And then
also social has been, sort of, my interest in SEO. I don’t like
keeping social out of SEO. I think it’s too much of an important
factor. And a traffic driver itself. I mean, just doing social
as well is important. You’ve got to be on the ball there. So
this was a sort of the combination of those two things, and it
was just what I would like to do, and it was a lot of fun.

Michael: So that’s kind of a good segue. I mean, you guys just, or you,
just put together a book on the art of search and social.

Clayburn: Yeah. Mastering the Art of Social SEO. So five other colleagues
of mine, we worked on this book, because social is important.
Last year is sort of when it became super important and
everybody’s like, “Oh, yeah, you got to do social, you got to do
social.” But, it’s funny because still social hasn’t really
completely finished it’s effect, sort of, on search. Like,
Google’s still trying to figure out how exactly to incorporate
personalized results. They started off where they were putting
your picture there, if you plus-oned it. Now it’s just this
little silhouette that says, “this is a personalized result.”

Bing is trying in such silly ways to figure out how to make search
social. And so, 2012 was the experimentation phase, and this
year I really think is when somebody’s going to get it right. I
don’t Facebook’s Graph Search is going to be it, but this year
something’s got to happen where somebody finally . . . Google
steps down and they say, “This is it. This is what it’s going to
be. This is how social is going to affect search.” And it going
to be set. And then you can’t ignore it anymore. You can’t
ignore social.

Michael: I actually feel like you couldn’t ignore social search years
ago [inaudible 08:40]

Clayburn: Yeah, yeah. You couldn’t. But they were still experimenting.
That was the problem.

Michael: I agree. But I don’t even mean from a standpoint of what are
the search engines going to do with this; I mean from a fact
that, like, as a research channel, social media is so valuable
to predict what’s going to happen in search. So the fact that
people have just been using it, as like, an outbound channel
rather than a two-way channel from a, figure out what type of
content we need to make, and then see how it does based on these
really specific types of people. That’s what the disconnect has
been for SEO.

Like, obviously it’s going to take a while for Google to actually
follow through on specifications they lay out, but they’ll say
something like authorship is really important, but then you
don’t see a huge benefit from it, or the same thing with, like,
Schema.org. Until they see that people have adopted these
things.

So, I think to your point, you’re absolutely right that we’re getting
to a point where they’ve seen a lot of adoption of these things,
and they’re starting to, like, ramp up what they’re going to do
with it. But, it hasn’t changed the fact that we as SEOs are not
using it as a channel to the best of its ability.

Clayburn: Yeah. Yeah. Whenever I got into SEO, like, I didn’t really go
into SEO. I started off just, kind of just digital marketing in
general. I had websites and I wanted to get traffic there. And
at the time, like in 2006 is when I really kind of got serious
about it, and Twitter was finally this new shiny thing that
everybody’s playing with, and blogging was pretty popular. Like,
blogging had really started taking off as, like, everybody’s
blogging, now. MySpace was still, I think, relevant, but
Facebook was, getting off the ground.

And so, all of a sudden, I realized that if I wanted to get traffic
to my websites, I needed to go where people were. Just like if
you’re a shop out in Manhattan. Location matters. And if people
are walking around on the street, you have your shop there,
people are going to come visit you. And everybody’s just hanging
out on the sidewalks that are Twitter and Facebook. And you’ve
got to open up shop there so you can get them in.

Michael: Absolutely. Okay. We’ll be right back after these messages.

[commercial music]

Michael: And we are back. We are still here with Clayburn Griffin and
Brittan Bright. So we kind of talked about the idea of creating
memes and such, and there’s always this concept of “viral
marketing” that everybody likes to hang their hat on. I just
kind of want to get your thoughts on that as far as, like,
what’s your viral marketing checklist? I know you can’t really
replicate that type of success easily with a checklist, but if
you had to come up with one, what are the points that a brand
needs to consider and be on top of?

Clayburn: So, it is, it’s impossible to guarantee that kind of success,
and I think that’s what brands that attempt this need to
understand. Because they’re going to go to it thinking that it’s
going to be the next Old Spice guy, and it’s not. Like, 90% of
the time it’s not. Probably more than that.

But I think if you want to succeed, the key is really honesty. And I
think that’s why Old Spice succeeded, was that you need to not
care so much about getting your lawyers in here, and your
marketing guys in here to make sure you’re on the right brand
message and everything like that. Just be honest, talk to your
consumers. You know who your consumers are. You should have a
pretty good understanding of your product and your industry. And
just talk to them, in a fun way, in an engaging way. That’s the
key.

If you’re trying to sell them something, they’re going to push back.
They don’t want that. And that’s what Old Spice did, was they
just thought, “Let’s have fun with our fans.” There’s no real
ulterior motive there. I mean, yeah, they were promoting
whatever particular Old Spice product, but it wasn’t like they
were forcing people to sign up first, or register for something
or buy anything. And it wasn’t overly promotional. It was just
their spokesman responding to people; getting celebrities
involved, as well.

Michael: So, how do you feel about that? Like, you said it’s just them
having fun with their fans. I mean, what I’m seeing, especially
at iAcquire, is that there seems to be brands wanting to push
more for that stale “marketing content”. And then there are
those people that believe that having fun with the fans and what
have you is not valuable. How do you quantify that? How do you
effectively push back when they want to go the stale route
rather than the fun route?

Clayburn: Yeah. I mean, I think it happens all the time with traditional
marketing, where you have a lot of, you have a lot of
advertising, a lot of expense associated with something that has
no financial goal tied to it and maybe even nothing that you can
really track. You see people spending millions on a Super Bowl
ad, where it might not necessarily mean that I’m going to go out
and buy a domain, or I’m going to buy this particular car, but
it’s about enforcing that message that’s tied to the branding of
VW is a company that has this certain value and cares about this
type of thing, and believes this.

Whether I’m going to buy the car or not; it’s about making sure you
keep your, your company at the top of people’s minds. Regardless
if they’re your demographic or not, I think, and the people who
are your fans, taking advantage of that. Showing them some
respect, I guess. if I am a fan of, for instance, KFC, I love,
when I’m not eating a bacon on a bison burger, I like fried
chicken from KFC. And they are, they’re doing a great job on
Twitter, where you can Tweet at them and they respond.

I got some free KFC bucks from them because I, we wanted to do some
kind of give away; we thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we could
give away, because our mascot for this product was a chicken,
and we thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we could give away KFC
coupons, or something? And we were trying to order the KFC
coupons, but we weren’t sure about delivery time, if we could
get it in time for the event, so I tweeted at them and was like,
“do we know when the coupons will arrive?” And they were just,
like, and they’re tweeting as the Colonel, and he’s like, “Don’t
worry about, the Colonel will take care of it.” Didn’t even have
to pay for them, they just sent us, like, a hundred dollars
worth of coupons for KFC.

Michael: That’s awesome.

Clayburn: And they, regularly, you can just tweet about KFC, and Samsung
does this as well, you tweet about them and they respond to you.
I told Samsung, “Shouldn’t it be Sam had sung?” Because I’m kind
of a grammar Nazi, and they just responded. There was no value
in that, probably, from their point of view, but they responded
to me and they said, “I think we’ll stick with Samsung.”

And I happen to have an S3, and I do really like Samsung; I don’t
know if it was particularly because of that exchange, but I do
feel better about the company because of that. Like, I already
had their products, and I felt that they have, make a good
product; if it was a crap product and they were engaging with me
on Twitter, that wouldn’t be enough to win me over, but it
certainly helps.

Michael: Well, so, I think this conversation kind of shows the value in
that. Because the fact that you’re specially-

Clayburn: Yeah, talking to everybody here who’s going to go out and buy
Samsung now.

Michael: Exactly. But you have these brands like top of line, and it
ultimately facilitates that word of mouth, which is still the
most powerful marketing that there is. So, I think that is more
valuable than the stale hard-sell type market.

Clayburn: But people don’t like it. People don’t like it; marketers don’t
like it because it’s so hard to track. That’s the problem. But
it’s something that they can’t ignore; they need to do it
anyway. They need to understand that it does have an effect.

Michael: But back to that idea of hard to track. I mean, a Super Bowl as
is not easy to track, either. And I think that a lot of brands
are missing out on the digital aspect of their campaigns.
Because, like, when we were watching the Super Bowl, I was just
kind of sitting there, like, you know, just taking it all in,
and the only commercial that really struck me was that Soda
Stream commercial. I was, like, wow, this is, you don’t even
remember it.

But I was like, wow, this is pretty awesome, and they flashed, like,
a URL at the end of the commercial. So I went to the URL to,
like, get a sense of what’s going on with them. And on the
homepage was another commercial. And then another click, another
commercial. And then another click, and I get to the actual
homepage.

Clayburn: They should have had a trailer for the upcoming commercial.

Michael: I don’t even agree with that. I mean, I’m just playing. But
anyway. What I believe they should have had is some sort of
community that I could join, because let’s say 5 million people
are watching the Super Bowl. Let’s say, 1 percent of those goes
to the site. Let’s say, like, 50,000 people? Yeah, 50,000
people. And let’s say 10 percent of those people sign up for
your community. That’s probably a thousand people you can
activate easily. That’s an asset for the brand. So, there’s
still this idea that traditional and digital are, like, these
two very different things, and I think that every campaign
should have elements of both.

Clayburn: You spend millions on a Super Bowl ad, but if you were just to
take a million dollars and say this is my social budget for the
year, that I’m going to hire people to man Twitter all the time,
to engage with everybody who’s mentioning us and talking to us.
You might get even more benefit out of that. You get that one on
one intimacy there that does correlate into me coming on and
talking about the fact that I was, you know, tweeted at by the
KFC Colonel, or Samsung. As opposed to just, hey, I saw a VW ad
on the Super Bowl, and then you’re like, oh yeah, I remember
that one, or I didn’t watch the Super Bowl, or whatever. There’s
a more personal aspect of it that you get from social media.

Michael: No, I agree. I agree. So you brought something with you.

Clayburn: Yes.

Brittan: Lovely wrapping paper.

Michael: What is this?

Clayburn: Yes. Cookie Monster. Can’t go wrong. So, I was watching some of
the past Lunch Breaks, and Evan Fishkin brought you a gift.

Michael: Yes, he did. Shouts to Evan Fishkin.

Clayburn: Do you remember what it was?

Michael: It was the Icon graphic novel.

Clayburn: Yeah. So Icon apparently is where you, the superhero icon, was
your inspiration. So in the similar vein, same vein, but also
I’m a bit narcissistic.

Michael: The Clayburn book.

Clayburn: Yes. So, so.

Michael: Is this the book you were named after?

Clayburn: No, no. See, Icon inspired you. I inspired this book.

Michael: You are a brilliant genius of unparalled qualities.

Clayburn: Thanks.

Michael: So what is this book about? Being that you inspired it? Clearly
before you were born.

Clayburn: I mean, read the back cover there. It tells you the . . . it’s
basically a story about revenge.

Michael: Mike Owens was murdered and his mutilated body left to parch on
the mesa. Clayburn rode into the dusty town of Flathead to find
his best friend’s killer and take his revenge. Instead, he found
a friendly sheriff, a lusty widow, and too many unanswered
questions. But Clayburn was a gambler who got his answers with
his wits, his fists, and his lightening guns. [inaudible 20:04] taking life and the law into his own brutal hands.

So I just have a quick question. Clearly, this book has existed
longer than you. It came out in 1961. Can you . . . no, first
printing in 1978. How did you go about inspiring this?

Clayburn: Well, first of all, I don’t know if you know how old I am.

Michael: How old are you? What?

Clayburn: I’m just that awesome.

Brittan: Can we talk about-

Clayburn: What, you don’t believe I can transcend time and space?

Michael: I’m starting to believe it. This is incredible.

Brittan: I, can we talk about your name?

Clayburn: Okay.

Brittan: First of all, and second of all, that fact that your mom is a
babe.

Clayburn: We can talk about my name.

Brittan: Okay. So, your mom who’s a babe, gave you a cool name and your
sister.

Clayburn: My sister has a really awesome name. Her name is [MiShea]. But,
with a capital S in the middle. So it’s not just MiShea, it goes
even further than that, with a capital S on the.

Brittan: That’s right. So, let’s tell the story of when we got to go
because of working on Unilever, we got to go see The Dark Knight
Rises before it came out, which was a very big deal. In a
private theater, it was awesome.

Clayburn: I didn’t get to go.

Brittan: You were gone and out of town. So I took…

Clayburn: Norris.

Brittan: Norris. Who said that “that shit works,” since Clayburn sounds
like he could potentially be that guy’s name. And he said, “Yes,
and my sister, MiShea, with a capital S, fits the mold.”

Clayburn: Yeah, so my . . . I don’t know . . . my dad picked my name,
apparently. The story is just that he . . . I don’t know if he
knew a guy or if he just heard of a guy named Clayburn, not
somebody he was close with in any way, he just, the name stuck
with him and he seemed to like it, and that’s why-

Brittan: And everybody calls you Clay Born.

Clayburn: People mispronounce it. They’ll call me Clay Born. They
misspell it a lot. People try to over think it, I mean, it’s
just two four letter words. Clay burn, to be very simple. But
it’s always, like, they write it down and it’s like, C-L-A-I-B-E-
U-R-N-E. There’s like an E at the end. Oh, and then they call me
Clay. So, I would always go anytime we stopped at a place like,
that would have those key chains with the names and stuff, and I
would check, check for my name. I’d always find Clay, of course.
But no, no Clayburn, ever. I found a Clayburn once, and that was
after searching like a hundred of them. Finally I found
Clayborn, and that’s as close as I could get.

Michael: Just chop the, chop off.

Clayburn: But I like, so, what you were saying about how your name is not
. . . it doesn’t really present how unique you are. And to me
I’ve always felt that it kind of does. Like, there are probably
two other Clayburn Griffins in the world, but, like, they don’t
matter in anyway. Chances are I’m never going to encounter them,
nobody knows who they are, so it’s not like, it doesn’t affect
me. For all I know, I’m the only one.

Michael: There’s so many people named Mike King. I’ve met -

Clayburn: That’d be weird to me.

Michael: Yeah, my friends that [inaudible 23:12] like, they all live
together, then the one person that doesn’t work at the [still],
her boyfriend is named Mike King. It was like a DJ named Mike
King. When I was in Philly at the Ad Awards that we have out
there, there’s a web designed named Mike King. So it’s just.

Clayburn: And like Kenny, who I work with, too, he puts [shark] in his name for
some reason. And it seems like if you have a common name, you
can still get around it by getting a handle. Handles are very
popular, like, especially online, everybody had to have this
handle. And I never had that. I always felt left out whenever I
had to think of a name. It was like, but I’m just Clayburn.

Brittan: I do the same thing.

Clayburn: I don’t know what my name should be. Like, everybody else was,
like, putting out their Hotmail emails at the time, and it was .
. . I don’t know.

Michael: Superstar642 at Hotmail?

Clayburn: Well, I had this one guy, his name was Mexican Dragon Killer.
That was his handle, and he would shorten it to M-D-K. I never
knew if he killed Mexican dragons, or if he was a dragon killer
who was Mexican. But he used that. He really owned it. He was,
like, that’s my name, and that’s my… And I’ve always just been
Clayburn. So, I’ve never needed to create my own name.

Michael: I wouldn’t say you’ve just been Clayburn.

Brittan: Yeah, right.

Michael: I’d say you’re awesome. So we have to wrap this up. Clayburn,
thanks for coming through.

Clayburn: Thanks for having me.

Michael: Thanks for eating this fantastic monstrosity with us.

Brittan: Bison.

Michael: It’s been awesome having you. And we will see you guys next
week on Lunch Break.

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