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Get Found: Be The Purple Cow

TORONTO -- Seth Godin, the celebrated author of Permission Marketing and other seminal marketing classics, knows a thing or two about getting attention.

In a filled-to-capacity presentation here at the Search Engine Strategies Canada conference, Godin said that search is no longer about shouting louder than others so that people will hear your message.

"Search didn't become a big business until the Yellow Pages, and the way you get found is you spend more money and then buy bigger ads," Godin said. "There are now more Web pages than people on Earth so your Web site is a needle in a wicked large haystack."

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a business that is becoming increasingly difficult, he said, as the search engines are getting better at finding what they are supposed to and getting tricked less and less.

So the key, said Godin, is to have winning ideas. "If everyone knows about your site, you win. What SEOs do for a living is spread ideas. You're in charge of getting people to know what it is you do."

But marketers need to understand that, if they want to grow, they have to reach people who don't think they have a problem, Godin argued. And there is so much noise that marketers are making even more noise.

"We are now over branding, over pushing and over yelling at people. The only reason why you're here is because your companies believe the Web is virgin territory and they can grow by yelling more. That worked five years ago but not anymore."

The Web is bad at yelling at strangers but great at talking to people who are listening, Godin said. And it makes it easy for people to tell their friends.

But the problem is that almost everything is good enough, and that means that if consumers are going to shop for something, they will just want the closest and cheapest item because they're busy.

Godin said sites won't win unless people think they're worth looking for. "What if you saw a purple cow on the side of the highway? You'd notice it. What a purple cow is, is remarkable; it's not new or improved. It just means it's something that is worth making a remark about."

And being remarkable starts with selling to people who are listening.

"It's a haystack; you're a needle. You can spend time sharpening your needle, but you're wasting your time," Godin said. "The new model is about, No. 1, being remarkable and, No. 2, telling a story about what you do to people who want to listen, and they will help spread the word."