Search Methodologies – Theme

THEME Search Methodologies   Theme

  • Tribes
  • Hook
  • Engaging content
  • Marketing
  • Evaluation

Good for:

  • Organisations needing to appeal to different target markets
  • Organisations looking to drive conversions and sales
  • Organisations without a great depth of content
  • Organisations looking to increase traffic
  • Organisations looking to attract links


The first stage is to identify who your tribes are, a term first coined by Marketing God, Seth Godin, in his book Tribes. This is a bit like identifying your publics or stakeholders in PR. They are most likely to be the different segments of your target market, but they may also be non-customer groups like social media groups and industry websites (see the integrated search model CAPER for more information).

Once you have segmented your markets, you need to build up a three dimensional picture of each group and the key theme connecting them. This is most likely to be based on their main interest. For example a folding table company’s tribes may consist of “schools”, “scout groups” and “campers”.

Think about what types of media each group gets exposed to. What media are they participating in? What media are they creating? Where do they spend their time? What brands do they love/hate? What would happen if you were to spend a day in their lives? What brands, books, TV, websites, magazines, associations, lifestyle groups, social networks, blogs, papers, circles of friends, employer notice boards / intranets, forums, businesses and people do they connect with? Which do they trust?

Now, you understand the differences between each tribe, you’ll see that they’re likely to use different keywords to search for the same product:

e.g. “Folding school furniture”, “Folding tables”, “camping tables” Therefore it is imperative that your content is segmented in this way to ensure each tribe’s search is optimised for. Otherwise you won’t receive the visits. Due to its immediate nature, PPC is an excellent way of appearing quickly in the search results for “tribe level terms”, as well as “product level” and “category level” terms.

Use existing customer research to fill in the gaps. What brands they may be searching for, which websites they will go to for advice, what other products they buy that relate to your product but are not a direct competitor. For example, “campers” will also be searching for “tents”; could participate on festival forums or could be members of a Caravan Club.


What key benefit can you offer to this specific group that they’re going to be interested in? The purpose of this step is to develop a proposition that can be applied across different online channels including natural SEO and PPC, plus social media, online PR, viral and email marketing initiatives This may or may not be a sales message, although it’s far more likely to succeed if it’s not selling anything but offering a genuine benefit to that group, unless your differentiator is price, then “cheap” and “free” are very powerful words to include.

What problems are each group trying to resolve, what solutions are they looking for to help them? You need to cut through the clutter.

The best place to start is to work out what the no. 1 most important benefit is to each segment. What are the potential angles, the hooks? What is the one proposition that they couldn’t refuse? What would they be actively surfing for? What question would they ask their Twitter network? What question would they post on Yahoo Answers? What is the ultimate reason the tribe would choose the service/product? The answer is normally the most obvious.

So for our “campers” tribe, “lightweight” is likely to be the killer hook, whereas for “schools”, “robust” is likely to be more important as they will be buying lots of tables, which will have a lot of use and need to support a lot of students across the long term. The “lightweight” proposition may lead them to think the product is flimsy, not the message that is going to secure a purchase from this market.

Engaging Content

Once you know what kind of offer is going to be of interest to your tribes, the 3rd step is all about creating a great piece of content that encapsulates the idea.

The content might be a blog post, podcast, survey, press release, article, widget, video, special offer, event, e-book, white paper, guide, tool, calculator, game, giveaway, resource centre or simply a new page on your website.

The content should be optimised for your relevant top keywords for natural search purposes and be designed for sharing and bookmarking, with the ultimate goals of generating traffic; back links and goal conversions.

Put yourself in the shoes of each tribe and think if I were to get free access to a valuable piece of information, exclusive offer, useful tool or guide, what would I want more than anything else in the world?

If you get stuck, ask yourself how can you put a new spin on an old classic? Creating content, an event or a stunt is all about creating value. It could be in the form of a glossary, how-to videos, expert opinion, exclusive research, e-learning, top 10 guides, latest news, technical specification documents, online discount or even a webinar.

For our campers we might create a piece of content to help epitomise lightweight by producing a “Top 10 Lightest Camping Essentials You Can’t Live Without”. For our schools tribe, a “Bursar’s Guide to Selecting School Supplies That Will Last” would be more appropriate. Always sanity check your ideas by asking how the audience will react to it. Will they link to it, share it, bookmark it, tweet it or blog about it? If you think the answer is yes then it’s all good, if it’s a no then let that idea go!

Integrated search takes SEO and then draws on the notions of traditional PR stunts, sales promotion and direct marketing and throws them into the mix with newer digital marketing ideas of link bait and viral marketing.

Marketing (truly integrated)

This stage is crucial to the success of the campaign, once you’ve developed your content where’s the best place to promote it? You may decide to publish it to your website to attract natural search traffic and support this initially with a PPC campaign to attract a certain volume of traffic to jumpstart the social networking effect.

Alternatively the content might be more appropriate to syndicate to PR news wires; approach bloggers with or serialise in snippets via Twitter. Timing is everything and PPC, affiliate marketing and email marketing can be used to kick-start seasonal content offerings. Use the tribes stage, where you identified where each tribe is likely to be online, to decide how to promote it.

This stage is the ultimate in integrated marketing, use everything you have. Add content to the bottom of your email sign-offs; promote it on your homepage; ask appropriate affiliate partners to add a link to it; run paid search campaigns; tweet the link; use it as an incentive in your next email campaign; upload it on to key platforms your tribes can be found on; use it to build online banner ad campaigns with; reference it in your next blog post; mention it in your next press release or even write one especially for it.


As with any marketing campaign, you’re going to need to find a way of assessing the success of your campaign. Choose a maximum of 1 or 2 key performance indicators (KPIs) for each campaign. In total the effects of your integrated campaign should be designed to deliver a mixture of different results including links in; subscriptions; traffic from search engines and referrers; goal conversions and sales.

Together, these different elements support an amplification effect to ultimately improve search engine positioning for your top keywords; help your website to appear in universal search results and improve your websites overall reputation, further driving more relevant traffic and goal conversions. All whilst supporting your other marketing spends. Using the THEME model is the self-fulfilling prophecy which promotes your online karma.