Applying the Pixar Pitch to Modern SEO

Toy Story Jessie cosplayer image
I recently listened to Daniel H. Pink’s To Sell is Human (having previously listened to the also excellent Start With Why), which is a great book if you don’t particularly like sales but have to do it (e.g. you’re a freelancer/consultant).

One part of the book introduces the concept of the Pixar Pitch, which was thought up by former Pixar employee Emma Coates. It is so simple it’s beautiful. It goes like this:

  1. Once upon a time there was ___.
  2. Every day, ___.
  3. One day ___.
  4. Because of that, ___.
  5. Because of that, ___.
  6. Until finally ___.

The idea is that every Pixar story is told in this way, in six simple steps – and that’s why their storytelling is so effective. In the book (and this blog post), Finding Nemo is used as an example:

  1. Once upon a time there was… a widowed fish, named Marlin, who was extremely protective of his only son, Nemo.
  2. Every day, … Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away.
  3. One day… in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water.
  4. Because of that… he is captured by a diver and ends up in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney.
  5. Because of that… Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way.
  6. Until finally… Marlin and Nemo find each other, reunite and learn that love depends on trust.

Oh, spoiler alert…? Sorry! Moving on…

I wondered if this formula could be applied to what I’d call ‘modern SEO’ – i.e. a collaborative approach (something that I preach at MOM, especially on the link building side of things) in the current post-Penguin, content-focused, let’s-break-down-the-silos digital marketing climate…

And I was delighted to see that it can:

  1. Once upon a time there was… SEO, the process of boosting a website’s rankings in organic search.
  2. Every day, …SEOs beavered away in their separate agency/department, adding keywords to a website and building links to it, separate to everything else that was going on.
  3. One day… Google worked on fine-tuning their algorithm, by adding various algorithm updates – such as Panda and Penguin – to ensure that fewer people would be able to succeed by ‘over-cooking’ things or outright spamming.
  4. Because of that… SEOs had to change the way that they worked, taking a more natural, holistic approach aligned with a business’ other marketing activities (and even their more general business activities).
  5. Because of that… SEOs began to collaborate with and complement other agencies/departments much more effectively, such as content, PR, social media and web design/development.
  6. Until finally… the websites that succeeded the most were those that conducted SEO naturally and more integrated with all other elements of the business’ offering.

The above might need a bit of work (I’m sure that I’ll tinker away at it over the coming weeks and months), but you get the gist …

The idea is that if you’re selling the idea of a different approach to SEO to a prospective client, then this method might be able to help with the process. I still meet with prospects who think that the old-fashioned mindset still applies: quantity vs. quality in link building; that you don’t need to do content properly; that you can just spam and that’s it; and so on. By giving it a simplistic Pixar storytelling-style spin, I’m hoping that it’ll help clients to understand where SEO has come from and where Google (and therefore SEO) is headed now and into the future.

Similarly, the Pixar Pitch could be applied to specialisms within SEO: there’s no reason why you couldn’t apply it to on-site SEO (old-school keyword density vs. more natural writing), content marketing (article spinning vs. big/epic content), or link building (any old spam vs. naturally acquired inbound links).

What do you think of the Pixar Pitch? Have you used it? How would you apply it? Let me know in the comments below or via Twitter.

[Toy Story Jessie cosplayer image credit – Gage Skidmore]

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