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Your Google Ranking Through The Roof In 6 Simple Steps

Not something I do very often, but I'm going to momentarily stray from the things I typically write about.

In case you haven't heard, the tech blogosphere is clamoring to report on the public firing of an AOL employee by CEO Tim Armstrong during a company-wide conference call aimed to boost morale following layoffs. This article contains some background, a transcript, the audio recording, and all the gritty details about what should be a non-story.

Here's why I believe it to be one of the most brilliant inbound marketing scams we've all come across.

1. Tim can't stop talking about Patch. "You should be using Patch...Patch is amazing...Patch feeds and clothes you....bow down to the great Patch!"

The whole time he was going on about it I was thinking, "WTF is Patch?" You already know I was all over Google searching for 'Patch' the moment the recording ended. I only got results when I refined the search to 'Patch AOL' though. This is relevant a bit later on...

2. Then there's this part of the article:
 (Tim Armstrong speaking) 'I don’t care what the press says, I don’t care if people leak information... I also want to clear up the fact that leaking information or anything around Patch isn’t going to bother me, doesn’t bother me. I’m not changing direction.
'When you hear about what we’re doing at Patch it’s very serious and it’s very forward-thinking and anything that happens around Patch isn’t going to change that direction.'
Several minutes after firing [Abel]Lenz, however, Armstrong indicated that he does, indeed, care about leaks. 
He said leaks were making Patch seem like 'loser-ville' in the press, according to Business Insider.
He said, 'That's why Abel was fired.'
'We can't have people that are in the locker room giving the game plan away.'

Once again, WTF is Patch? What leaks? What game plan? How come AOL still exists? These are the same questions everyone else is asking after reading the article and listening to the recording.

3. Abel Lenz, the 'victim', just happens to be - have been, whatever - Patch's creative director. Apparently he made it a habit to take pics of Patch people and Patch offices and then post them on twitter -wouldn't expect any less from a guy named Lenz. After professing to take the blame for anything that's not going well at Patch, including faulty coffee machines, Tim presumably sees Abel with his camera* and fires him on the spot. Later, Tim said it was a mistake.

*Note about the camera. Tim clearly said "Abel put that camera down". Now, maybe it's just me, but even if my phone takes pictures, I still call it a phone. It's possible Abel was not using a smartphone and that it was a real camera, but highly unlikely. It's also possible he was making it obvious he was taking a picture, but it begs the question nonetheless, why call it a camera so readily when in all likelihood it was a phone. Also, was he recording or just taking a picture (as he was known to do)? If Abel was fired for "recording a confidential meeting" as Tim says, how did Tim know at the time that he was in fact recording? Yes I'm delving into lots of circumstantial assumption, but something to think about as you imagine the boiler room that was that conference call.

4. After the firing, Abel was apparently pretty loose and nonchalant. He went to a bar and he also tweeted, "Go Patch!" Fine, so maybe he has other/better options and isn't too bothered, but still a bit much.

5. As I mentioned earlier, when I first Googled "Patch" I didn't find anything relevant...or maybe I didn't scroll down far enough to find it. The Patch I was looking for came up only when I refined the search by adding 'AOL'. Today, simply searching "Patch" is enough.

6. I'll just let this Google Trends screen capture speak for itself:

Let me zoom in on that a little bit:

Here is the link for more in-depth observation: Patch on Google Trends

What do I think about the outcome of this elaborate marketing hoax?

Abel Lenz is a very creative guy sitting on a comfy severance deal, or maybe now he's just got a nice consulting gig with Patch, or, I don't know, maybe he'll actually be re-hired. Either way, if he came up with this, he did his job very well. And Tim is a pretty cool CEO to go with it.

I could also be completely wrong. Maybe it's all like the story really says it is, but it won't change the fact that while five people knew about Patch a couple of days ago, hundreds (upon hundreds) have heard of it now.

One last thing, I'm very curious to hear how Romenesko got a copy of that recording? I'm sure he won't disclose it, but what's to say he wasn't 'in on it'? Who's to say he didn't read this book?

Anyway, just to make this somewhat Romania related, it reminded me of this: The Mysterious Case of The Suicide Attempt That Wasn't.


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