The Rank Awakens: Living the Brand with Universal Life Church

Zac Heinrichs
The Temple of Yoda at the base of the Portent P

Or, “How I Became a Certified Jedi Knight”

Yay! Star Wars!

I can’t wait for The Force Awakens! It comes out in a couple weeks and I have totally bought into the hype. I know I’m not alone, even after a certain late-nineties, floppy-eared, backward knee-walking, CGI disappointment, who shall remain nameless. Now here’s the really fun part. A few days ago, 15 years after seeing A New Hope, I became a certified Jedi Knight. And I did it for professional reasons.

A universal marketing goal: The droids we’re looking for

Reach and retain more prospective customers, increase website traffic, increase conversions, and increase revenue. These universal goals for digital marketing should sound pretty familiar. And as an SEO strategist, there are a couple big things I need to help get you there. First, some future-proof SEO.

Future-proof means using foundational tactics (not gimmicks or loopholes), clearing a path for search engine bots and humans to find every valuable page of a website, connecting them to the relevant content they’re looking for, and growing a site’s authority honestly and organically. Future-proof SEO is as relevant years into the future as it was a long time ago and far, far away.

Secondly, I wantneed to know what makes your business amazing.

To do the best work possible in SEO, just as in every other facet of marketing, I need to have an understanding of my clients and their websites, but more so who they are and what sets them apart in their market. Businesses wantdeserve a team that understands their KPI goals, but also their mission. Someone who knows them well enough to connect them with that unique, “weird” audience that fits them so perfectly. To that end, I get to know each client’s website inside and out, but I also make it a point to understand what makes them unique and relevant to searchers.

So what is the Universal Life Church and why do they matter?

One of my SEO clients is the Universal Life Church Monastery, and if you think that you haven’t heard of them, you might also believe that Greedo shot first (of course that is ridiculous, everyone knows it was Han).

The ULC is a non-denominational, non-profit religious organization that provides free and legal ordinations online. They’ve even ordained the likes of Conan O’Brien and Kathy Griffin. There is a pretty good chance that someone you know has been ordained by them, or you have been to a wedding officiated by one of their ministers. Before I even knew who the ULC was, both of those things were true for me. They are everywhere.

Almost immediately, I found that there were a few things that I personally and emotionally latched onto with the ULC’s message & mission statement. Their core belief is that “we are all children of the same universe” and two of their tenets are to “do only that which is right” and the First Amendment’s freedom of religion: to each their own.

The Universal Life Church also doesn’t take themselves too seriously. They truly know who they are, and they know who their customers are. How cool is that?!

What a shame it would be if I tried to change their site, in the name of SEO, into something that no longer represents them or celebrates that message as loudly as possible. No, my mission is to understand and embrace what makes them awesome and to be their ambassador to a galaxy of people who are just their kind of weird and cool.

So, just to recap, the ULC provides free ordinations, Freedom of Religion, and… Jedi Knighthood?!?! Holy beek-monkeys!

Who wouldn’t want to be a Jedi Knight?!

Jedi Knight Certificate ULC Portent

Well, I did not see that coming! Maybe there were more midi-chlorians pulling me to the ULC than I realized… And then, the more I thought about it, the relationship between SEO and the Force got closer and closer.

  • SEOs attempt to influence the search universe around them through unseen ranking signals.
  • There are groups of people out there who believe SEO is either a hoax or has long since died off.
  • Some use their skills honestly, only for knowledge and defense, while others use the Force for aggression and personal gain, leading them to the dark side.
  • Those who are on the side of good tirelessly work to serve others and seek to improve themselves through constant training.

So, yeah, now I’m a certified Jedi Knight (along with the entire Portent SEO department & ULC team here). It just made sense to me. No midi-chlorian blood test required. No need to pass through the ranks of Youngling and Padawan. Straight on to Jedi!

R2-D2 marketing (Weird, Useful, Significant)

At Portent, we talk a lot about the idea that marketing should be weird, useful, and significant. Yep, it’s literally on the home page.

When I say weird, I don’t mean the drummer in the Cantina band. I’m talking about holding out an authentic and unique piece of yourself and your brand, and flying that Rebel flag for any like-minded souls to rally around.

For useful, I’m talking R2-D2 useful. Even though he was built for just starship repair, using only those skills and knowledge, the little guy just kept showing up to be an incredible help, whenever and wherever he could.

Significance is all about showing up, over and over, until you’re an irreplaceable partner to your customers, prospects, and industry.  R2 quietly went from a very out-of-place astromech, to one of the most amazing, indispensable sidekicks in history. We could all learn a little something.

I know that every company is unique, occupying its own galaxy in the middle of a universe of intersecting values and audiences. But by getting to know and actually understand my clients and what makes them remarkable and important, I get to live their brand along with them. And that makes me 100 times better at both telling their story and meeting their goals.

May the Force, and marketing success, be with you.

Postscript:  I just got back from Disneyland, where it has been declared the “Season of the Force.” You should totally go. Also, don’t worry, I bought my kids the requisite BB-8 water bottles, and rode the revamped Hyperspace Mountain. Twice.

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