Forsman & Bodenfors and Svenska Kyrkan Don’t Know Google

Posted · 58 Comments

If they only knew what a great idea they really had! Forsman & Bodenfors just came up with a new site for Svenska Kyrkan (The Church of Sweden) where you can submit your prayer to the site. The prayer is then keyworded on the site so that you can find other prayers on the same topic.

What makes this idea so great is that it suddenly makes The Church of Sweden relevant for a vast number of current topics like swine flu or economic crisis. Just like the church is relevant across a broad spectrum of topics in real life, it becomes equally relevant online. It also produces thousands of pages with relevant cross links. Brilliant.

Unfortunately this is also where the brilliance ends and it becomes apparent that Forsman & Bodenfors haven’t understood what a great idea they really had. Why is that? Well – much of the power of this idea, say a potential 20-50% of visits to the site, comes from the fact that the church becomes a relevant hit on Google for so many different topics. Or would have become just that, if they would have been at all visible to Google. And they aren’t, simply because F&B don’t know Google. Forsman & Bodenfors have chosen Flash as their technology for this campaign, which in it’s standard form isn’t indexable by Google. And they haven’t done any of the standard workarounds to make it so. To Google, this looks like thousands of identical and uninteresting pages with different names. Google looks at it, scratches it’s head, and throws all of them in the garbage without indexing anything. Let alone indexing on a wide variety of topics.

Svenska Kyrkan 1

You can see above what the site looks like. You can see the selected prayer in the middle with keywords in different colors and the share buttons. Pretty, but utterly useless from a Google perspective. Because if you take a look at how Google sees, this is what Google sees:

Svenska Kyrkan be på Google

Google sees three pages instead of the potential thousands. One containing the main page containing the Flash file, the Flash file itself described with this beautiful text: txt Header instructions txt1 txt2 txt3 txt4 Header instructions txt Header instructions txt txt Lorem ipsum. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, …”, and the fail page “the prayer doesn’t exist”.

In plain English this is a complete failure, and an awesome display of the problem most agencies are facing – they are smart, but they live in the past.

Besides the Google perspective, there is also the perspective of user behavior. Users want intuitive interaction. It is not intuitive to use an embed-code to embed text. For video, there is a purpose for the embed code, but for text? No. People naturally want to be able to copy and paste the text directly, preferably with links and colors and everything. That way we also get relevant links all over the web linking back to the Church of Sweden site on relevant topics. THAT would have been brilliant.

Conclusion – This is really an excellent idea, but the excellence is there by mistake, and is not taken advantage of at all simply because of lacking knowledge of basic SEO. It’s really sad. Especially since it would have been so easy to solve by using DHTML or even underlying indexable content.

One thing puzzled me though. How could something like this receive thousands of entries? Truly a mystery. At least until I switched on the television in my hotel room and saw television commercials for the internet campaign! Advertising for… advertising! What on earth?! To get traffic to the site you try to buy this traffic with television dollars?! A site like this one should get at least 20-50% of its traffic via search, which would have been free, self regenerating, and incredibly easy to achieve.

Suggestion – (Hi friends at F&B, I know you’re reading this and you know I love you, but I HAD to write this, since it’s such a great example to learn from. Please accept my free advice here as a return favor).

What if you would have used existing and established services such as Facebook status updates and Twitter posts (#whatever) to complement your web interface as a way to input prayers?  And an email adress (spam filtered of course) and an SMS-service (free of course)[edit: they have SMS-input]? What if your output of the prayers would have been much more flexible, mashable, widgetized and projected at the churches of Stockholm? Or whatever. Make it bigger. Give it presence.

But more than anything – learn SEO. Optimize that thing! Optimize it! Because really, what you came up with, apparently without realizing it, was a really good idea! You have great brains! But by implementing it the way you did, you created a bomb without a fuse.
For some reason, this image comes to mind. ;-)


Yeah, we're down with social media.

[Edit: Article about the site in Swedish: ]

58 Responses to "Forsman & Bodenfors and Svenska Kyrkan Don’t Know Google"
  1. Anton says:

    Great article! Yes, they had the opportunity to get a long tail of very good pages on their site and they made it invisible for Google. What a traditional problem =)

  2. Hedgehogg says:

    In what way is this idea brilliant? In what way “is the church relevant across a broad spectrum of topics in real life”?

  3. Walter, spot on as we talked about it yesterday.

    Good you mention DHTML. Back in the days one made amazing interfaces based on DHTML but then many creatives forgot about it in favour of flash. I guess people in general are lazy because it’s so much easier to create flash-interfaces. For this campaign obviously it would have been good to use either DHTML (to keep the positive user experience) or at least to have basic html-pages behind the flash-interface in order to support indexing in search engines.

    Another thing I came to think about with this campaign. Obviously it’s a branding campaign but why should you not help the visitor to take further actions if X percent of them would like to deepen their newly found relation to the Swedish church? To separate branding campaigns from “sale” campaigns is not relevant in digital channels. In the old days you maybe had to run a branding campaign on TV and the you ran a sales campaing in store or by direct media. But hey, in digital channels business and communications connect and merge like in no other channels. It’s easy to present an alternative action for the visitors without diminish the branding effort. It’s about traffic generation and conversion to reach relevant KPIs.

    So in all, the idea is absolutely brilliant but would have benefit from knowledge in:
    – SEO
    – Traffic generation
    – User behaviour
    – Conversion and lead generation
    – How choosing the right technoklogy can reinforce the core idea

    Creativity + knowledge is king!

  4. Lena says:

    Bara deras sida tar hundra ar att ladda (2min in pa snabb uppkoppling och ser fortfarande bara loggan och snurran). Inte sa proffsigt?

  5. Spot on. This is a very good point, and one that will go straight into my presentations.
    Looking forward to sitting down for another cup of coffee soon!


  6. I’ll answer your last question first. The church is relevant across a broad spectrum of topics in real life because the entire idea of the church (and other religions) is to help people handle the unknown. In my humble opinion of course. And because the unknown is the foundation for everything (by definition because we don’t know the foundation for everything at this point) any belief system, be it religion, agnosticism, or atheism, will affect everything in life. That is – will affect a broad spectrum of topics.

    To answer the first question, this is a great campaign because it creates thousands of pages all cross-linked and relevant on different topics, and also linked to from the outside on relevant topics, in turn creating relevance for the church across a broad spectrum of topics, just like in real life. This in turn raises awareness and credibility for the church, which is good for their brand. Or… well… this would have happened, hadn’t they been invisible.

  7. Yep. Thanks Anton. Traditional would be the word. :-)

  8. Anton says:

    Btw, is a great example of a cool site with nice design that not containing any flash at all. I am very impressed of that!

    “and the technologies behind are HTML, Rails, jQuery and SoundManager 2.”

  9. Good that you write about this Walter. These kind of campaign sites happens so often that I don’t even bother anymore, because when it comes to “flashy flashy” agencys it’s more like a rule that the sites won’t get indexed.

    Two months later the customer calls people like me and ask: “Why are we not visible on Google?”

    If you want to look at a another Flash example with almost no Search Engine Visibility you can look at:

  10. Good and relevant article.

  11. Andreas says:

    I hate to be picky but atheism is not a belief system. It is a lack thereof.

    I would personally recommend Svenska Kyrkan an AJAX-based realtime interface with better tags/search functions, perhaps with an XML/RSS feed. This type of information-heavy service needs (besides better SEO) excellent filter- and and sharing capabilities.

  12. Good post, these facts are widely unknown in the advertising world but perhaps thats not a bad thing? A broader awareness of the basic concepts is a definitive must but in this case at this time looking at how the agency/producer relationships function in general the blame should probably be placed on the producer.

    Advertising agencies should stick to coming up with great ideas instead of knowing every last nut and bolt of how things are built. Knowing every last bit down to what a http request contains can some times be empowering but it doesn’t necessarily make you more creative.

    Lastly, Google is working on the problem you described:

  13. Therese says:

    Great post Walter!

    Ever heard of They had this idea two/three years ago… FYI you know… Love the ad though.

  14. @ Fredrik Lindersson, I think you’re wrong. It’s very old fashioned to separate “agencies” from “producers”. To be a greate creative (or CD if you would like) you have to know your arena, your context, what possibilities there are. If not, your idea will suck in the end. To think that you still in 2009 can be happy about just being a “marketing guy” that never would touch anything spelled technology doesn’t work. Instead you must embrace it. Bury old truth, be curious and ready to learn and do things in another way than you did yesterday.
    BTW, I like Söderhavet :)

  15. @Fredrik Lindersson, I have to agree with Björn here. It’s crucial to know how the web works at the strategic level and keep this in mind throughout. Adding this at the production level is way to far out in the extremities of the brand strategy body.

    We are in fact working on a project right now where consumer behavior regarding search is at the very core of the strategy, simply because such a large part of this particular client’s business and brand building is drawn in from search. All activities carried out in every channel, are working to float the brand upwards on as many potent searches as possible. This is also a long term investment in building “Google Equity”, and one the leads to conversion.

    So, no. Strategic agencies need to understand search. Basta.

    Thanks for commenting!

  16. Matthieu says:

    I would never have accepted to work on that project, for ethical reasons, just like i’d never work with vänsterpartiet or SD.

    But it would be interesting to analyze the new site’s traffic, how many come from google search or such, and see how much the widgets-buttons on the site are used to spread the message.
    An effective SEO is in many ways similar to free advertising, when the site suddenly pops up among the search results, and it is certainly relevant for Svenska Kyrkan, since a part of their business idea is to catch people off-guard and in moments of desperation or doubt.

    FB missed something there. It is chocking since they are considered one of the best agencies.

  17. Matthieu says:

    I just looked: the upstream site for more than 60% of’s visitors is google. This confirms the relevance of Walter’s critic.

  18. everybody says:

    Okay… so what else is new? That Walter Naeslund is a big fake? No, definitely not that.

  19. Matthieu says:

    “Change your heart
    Look around you
    Change your heart
    It will astound you
    I need your loving like the sunshine
    And everybody’s got to learn sometime
    Everybody’s got to learn sometime
    Everybody’s got to learn sometime”

    – The Korgis

  20. markus ahlm says:

    Klart spännande läsning. Otroligt att de dyrköpta läxorna från reklamfilmens svenska utveckling upprepar sig även digitalt….om än i ngt annan form.

  21. @markus ahlm
    vore klart intressant om du ville berätta lite mer om det eller posta en länk till mer läsning. alltid kul att kunna jämföra med historien. Nyfiken!

  22. Kul att höra från dig Markus! Jag säger som Björn – berätta mer!

    (Och kom och ät ostron med mig imorgon om andan faller på)

  23. @Björn @Walter my choice of words and my written english might not be to the point and a bit rusty. I was however commenting on the reality I meet on a daily basis (since whenever advertising agencies stopped ignoring online) and what one might hope possible and happening in a short term perspective. The future on the other hand is an entirely different subject and a lot more fun to to ponder.

    I guess one of the reasons I commented is that while F&B might have errored in this case and failed to grasp the strategic points you pointed out they are actually pretty savvy when it comes to online compared to a lot of other big name advertising agencies in Sweden. Looking for faults in online campaigns conceived by advertising agencies is currently like shooting fish in a barrel. My point being that your choice of target just smells a bit like linkbait to me. ;-)

  24. Matthieu says:

    Linkbait? for writing about F&B? no way Jose. It’s perfectly normal that because of their position, F&B and its works are more under scrutiny that anybody else in Sweden.
    Being savvy online is one thing, but ignoring something as a proper Google indexing is a serious miss, especially for a customer like Svenska Kyrkan and with such a good campaign idea (religion is after all an essentially social thing).
    And why the hell (oops!) should advertising agencies be excused for misses that are at the strategic level? They have the damn (oj!) responsability for the whole project, to do the best job for their customer. F&B is a giant, so is their customer. Couldn’t they afford someone with the expertise? So yes, maybe it’s an attitude issue, “we are super creatives, don’t bother us with your technical sh*t”. Like it’s Google’s fault and btw they’re fixing it. No way. Bad attitude.

  25. Leon says:

    Bra post, tack!

  26. Linkbait? Well, in the sense that it is interesting for people to read about for a few reasons. I don’t feel, however, that it is the common bait n’ switch of “10 best social media strategies” or whatever.

    Here is a sample of the reasons why this is an interesting case:
    This is interesting because (1) this is an agency which has held a top ranking among digital agencies globally, and that (2) their campaign idea is actually perfect for building Google Equity (or, well, could have been), and that (3) it’s apparent that this is not a design or budget decision, but one made because of poor understanding of the digital realm (in which they have held a highly ranked position, see (1)).

    Writing a similar article about some agency like Penn & Present in Södertälje would perhaps not tickle the same nerve, because they are not making any claims to be communications experts on that level.

    Shooting fish in a barrel? Perhaps. But if nobody yells that the emperor is not wearing any clothes, he can just keep walking as he were. I want us all to evolve and reclaim the position of being a top nation in the digital realm.

    Thanks again for joining the discussion!

  27. I fully agree with your latest comment. Linkbaiting is not necessarily a negative term or practice. Why not write “The 10 most common errors advertising agencies make online”? I for one would enjoy reading such a post.

  28. Micke says:

    Nice post.
    Who said that adagencies should know anything about google, isn’t it enough that they are creative :-)
    I mean is google really that important, hehe

    No, but seriously, today all online campaign ought to start with search in mind! And unfortunately, F&B isn’t the only agency lacking that competence…there is work to be done.

  29. Tomas says:

    Maby off topic but as a pondering response to Andreas note that Atheism isn’t a belief system.
    Isn’t the belief of nothing to believe in by itself a belief system.
    In other words, if you believe that there is nothong to belive in you still belive in that fact and thus makes it a belief system or am i utterly wrong in this opinion?

  30. Olle says:

    Regarding the discussion on agencies being about ideas or actually grasping the whole picture. It’s not one way or the other; they all have to make a concious decision. Either you source everything inhouse, which means techies and digital strategiests who get the whole thing. Or you network and use partners who can, indeed, be involved after a conceptual idea starts to shape. But not much later, because technology and knowledge thereof helps produce ideas.

    this particualar example is pretty embarrassing for an agency such as F&B.

    And being web savy doesn’t mean your web savy. Producing great flashy campaign sites by way of production companies with green screens is one thing. Understanding data, indexing, search engines, accessability etc – is another.

  31. Olle says:

    Not to be a smart ass, but belief system is not the same as a belief or believing. Atheism is about the absense of the “system”, and that system being about a god or higher power.

  32. Tomas says:

    Isn’t the system in Atheism about beliving in not beliving in a higher power? Or does a system require rules and rituals or s you may call it a higher power, as it may be in the christian belief system.

    Well maby i misunderstood or am wrong but still it’s a speculation.

  33. Matthieu says:

    Tomas, i encourage you to read Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”, “Illusionen om Gud” på svenska.

  34. Tomas says:

    Jag tackar för tipset, och skall ge mig i kast med den.
    Kugghjulen började snurra här hos mig och det blev en hel del intressanta funderingar redan av frågan om Ateismen och jag uppskattar diskussionen därför fortsätter mina kommentarer även om de är lite “off track” och kanske skall föras på annan plats än här, men…

    Jag kan fortfarande inte släppa att Ateism ändå är ett “system of faith”.
    Jag skulle kanske behöva en definition av ett tros system för att kunna gå vidare i mina tankar.
    Det här hittade jag på nätet när jag googlade ateism:

    …Ateism kan också vara en beskrivande term för ett religiöst eller filosofiskt system, som saknar egentlig gudsföreställning, exempelvis vissa former av Buddhism…

    Så kan man då inte säga att Ateism kan vara både ett religiöst system och avsaknaden av ett sådant?

  35. Tomas says:

    Den lilla texten är hämtad från följande text i sin helhet som mycket väl också nämner Ateism som något som inte är ett religöst system:

    Ateism (ickegudstro) betecknar uppfattningar som saknar tro på att gudar och andra övernaturliga väsen existerar. Ateism innefattar ofta, men inte nödvändigtvis, ett aktivt avståndstagande från religiös tro och kult, vilka betraktas som vidskepelse. Ateism kan också vara en beskrivande term för ett religiöst eller filosofiskt system, som saknar egentlig gudsföreställning, exempelvis vissa former av Buddhism.

    Det finns visst också något som heter Kristen Ateism…

  36. Sven Johansen says:

    It seems that sort of war is going on between Walter and Vikingexpedia on Svenska Kyrkan.

  37. Niklas says:

    Bra och relevant inlägg!

    En sak som förbluffar mig är att FB och FI (Fantasy Interactive) precis har släppt Alkoholprofilen, ett enkelt alkoholkonsumtionstest, i en ruskigt vass jQuery-lösning. Två byråer som vanligtvis jobbar mycket med Flash har valt att helt byta spår i ett sammanhang som känns väldigt lämpat för just Flash.

    För övrigt har flera av världens vassaste webbinriktade reklambyråer (Great Works, Farfar, Big Spaceship mfl.) valt att göra om sina egna sajter helt utan Flash och väldigt “bloggigt”. Känns som att de flesta börjar förstå vart nätet är på väg.

  38. Ja, alla tre som du nämner har ju WordPress-bloggar med olika themes. Precis som jag. Men vad har Forsman?

  39. Ur nåt sorts reputation-perspektiv är det intressant att FB inte är här och förklarar hur de tänkte. Men det kanske inte är så reklambyråer jobbar med varumärkesvård.

  40. Gillar artikeln och diskussionen.
    Den här typen av sajter som blir sågade här är så fixerade vid presentationen, sättet att berätta visuellt. Det är också det som jag alltid förknippat med den sortens reklambyråer. Det ska va en bra IDÉ & snyggt genomfört. Men som du beskriver så bra, det saknas kunskap om hur google fungerar och villket värde google kan ge tillbaka.

    Nu var det Lowe Brindfors som sa det men det kunde lika gärna vara Formsman & Bodenfors, det visar ju på någon sorts avståndstagande: “tänk på det nästa gång ni ska korskoppla twitter med SoundCloud med Facebook med en blogg och lansera allt på Youtube”.

    Vi har ju annars numera det fina utrycket gammelmedia.

  41. Mats Utberg says:

    Hi, Johan/Walter! Your old teacher from Berghs here. You say that an agency in Södertälje wouldn’t attract the same buzz “because they are not making any claims to be communications experts on that level.” As you know, I used to worked within the F&B family, and I just want to point out one “secret” behind F&B’s success; they never make any claims at all, they let the work and the results speak. Show, don’t tell. The same goes for companies & entities like Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Lowe Brindfors or FC Barcelona. Isn’t the real fact that you cannot create that buzz with out a agency household name like Forsman & Bodenfors? A brand that attracts interest and helps you boost your message?

  42. Hey Mats! Good to see you here.

    I think anyone sending invoices for several million for their advice are making quite a big claim by that act alone.

    And I do agree that the” show don’t tell”-way of doing things is superior. It does however require actually doing something. Something good, that is.

    Thanks for commenting!

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About the Blog

This blog is written by Walter Naeslund and has been around since 2007. The blog is about the journey of starting an advertising agency and a sneak peek behind the scenes of what goes on at the Honesty HQ in SoFo, Södermalm. It is also a blog about communication & technology. The blog has gathered almost a thousand posts over the years with several longer and shorter breaks. Welcome and enjoy.
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