Sometimes it's tricky to wrap your head around SEO. Part of my job is explaining to lawyers how SEO works, how to measure the effectiveness, and also to set proper expectations about what it's going to take in order to achieve success with SEO in the long term. One of the best analogies I've come across is comparing SEO to getting into shape.
No Magic Diet Pills
Magic diet pills don't exist. Sure, there are supplements out there that if taken with a balanced diet and exercise plan can help with the process of losing weight and getting into shape. But no shortcuts exist that allow you to sit on the couch, pound Ben & Jerry's and expect to get into peak physical condition. SEO isn't so different. There are no "magic pills" or short-cuts. Trying to "trick Google" with low cost, spammy strategies might provide short-term results here and there, but eventually it isn't going to work anymore. If you are looking to actually get your online marketing strategy "into shape", you're gong to have to lead a "healthy online lifestyle".
A Healthy "Online Lifestyle"
I believe that most people are aware of the basic tenets of getting into shape (even if many people don't practice them). One needs to eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise regularly. This can be achieved in many different ways, but the basic premise is the same. A key point here is that it is a lifestyle. It's not something you do for 2 weeks and then you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor in perpetuity. If you have high blood pressure and are 80 pounds overweight, eating healthy and running for 2 weeks isn't going to fix the problem. You are going to have to make lifestyle changes so that you are eating right and exercising on a regular basis over an extended period of time. Only then will you be able to make and sustain improvements with your overall health. An SEO campaign isn't so different. It requires an analysis of the firm's specific goals and resources available, a design of an SEO strategy, and consistent execution of that strategy over time. Even with this, it will still take time to see the full results of your efforts. However, once you put in the work to build a "healthy online lifestyle" you will be able sustain the results more easily and have access to opportunities that others who have not put in the effort, will not.
Measuring Your Progress
People tend to fixate on certain metrics when they are getting into shape that most likely are not telling the whole story. Usually it takes the form of obsessing over their weight. While this is a valid metric that no doubt has relevance, it can be misleading. For instance, muscle tissue is much more dense than fat tissue. Because it is more dense, a pound of muscle occupies less space than a pound of fat. As a result, if you are losing fat but gaining muscle, you could maintain a similar body weight but look thinner and have clothes that fit better. In addition, there are plenty of other metrics you should be taking note of while getting into shape:
- Do you have more energy?
- Can you exercise harder over a longer period of time?
- Is your blood pressure improved?
- Did your resting heart rate go down?
- Do you recover faster?
- And on and on....
SEO has the same issue. People are obsessed with rankings the same way people are obsessed with weight. Does the metric have relevance? Yes. However, it doesn't tell the whole story. Are you looking at other key performance indicators such as:
- Has your traffic increased?
- Has social sharing of your content improved?
- Did you gain more blog subscribers?
- Did the relevance of your search traffic improve?
- Did you increase phone calls and form fills?
- Did your new cases from the web increase?
- Is revenue at the firm up?
- And on and on.....
The point is that to obsess over one metric is to miss the bigger picture of improvement. You need to look at the performance of your campaign from many angles to understand how your "online health" is progressing.
Photo by jonclegg