8 Lessons SEO’s Can Learn From The U.S. Military

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In honor of the U.S. Military, I’ve borrowed some common-sense rules from military doctrine and applied them to search engine optimization for both educational and entertainment value. Hopefully, it will help improve your SEO efforts while also acknowledging the organizational wisdom of our military.

1. Clarity of purpose. One of the basic rules of military operations is to have a single, over-arching goal that frames every action. This helps with decision making, keeps troops motivated, and acts as a benchmark for measuring achievement. In SEO, the same rule applies: Everyone is happier and more efficient when the goals are clear.

2. Basic training for everyone. Each and every member of the military attends basic training and learns basic combat and survival skills. The funny thing is, most members of the military don’t go into combat…yet they get this training anyways. The reason: In addition to being great exercise and teaching self-discipline, sacrifice, loyalty, and more, basic training helps everyone understand the most essential military tasks.

In SEO, imagine how much easier your job would be if every client understood the principles of search engine rankings and the importance of content and links. Teaching our clients and their staff SEO basics can be challenging, but it makes meeting our goals a little easier.

3. Review every action. After action reviews (AARs) are conducted at every level of the military—from squad leaders to the joint chiefs. The purpose of an AAR is to review the goal(s) of a specific action, discuss what actually happened, reflect on what can be learned, and evaluate how we can improve our process. In SEO, you can improve your processes by conducting an AAR of every link-building effort.

4. Specialization is the key to a big victory. While there are super-human military commandos who take on big missions all by themselves, most members of the armed forces specialize in one very specific task. Put another way – Rambo exists in the movies, not in real life.

When your SEO mission target is a competitive term, it’s best to break SEO tasks into chunks and then employ specialists to complete each task. This allows you to maintain quality while also working on a large scale.

5. Search engine rankings are just the tip of the spear. A common military analogy is that combat troops are at the tip of a very long spear, and that support troops are both the strength and length of the spear. The point is that soldiers who fight at the front lines are no more important than the soldiers who drive fuel trucks, do laundry, etc.

SEOs must remember that web designers, developers, content writers, video editors, etc. are important to the success of any SEO campaign. All jobs matter when it comes to achieving top rankings.

These last three lessons are one-liners from the famous Murphy’s Laws of Combat.

6. If it’s stupid but it works, it’s not stupid. Many SEO experts (myself included) would agree that emailing hundreds of indiscriminate link exchange requests is stupid. However, I suspect that this stupid link-building tactic works because I get these emails all the time. I’m not saying that we should start spamming webmasters, but it never hurts to reconsider “stupid” ideas.

7. The important things are always simple, and the simple things are always hard. I like to tell new clients that success in SEO is really pretty simple: create great content and then get people to link to it. The hard part is doing it.

8. If the enemy is within range, so are you. One of the things I love about SEO is that, given enough time and resources, most search engine rankings are up for grabs. As a result, while we’re working on ranking a client website for a valuable term, there’s a good chance another SEO expert is attacking your client’s top terms right now. Therefore, SEO is an ongoing task.

Fortunately for me, there is one key difference between being an SEO and a member of the US military – I never put my life on the line for my job. Let’s take a moment to consider the sacrifices made by members of the military and remember this final military adage: Freedom isn’t free.

Post image by Randy Son Of Robert

Jason Lancaster

Jason Lancaster

Jason Lancaster is President of Spork Marketing, a Denver Internet marketing company specializing in search engine optimization, marketing, and web design.
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