SEO & Physical Fitness Metaphors

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I’ve been speaking to a lot of people lately about the basics of SEO and I find myself using “Physical Fitness” as a metaphor to help people understand some the basic concepts and I thought it would be fun to share.

It’s usually not a Set-it-&-forget-it proposition:

Most people understand that you can’t just go to the gym once and then assume you’ll be Fit-for-life. You need to take consistent action over a long period of time. Same with SEO. You usually can’t just change one or two things on your website and expect it to rocket up to the top of the SERPS and stay there. You usually need to build content and links over a long period of time.

You only get out of it what you put into it:

Some people who are new to SEO want to test the waters before committing to an ongoing campaign. “What is the smallest SEO project we can do to see if works or not? We’ll measure the impact from the tiny SEO project and then use it to forecast the success of a larger project.”

I guess you could ask a physical trainer “What is the absolute least amount of diet & exercise I can do to see if it’s going to work or not? I’ll do the absolute minimum and then use the outcome of that to judge all future fitness results”.

(IMO) it just doesn’t work like that. Sometimes the results are compounded. See the “Pareto principle” where the rich get richer and the “Mathew effect” where a disproportionate level of attention goes to people who are already famous.

I have heard several stories about how SEO is a rip off and waste of money from people who did the absolute minimum and were then very disappointed when nothing happened.

If you never go to the gym, the cost of membership was a waste of money:

Everyone knows someone who spent top dollar for a gym membership and physical trainer, etc and then never went to the gym or followed through.

Same with SEO. One of the most common reasons why SEO campaigns fail is because the client does not act upon the recommendations of the SEO consultant they paid top dollar for.

Catching up to the competition: (You may never catch up depending on the competition)

Let’s say you go to a physical trainer with a picture of a muscular person and ask “What do I need to do to look like this?” And let’s say the trainer says the person in the picture has likely been working out for a minimum of two years and “This” is what you’ll need to do over the next two years to get into that kind of shape. Then flash forward two years… You now look like person in the two year old picture… But… The person in the picture is still bigger than you! You’ve been working out for two years now… But… So has the competition. Actually… The competition has now been working out for four years versus your two.

Same with SEO. If your competition is consistently creating link worthy content and then promoting it as hard as they can, you may have a tough time catching up to them.

Steroid Usage:

Steroids can enhance athletic performance significantly and decrease the time required to reach performance milestones but most people agree that the usage if steroids is NOT a long term solution to a healthy lifestyle and physical fitness.

If the competition is using steroids, you may also be tempted to use them as well. It’s important to know the risks and possible side effects involved with this sort of thing.

The SEO equivalent of steroids might be artificial linking schemes or whatever Black or Grey hat technique that is popular these days. The history of SEO is littered with tricks and techniques that once worked quite well in the past but either stopped working or might even get you banned in the search engines now. You might get a short term boost form these things but you should also be aware of the risks.

If you stop working out… The muscles start to go away:

Whatever gains you might have achieved from working out will be lost if you get lazy. Same with SEO. Again… It usually isn’t a set-it-&-forget-it proposition. The top position in the SERPs is not some sort of entitlement. If your website isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse. Your competition is likely struggling to catch up to you and might out rank you for everything but your brand name if you get lazy or complacent.

[This post was inspired by Everett at First Page Fitness. ]

Dave Zuls (HawaiiSEO) is an SEO and travel online marketing expert based out of Hawaii and the publisher of the Hawaii Online Advertising blog.

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