I have worked in Small Business SEO for for 18 months. For 8 hours a day, 5 days a week I study, analyze, and apply SEO strategy for small businesses around the world. Though I choose not to apply SEO to my blog (see my previous post about why I don’t apply SEO to my Blog), I have found some overlap between advice I give clients regarding SEO, and advice I give to myself and my friends. Here are a few tips about online marketing that translate well into life advice.
1. Have a clear strategy and Goal: Like all forms of marketing, SEO requires a clear plan. Without knowing what you hope to accomplish and how you plan to make it happen, you cannot hope to make any progress toward a goal. The more defined your goal is the easier it will be to create a strategy. For example: if your goal is just to “rank on Google” there are a million keywords you could choose with varying levels of difficulty, conversion rates, relevancy to your business etc. If your plan is to “rank on the first page of Google for the keyword ‘break pad replacement’ in my city” you have already narrowed your focus onto a select number of keywords in a particular area. This gives you a clearly defined path, with a clear finish line in sight.
The same principle applies to life. If you have no goal in mind, how will you know where to go or when you are there? Our life goals may be less clearly defined, but they prevent us from simply drifting aimlessly through the years. Maybe your goal is to retire by the age of 50, or to publish a book, or travel to 100 different countries. Maybe you have multiple goals with set deadlines, or a broad goal to “just live a life I don’t regret”. The point is, without a destination in mind how do you know which roads to take? Personally, I don’t see any problems with changing your goals as your passions change, or moving the goal post as needed. I set goals for myself to keep myself on a general path, so I can feel like my life is progressing instead of passing me by.
2. Be Flexible to Changes: If you’ve worked in marketing before you know that it is an every-changing field. Your audience’s preferences and moods may change. The demographic you are targeting could shift over time, or if you work in SEO (as I do) you are always having to adapt to algorithm updates and SERP shifts. Flexibility is key to surviving in business. In SEO this could mean changing your link building strategy or content on your website. It could mean changing dropping dead keywords and selecting new ones. The important thing is to roll with the changes and adapting your strategy, or even your goal, as needed to keep an eye on the prize. While goal setting is important, being realistic about your expectations are as well. There are a million reasons why a keyword or link building campaign doesn’t work out, but the good news is that there are infinite other options you can try instead! When your first goal doesn’t work out, set a new one. You can do that as many times as you need to.
Much like the Google algorithm, the world is constantly moving and changing. Whether we like it or not, we have to change with the times or fall behind. We try and fail, we move and grow, and sometimes we even quit and give up- and that’s okay. Some of us may take a seemingly straight path from childhood to death without any unexpected turns. Most of us, however, will take many detours and pit stops as we figure out which road works best for us. Sometimes the plans we made turn out to be dead ends. Sometimes there are unexpected road blocks, and sometimes we reach our destination only to decide it’s not what we hoped for. There’s no shame in making a few stop along the way, or even taking the next exit and going somewhere else instead. Life is complicated, so we should allow ourselves to follow the path that fits best for us, even if it means taking some different roads.
3. Stop Focusing on Other People: A common mistake I’ve seen in SEO is rival businesses focusing all their time and energy on attempting to outrank each other. Instead of focusing on their business and their marketing, they concern themselves on what their competitor is doing. If their competitor is ranking for “lawn moving services” they want to outrank them for the same keyword, even if their business’s specialty is “sidewalk snow removal”. I’ve seen literally hundreds of clients leave their SEO experience disappointed because they wasted all their time and money on trying to outdo their rival instead of tending to their own business’s potential. Instead of copying other campaigns they should have been creating their own.
How often do you find yourself comparing your life to someone else’s? How often do you look at your friend, or an old high-school bully, or a random social media influencer and find yourself thinking “That should be me.”? How much time do you waste trying to make yourself into someone else instead of focusing on what makes you so unique. While it can be fun to speculate how your life could have been if you made different choices, at the end of the day you can’t go back. Instead of spending all your time comparing yourself to people on your news feed, focus on what you want and how you can make it happen.
4. Find Your Niche: No two businesses are exactly the same, so no two SEO campaigns should be either. Every business has their own specialties, target demographic, products, services, staff, personal, etc. No matter how generic you think your business or industry is, there is something that sets you apart from your competition. Find out what that thing is! Find the niche that your business fits into, and build from there. Conquer that area, then find a new one. There is a product, service, need, or experience that your business does better than the rest. That’s where you start building your reputation, and that’s how you start to build your presence online. Start small with your niche and grow outward to fill bigger areas. That’s how a small business becomes a community staple.
You are the only “you” there is. Of all the billions of people there are on this planet, on two are exactly the same. We are a complicated combination of looks, skills, talents, personalities, experiences, and choices that makes us all unique. This means that there is always something you can offer to you family, friend group, workplace, etc. that only you can provide. Learn what your strengths are, and lean into them. Learn what your weaknesses are and develop them! There is a spot on a team only you can fill, so fill it! You may outgrow that spot in time, or decide to start on a new adventure, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy fitting into a comfortable space for a little while.
5. Be Diverse and Work as a Team When it comes to SEO you wouldn’t pin all your hopes on a single keyword or link. Instead, you select handful of keywords to build-up, and create a diverse portfolio of links. To further illustrate this point, in marketing, you wouldn’t choose a single social media platform or marketing venue to promote your business. A good marketing strategy requires a diverse portfolio of online platforms and campaigns working together to promote the business. There may be mailed flyers an coupons, Google reviews, social media posts, online ads, blog posts, and even mouth-to-mouth recommendations (to name a few) that work to create a company’s image. If one or more of these elements fail, the other areas may pick up the slack. One campaign alone is not enough.
Similarly, in life you need balance and diversity. You can’t obsess over one thing, and expect to be happy. Like with marketing, you need to have a diverse set of happiness-building links. Maybe for you those links are a favorite TV show, a sport you play on weekends, a new book your reading, and a best friend who makes you laugh. Those all seem so small and unimportant when compared to bigger parts of your life like your job, your family situation, paying bills, etc. Sometimes it hard to see the big picture all these little pieces are creating, but they are all building your portfolio. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and neglect one aspect of your life (family, friends, hobbies etc.) in service of another (work, a romantic partner, an addiction etc.). Just like in creating an effective marketing strategy, life requires balance and diverse sources of happiness.
So there’s my list of 5 SEO tips translated to life advice.
I know many of these connections are unclear or feel forced, but I did my best to show how those links (get it?) were formed in my mind. I am not an expert in SEO, nor can I claim to be an expert at life. I’m not an experienced marketing strategist (I’m just starting my career afternall) and I’m not a therapist, but I do enjoy drawing connections between what I do for work, and what I’ve experienced in my own life. I can only hope that this list helps someone, somewhere, or at least gets you thinking about life lessons and SEO.