Before Tony Robbins was a billionaire self-help guru, he was just an anonymous 20-something with a gift for asking the right questions.
When he was 24, he had the opportunity to work with a U.S. military shooting school where he was tasked with helping to improve the shooting accuracy of soldiers in training. The problem? He had never fired a gun in his life, Robbins told writer and businessman James Altucher in an interview after publishing his book “Money.”
So, he did the only thing he knew how to do. He tracked down five sharpshooting experts, took a bunch of interview notes, identified commonalties among the experts, and then focused on teaching those things to the students.
The top piece of advice? Bring the target closer.
First, he brought all the targets just a few feet away. All of the students shot bullseyes. Then they’d move the target back just one foot. More bullseyes. Then one more foot, and then another.
The students in the school increased their accuracy by 50 percent from Robbins’ bring-the-target-closer strategy. All from a guy who had never fired a gun.
This is the biggest Captain Obvious statement of the century, but it bears repeating: We can’t know what we don’t know.
And because there aren’t 36 hours in a day (Or 47—whatever!), we can only have time to learn and do so much.
In other words, it’s not your fault Small Business Owner or Traditional Sales & Marketing Person or Organization Executive that you don’t understand or feel super-confident discussing the finer points of digital marketing, or Search Engine Optimization specifically. You’ve spent your life mastering other things.
Bring the target closer. Don’t worry as much about how to mechanically change your website. Worry about how to make it a more-useful tool for visitors.
Our clients without digital marketing experience or who are only now thinking about leveraging the internet to grow business have often heard of this digital sorcery SEO a time or two, but often don’t know what it is, why it matters, and are uncomfortable discussing it for the same reason I’m not comfortable talking shop with astrophysicists.
Perhaps your email inbox gets hammered with scary warnings from Bryan at Acme SEO Services telling you that your company is probably going out of business if you don’t hire Acme to optimize your site to “Rank #1 in Google!!!” (Bryan is probably fibbing. Sorry, but it’s true.)
Bryan at Acme SEO might throw a bunch of fancy words and impressive internet traffic numbers at you, but you needn’t listen to him.
In fact, you needn’t listen to us either.
There isn’t a thing about SEO you can’t learn from the mad geniuses at Moz. See for yourself in their “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO.” It’s awesome.
Another great place for overview information is a Forbes article from SEO expert and thought leader Neil Patel called “The Entrepreneur’s SEO Survival Guide For 2016.”
I’m approaching this more from a philosophical perspective. Try not to get hung up on things you might hear about keywords or back-end programming.
“The core of SEO is user experience,” Patel wrote in Forbes. “This may come as a surprise to some, thinking that SEO is a medley of technical tactics, under-the-hood hacks, and a few well-placed backlinks.
“SEO might include these strategies, but at the core, SEO is about delivering an optimized experience to the user.”
It’s not about magic. It’s not about tricking search engines. It’s not about fancy behind-the-scenes tricks from mysterious programmers.
Your SEO strategy need only be about one thing: Helping website users find what they’re looking for.
The good folks at search engines like Google (about 70-ish percent market share) and Bing (about 20-ish percent market share because it also powers Yahoo) are super-smart, which is why they’re all gazillionaires. And their goal is simple—to deliver the most-relevant, most-accurate response to whatever search query someone enters.
Google co-founder Larry Page once described the perfect search engine as “something that understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.”
And the search firms are getting really good at it. So good, that your focus needn’t be on anything other than making your website as useful as possible to your intended audience.
All you have to do is be an expert about your company’s products, services, and the needs of people looking for them.
If you are awesome at teaching basket-weaving classes, or providing veterinary services for large reptiles, or selling kazoos, then all you have to do is hone in on words used and pains felt by real-life humans who make baskets, or own sick Komodo dragons, or play the kazoo.
According to Search Engine Land (another resource for SEO education), 93% of online experiences begin with a search on Google or Bing (or wherever), and 75% of them never scroll past the first page of results.
So, if you’re not on the first page (the top three spots alone earn about 35% of the clicks), and your competitors are, you’re inevitably going to hemorrhage business opportunities to those who are showing up.
That’s why Bryan at Acme SEO is using scary words in his spammy emails. He’s not wrong about SEO’s importance. But he’s probably not giving you the whole story either.
We all want shortcuts and life hacks, and there are NOT effective shortcuts and life hacks for SEO any more than there are for weight loss. It requires a little bit of commitment and effort.
It’s not something that can be accomplished overnight. SEO is a long-term strategy. The way to skyrocket to the top of search results is to run effective pay-per-click (PPC) or paid-search advertising campaigns like Google AdWords and Bing Ads.
It’s not about being all things to all people.
It’s about simply helping your specific audience—the people who will buy your products or services, by providing them information they need to make smart buying decisions.
You might not be able to sell basket-weaving classes to people with sick lizards or to rabid fans of kazoos, but you CAN sell the things you make or the things you do to people already looking for them.
And if business growth is something you value, we strongly encourage you to try.
Already up to speed on SEO? Here are some of our thoughts on improving your search engine ranking.