Top 7 Habits of Highly Effective SEO
When I started my professional career (selling advertising), one of the most influential books that I read at the time was “7 Habits of Highly Effective People“, by Stephen Covey.
It’s not much of an over-statement to say that this book changed my life.
What’s interesting to me is how many of the tenets that Mr. Covey conveyed in this book hold true in many facets of my life, and specifically with digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO).
I speak to many prospects for SEO services, every day. Some of these believe that SEO is a one-and-done affair.
While I find instances where companies could see some solid gains by simply implementing proper title tags and correcting a few things, more often than not, proper SEO efforts need to be worked on a regular basis to realize the types of gains that can deliver really solid, long-lasting and “optimized” (optimal) results.
Every SEO company will have its own processes for performing SEO, and I’m not suggesting that what follows covers everything that goes into an ongoing SEO effort, but the key ingredients are here.
*Note: items in italics come directly from Stephen Covey’s website.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control. The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two areas–Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.
Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about: health, children, problems at work. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern–things over which they have little or no control: the national debt, terrorism, the weather. Gaining an awareness of the areas in which we expend our energies in is a giant step in becoming proactive.
In our world, being proactive means you can’t chase an algorithm.
What we can focus on are those things that we can control, which is develop a sound web presence that the search engines “should want to” rank – one that:
- Presents a quality user experience.
- Has quality/resourceful/unique content.
- Has earned links through methods that most would call “good marketing”.
There are many things that are within our circle of influence, such as:
- Selecting the right keywords to target.
- Building quality websites.
- Making sure that content is crawlable/indexable.
- Developing sitemaps.
- Maintaining clean code.
- Promoting content.
- Distributing press releases.
While we must be aware, and understand, things like Google Panda/Penguin and other major changes in the algorithms, if we focus on doing “good marketing”, all other things should fall in line, and major algorithm changes shouldn’t be a concern.
You want to try to build a company’s web presence that the search engines should want to rank. Perhaps, that way, you aren’t reacting to algorithms but actually working “ahead” of any algorithm changes.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
So, what do you want to be when you grow up? That question may appear a little trite, but think about it for a moment. Are you–right now–who you want to be, what you dreamed you’d be, doing what you always wanted to do? Be honest. Sometimes people find themselves achieving victories that are empty–successes that have come at the expense of things that were far more valuable to them. If your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster.
Habit 2 is based on imagination–the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. It is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint. If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default. It’s about connecting again with your own uniqueness and then defining the personal, moral, and ethical guidelines within which you can most happily express and fulfill yourself. Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.
I have often asked prospects this very question (“What do you want to be when you grow up?”). Without knowing where you’d like to be, how do you get there? What are the goals?
When I hear “I want to rank for this one specific keyword”, I am very inclined to elect not to work with that company. I’m not about “empty” success.
When I hear “we’d like to grow sales by X” or “we’d like to grow traffic by Y,” then I know that there is potential in an ongoing relationship.
Once we’ve determined that there may be a fit, it is the responsibility of any good SEO to lay out a plan based upon the end goals, and begin the process of developing the necessary steps to achieve the end goal.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
To live a more balanced existence, you have to recognize that not doing everything that comes along is okay. There’s no need to overextend yourself. All it takes is realizing that it’s all right to say no when necessary and then focus on your highest priorities.
Habit 1 says, “You’re in charge. You’re the creator.” Being proactive is about choice. Habit 2 is the first, or mental, creation. Beginning with the End in Mind is about vision. Habit 3 is the second creation, the physical creation. This habit is where Habits 1 and 2 come together. It happens day in and day out, moment-by-moment. It deals with many of the questions addressed in the field of time management. But that’s not all it’s about. Habit 3 is about life management as well–your purpose, values, roles, and priorities. What are “first things?” First things are those things you, personally, find of most worth. If you put first things first, you are organizing and managing time and events according to the personal priorities you established in Habit 2.
Often, when performing a competitive analysis, we find websites that are quite successful (getting a lot of quality organic search traffic for keywords that we’d like to target). When we can identify those top competitors and uncover the reasons why they are successful, we can reverse engineer their success and build a program based upon “best practices”.
When you compare the reasons why a competitor may have more success than you, you can begin to develop a program based upon address those “holes” (deficiencies) and scope out a project plan, accordingly.
If you’re like most, you may not have an unlimited budget and you’ll need to prioritize your efforts. For some, link building may be the most glaring need. For others, a lack of content to support ranking for keywords in the issue.
However you go about getting to the end goal, you must understand the end goal – first – in order to understand the prioritization of steps necessary to be successful.
For SEO programs, most agree upon a common “hierarchy of needs”. As a general rule, this is a good illustration of those (SEO) needs: