“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”
~ Jeff Bezos Founder of Amazon
Ever fantasize about being a celebrity then see one being raked over the coals publicly only to quickly change your mind? The same can be true about your search engine optimization. Like the world of celebrities, Google, and other search engines have turned the Internet into a giant popularity contest where everybody wants their fair share of attention.
Some people make it seem that becoming famous or doing SEO is just about sprinkling some magic dust on yourself (or for SEO, your website), and voila! Instant success. Of course well-documented cases of instant successes do exist and get highly publicized, but they are rare, and certainly not the norm. For most, the work is hard, the road is long, and the success is difficult to maintain. Here are just some of the ways that SEO is like a celebrities’ reputation:
1. It’s Harder Than You Think
In the words of Henry Ford, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” The road to fame is often tricky. You wait tables. You do low-rent local gigs. You agree to bad commercials, and you’ll work other jobs to pay the bills. SEO is much the same. While you are promoting your business, pleasing clients and managing the books, you’ll have a second job building your online presence, and it’s going to involve tedious work and time. Even then, growth will likely come slowly.
2. You Can Influence It, But You Don’t Control It
Ask any politician, athlete, music artist, actor or other celebrity about false rumors, and you will likely get an earful. The worst part, many will tell you, is the complete loss of control. SEO is somewhat the same way. You can take all the right steps, pour your heart into your content, build those natural links and keep your site professional sound and still not get the results you want. When that local competitor suddenly starts ranking first in Google the same way the latest “It Girl” or heartthrob steals the limelight from an acclaimed actor, just remember. You can influence your SEO, and YOU SHOULD, but you don’t control it.
3. You Must Manage the Message
For celebrities and online reputations, your message is everything. By that I mean: what you say and do, who associate with, what you support and don’t support, what you wear, where you go, what you buy and drive, where you live, and the list goes on. SEO works the same way. Everywhere you are online (and to some degree offline) and how it presents matters. This will include website content, social posts, online reviews and how/if you respond to those reviews, links to your site, where they are from, what they say, and so on. Just like a celebrity’s reputation, the information available for search engines and humans to discover you and your organization will impact how you rank.
4. You Should Be Bold but Authentic
Celebrities often have to do something bold to get attention. While a PR stunt can go a long way in ramping up a celebrity’s buzz, it can also be risky, especially if the stunt was intentionally deceptive. The same is true with SEO. To win, you will sometimes have to take risks, be bold, try something different. This is how organizations differentiate themselves. But in doing so, it’s critical to stay authentic. Don’t try to out-right fool search engines like Google or Bing with link schemes, deceptive on-page tactics, and spammy content. In the long run, you will likely be on the losing end. As Socrates once said, “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”
5. Bad Players are a Very Real Problem
Bad advice lives everywhere: shady agents, unscrupulous competitors, inexperienced and lazy SEO practitioners, bad accountants, selfish business partners, etc. People, in general, are incentivized to act in their own best interest, and some take that to the extreme. This is a problem online with SEO and in the real world. Competitors can spread misinformation, accountants can steal from you, agents can give bad advice, and SEO practitioners can be incompetent, purely profit-driven or downright lazy. Watch out for these individuals!
6. You Have to be Your Own Sentinel
Hiring the right professional for some jobs can make all the difference, but when it comes to your reputation, in the media or business online, no one but you should be in charge. The is too much risk in entrusting your reputation to someone else. Others can help execute tactics and contribute strategy ideas, but in the end, you will need to be part of the decision-making process.
7. Take Care with Whom You Partner
Relationships can make or break a reputation whether you are a celebrity or a website looking for a little love from Google. Be mindful of the relationships you build. George Washington once explained it this way, “Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” Like the products celebrities endorse and the people they associate with, be sure that your backlinks (sites that link to your website) are relevant, on-topic and of high-quality because these links are still one of the biggest factors in how search engines determine your site’s “worthiness” for ranking on specific searches. That said, the many highly publicized case of websites being penalized by Google should serve as a reminder, that no links can still be better than a profile filled with bad links.
8. It’s Challenging to Build But Easy to Destroy
According to successful investor and billionaire Warren Buffett, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Whether you are building a public persona or optimizing a website, measure twice and cut once. Errant comments, getting caught doing something illegal, and even jumping on a couch have all taken down the reputation of more than one celebrity and the same can happen to your SEO if you aren’t careful. Years of hard work can be ultimately undone by an unscrupulous vendor’s backlink strategy or a web developer’s aggressive optimizations. And as the celebrities will tell you, earning back your good name can take longer than building it the first time, so if you are going to take risks, be ready to accept all consequences that come from it.
9. Focusing on the Long Road
No celebrity wants to be a one-hit wonder or a flash in the pan. The same is true with SEO. While you may have found a way to rank #1 today (congratulations!), keeping that top spot still requires work. Competitors are always vying to take your spot, and let’s face it, web search is a zero-sum game where one website wins at the expense of all the others. However, like an actor who invests in his or her lifelong career, focusing on the longterm with SEO will ultimately provide the only win that will matter.
10. The Effort Never Ends
In the movies you sometimes see the lead character lean back in a comfy chair, fold their arms behind their head, and take a deep breath. They finally “made it.” Too bad that isn’t the real world. Celebrities rarely ever reach a point of total relaxation in their career. No actor is guaranteed to be offered only plum roles going forward just because they have achieved past success. Upcoming albums releases from some of the most acclaimed musicians can get shelved if the wrong person dislikes the direction, and athletes are all working on borrowed time. The same is true for SEO; you can never let your guard down. In the words of Mark Zuckerberg, found on Facebook, “You get a reputation for stability only if you are stable for years.” So keep writing that high-quality content. Keep acquiring and responding to those amazing reviews. Keep building those relevant, high-quality links from other websites. The SEO effort should never stop until the site goes down for good.
For those just starting on the SEO journey, the good news is that you can move forward with all this in mind. While it is a lot to think about, avoiding some of these reputation pitfalls can save a considerable heartache. If you are already in pursuit of fame and fortune through SEO, consider taking a moment to filter your current search strategies and tactics through the lens of a celebrities sunglasses to see if they hold up to public scrutiny. Your reputation might depend on it.
If you are interested in partnering with an SEO agency that believes in building client trust, knows the tools of the trade and can help you manage your online presence, then contact the experts at Osky Blue. We understand SEO. Contact us at (866) 675-9411.