Training for the SEO Olympics

In the summer of 2012, the world will turn its collective attention to London for the Olympic Games. And much like the best search engine optimization professionals, the finely tuned human instruments of speed and power that will represent countries from across the globe next month will need to be in ideal condition.

But for any naturally talented athlete (or SEO) to make their way into the upper echelon, winning gold medals and taking the first position on the ceremonial stage, they must train.

The responsibilities of SEO's today are far more intensive - just like those of an Olympic athlete. The amount of training that is required to maximize efficiency and dominate the competition requires careful planning, rigorous training, and perfect execution. So what should your training schedule look like if you want to win gold in the SEO Olympics?

Understand Strengths & Limitations: Watch the Olympics and you'll find athletes with abilities that are naturally suited to their task. They have likely chosen their sport because they have characteristics which make them excel at that particular event. Search engine optimization is not much different - some SEO's will gravitate towards the development of content, others, perhaps more sociable in nature, may opt to spend their time building relationships to acquire links, and still others who may be "mentally mechanical" in nature will choose to conquer the challenges of on-site optimization. point is, we're naturally pre-disposed certain tasks - understanding what those strengths (and or limitations) are, is fastest way positively influence performance. 

Explore Challengers & Competitors: Anyone that has ever been involved in a team sport (baseball, soccer, basketball, etc.) understands the role that research plays in the success of their endeavor. For example, how many times have you heard a coach cite "watching hours of video" as one reason their team was victorious? Likely quite a few. You watch your competitors to find their strengths and weaknesses and ultimately identify a strategy that will work for you and your team and that in the end will position you for greater achievement. As an SEO, if you don't explore the content development and marketing of your challenges and competitors then you will never be able to compete - or win.

Rest & Relax Resources: There's a reason you won't find (many) athletes in pubs, bars and dance clubs to the wee hours of the morning before their Olympic event. To ensure their resources (mind and body) are working at maximum efficiency, there needs to be physical rest and mental relaxation. You, your website and its underlying business are no different. Search engine optimization professionals often work on tight deadlines and within limited budgets, not to mention in an environment that demands innovation and an endless stream of creativity. As you might expect, that can take a toll even on the healthiest among us. Rest your mind and you'll rediscover the creative well spring and be able to leverage it for more powerful content marketing. Letting your social media audience relax by interacting less frequently at times will provide greater opportunities to have meaningful engagement when you do.

Develop Healthy Routines: Ask any former athlete what they remember about their time sweating it out and you'll likely find a few - myself included - that enjoyed (or at least now appreciate) the structure and routine that was provided. While routine can at times seem monotonous, when a Zen-like (or zone-like) level can be achieved, big things can happen. It's not uncommon for track and field athletes for example to walk through their events and races, mimicking the exact actions they will take during the real event. When it comes to SEO, developing healthy routines is of fundamental importance too. For example, content marketers need to perform daily (if not real-time) keyword research; link builders need to stay connected to their networks to identify emerging influencers and immersive content to align their Web properties with; on-site SEO's must continually address the development of sites and the experience that is provided.

Push Limits, Test Strength: In preparation for their event, athletes (and SEO's) need to push their limits, testing their strength and abilities to get the final job - victory - done. Those running marathons (26 miles) for example regularly do a 15-20 mile run less than one week away from their event. SEO's need to push their limits regularly as well - from testing site speed to the impact of their chosen meta-data structure, from the volume and type of content to the types of links that are pursued and ultimately obtained. Without testing what is possible, it is impossible to realize the full potential of what you're actually doing.

Every athlete, every SEO, and every enterprise is different. Available time, resources and natural abilities need to be understood and leveraged in a way that is the most rewarding. Keep that in mind and the torch of awesomeness always lit.