Happy Star Wars Day everybody, May the 4th be with
you. Working in SEO the one question I am asked more than any other
is "How do you apply the lessons you have learned from Star Wars to
your work on a daily basis?". For a long time I have resisted
providing an answer on the basis that the question is, frankly,
ridiculous; but in celebration of Star Wars Day I have applied
thought to the quandary and, following much research, am finally
ready to offer an answer.
" Always in motion is the future "
Yoda, to Luke, on Dagobah
Getting your fundamentals right is the bedrock for any SEO
project, no matter the scale. Nobody can tell you with any
certainty today what the Search Engines will do tomorrow in terms
of algorithm tweaks, shifts in approach or aggressive manual
action. Tricks and schemes to artificially boost rankings could be
powerfully effective today and worthless this time next week,
potentially to the long-term disadvantage of any site that used
What will never go out of fashion is the provision of valuable,
relevant content to visitors, published on a technically sound
foundation. This is why issues like duplicate content, architecture
and the structure of content are so important. Skipping over these
fundamentals is akin to setting off to fight Darth Vader without
your lightsabre - you might survive if you benefit from highly
unusual circumstances, but chances are you're going to
" These are not the droids you're looking for "
Obi Wan Kenobi, to Troopers, on
And by 'droids' Obi Wan, of course, means 'visitors'. Keyword
Research is the key to driving targeted traffic to a site and
clearly exemplifies the principle of quality over quantity. It is
vital not to become hung up on 'vanity keywords' that deliver
either high volumes of irrelevant traffic, or no traffic at all.
Intelligent keyword research will highlight opportunities and
challenges, allowing educated decisions to be taken.
If your website sells designer hoods to Ewoks it makes no sense
at all to work hard to rank the home page for the phrase
'Millennium Falcon'. Sure, there might be 5,000-odd people
worldwide searching for that phrase, compared to 28 people who are
looking for 'Ewok Hood' each month, but your site is about Ewok
Hoods. You're selling Ewok Hoods. Would you rather have those 28
people who want to find Ewok Hoods and could be looking to buy, or
the 5,000 people who have never typed the words 'Ewok' and 'Hood'
in the same sentence in their lives, most of whom wouldn't be able
to tell a designer Ewok Hood from a Mos Eisley FAKE?
" Lost a planet, Master Obi-Wan has; How embarrassing "
Yoda, to Younglings, on Coruscant
Sometimes even the best laid plans go awry; what matters is how
you respond when these challenges crop up. Presenting a problem
with a viable solution will generally be more welcome than reports
of a setback alone. Fortunately, working in SEO, we are armed with
an array of tools and sources of data that usually allow early
identification of issues, perhaps even before they manifest
themselves in the SERPs. This puts us in the best position to
respond to problems -we can't look to others for answers - and no
matter how daunting the challenge, taking a step back, approaching
the issue without panic and working through what we know will lead
us to a solution.
When Wedge Antilles was faced with a seemingly invincible AT-AT
at the Battle of Hoth he didn't turn his Snowspeeder around and
flee. Instead he assessed the problem, determined a solution and
executed it, grounding his enemy and turning the tide in favour of
his fellow Rebels. Similarly, we can find solutions to significant
SEO challenges if we apply a little intelligence and creativity to
the task. The important thing to remember is that setbacks
happen to everyone at some point, but they can be figured out and
they can be fixed. Even the Death Star was overcome.
" Travelling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops "
Han Solo, to Luke, on the Millennium
Adding value as an SEO is a task that requires a lot of
knowledge and no little skill. It isn't for everyone. Being
genuinely good at SEO is not easy, nor is it something that can be
dabbled in or rolled into the work being done by specialists in
other areas. Web designers are not SEOs, graphic designers are not
SEOs and copywriters are not SEOs, just as SEOs are not web
designers, graphic designers or copywriters. The dedication and
time required to become good, let alone exceptional, in this niche
Han Solo didn't become an exceptional hyperspace pilot by
painting the outside of the ship or designing its structure. He
became an exceptional pilot by learning relevant skills and
practising them until he gained the necessary expertise. The same
applies to SEO. To be the best you can be takes commitment and hard
work, but the outcome is that you have skills with a value. Which
segues nicely on to...
" I find your lack of faith disturbing "
Darth Vader, to Motti, on the Death
Not everyone sees the value in SEO. That's just a fact. Part of
the job of an SEO is to demonstrate that value in whatever metric
matters to the people we work for. Whether it's showing all those
page 1 results to a rankings-obsessed client (to whom you have
doubtless expressed the dubious value of this form of assessment)
or showing the increase in unique non-branded organic search visits
to the client who values traffic, or even showing the improved
conversion rate to the client who values the bottom line above all
else, the metrics are there and the task is simply to use them to
illustrate the facts.
Nobody will pay you or your company to carry out SEO hoping that
it fails, but just as Luke Skywalker was dubious about the small,
strange green creature he first encountered on Dagobah, so too will
people who don't quite understand what you can do for them have
questions and doubts about the value of the work you are doing.
Ensuring that you are on the same page as they are and know from
the outset how they intend to measure success is an important part
of exhibiting the value of your work.
So it comes back to that original question: "How do you apply
the lessons you have learned from Star Wars to your work on a daily
basis?" and the answer is apparent. By ensuring the fundamental
framework for success is laid out, the appropriate keyword research
is carried out, mistakes are addressed, hard work is applied and
results are demonstrated we can, with guidance delivered from a
galaxy far, far away, ensure that we work constructively and
generate opportunities to be exceptional as a matter of course.
Happy Star Wars Day!