Search Engine Optimization & Physical Therapy

In late January of this year I had a bunionectomy performed on my left foot to get rid of a very big, painful, and walking-inhibiting bunion. It’s right-footed partner will have the same surgery performed around May 2012. The doctor who performed the surgery is excellent and he told me that recovery would take 6-8 weeks. I said to myself: “Oh good, so at a maximum I should be back to ‘normal’ in 8 weeks!”

I am just now “on my feet” and we’re closing in on week 9. It’s not that anything is wrong, it’s just that the doctor’s 6-8 week prognosis meant something different in his frame of reference compared to what I heard and inferred when he said it. I was wanting to hear that results would be more immediate. He was saying that in 8 weeks, I’d be allowed to put my foot on the floor for the first time. Big difference there!

For the next 4 weeks, I’ll be in aggressive physical therapy (3-4 days of sessions per week). After 13 weeks (not 8), I’ll be able to resume a fairly normal amount of activity, but it can (and probably will) take up to 6 months for “full recovery”, and because it is a surgical site, I will always need to do some level of exercise maintenance and stretching to keep my foot (and leg and hip and lower back) is good working order.

As I sat there listening to my doctor provide this forecast, I thought, “Holy Cow, insert some words and phrases and I could be talking to any one of my search engine optimization patients – er, ummm, customers.”

And today, I had my 3rd “pre-aggressive” therapy session, and what the physical therapist asked and explained to me today, just about 1.5 hours ago, resulted in this blog posting.

Cathy asked me: “Have you done your homework?” (meaning exercises).

Type A, stubborn and determined personality that I am, I answered firmly “Oh, yes.” I am determined to get back on my feet as soon as is reasonably possible. She had me run through 15 minutes of the exercises they had assigned me and she could clearly see that I had done my “homework”.

“Good for you!” Cathy said, “You don’t know how many patients I see who say they’re doing their exercises, and then come to me and complain that physical therapy just isn’t working and why should they have to pay for it? And when I ask them: Did you do your exercises? Have you been stretching? Did you do the water bath treatment we recommended? And always, the answer is no, no, and no. These patients think they have absolutely no responsibility to make themselves better and that our 1-hour sessions 3 days a week are completely responsible for getting them back to 100% mobility.”

I sat there stunned. Then I said a silent “Amen, sister! I know exactly how you feel! Many of my “patients” follow the same path!”

So what do search engine optimization and physical therapy have in common and why did I feel a moment of professional bonding with my medical comrade?

Most customers who come to me for search engine optimization are in a state of pain. Their website doesn’t get enough traffic. Their sales are down. They are paying money for “services” to get them more visible, but it hurts because they aren’t seeing the results they heard about or expected. They want results almost overnight – and – they often feel that if they hire an internet marketing professional, that he or she is 100% responsible for making it “work”. And why should they have to keep paying? If the internet marketer knows what he or she is doing, they’ll just “fix it”, right? Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

Reality Set #1: Good search engine optimization, meaning for organic (non-paid) listings, takes time, effort, repetition and there are no guarantees.

  • Good ranking doesn’t happen overnight. It takes weeks to months.
  • Good ranking doesn’t occur because of a single activity (like optimizing a page and submitting it to the engines) – there are many factors involved with ranking algorithms.
  • Search engine optimization is not a “set it and forget it” item. After an initial “aggressive optimization”, small efforts need to be made routinely to maintain good ranking
  • Anyone who tells you they can guarantee you a #1 listing, or first page results, is not a professional internet marketer. Google changes its ranking algorithms an average of 1.5 times a week. They don’t warn marketers. They don’t offer explanations unless it’s a “big change”. The Google system cannot be “gamed”.
  • Good rankings come from repetitive, ethical, and variable efforts, and as with good physical therapy, strength (or rank) continues to build over time.

Reality Set #2: You, the customer, are responsible for participating in the improved visibility of your site.

  • Your internet marketer is not a mind reader and doesn’t have “historical knowledge” of your business. They don’t just “know” what to do. Success depends on business strategy, goals, and what you’re feeling the most “pain” in. You need to communicate with your marketer so they understand your mission, your products or service, your goals, and where things “hurt the most” so they can be effective in helping you. Your internet marketer is your cooperative business partner.
  • Only doing SEO, and nothing else, will not result in long-term success, though it may seem to result in short-term success. Search engines looks for actively updated, relevant, and sufficient content. This means that you must be actively contributing fresh content for spiders to index. A blog, a forum, email archives, postings of articles, adding pages, updating existing pages with current information, all of this matters for search engine ranking – and your internet marketer is not responsible for doing this – your company is. You wouldn’t have surgery by a doctor who isn’t knowledgeable of current methods and procedures. Search engines will not pick up your site if it sees that it has nothing to “add” to the internet or hasn’t been updated in months (or years).
  • You need to build link relationships with other quality sites. You could hire the best search engine marketer in the world to optimize your pages, but search engines will not index your site if no one “out there” links to you. And it’s not just quantity that matters, it’s also quality. Links from industry associations, your chamber of commerce, membership listings, complementary product or service sites, internet directories (Yahoo Directory, Open directory), affiliate marketing sites, FaceBook, YouTube, LinkedIn, people who are passionate fans of your product or service and have a list of links page, etc. are important to build over time. The more sites “out there” that link back to your site and the better the quality of the site, the more relevant Google will consider you, and the greater this factor plays in your rank.

Reality Set #3: You’re investing money, make sure you’re investing wisely. You have every right to question whether or not you should be paying for a service. And you generally want to pay for things that will eventually pay for themselves (within a reasonable amount of time, of course). Internet marketing encompasses many activities, from SEO and SEM, to email marketing, to social media and affiliate programs, and more. You may be one of the few that knows exactly where and when to spend your marketing dollars at all times. Or you may be like the majority who test different channels and efforts until they find a mix that works, and the mix changes over time. The way to know if your investment is worth it is to implement some system for tracking leads, conversions, and sales and understanding what the value of each of those is to your company. When you have the revenue generated and the advertising expense, you can calculate an ROI. As before, this is a cooperative effort. Your internet marketer can track some things by themselves, but if you define success by increased phone calls or emails, they’ll need this data from you to generate an ROI for you.

Internet marketing is usually very successful when everyone is on the same page of understanding and has realistic expectations of inputs and outcomes. Goals, metrics, and values are defined. A plan of execution is made. Results are tracked, analyzed, and reported on. That information is then used to refine ongoing efforts. Internet marketing is a very iterative process that requires thought, time, and investment. It is never a solo-flying quick fix.

So be a good patient. When you consult with your doctor, provide history and perspective, listen to the available alternatives, devise a plan for recovery together, communicate clearly and well, and make sure you do your homework!

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