Like getting in shape, ranking well in search engines takes time. Columnist Kaspar Szymanski explains the similarities to help educate clients and neophytes.

By: Kaspar Szymanski

SEO industry workers and professional fitness trainers alike can relate to the awkward moment when a client asks for guaranteed results — only to find out that there are absolutely none. That’s disappointing, but unfortunately, it’s true.

Neither discipline is free of snake oil salesmen, some of whom nurture unrealistic (or even impossible) promises. In the process, they do a disservice to themselves, their clients and the industry’s reputation.

Search engine optimization and the recreational sports industry have, at first glance, seemingly little in common. On a second, closer look, however, both industries almost mirror each other when it comes to honest expectation management:

  1. For starters, in both search engine optimization and fitness training, there are no guarantees. There’s only so much a consultant or trainer can do in terms of both planning and execution. At the end of the day, the hard work of improving the site or taking the first step of a run must be done by the client.
  2. In both areas, it’s all about stamina and following a long-term plan. One-off optimization initiatives have about as much potential to bear lasting results as one intense training session: zip.
  3. Serious athletes and SEOs will agree: there are no short cuts that work over an extended period of time and that do not cause serious side effects. No “wonder pill” will turn a couch potato into an athlete, and no automated link-building program will make a poor website soar in organic search (or not for long). Results demand hard work.
  4. Nutrition is extremely important. Not even the best planned and executed training regimen will translate into desired results if an athlete ends up supplementing it with poor nutrition. In the same way, great on-page optimization will not be enough if it’s hampered by half-hearted, low-quality link building. Links are the bloodline for a website. Like poor eating habits, the results of bad link building will negatively impact overall performance.
  5. Neither SEO nor sports is a level playing field competition. In sports, the body type determines, to a high degree, how far an athlete can get. Relatively few people have a perfect mesomorphic body that requires little effort to shape up, just as relatively few websites bring a great unique sales proposition to the table — an outstanding feature, product and service that makes them instantly popular with users. Sometimes that handicap can be overcome. But ultimately, many people and websites simply don’t have what it takes to be number one.
  6. Optimizing websites and training at a competitive level can be a frustrating experience, because the world has not stopped dead in its tracks, and there’s a chance that someone else (or a competing website) will still do better, despite your best efforts. This is why the next point is absolutely critical for long-term success.
  7. Motivation is important. No workout should be motivated by the approval of other people, which may or may not be forthcoming. In sports, the intrinsic drive towards a more balanced lifestyle is a much more sustainable reason to maintain course. Optimization for search engines may or may not translate into desired organic search visibility. Optimizing a website for passionate users — or better yet, in order to grow a great online business — does not guarantee success with search engines, but it does help in dealing with short-term setbacks.
  8. With both fitness programs and SEO, measuring progress is everything. Without metrics and trends to follow, success cannot be sustained.
  9. Very much like physical exercise, search engine optimization initially requires little more than focus and few tools; a pair of decent running shoes here, Google Search Console data there. Both disciplines, however, demand more advanced equipment in order to continue progressing over time. A specialized heart rate monitor can be for an athlete what a MajesticSEO or are for a committed site owner or a professional SEO.
  10. For search engine optimization and sports, there’s a simple rule of thumb when it comes to special deals: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

Like with physical exercise for the recreational athlete, long-term search engine optimization for brands is a lot about avoiding (site) health risks, maintaining focus on the right objective, and keeping course. It’s all about staying lean and fit over a prolonged period of time. Jumping on the latest trend, in either case, can often be nothing more than a distraction.

Lastly, there’s one more quality both SEO and fitness have in common: the more it becomes a habit and part of a regular routine, the better the chance that the success achieved will exceed all initial expectations.