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Trust me. I know it’s an odd pairing; disjointed, in fact. But there’s something both REWORK and Phish can teach us about SEO and SEM. And, I have to admit, this post was a tough one to glue together and find a link to all three.
REWORK and SEO
SEO is, for the most part, details work. We swim in the data details, finding out if this or that piece of data is meaningful. And why it means something to you. There’s no question that SEOs like to jump head-first in the deep end of the keyword pool. And, you want us there: it’s one of things we do best. However, there’s a real tendency to get incredibly detail-focused early on that you end up drowning before you can do anything meaningful.
That’s where REWORK comes in. While the book is designed for small and mid-sized business owners (SMBs), there are some key points that SEOs either ignore completely or simply forget that’s where their focus should be first. The Epicenter (or as I like to call it, the foundation). The entire book is is dedicated to eradicating “bloat” and finding the core.
When you start anything new there are forces pulling you in a variety of directions. There’s the stuff you could do, the stuff you want to do, and the stuff you have to do. The stuff you have to do is where you should begin. Start at the epicenter.
Rework and Rethink: Solidify Your Core
Before you start drowning in the all the possible directions a website could go, focus on the thing that’s going to matter most to the site: the core. Start with the site architecture, making sure that it’s exactly how you need it to be in order to optimize it for maximum results. Then move to keywords and keyword phrase choices. Then to internal linking structure through content, and so on. Make sure what you do on-site is solid before you start asking the rest of the world to give you votes.
Phish and SEO
If you’ve never listened to them, this section is going to be harder to understand. But with anything improvisational, communication and risk are central to the idea. Improvisational masters listen first then create around what they hear everyone else saying. Phish has been doing this for over twenty years. While their studio albums don’t break records on the charts, their live shows are something to marvel.
What they do best is take a highly complex arrangement and then stretch it (or “change gears”) until it becomes a conversation between the four musicians, each picking up on each others “words”. The result: they can take the music in any direction through progressive chromatic changes, going to an almost ambient sound, or turn on a dime, and create something that’s pleasingly dissonant. The trick, it seems, as with improvisational master, is not breaking the rules until you master the rules. It’s one the major tenets in creative writing too (i.e. using fragments and slang).
The same is true of SEO. There’s going to be a time to change gears and change the direction of approach. But only after you’ve got the rules down and solid website core. This is where you turn ho-hum into magic. You can start unraveling your SEO tentacles into off-site optimization, page speed, and social media. All you have to do is start listening to the site and the consumers visiting your site to know where you should go next.
The Science of Improvisation
If you’re still scratching your head, don’t worry, I’m going to clarify it in a moment. That’s the common thread between REWORK and Phish. Mastering the art/science of improvisation. The gentlemen at 37 Signals (creators of Basecamp project management software) have made the art of improvisation a veritable science over their six years. And, Phish, like their jam-band predecessors before them, found a way to work and rework a single song hundreds upon hundreds of times. Each time a unique entity.
Although each one starts from a very different end of the spectrum, both find their way to being centric, smaller, simple, and lasting. And, that’s the how I tie in SEO: it’s what SEO is about. Improvising to continually focus on core SEO: business-centric keywords and phrases. Honing a website architecture until the bloat is erased, and it’s simple and usable. It’s about improvising and listening to the site and the people who use the site, to create lasting results while inducing conversions and generating leads.