Baseball Spring Training is in full swing (pun intended) meaning the start of the season is just around the corner.
Baseball and the long, warm days of summer lead to an annual American tradition of excitement and recreation for thousands of fans.
If you’re not a fan of baseball, you may not realize how much of an impact it has on some people. You may not understand how much people follow the statistics, put together their own fantasy teams, and get ready for opening day/World Series play.
The same goes for SEO. While its existence isn’t crucial to the end users’ online search experience, it’s going on all the time. There are people following and trying to understand the statistics, putting together the strategies, and getting ready to get a website in front of a lot more customers.
With the advent of spring and the upcoming baseball season, here are some ways in which SEO is like baseball:
In baseball, a batter’s turn is up after three strikes. The teams switch out after the third out. There are other “unwritten” rules that are observed, too, such as not swinging the bat when the count is 3-0 or not running to the next base if the ball is hit if front of you (if bases aren’t loaded).
Baseball also has many other rules and additions to the rules that not even the umpires always catch. The rules in SEO, are very similar to these in that they change so frequently, sometimes daily.
SEO also has established rules as well. These rules are not created by consensus of the MLB higherups, but by Google. Some of the SEO rules and ranking factors are well known, such as the use of keywords, linking to quality, relevant, sites, and quality content. Like baseball, though, there are also unwritten rules in SEO, including whether or not to use “nofollow” links and the perfect length of content.
If you’re new to baseball or SEO, it will take some time to know all the rules. In many instances, however, you must learn the rules on the fly as things are happening. In the case of SEO and the constant rule nuances, it is difficult for even the most experienced SEOer to stay abreast of all the changes. All we can do is keep researching and testing to discover and implement the newest rules.
Both baseball and SEO have a lot of data and stats that drive decisions. In baseball, scouts look at such stats as on-base percentage, hits to strikeout ratios, runs scored in a season, how many fielding errors they committed, how many walks and strikeouts they allowed in a season.
During the season, managers will use numbers based on a player’s past performance to decide who is in the starting line-up, where to place fielders for a particular batter (putting on the shift), deciding whether to go with a right or left handed pitcher, and the like.
Many decisions made in SEO also rely on numbers of past patterns and trends. Looking at what keywords most of their targeted audience is searching for, what pages on the site get the most traffic, how long visitors stay on a page, where the site visitors are coming from and whether they fulfill the desired conversion are some of the numbers and data that SEOs look at when coming up with a strong SEO strategy.
In both instances, the data and numbers are used to help the baseball team and the website gain a positive competitive advantage.
In baseball, as in every sport, winning is the goal of the long hours or practice, training and getting into top performing shape. The better the team plays, the greater the chance of winning the game. Those with the most wins in a season go on to the playoffs for a chance to be crowned the best baseball team in America.
Getting to the top is also the driving force behind an SEO strategy. Search engine optimization aims to get a website onto the top of search engine results for a given keyword. This is done by following Google’s rules and algorithm factors.
In both baseball and SEO, another winning tactic is to know their opponent (or competition) and learn about their weak points. This way they will have another avenue to victory they can capitalize on.
In baseball, managers try to create their batting line-ups based on who the opposing starting pitcher is.
In SEO, you look at what keywords your competition is ranking for and how well they are ranking for it. Then you can either target keywords related to your industry, service, or product that your competition is leaving wide open, or you can come straight at them if they have left .
While baseball teams ultimately want to win the World Series Title, SEO specialists want web users to quickly find their site and enjoy its content and the company’s products and services.
Baseball and SEO are competitive. Every team and every website is vying for that coveted first position. While most baseball players and SEOers play by their respective rules, there are some that try to game the system through cheating.
Batters using steroids to build muscle so they can get more home runs and pitchers using pine tar hidden in their gloves for a better grip of the ball are two of the biggest controversies that have come up in baseball over the years.
While the players who were involved in cheating seem to be successful for a time, they eventually got caught and heavily punished.
SEO is no different. In the past, before Google implemented stricter guidelines and harsher penalties for unethical SEO practices. Many “black hat” SEO specialists and companies profited by doing SEO practices that are now banned such as keyword stuffing, buying links, using gateway pages and hidden text.
Google’s Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird updates caught and punished many of the websites participating in “black hat” SEO practices.
The worst-case offenders in both baseball and in SEO ultimately get “blacklisted” or banned.
A good baseball pitcher will consistently throw strikes, ideally resulting in strike outs.
A strong SEO strategy will also throw strikes, but in the sense of appealing to the wants, needs and interests of a specific, targeted, local audience.
In both scenarios, the closer you hit the strike zone, the more likely the batter (or a targeted customer) will make the desired action.
Many people who are a casual observer of baseball would likely complain that is boring. Typical games last around 3 hours which can be unbearable for someone who doesn’t know what is going on.
The game may be broken up by sudden, short bursts of excitement and success when your team scores or makes a good fielding play that keeps the other team from scoring.
The same can be said for SEO. Optimizing a website often takes at least a few months for any noticeable results and payoffs to be recognized. Many not familiar with SEO can get frustrated and bored with not seeing any immediate, favorable results.
Each baseball season has players that seem to come out of nowhere and perform well. Owners are routinely ridiculed for giving up a strong, successful player in exchange of taking a chance on a college baseball phenom. Sometimes these gambles pay off, while other times they don’t.
Baseball players and their performance can be unpredictable: a rookie pitcher can end the season as the best pitcher in the league. The home run champion from the previous season can suffer a season-ending injury in the third game of the year.
You don’t always know what will happen.
There are plenty of surprises in SEO as well. You can externally link to a smaller, but reputable, relevant site expecting minor “link juice” only to have that site penalized by Google. What began as a possible boost to your page’s SEO ended up dragging its rankings down by linking to a penalized site.
On the flip side, you may have put together a webinar or round-table discussion on a topic related to your industry, optimized the video and put it on your company’s YouTube channel. Before you know it, it ends up going viral because so many were interested and found it useful enough to share it.
In baseball, you can’t just put together a team of players who have never played before, give them a bat and ball and expect to have a good season. Skills, knowledge and strategy are involved if you want to win a game.
Winning teams have strong pitchers who strike people out, fielders that don’t make many errors and batters who consistently get hits and drive in runs.
On top of this is the use of data and information about the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing team and setting up favorable pitcher-batter matchups.
Just like you can’t expect good results if you “wing it” in baseball, you also won’t fare too well in your SEO efforts if you have that “What the heck? Why not?” attitude.
Good SEO requires an extensive data analysis for planning a strategy. Once a strategy is implemented, constant adjustments will need to be made based on results and the nuances of SEO practices and rules.
An effective, strong online presence entails many factors you must analyze and address including: webpage content, linking, and the user-friendliness of your website.
Winning and coming out on top is the ultimate goal of both baseball and SEO. While you’re not in baseball, how is your SEO strategy going? Is it prepped for success?
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