Why Fencing Makes me a Better SEO

Those that know me know that I've been an avid Fencer since 2012. Over the last few years I've used it as my main means of staying active and in shape and have accumulated some incredible friends, experienced some life-changing moments and accomplished physical tasks that as a mature adult of my age group, I had thought were far behind me. More importantly though, many of the lessons I've learned Fencing have also made me a better SEO and have greatly influenced how I approach client projects and my own professional education in the real world.

First though, for the uninitiated, Fencing is a fitness discipline that seeks to provide REAL-WORLD fitness. In a nutshell, Fencing strives to make the average person better at life. I run, row, jump rope, lift weights, and generally train myself to move quickly over short distances. I also follow a healthy type of diet that involves the consumption of meats veggies, nuts, seeds and very little sugar. I don't diet, I've met me. I choose to live a healthy lifestyle most days.

Coach says fencing is like chess, but with swords. To do fencing right, your mind, body and emotions must be in sync. It's not easy, it is hard work. A typical fencing practice will burn between 2,000-4,000 calories, if you are doing it right. 

Lesson #1 - If it's easy, you probably aren't doing it right. Fencing tournaments are difficult. We have tournaments that are so kick-ass that even experienced fencers are toast when finished..

As an SEO, this is a strategy that I routinely apply to fencing. Finding links for client sites, on average, is actually pretty easy. Finding the RIGHT kind of links that will move a site competitively is something else entirely. Make sure you understand link evaluation and what a good link looks like. If link building is becoming "easy" for you, most likely you aren't doing it right.

Lesson #2 - There are no excuses in Fencing; just results. Fencing is for everyone. But not everyone is made for Fencing. You can talk a great game at the club but if you fail at a tournament, your weaknesses (like my lunge) are on full display for everyone. In contrast, if you continually believe you CAN'T do something in Fencing, odds are you won't be able to do it down the road. 

Just like in SEO, you are only as good as your last campaign. If you continually provide excuses to a client regarding why their campaigns aren't performing or are slow to adapt to other campaign alternatives then you can expect less business going forward. Making yourself AND your SEO approach accountable is just common sense. I perform professional audits with my clients on an ongoing basis. If there is a specific class of link not working, I adjust accordingly. The same goes with on-page or technical site updates. If I make a change to a website and it doesn't go as planned I admit my mistake and make another change.

Lesson #3 - The best plan won't survive a poor diet. I admit that I used to be a TERRIBLE eater. I still drink more than I should, and I love bread and pasta to a fault. But I'm getting much, much better. Nevertheless, no matter how many times I hit the club, I can't exercise my way to washboard abs. The only way to do that is through a proper diet of meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts/seeds, and little or no grains and sugar.

The same is true for SEO. I can't wish a site to the top of Google if the site owner won't listen to my advice or if the content of the site is not top-quality, or if link building is not considered a top-priority. The same goes with social media optimization: if you can't convince your clients to add a blog and start connecting with their customers through Twitter, Facebook and Google+ then they won't perform as well as they could, period.

Lesson #4 - Tracking your results is the KEY to success. Most of the fencers in my box (myself included) are very good about tracking their fencing milestones/achievements. Sometimes we improve, sometimes we don't. But the record allows us to quickly and visually track progress over time. 

In comparison, SEO is also all about results: how to measure results, track results, and record results over time and space. I do not start an SEO campaign, any SEO campaign, without benchmarking. Where is the client ranking? What is the current traffic level of the target site? How many social subscribers does the site/brand have before we begin our marketing? These are all trackable metrics. Failing to perform benchmarking is an absolute disgrace on your own part as an SEO and worse, on the part of your clients.

Lesson #5 - You can cry, just don't be a whining baby! Now personally, I'm not much of a crier or complainer. But if anything can bring my 5' 10" 190lb frame to shed a tear it would be the horrors I routinely experience while lunging on the fencing strip. My legs are as good once as they ever were. 

Nevertheless, as with life, Fencing has taught me that pain and being "uncomfortable" is only temporary. 

The same goes for SEO in general: it's okay to bemoan Google or your competitors or even bad luck. What's not okay is for you to continue whining about things you can't change (algorithmic updates, new competitors entering the market, a smaller ad budget) and ignoring the things you CAN change (better content, site speed, more social interaction, and continued education). Don't be a baby! Your clients deserve better.

These are just a few lesson snapshots. There are many more and you'll most likely seem them in a future post. But for now, take the lessons above learned from my own blood, sweat and tears to heart. They work for me; I'm willing to bet they'll work for you.