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Thanks, Coach! What John Wooden Taught Me About SEM
As I was searching for a topic for this article, the news has come in that legendary UCLA coach John Wooden has passed away. Not only was he a coaching legend, he was an extraordinary mentor and a damn fine human being.
From what I’m seeing on Twitter, I probably won’t be the only Search Marketer who found inspiration in Coach Wooden’s words. It seems many of us have drawn inspiration from his words and his actions. I decided to share a few of my favorite Wooden quotes, and draw some parallels to what we do every day, and what we should be doing every day to be the best we can be for ourselves and our clients.
Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.
Touting accomplishments is great, and a wonderful way to cultivate an “atta girl” or an “atta boy”. An accomplishment is only as good as the effort you put into it. A top ranking is nothing if the site is a conversion nightmare. You’ve basically spent time and money on content and links, with little to no hope of recouping your investment. Usability and conversion science should come first, rankings second.
We all have the ability and tools available to know what users like and want, it’s not even particularly expensive to accomplish.
If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?
I’m a big fan of spending the time and money to do things right the first time. Band-aid marketing and website design hardly ever works, and many times backfires. Because my agency likes to do things the right way, we turn many clients away because they want us to take shortcuts and shave time and money off a project, and we’re just not going to do that and turn out something we’re not proudly willing to stand behind.
In marketing, being focused and targeted is going to get you results. Building focus groups, testing interfaces, testing and refining SEO – these things all take time, and like Coach says, you’re going to have even less time to do it over when you’ve made a mess of it the first time.
This leads me to my next quote, which on the surface seems contradictory to the one above, but with deeper reflection you, too, will see the difference.
If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.
We make mistakes every day, that doesn’t mean we’re not doing things right, it means the tactic just didn’t work, and we need to keep trying. Mistakes happen in SEO and SEM. A keyword doesn’t perform the way you anticipate it should, a focus group dislikes a design you’re just sure they’d love. We didn’t do the wrong thing by trying, we made a mistake, and we have to fix it and try again.
Making decisions that help you reach goals are where you need to follow the former, when it comes to tactics and strategy, the latter should be hanging above your monitor. Trying something that didn’t work is not failing, its exploring until you succeed.
I read “Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization” in 2007 and I was hooked. I followed that with “They Call Me Coach” and have the rest of his best-sellers on my “to read” list at Amazon – a list that is seriously out of control. Wooden himself quipped at one time “The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.” This makes me feel slightly better, and not alone.
There is one more that I strive to hear with my heart, but feel that I can always do better. Aware of my shortcomings, I think of this one often:
You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.
When I interact on Twitter, Facebook, on a blog or at a conference, I try to give away as much information as I can, like so many in this industry do. I used to work for a group of lawyers, who wouldn’t help someone out without a payoff, and it had to be a large one. When I started in SEO/SEM, it was a breath of fresh air to find a community that gave information freely, without expectation of reciprocation, but in full appreciation when and if it did come.
So I’ll close this with a “Thanks, Coach” and a challenge to us all to listen to his words with open minds and hearts and strive to do things right the first time – while accepting that we’ll all try and fail a bit along the way.
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