"SEO is Rocky Balboa."

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 "SEO is Rocky Balboa."
"SEO is Rocky Balboa."

Gaining customers' attention online can sometimes feel like an underdog trying to win a prize fight. “Rocky Balboa is SEO. SEO is Rocky Balboa,” Jeff Herbst, director of organic search for 2tor, said during his presentation at the Conductor C3 conference in New York.

Herbst explained how 2tor, a supplier of higher education online degree programs, manages to keep the eye of the tiger trained on the competition while fighting against challenges in the ever-evolving world of SEO. He revealed what he calls the 12 rounds of SEO challenges and explained how, like fictional boxer Rocky Balboa, SEO is an “undervalued fighter.”

Round 1: Understand your company's needs

While it might seem intuitive, Herbst preaches that understanding a company's business and mission is crucial to achieving its main objectives. Just as how some matches require strength while others require stamina, not every mission uses the same tools, strategies, or services, Herbst explained. Businesses must assess what works best for them to come out victorious.

Round 2: Keep improving

Inbound marketing is a combination of SEO, social, content, web ops, and analytics, Herbst noted. Businesses cannot be afraid to continually bob and weave to find better and better ways to create a cohesive strategy in order to build trust, brand authority, and natural partnerships through integration. “It's easy to fall into complacency,” Herbst said. “What's working now is not necessarily what's going to work in the future.”

Round 3: Know your competition

Just as how Rocky sized up Apollo Creed before his big fight, marketers must also analyze their competition. Herbst recommended using SWOT analysis to determine a competitor's strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Round 4: Conduct short- and long-term planning

Herbst advised attendees to produce yearly, quarterly, and monthly plans for executing a successful situation-target-path approach to SEO.

Round 5: Build a business case

If marketers want to convince a CMO to add dollars into their budget, they're going to need some evidence to show that their SEO and inbound marketing goals are attainable. By laying out a business' current share of voice, market potential, rates, growth, performance history, data and research, marketers can provide their CMO with a better understanding of how these marketing dollars will improve marketing results.

Round 6: Align resources

Companies need to make the most of what they have in place already. Herbst says that 2tor put search into the brand marketing organization to access the division's resources and analytics, tap into its budget, and connect to its PR team and brand marketers.

Round 7: Hire right

It's important to know a candidate's strengths and weaknesses before bringing on a new hire. Herbst recommended conducting a formal briefing with HR about the requirements for any open positions, screening for a cultural fit, and administering scenario-based test during the interview process to help ensure that businesses have strong fighters in their corner.

Round 8: Evangelize internally

Becoming a power player takes training and motivation. Herbst said educating employees on how inbound marketing can help them achieve their objectives is vital to the success of a company's SEO efforts. “We don't need to have people in the company question what they do,” he said.

Round 9: Build customer engagement

Once a company establishes brand authority and determines its goals, it's time to put its training to the test and bring in some revenue. Yet, Herbst asserts that blasting emails is the not the way to go about it. “The more you join the conversation, the more people start to listen,” he said.

Herbst reminded attendees that directly engaging with customers leads to sustainable relationships and offline conversations.

Round 10: Go the distance

Many businesses want instant gratification. However, implementing these strategies takes time. Herbst advised attendees to think about long-term investments and payoffs. Putting in the effort today could lead to revenue tomorrow, he said.

Round 11: Break down silos

Throwing a single punch rarely leads to a knockout, and single channel marketing rarely leads to success. Herbst said that businesses should educate each department to demonstrate how every piece of the company can benefit from an integrated inbound approach.

Round 12: Block the search engine one-two punch

“We've lost this round,” Herbst says.

No company wins every time, and marketers have to understand that, in this digitally evolving world, some things are simply out their control, such as technological changes and advancements. “If you've won the other 11 rounds…you don't have to worry about algorithm changes,” Herbst says.

Today's world of SEO will not be the same tomorrow, but if businesses have a firm understanding of their objectives, scope out their competition, come up with a strategic plan, and educate their staff, they too can go the distance.

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