We often hear questions about the different elements of SEO: Which is most important? What should I focus on? I heard _________ is really important … should I just do that?
Then one day it occurred to me: The Princess Bride is the perfect metaphor for SEO strategy. Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge … sounds like a regular day in the world of digital marketing to me!
And although this INCREDIBLE film earned just one Oscar nomination, I’m hoping that the following blog will encourage you to pull out your VHS tape, dust it off and rediscover your “true wuv” for the story and digital marketing all at the same time.
The parts of SEO
There are hundreds (probably thousands) of factors that Google and other search engines take into account before serving up a SERP (search engine results page) for any given search term. As a digital marketer, some of the factors that you can have the most control over include keyword themes, optimization for specific keywords and domain authority (not really a Google ranking factor, but more a measure of the relevance and strength of a site overall).
So which elements of SEO will help you overthrow evil Prince Humperdink? Let’s start by getting to know each part a little better:
Keyword themes (The Man in Black/Dread Pirate Roberts/Westley). Optimizing your site around a certain keyword theme or two is similar to Westley’s strategy of learning the key skills of pirating in order to build his fortune and ultimately come home and marry Buttercup. For instance, if Westley were to put together a website, he’d probably create a fair amount of content around sword fighting, deception, resistance to iocane powder and other pirate-type things.
Specific Keywords (Inigo Montoya/The Spaniard). Often I hear requests to be “first on Google” for one key term that is very highly searched. This is just like Inigo Montoya’s revenge strategy: becoming the best swordfighter in the world to avenge his father. For Inigo Montoya’s site, you could assume that he’s spent the past 20 years working on getting that No. 1 spot for fencing (it does have 49,500 monthly searches, after all) or maybe:
This focus on a singular keyword can make you nearly unstoppable … but only for one term.
Domain authority (Fezzik/Andre the Giant). Working on domain authority is arguably the best strategy for hand-to-hand combat against sites in your direct competitive set. Fezzik’s strategy of using his remarkable size and strength to build a solid reputation served him well in helping him find work as a charity fighter or muscle for hire. In addition, domain authority can make it easier to capture new key terms.
So … who wins?
It’s hard to say what one strategy is most important to focus on—they each have their strengths:
Getting a hold on your keyword themes is a good place to start. After all, Westley and his keyword themes beat Inigo’s incredible “fencing” term with acrobatics and agility.
Westley and his optimized keyword themes beat Fezzik’s domain authority, since, as he notes, “I’m not used to fighting just one guy.”
But Westley alone still is no match for Humperdink and “the machine.”
So … what to do?
Band together! When Westley, Inigo and Fezzik work together, they’re able to outsmart and overthrow Prince Humperdink and safely rescue Princess Buttercup.
By building a website that incorporates your smarts, skills and strengths—and is written to help your users (think of them as Princess Buttercup)—you’ll be able to beat the bad guys in SEO rankings.
And as Westley notes, it might not be easy:
First, start with some keyword research and figure out what the very highly searched terms (that also match user intent) in your industry are—you’ll want to keep those front and center as you’re thinking about site structure, copy and the offsite content you’ll be producing.
Next, develop keyword themes around some of those highly searched terms. Theme lists generally consist of a variety of mid- to long-tail keywords related to one of your offerings or a key audience challenge that your products and services solve.
Finally, create a development and distribution strategy to make sure that your site is properly optimized and that the fantastic content you’re producing (think white papers, blogs, case studies, etc.) are being picked up and linked to throughout the Internet. This will help increase your domain authority, which ultimately makes it easier to “capture” new keywords and grow your overall online brand strength.
The bottom line is that you work hard, plan well and get a bit of a boost from Miracle Max (aka your favorite E&S SEO expert), you can …