SEO and the electric guitar: both have revolutionized the world of music, birthed several genres of rock and roll, and inspired countless teenagers to fantasize about becoming famous musicians.
Okay, maybe that's just the electric guitar. Still, these two seemingly-unrelated disciplines have more in common than you might think. In honor of National Hobby Month, let's compare one of my favorite hobbies to one of the most important aspects of digital marketing today.
Both Can Make You Famous
Search famous, at least. Ranking on the first page for "dentists in Orlando" might not be as impressive as the lasting musical legacy left by legendary guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King, but it will get you seen by a lot more people – just like becoming a great guitarist.
Consider the traffic statistics on web sites ranked on the first page of Google. Moz reported that the collective click-through rate for organic search results on page one was over 71%. Move to the second page, and you can expect your CTR to plummet to below 4%, a decrease of over two-thirds.
In terms of visibility, sites listed on the first results page are like the rockstar guitar players of Google – without the drugs, excessive drinking and destroyed hotel rooms.
Both Involve Many Small Elements
Even if they're playing the same piece of music, no two guitarists sound exactly alike. There are so many minor factors that can change a player's sound: besides the guitar itself there's the amplifier, effect pedals, pick thickness, string gauge and so on.
SEO is the same way. Though there are some factors that are more important than others, you still have to worry about meta titles, header tags, meta descriptions, slug URLs, site categories, keyword density, backlinks, anchor text and a dozen other factors.
The best guitarists are masters of every single nuance of the gear they use, collectively known as a "rig." It's the same with SEO – the best-optimized sites take everything into account, even the small stuff. These factors all combine to help push your site higher on search results pages.
Both Change Frequently
SEO might have a small advantage in this category: Google changes its algorithm hundreds of times a year, and people with a basic understanding of SEO know that what matters for page optimization can change on a yearly or even monthly basis.
But guitar has changed in a lot of ways, too. The advent of the internet and video lessons brought about an entirely new method for guitarists of the future to learn their craft. Technology used in effect pedals, pickups, and amplifiers continues to advance. In both fields, the best practitioners are actively paying attention to new developments and using them to improve their skills.
Both Depend on Great Support
In every style of music save for jazz and classical, it's nearly impossible for a guitarist to go it alone. Imagine Jimmy Page's bluesy riffs without the steady rhythm provided by John Bonham and John Paul Jones, or the manic, distorted licks of Eddie Van Halen without David Lee Roth's raspy vocals.
Even singer-songwriters that play by themselves usually rely on singing to complement their guitar playing. Have you ever seen a virtuoso guitarist mindlessly shredding at a million notes per second while the rest of the band stands behind them, going through the motions to collect a paycheck?
SEO holds a similar role in the digital marketing ensemble. Sure, optimizing your page for search engines is important, but you also need valuable content, a social media presence, a website that's easy to use and good visual design. A marketing strategy that focuses on SEO and ignores everything else won't be effective, just like a band that showcases their guitarist at the expense of other members won't be an interesting show.
Both Take a While to Learn
There are thousands of blog posts, online courses, videos, podcasts, and other forms of content designed to help you learn SEO. For the uninitiated, it can take months of devouring as much information as possible to gain enough knowledge to even start having an impact on your site's ranking.
Then you have to implement it.
Learning to play the guitar is the same way. Steve Vai, who attended Berklee College of Music and played in Frank Zappa's band in the early 1980s, told Guitar Player that he used to practice 12 hours a day. The famous metal virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen stopped attending school at the age of 15, devoting the rest of his teenage years to playing the guitar.
Should you spend 12 hours a day learning SEO? Probably not – just like most aspiring musicians shouldn't drop out of school to pursue dreams of becoming a famous guitarist. But if you want to get really good at either of these abilities, look at them more like a marathon than a race – consistently dedicate time to learn, practice what you know as often as possible, and above all, take pleasure in the journey.