6 Lessons SEOs can learn from CSIPosted 21 September 2011 by Sandy Cosser
I have recently started watching CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (that’s the original and best for the uninitiated) from scratch and it occurred to me that the show has several lessons to teach SEOs, with the overarching lesson being never give up.
1) A bad start isn’t the end of the world.
The pilot episode is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. I have no idea how it generated enough confidence to be picked up but it’s a good thing for the TV viewing public that someone saw the potential in the dodgy start. The characters are nothing like they grow to become. Grissom, who is loved for his stoicism, is a silly wanna-be pal in the pilot. Brass is about as unpleasant a boss as you get. Catherine is shallow and ragged. The only person who nailed his character from the get-go is Gary Dourdan, Warrick.
It’s virtually impossible to get SEO right on the first go. Problems will crop up, things will not go according to plan, clients will change their minds, and expectations will not be met. The trick is to find the good in the attempt and build on it. Look for where it went wrong and try out possible solutions. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
2) Characters change.
William Petersen, an actor with serious chops, took a while to find Grissom’s character. He was still being silly in the 3rd episode but by the 4th he was starting to hit his stride. In the 5th Marg Helgenberger still hadn’t found what makes Catherine tick. Sara Sidle was still a flirt. But they did evolve. They did grow. They became the characters we love.
This builds on lesson one. SEO is a naturally evolving industry, SEOs need to be able to adapt to keep up. They need to be able to discard what doesn’t work. Don’t hold onto a method or strategy out of sentiment or vain hope. On the other hand, you don’t want to suddenly make wide, sweeping changes. Tweaks here and there can do wonders. You never know which tiny adjustment will suddenly make the whole strategy bloom. And when it does bloom, it is beautiful.
3) Follow the science.
It’s Grissom’s number one rule. Don’t be swayed by supposition. Don’t be made a fool of by assumptions. Never presume. Do the hard work.
A lot of SEO is finicky backend work, but it needs to be done and it needs to be done thoroughly. The same with link building – never take shortcuts, do it properly and don’t give Google or any other search engine reason to sniff around and find fault with your processes and results. Don’t claim victory until you’re absolutely sure.
4) Don’t contaminate the scene.
Being careless, trampling all over the crime scene, not wearing gloves and bringing in food and drink is an absolute no-no. Any CSI caught doing any of the above would be fired right-quick, but first they would get a righteous dressing down from Grissom.
Don’t contaminate your content writing efforts (onsite, press releases, blogs, articles, viral attempts, social media communication) with keyword stuffing. Don’t contaminate your link building with link farming or by linking to sites that in anyway violate webmaster guidelines. Don’t contaminate your social media with aggressive marketing spiel. Don’t contaminate your online PR with flagrant disregard for consumers’ rights or by insulting their intelligence. Don’t contaminate your PPC with poorly chosen keywords and phrases.
5) Have your partner’s back.
In the very first episode, a rookie CSI is killed at a crime scene after Warrick goes off on a personal errand. Despite this, Grissom gives him a second chance. Grissom always goes in to bat for his people, so does Horatio (Mac, not so much). The hard lesson is that when you don’t have your partner’s back bad things happen, when you do, weathering the storm is that much easier.
SEO teams should present a united front to clients. Individual team members are fallible, they make mistakes, but they should never be hung out to dry. (Unless the same mistakes are made time and again or the mistakes are made on purpose.) The point is that the team that sticks together and works together reaps positive results together. You won’t win client loyalty if you don’t have staff loyalty.
6) From humble beginnings successful spin-offs are born.
From an incredibly dodgy pilot and what can only be called a scratchy start, CSI: Las Vegas went on to 12 seasons (and counting), it survived the loss of Sara Sidle (and her return) and Grissom and Warrick and (rumour has it) Dr Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne). It gave birth to CSI: Miami, which has proven perennially popular and is in its 10th season, and CSI: NY, which is in its 8th season. Both of which attracted some big stars, revived some flagging careers and provided plenty viral opportunities.
Hard work yields good results. Good work yields even better results. Impressing the hell out of one client can lead to many more – never underestimate the value of word-of-mouth. Charlie Sheen aside, winning is a habit. You make your own luck. If you really, really want to succeed you can build an SEO empire out of virtually nothing.
(Image by Hot Rod Homepage, CC by 2.0, via Flickr)