Summer Camp Optimization (SCO)

I grew up going to summer camp every year.  Now that I’m older (and I’m old), I transitioned from camper to counselor to camp leadership.  This particular camp is a skill building camp, but different from basketball camps or computer camp, the skills here are things you don’t necessarily use every day and there were multiple classes to choose from.  

My favorite class then (and now) is Archery.  I am an official ‘American Archer’.  That doesn’t mean much (to almost anyone), but to me, I worked HARD to become an American Archer.  I remember my first year taking archery.  I loved the first day so much, that I stayed with the instructor, Duck (all the counselors and leaders had bird names), and helped unstring the bows, load up the targets, etc.  We used long bows and recurves, and to unstring a recurve bow, there is an intricate process where you steady the bow with your leg, bend the bow and remove the string.  I had never done this before and didn’t have the feel for it.  One thing led to another and the bow wound up hitting me right in the forehead.  Hard.  Duck laughed way too much for an adult counselor trying to help young children reach their dreams.

This was one of the first, but not the only, times I failed in Archery.

For those of you who may know me, you’ll find it hard to believe that I was not immediately perfect at this sport (#sarcasm).  Guess what…the first day I shot, even though I loved it, I doubt that I hit the target very much.  It was the few hits on the outside white part of the target (that didn’t even count for points) that kept me going.  Eventually (after years of archery), I got better.  I started out shooting 15 yards from the target and wound up shooting 100 yards from the target with precision and accuracy.  When I took my ‘American Archer’ test and passed, I had finally reached the desired skill level.

These days, if I’m lucky, I shoot once a year (at camp).  I’m nowhere as good as I could be if I wouldn’t have stopped after high school, but that momentum is gone.  However, when I pick up a bow for my camp classes now, after a few shots, I’m pretty deadly.  What always astounds me in class is when first time shooters give up after two failed shots.  Let me say, they ‘try’ to give up, that’s not really an option.  Class opens with me (Jay – my counselor bird name) explaining the vocabulary of archery, the points of our stance, the safety, the scoring and then we slowly (I emphasize slowly) all take the first actions of getting to the line, knocking our arrows, aiming and then firing together so that everyone understands the process.

That’s the start.  You have to have a base to start from.

After this, we repeat the same thing, over and over, correcting our stance, learning to aim…and getting better.  Everyone gets better.  That one person (kid or adult) that can’t shoot their first arrow in the time it takes the other 5 people on the line to shoot all 6 arrows gets frustrated and just says “I’m not good at this, just let everyone go get their arrows and I’ll wait.”

My response is always the same:

Jay: How many times have you done this?


Complainer:
Never.


Jay:
Oh, this is your first time ever?


Complainer:
Yes. cue rolling eyes


Jay:
So, in your entire lifetime, this is the first arrow you’ve ever shot and you think the arrow should have hit the bullseye?


Complainer:
cue silence


Jay:
It’s your first day, we’re not looking for perfect.  You do not have to be perfect.  Let’s try this again…

Then, that is exactly what we do.  We practice.  We get used to what works.  If the bow tension is too much, we change bows.  If the stance if off, we correct.  If we’re aiming poorly, we redirect.  By the end of the 5 days of 1 hour archery classes, that first time shooter is hitting the target, with accuracy and consistency.   We track results with their score and they can see their progress.  We see the initial progress of the week and then year after year, we see the campers return and perform better than Jay.

If you have not made the correlation between archery and search engine optimization yet, keep reading.

Let’s assume that you have never done any optimizing of your site and you don’t have any traffic.  You don’t have a base.  Whether your website is brand new and you bought the domain last month or you’ve had it a year, it is the same.   You have to start at the start:

  • Perform an audit of your site’s on-site SEO and fix all of the issues there.  The primary issues are going to be things like:
    • H1 tags, meta descriptions, image tags, content to code ratios, etc.
  • Create content.  This content needs to be specifically about you and what you offer, using your keywords in a natural way.  You need more content than design.
  • You need backlinks from authoritative sites back to your site.  The easiest start to this are directories and basic social media accounts.  Your listings need to tell the same story and link back to your site to boost online authority and SEO.

Great, now that you are holding the bow and the arrows and standing on the firing line, looking at the target, you’re done.  Right?

Wrong.

All you have now is the base.  Notice that that base was not just having a pretty website….let that sink in.

What helps us hit the target in SEO are the next steps.  These next, repeated steps are not options, but requirements.  We create new content (on and off site – remember those links back to your site).  We get used to what works (and doesn’t).  If we are focused on being found for keywords that don’t result in traffic, we need to readjust our aim.  Giving up after you don’t see immediate results with SEO is unrealistic.  SEO is not paid advertisements.  It isn’t billboard advertising.  Search engine optimization is building authority.  It is building skill by the continued momentum and constant adjustments to get you to where you need to be.  It is setting you up as the ultimate resource and authority online for your keywords.

If you competition is already shooting from the 75 yard line and you’re shooting from 15 yards, then who needs more shooting time?  Who needs greater momentum?  Who needs more SEO?  You have to be competing on the same level as your competitors; if you have 10 visits a month and are ranking for 5 keywords, that’s great – but if your competition has 1,000 visits a month and is ranking for 500 keywords, who needs to be hustling more?

SEO is the long game, but it’s the most affective approach for becoming the online authority and for being found in search engine results.  Remember that Google’s ultimate goal is to give the best possible answer to a question asked (or to a search).  The best possible result is not going to look like the first day shooter (a chubby little boy with a big bruise on his forehead because he doesn’t know how to handle what he has).

In the last few months, Buzzhive Marketing has been astounded to see some brand new clients, with brand new sites climb to the top of the search results with lighting speed because they have no competition with their keywords.  They’re basically shooting from 2 yards away and it’s easy to hit the bullseye from there, with little effort.  The more competitive your market, the more aggressive you have to be.  You probably need to be shooting more than an hour a day for 5 days, once a year.  You can still achieve growth this way, but the time frame is too long for you to adequately measure its effectiveness or truly be competitive.

You can go to camp, you can be in the class, you can even hold the bow…but you’re not going to be perfect immediately, you have to practice and build your momentum.

Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.

Colin Powell

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.

Vince Lombardi

I probably do have an obsessive personality, but striving for perfection has served me well.

Tom Ford

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