Zoom! Smash! Why SEO is Like Roller Derby

Amy here (or, depending how you know me, Kat Skratch Eva of the North Star Roller Girls). My coworker Brian and I were discussing the whole “write what you know” philosophy and, in passing, I joked that as long as I can figure out how to compare SEO to roller derby, dogs, bikes or gardening, I’ll be set.

Once I thought about it a bit more, I began to realize how many similar principles there are between Roller Derby and Search Engine Optimization. Here are three big ones, off the top of my head:

Roller Derby is like SEO
photo by: Fotodog

1. Play by the rules

In roller derby, elbowing, skating out of bounds or committing a similar penalty to better your position may help you for a moment, but inevitably the referee will call you for it and send you to the penalty box. Five trips to the penalty box or egregious acts like a “conscious attempt to trip an opponent, whether or not successful” are grounds for immediate expulsion.  If a player receives an expulsion, they have to leave the track immediately and “return to the locker room or staging area” – according to the official WFTDA rules.

On the SEO track, a web site can be penalized for duplicating content, purchasing backlinks, containing hidden text and/or hidden links, or coding a link with the same color as a background to obscure it. Any of these “illegal” activities could also potentially be grounds for “Blacklisting,” or put simply, expulsion from Google. When your site doesn’t appear on the Google search result pages, it’s akin to not being able to play anymore.  These frowned-upon techniques are referred in the industry as “Black Hat” after the villain or bad guy in old Western movies.

2. Have a Plan

In roller derby, there is a lot going on at once: offense, defense, hard hits and fast skating. A skater can’t simply go out on the track and play, she has to have a plan.

A skater needs to:
•    Know the strengths and weaknesses of her teammates on the track with her
•    Be able to keep a calm focus in order to not be detracted from her competitors
•    Know which drills should be played in which situations
•    Master the rules

It is also important for skaters to see the bigger picture and be able to predict when some one is going to skate over and lay a frontal block.

When you’re playing SEO, a successful SEO practitioner needs to not only understand the purpose and goals of their client’s web site, they need to be a master of technique. In addition to this, they need to stay on top of emerging SEO trends and tactics, all while having a patient focus to achieve optimum results. And just like developing new drills, an SEO practitioner needs to develop new techniques to drive traffic to their websites.

In addition to this, consistency is key. The best roller derby skaters are those who spend their time working hard at practice. Similarly, the best SEO practitioners spend their time working hard on page-specific SEO production. Just as a great roller derby skater can help carry her team to victory, so too can great SEO strategy carry a website to the Search Engine promised land.

3. Stick With It

In roller derby, you get knocked down. Until you can master a solid derby stance and be agile enough to dodge hits, you’ll likely get a myriad of bumps and bruises. You might even twist an ankle or break a bone along the way. Just when you think all you’re capable of doing is skating aimlessly in a circle and getting the snot knocked out of you, the light goes on and you start to really play, as opposed to skating in a panic, just trying to remember all of the drills. With experience comes wisdom, and by practicing harder and playing smarter, all the while gaining more experience, the stronger a player you become.

In SEO, you can get knocked down too. Your conversions or your traffic can dip and often times you have to pick yourself up, try a new tactic and continue coming up with new ways to knock your opponent down by jumping over them in the search engine results. More often than not, persistence and practice eventually pays off. If you’re playing SEO, you have to continue tweaking, thinking about usability and building links – just like you build roller derby track time – slowly, smartly and consistently over time.

Hard work and perseverance not only shows up on the derby track, it shows up on the search engines!