If you haven’t been watching this year’s Tour de France, then you’ve missed out on some interesting and dramatic events.  Like any popular sporting event, there is sure to be some sort of controversy, and this year, the Tour de France was no exception. Although fights and crashes were certainly not good news to report, there are some interesting lessons that I have learned from this year’s Tour that relate to SEO and Internet marketing. Here are some of my observations…

Use Your Competitor’s Slipstream

When trying to be efficient with their energy, a rider may opt not to take the lead, but instead hang out in close second or third for a while. This is most commonly seen in breakaway groups where there may only be a handful of riders trying to create a gap on the rest of the peloton.  Even in breakaways, the riders will alternate positions so as to conserve energy by drafting off the rider in front. As counterintuitive as it may seem, drafting off an opponent can help conserve energy, which can help a rider get a better GC (General Classification) placement. This is something that is referred to as getting into an opponent’s slipstream. If you’re trying to reinvent the wheel, you’re not being efficient. When it comes to competition, you need to be aware of what your competitors are doing and what is leading to their success. Although that doesn’t mean that you should copy your competitor’s every move, it may allow you insight on unforeseen marketing opportunities that can help improve your SEO.

Sometimes second, or even third, isn’t so bad. While you may not want to be anything less than first on a SERP for a given keyword, it may not be efficient to get to the very top. If it’s not practical to be first, you can still shoot for second or third. Surprisingly enough, it is possible for a site that ranks second or third to have more visits than the site that ranks first. You want to make sure that you get good SERP conversion because your ultimate goal should be to have a greater ROI (Return on Investment). And if shooting for number 1 is costing more yet providing less conversions than competing for number 3 through 10 which brings more conversions, you are better off keeping your focus to second or third place. It should go without saying that you still want to be on the first page of Google, which would put you within the first ten results, since most search engine users don’t bother to look past the first page of search engine results.

Buying Links = Doping

When it comes to cycling, it is hard not to be aware of the doping scandals that have come to light in recent years. However, much like EPO can be used as a performance enhancing drug to cheat the system, so, too, can buying links. Buying links is a tactic that is used by those who are aiming to somehow manipulate their PageRank, and thus, their search results. To make matters worse, buying links doesn’t guarantee that you will shoot up to the top in the SERPs. Just like taking EPO still doesn’t guarantee a win, link buying is still something that Google is forced to oversee and enforce, much like the UCI having to conduct testing for performance enhancing drugs. Google doesn’t like paid links, just like the UCI doesn’t like riders that participate in blood doping.

Just as the UCI can boot out a cyclist and their entire team for getting busted doping, Google can even drop a site from their Search Engine altogether. Like with blood doping, link buying/selling is still used by those who are willing to take the risk of getting caught and dealing with the punishment that comes along with it. And, just like submitting a reinclusion request can work to get you out of hot water with Google, even the UCI can appeal a ban. One example can be found with veteran rider, Alexander Vinokourov, who was able to return to cycling after an appeal of his two-year ban for testing positive for blood doping in 2007. Vino not only got back to racing in the UCI ProTour, he took it a step further and went on to win the 2010 Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Keep in mind that Google does not have a problem with organic SEO and paid advertisements, just like the UCI doesn’t go after the guys who eat healthy and train all year for the Tour.

First Place Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Even without crashes, flat tires and chains popping off, judging the overall race winner based on the flatter stages in the beginning of the Tour is premature. A great time-trialist like Fabian Cancellara (aka Spartacus) would go on to take the yellow jersey towards the beginning of the race, only to lose it in the mountain stages to great climbers like Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador. Looking just at the first seven stages (including the prologue), Contador and Schleck don’t even place in the top five, yet they would both go on to take first and second, respectively. You can’t base your predictions on beginning stages.

How is this like Internet marketing? It should go without saying, but it is easy to believe that you can shoot up in the SERPs in just a few weeks, but it is not that simple. Although you may encounter another SEO Company who says that they can “put you on page 1 in Google” in a week, don’t fall for it. Google generally likes sites that are consistent with new content and link building, though those aren’t the only things they look for. Building a lot of links one month only to neglect link building for months following will not look good in the eyes of Google. Placement on SERPs is a lot more than just PageRank, so it’s important to see beyond just one metric; also keep in mind that you will need to look at the whole picture when it comes to your SEO efforts. Be patient but be vigilant.

If You Can’t Win Yellow, Why Not Shoot for a Different Color

Unless a rider is Superman, it’s not likely that he will receive every single jersey at the end of each stage, but that’s great for those that are specialists. Many riders are specialists, whether they be sprinters, climbers, time-trialists and some are All-Rounders. This concept can carry over to your keyword targeting. Putting all your eggs in one basket doesn’t always bring success. Competing for broad keywords, as glorifying as it would be to be on the first page of Google for those broad keywords, is often an expensive venture. Much like going for the yellow jersey, targeting broad keywords takes a lot of investment as well. If you can narrow down your specialty (through the use of long-tail keywords), you have a better chance of ranking better for it. Just as specialty riders use their distinctive abilities to their advantage, so too, should your keyword targeting.

It should come as no surprise that the winners of the Tour de France usually have to stay towards the top throughout the majority of the stages in order to be in contention for the overall Tour win. In order to get the yellow jersey at the Champs-Élysées, you need to be able to survive not only the flat stages and time trials, but excel at the mountain stages, as well. Although being an all-rounder will help to keep the maillot jaune, it usually doesn’t hurt for riders to aim for stage wins if it can help increase their overall placement, as well. In internet marketing, this is much like running a social media marketing campaign. The campaign may not last very long, but the benefits can still be felt after the campaign is over. See Mike’s post about how Best Rank is more than just SEO for more on this subject.

Domestiques Play a Key Role in Winning Any Jersey

Domestiques are invaluable assets to their team leaders. Whether you’re Mark Cavendish sprinting for a stage win, or if you’re going for yellow like Alberto Contador, you’re going to need some support. Although it is still up to the individual rider to outperform the other riders, it can make a huge difference to have a domestique working for you. A domestique is a necessary tool and invaluable asset to the team leader, much like social media networks are to an social media marketing campaign. Having any advantage, however small, can mean the difference between standing on the podium, or going home without a jersey. If you don’t use social media to your advantage, you may not surpass your competitors in the SERPs. Don’t pass up the opportunity to use social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, Digg and Reddit.

Unforeseen Injuries Can Cost You the Yellow Jersey

Australian rider, Cadel Evans, had a lot of hope in this year’s Tour de France, as did Luxembourgian rider Frank Schleck. However, the 2009 UCI Road World Champion’s contention for the overall win was shut down after having suffered a hairline fracture on his left elbow during a crash in stage 9. Furthermore, Frank would bow out of the race due to a broken collarbone in stage 3, and another hopeful, Tyler Farrar, would suffer a broken wrist the same stage. Tyler’s teammate, Christian Vande Velde, would abandon the race after having broken two ribs in a crash in stage 2, as well. Although both Cadel and Tyler would continue to race on their broken bones, sadly, Farrar would retire shortly before the end of the Tour. Helmets off to Cadel for making it to the end of the Tour on a broken elbow.

Even though accidents are bound to happen, this same problem can happen with your Internet marketing efforts. Whether your site goes down, or you find that you’re being outranked on the SERPs for negative reviews, you need to be vigilant and make sure to fix any damaging issues that may come your way. Neglecting serious site issues can greatly decrease your traffic and conversions. You can try to go it alone, but sooner or later, you may need to hire a professional to handle your web development or online reputation hiccups. Don’t let unforeseen injuries to your site interfere with your Internet marketing campaign.


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