Up until about the age of three, I had a bit of a compulsion to always be first. “Me foist!” is what I’d yelp out whenever a queue formed. I loved being at the head of the pack, forging new territory with a red balloon in one hand and a Golden Book in the other. That all changed, however, during the winter of ’68 when my family and assorted relatives took to a local snow-covered hill in an outlying burbs of Cleveland, Ohio.*

“Me foist! Me foist!” I exclaimed over and over as my uncle dragged a gigantic toboggan to the crest of the hill.

I distinctly remember my aunt and my uncle, both cousins, my dad, my mother and my brother saying in so many words,“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” Overconfident and unconvinced, I ignored their warnings –  all pleas went unheeded. Undaunted, I crawled into my perceived seat of importance and waited patiently for the rest of the crowd to get their incompetent butts in place; my eyes beaming down the hill with unbridled anticipation.

And then, (at last!) the moment arrived! The last person in line began to push and push, and as the toboggan gained steam, we all tucked our legs in close to the sides of the sled and (whoosh!) we were off – laughing and screaming down what had seemed such a gentle slope down, down, down, toward what I imagined was Who-ville below.

It all went well for the first 10 seconds – that is, before the toboggan-induced blizzard of snow powder ensued. If there had been an adult in my regal seat it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but you see, Gentle Reader, my eyeballs barely cleared the front curl of wood frame in front of me. By the time we slid to a resting position I wasn’t just covered in snow powder, I was buried – transformed into an Abominable Snow Susan.

Once I gained my bearings and checked to make sure both my eyes were still in my head, loud lamenting erupted from the walls of my unexpected igloo. This, of course, got the adults quickly in gear, pulling me up and dusting me off like some sort of over-insulated rag doll. You’d think I’d have cried my eyes out, but no. All I said was a disgruntled, “I don’t wanna be foist anymore.”

And so it goes. Since then, being “foist” hasn’t been as important to me as having fun, whatever I happen to be doing. Which brings me in a very round about way to the subject of this post. What does it take to be FIRST… or is just enough to be simply first with Google?

You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!
In other words, don’t be an overconfident nincompoop

One thing’s for sure – a 3 year old mentality of pushing your way to the front just to satisfy your own Terrible Toddler Hunger for World Domination is sure to leave you out in the cold when it comes to Google, and bombarding twitter with copious tweets just to push your product or service without caring about your audience is the equivalent of “You’ll shoot your eye out!” on the internet. Tweeters and Facebookers will drop you like a nerd in the midst of a cheerleading squad if you go this route. No one wants to hear how great YOU are, they’d rather benefit from learning something from you. Believe it or not, succeeding at SEO requires a certain measure of good will.

Embrace Your Audience, Abandon Formulas

Trust me, there is no magic formula for getting yourself to the head of the class, it takes true passion for your service and good old fashioned hard work. If you’re feeling frustrated by this, don’t be because it’s a good thing for everyone. No one wants to waste their time visiting sites whose content isn’t valuable to them. Sure, it’s important to have a good balance of keywords and text to images. Rest assured if you bind yourself to these rules your writing will become encumbered and unnatural. Twenty years ago did you want to pick up an encyclopedia and find nothing but boastful, formulaic marketing? Of course not. Searchers want to make educated decisions, and research tells us the average user distrusts traditional marketing techniques, preferring to be responded to and interacted with than bullied and bulldozed. So take the time to cultivate relationships with your audience instead of banging them over the head with your NEW! IMPROVED! Snow Cone!

Do Your Homework ~ in other words, update your BLOG!

Sorry if I sound like your mom, but there’s no way around the fact that frequent updates to your blog is like bird seed for both Google and your customers. You’ll need to commit to updating content on a regular basis – preferably once a week – so search engines know your site isn’t dead, but alive and full of authoritative information that might be of interest. Don’t get too caught up in formulaic writing, simply be passionate about what your business offers. Write with the best interests of your customers at heart! If you do, your keywords will appear naturally (which is what Google is looking for) and your content will be easy to read (again, Google doesn’t reward a clunky, hard to read material). Put yourself in your client’s shoes, and write from a caring heart. Your customers, and the search engines, will take notice and thank you.

Word of Mouth is Priceless ~ Get out on the Playground!

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter provide the ultimate venues for word of mouth marketing. Sure, it takes time to cultivate, but is by far the most powerful marketing one can hope for. We’re more likely to buy from and trust a seller whom others trust and recommend. Customers will recommend you if they’ve had a good experience with you and if you provide content that clearly delineates you as an authority in your field. This is why engagement in social media, if embarked upon with an intelligent plan, can do wonders for your bottom line. Sure, 5,000 followers would be nice up front, but even a handful of interested, enthusiastic followers at the beginning will plant seeds for your service that will bloom over time.

The Golden Rule ~ always play nice!

Never bash your competition. Ever. I’m serious. Not only is it bad energy that will boomerang back at you, it’s simply bad business. A slip of the tongue or some other ego-induced tweet bomb can ruin your online efforts. Remember, the internet is public, and your goal is earn people’s trust and respect. Search engines reward you for being a trusted source of information in your field, which requires being a class act. What goes around comes around, so don’t be a bully…. and eat your brussels sprouts too while you’re at it!

So take it from a three year old who’s been there, done that. Wanting to be FIRST isn’t necessarily the best thing in the world, but swooshing in at the top of search results with everyone happily on the toboggan alongside you will not only win you customers and higher ranking, it will create a happier world.

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