How to Do SEO Right in 2021

There are so many components to organising a winning SEO campaign that it can be a daunting task for any business owner. It’s a constant exercise in trying to balance time, money and results.

And How an SEO Campaign is like Coaching a Football Club

In some ways, generating leads online is a bit like coaching a football club.

It’s no secret that football (or soccer as they call it here down under), lacks the goal scoring frequency and excitement associated with other popular sports such as Basketball, Baseball and Australian Rules Football.

And the same could be said for a poorly managed SEO strategy. Today, we are looking at how coaching a football team is not too different to organising an SEO campaign for a business of any size.

To begin with, we need a referee.

Google is the Referee

Google is the obvious choice for a referee. Like a weekly football match, teams are susceptible to the quality of the refereeing or their interpretations of the rules. Similar to how results for queries change with new trends such as mobile or voice search.

Or an algorithm update such as BERT comes along. Same rules, different interpretations.

Scoring Goals is Like Sale Conversions

The ultimate purpose for both SEO and a football club is to harness a group of components to achieve better results. In this case scoring goals or making sales.

A championship winning football team usually has no problem in scoring goals. And the same applies for a website of a well-oiled business with an SEO strategy that has been refined and improved over time.

But when things aren’t going well, it often takes a fresh set of eyes or some independent analysis to work out where the problems lie.

Coaching Football is Just Like Owning a Business

After ten years of coaching football teams it became easier for me to identify the strengths and weaknesses of my players. And even with experience, the overall strategy was ever changing to suit the current trends (the match we were playing).

A business owner faces a similar challenge when identifying their own SEO components and how best to improve their overall results.

For Small Business

When a small business owner is running their own SEO campaign, there are going to be weaknesses within some of the components.

For example, graphic designers will often have a beautiful website, delightful looking images and pretty buttons and features.

But having expertise in one area often means weakness in others. Or being alright at everything means nothing is of a high standard.

Like a team of amateur footballers playing once a week on Sundays. No one would pay them to play because of their lack of training and experience. But they do enough to keep it all ticking over, even if the results are unreliable.

And just like a football coach who might have been an attacker as a player, it’s normal to expect their team will often do better when attacking, than they do in defence.

For this reason, a wise graphic designer might look to hire expertise in areas of weakness.

For Companies

Coaches of professional football teams surround themselves with coaches who are experts in other areas of the team.

This is the distinguishing feature of a major company. Unlike the small business owner, a company will pay experienced experts to monitor and improve all areas of their SEO campaign.

Which improves their overall chances of higher conversions.

An Assistant Coach is like SEO Tools

To combat my own weakness as football coach (I played as an attacker) I always selected assistants who had been defenders as a player.

But of course, the quality of the assistant coach was always dependent on the amount they were being paid.

For Small Business

They say a handyman is only as good as his tools. On a lower budget, small business owners are restricted by the quality of the information they can access. Or in the case of an assistant coach, only as good as his expertise in analysing the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

In this case, it’s up to the small business owner to decide which marketing channels the budget should focus on the most.

For Companies

When companies hire experts, they are accessing an assistant coach with a range of expensive tools. But the results of the analysis provide a better understanding of which part of the team is letting us down.

SEO Campaign is Just Like A Football Team

So, how are the components of an SEO strategy got anything to do with the positions of the players on a football field? Well in attack, the scoring of a goal is a similar objective to converting a sale online.

While in defense, the objective is to stay in the game or to keep the customer on your page long enough to have a chance to convert.

Using that methodology, I have outlined the positions of a football team (using a modern football formation of 4-2-3-1) to relate them to marketing components used by agencies to construct an SEO campaign.

These same components are available to local businesses right through to global corporations. Or in this case, a local Sunday team right through to the current Champions League winners, Liverpool.  

The Goalkeeper is like an Email List

After two goalkeeping errors cost Liverpool the chance of winning their sixth Champions League title, the club invested a staggering 75 million euros on the star Brazilian, Alisson.

A year later, Liverpool lifted the same trophy having won 2-0 in the final, with their new goalkeeper making eight saves.

When the team is having a bad day, the referee has been scandalous and the fans are whistling from the terraces, a good Goalkeeper can keep you in the game. Just like an email list can continue to drive traffic to a website whenever Google alters their interpretation of search results .

Just like an email list the value of a good Goalkeeper has skyrocketed. And despite all the ways to advertise a business, email still has the highest average ROI with every dollar spent earning an impressive $32.

Central Defenders are Like a Website

During the 1990s, two trends emerged that would change the world forever. The obvious trend was the internet. And since then websites have continued to influence the way the world trades and communicates.

The second trend, though far less significant, was that the key to winning lots of trophies in football was to buy two strong, intelligent and fast central defenders.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson would be the first to say that the key to winning eight titles in 11 years was having an exceptional website…I mean two quality central defenders.


Like the Goalkeeper, good defenders can keep the team in the game and for a website your customers on the page. However, slow, unresponsive and weak websites lead to higher bounce rates which in turn leads to lower rankings and less traffic.

Full Backs are Like Social Media Marketing

For those who aren’t familiar with football positions, full backs assist the central defenders by covering the space in the wider areas. They are also tasked with supporting the attack which requires a lot of hard work. A bit like the constant tinkering on social media.

Most modern coaches will agree that your full backs can be your biggest weakness or your greatest asset. An ordinary full back can cost you lots of goals and offer very little in attack.

The SEO equivalent is not sending any traffic or getting unfollowed due to a poor content strategy. In comparison, a world-class full back (social media page) can set up conversions or even sell directly from his own boot.

For some small businesses, investing in a social media agency to run targeted content could prove to be a shrewd piece of coaching.

Defensive Midfielders are Like Website Copy

Another 1990s addition to the world of football is the defensive midfielder or screener. Some even like to call them water boys. This player is strong, influential to the team’s success and after helping defend, is often the player who begins the next attack.

Given the measure of this player’s influence, website copy looked to be the most appropriate fit. Often, small business owners take it upon themselves to write their own copy which sometimes leads to spelling mistakes, errors or waffling without direction.

The advantage of a great defensive midfielder or in this case having great copy, is that visitors stay engaged with your website. They read more of your content and therefore the link towards a purchase can begin. A bit like setting up the next attack.

Nowadays, Europe’s top football clubs (big corporations) are happy to pay a fortune for the services of a quality defensive midfielder (copywriter).

But for smaller budgets, there are plenty of affordable copywriters available that can turn your products and services into words that sell.

Attacking Wingers are Like Advertising Campaigns

Attacking wingers are the most expensive players in the game of football. This position is where you will find Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and the important players for most other teams.

They are paid the most because they score or setup conversions (make sales) more often than any other. So, it should come as no surprise to see Ronaldo being compared to an advertising campaign.

And just like all the flashy tricks, a clever advertising campaign can lead to lots of scoring opportunities.

On the other hand, a string of poor advertising campaigns can leave the entire football club (business) languishing in mid-table mediocrity.

Yes, SEO advertising agencies can be expensive but there really is no limit for a football team that keeps hitting the back of the net.

Attacking Midfielder is Like a Digital Marketing Agency

An attacking midfielder is one of the most skilful players in any team. Many say that Messi is THE most skilful player on the planet but where does he do his most creative work? In the space normally allocated to the attacking midfielder.

The attacking midfielder assesses the positions of all the advertising (attacking) players and looks for ways to improve. They are experts at analysing the situation and finding ways to improve the results.

In many ways an attacking midfielder is like an advertising agency that specialises in all areas. They understand how all the marketing channels combine together and can find ways to increase the performance of the team.

Strikers are Like Landing Pages and Product Descriptions

Strikers or centre forwards are usually tall, bold, quick and know how to score goals. And so here they line up as our Landing Pages or in many cases the Product Descriptions.

The entire team has worked hard to get the customer (or ball) to land on one of these pages.

It’s now up to the quality of these pages (strikers) to determine how much the business will make in revenue. Most football teams have multiple strikers and swap them around and in order to find the magic formula.

Sometimes they just need a little tweaking (training) and other times they need deleting (sold off). Fine tuning these landing pages are crucial to the overall success of the campaign.

Having invested all that money in getting the ball to the striker, its silly not to spend a bit extra into developing pages that will improve customer conversions.

The Media is Like Backlinks

It is rare to find a journalist or photographer on the sidelines of an amateur football match. And without any exposure in the local paper the only people watching the game are friends and family of the players involved.

No different to a business website that hasn’t been mentioned anywhere else on the web.

In comparison, when Real Madrid host a match, the club attracts hundreds of reporters and many television channels from around the world to cover the events of the game. This kind of publicity generates thousands of fans that none of the players would know.

A bit like a corporate website with thousands of backlinks and mentions from other websites around the world.

Fans are Like Customers

And finally, to the real reason both a football club and a business exists. Customers.

When all the components of a football club are going well, new fans sprout out from seemingly anywhere. It’s amazing how many closet Liverpool fans have revealed themselves since the team has begun dominating the football world.

For businesses it’s the same. When all the SEO components are working well together as a team, customers you never knew will want to support you. They are already searching.

The question is, can they find you with your current SEO campaign?

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