A Primer on Operational Resilience in SEO and Web Development
“Operational resilience” is defined as a set of practices, tactics and techniques used to ensure that your company is able to adapt to change. This means different things to different industries. In a clothing store, it might mean keeping up with the latest fads. In a grocery store, it could mean stocking up on coffee beans in light of a coming shortage. The tactics employed differ from one field to another, but the end goal is the same: to gain a competitive edge by being prepared for anything that the market might throw your way, being able to ride out the downturns and make the most of the lucky breaks. To put it one way, operational resilience is an organized approach to planning for the worst and hoping for the best.
What does this mean in web development?
Well, any operational resilience strategy needs to start with your risk factors. What do web developers face? Which rugs might be pulled right out from under you? There are a few points in particular that are especially difficult for developers to predict:
- Search Engine Algorithm Changes
- New Technology
- Content And Culture Trends
All three of these affect different web developers to different degrees, but to some extent, if you run a website, you’re subject to these three major risk factors.
There are other factors, of course. You might lose your favorite web designer when they land a fulltime job working for someone else. You might have to switch your web host. If you run an online retail store, your distributor might suffer a shortage that forces them to raise their prices. Clients will switch providers, employees will switch employers, customers will lose interest. There are a lot of factors at play, and they will demand a lot of preparation and planning for “what if?” But, these three factors tend to be the most universal for web developers. So, here’s how we can address them:
Optimize for the Reader
Keywords are important, but if you put all of your trust into keyword optimization, if you study the numbers and focus only on making sure that you get listed first when someone Googles one of your keywords, then you’re setting yourself up for a major fall when Google changes their search algorithms.
Here’s the good news: Strong search engine optimization is not how content goes viral. Content goes viral because it is good content, because it is valuable to the reader. SEO helps you to get the initial attention from people who will share your content, who will make it go viral, if it’s any good. SEO is a necessity, but it’s only the grease on the wheel, so to speak.
Optimize for search engines, certainly, but do that by creating strong content that happens to be built around high-performing key words and phrases. If your content is good, if people like it and want to share it, then you can repurpose it with new keywords when the algorithms change. If your content is nothing but a string of keywords with some filler content to connect them, it becomes completely worthless the second those keywords are no longer relevant.
Become an Early Adopter
You’ll lose a lot more money missing out on The Next Big Thing than you will investing in a trend that’s merely a passing fad. This isn’t to say that you should be throwing half your marketing budget at every new form of content delivery that comes along, but you shouldn’t wait around and see what sticks, either. There are a lot of people out there whose dialup providers went out of business because they thought that high-speed internet was only forpowerusers, and just as many businesses who lost their industry lead because they didn’t develop for mobile until somebody else did.
Many of the top game developers out there are currently working on projects for the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that isn’t even commercially available right now. If the Oculus Rift turns out to be a dud, they will have wasted a not-insignificant chunk of time and money to a false lead, but a chunk that they can afford to lose, because if the Oculus Rift is a hit, then these companies will be releasing the first round of polished, well-produced video games available for the new format.
It sounds like we’re talking about a different industry than yours, right? You make web content, not video games. But… imagine the impact a web developer will have when they’re the first to advertise a Caribbean cruise with a virtual tour. Imagine the first fashion website to let you look in the mirror and see yourself in that new dress before you buy it.
But we’re not just talking about virtual reality headsets. We’re talking about the iWatch, web-enabled portable gaming devices, Google Glass, any new device that people might use to browse content on the web. Not every one of them is going to be a winner, but the internet has been moving away from the laptop for awhile now, and the smartphone’s days are numbered. We need to be prepared to adapt to whatever the Next Big Thing happens to be.
Two Ears, One Mouth
An old saying has it that we’re given two ears and one mouth so that we might listen twice as much as we speak. This is something to keep in mind when it comes to SEO and web content. Seek out the leading figures in any industry, and what they’ll generally have in common is a sort of humble sensibility when it comes to their field of expertise. They’re not gurus, they’re not masters, they’re students. They just happen to be very, very good students.
Whether you’re selling health food or writing celebrity puff pieces, the same principles apply. You need to understand your ideal reader’s values, what’s important to them, what they find distasteful, and how they’re going to respond to changing times and new information. Will they stop buying a certain brand after the manufacturer has been exposed for lying about factory conditions? Are they following this or that celebrity because they’re fans, or because those celebs are involved in amusing scandals?
It’s a good idea to track your users’ interests with analytics, and an even better idea to take a serious enough interest in your subject matter that you’ll know what your readers want before they know it themselves.
The Most Important Keyword
If you haven’t guessed it yet, the most important keyword is “adaptability.” What works today won’t work forever, and it’s important to be ready to change your approach with the times. Industries are full of dinosaurs who once dominated their field, only to lose influence as they refused to read the writing on the wall. SEO and web development are primarily about keeping your finger on your users’ collective pulse, and adaptability is perhaps more important in this field than it is in any other.