The OODA Loop, SEO & Digital Marketing: Introduction and Pitfalls (Part One)
“With ‘Patent Valuations,’ we’re down two spots in Google.”
“Our recent content expansion has ‘Goodwill Impairment’ placing first in Bing.”
It was a late summer day in 2013, and on the phone was one of the nicest client contacts Oneupweb has ever had. Our project manager was leading him on a fantastic voyage of keyword performance review that would make Coolio proud, and I was a newbie Oneupweb account manager soaking it all in.
Fast forward to today, and like Coolio and hip hop, this type of review is a nostalgic footnote–an SEO activity that has died.
Yet this scenario expresses a fundamental concept of SEO and digital marketing success: over time you must learn how to walk through change, uncertainty and ambiguity.
Introducing the OODA Loop
I’d like to introduce you to John Boyd, one of the greatest military strategists in US history. I was introduced to Boyd through Brett & Kate McKay’s wonderful article on The Art of Manliness website, and I think the strategies he taught are compelling and useful.
Through a series of briefings Boyd presented a way to think about change, uncertainty and ambiguity, called the OODA Loop. This way of thinking–an acronym for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act–is less post-engagement philosophizing, and more mid-battle adjustments for ongoing success.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to dive into describing the OODA Loop, and show how it can be used for SEO and digital marketing. I’d like to start today by describing three preliminary pitfalls. These will prepare you for what’s to come.
Our inability to understand the changing realities around us prevents our growth.
We see this with clients who still want to focus on keyword rankings as a true measurement of project success. These are folks who would prefer to play the rankings game described above. They are unwilling to accept that circumstances change, and that strategies and decisions must change as a result.
Our “mental concepts” must be addressed directly.
Boyd called these concepts lenses through which we understand the world. They require constant evaluation and assessment, as fixed mental concepts only lead to greater uncertainty and ambiguity.
Recently the owner of a business yelled at me, saying, “I can’t find my business on Google!”
The problem wasn’t he couldn’t find his business on Google. The problem was that when his business was hit with a Google penalty for trying to game the system, he was unwilling to implement the SEO strategies we knew would solve the issues.
In other words, he was unwilling to address his mental concepts.
Our capacity to observe reality is limited.
The McKay’s nail this point, saying, “…the more we rely on outdated mental models, even while the world around us is changing, the more our mental ‘entropy’ goes up.”
When faced with uncertainty and ambiguity, we look inward or apply principles and strategies we’ve used in the past. The result is an inability to properly observe reality, which leads to hamstrung decisions and results.
With these pitfalls in mind there is a clear need for a tool that accommodates flexible thinking and provides a model for SEO and digital marketing success. The OODA Loop is that tool.