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Be Useful: Applying Arnold’s Seven Tools for Life to SEO

June 28, 2024
Tamara Hellgren
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7 min

I recently read Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latest book. His extraordinary success in bodybuilding, acting and leadership was no accident, and he tells you exactly how to shift your mindset and actions to improve your life and make a difference in the world. 

It’s a great read not only for the insights and inspiration, but because Arnold’s writing style is so direct. He has mastered the art of writing like he talks - one of many ways his life lessons apply to SEO and website content. 

You should read his book for your own edification. But here’s a summary of how each of his seven tools translates into actionable advice you can use at work. Each heading below is a chapter title: full disclosure so it’s not plagiarism!

Have a Clear Vision

Key points from this chapter:

  • To reach a goal, you need to picture it and make a plan to get there
  • A clear vision gives you something to measure your choices against
  • Clarity brings calm, because questions are easier to answer when you know where you want to go
  • You can start broad and zoom in, or start small and build out -  just get started

Takeaway: In SEO, you need a goal for every project you propose. Defining the desired outcome and detailing how you’ll get there not only justifies the budget spend, it massively increases efficiency and your odds of a successful outcome.

Action: Write down the goal each time you start a new project. Literally write it down, don’t just “keep it in mind.” As you create the plan and work through it, refer back to the goal to make sure you’re staying on track.

Never Think Small

Key points from this chapter:

  • Your goals should always be growing and evolving 
  • Go all-in once you decide to do something
  • Good enough is never good enough: master every detail
  • Don’t make a “Plan B” - succeed at Plan A

Takeaway: Whether you’re managing a site migration or developing a content strategy from scratch, fully committing is the only way to approach it. Big projects with big goals can be intimidating, but that’s even more reason why a half-baked attempt is unacceptable. Bring your A-game every time.

Action: Arnold also makes a point of saying he’s not a self-made man. He had help from many people at every stage, and that made all the difference. If a project is too time-consuming or complex to tackle on your own, the answer is to muster more resources, not lower your standards. Know your strengths and weaknesses and determine what type of support you need to succeed - then ask for it.

Work Your A** Off

Key points from this chapter:

  • Success doesn’t come overnight - you gotta put your reps in, and going through the motions doesn’t cut it - always apply maximum effort!
  • Track your progress
  • Build a solid base by nailing the fundamentals
  • Be a follow-through fanatic: it feels good to work hard and do things the right way

Takeaway: Every single one of these points is pure gold for anyone wanting to advance their SEO career. You need a solid grasp of the basics before you can specialize. You need to gain experience by practicing your skills, whether it’s optimizing title tags, writing product descriptions or pulling together a report for execs. And you always need to track your progress, which for SEOs often means literally tracking your time throughout the work day as well as setup and monitoring of website KPIs.

Action: Don’t be discouraged if your initial efforts aren’t knocking people’s socks off. Keep putting those reps in by learning from each iteration and trying your hardest, again and again. Dedicate a certain amount of time to professional development each week or month, make a list of foundational SEO skills to master and track your progress.

<div class="post-note-cute">The only effective shortcut in SEO is the kind that makes work more efficient - there’s no getting out of hard work. It’s not years of experience that make you better, it’s the consistent effort you put in during those years.</div>

Sell, Sell, Sell

Key points from this chapter: 

  • If you want to grow your business, you have to tell people about it
  • Selling is communicating
  • Know your audience
  • Be open about what you’re trying to achieve, and tell your story so it’s viewed in the most positive light by the people you need a yes from

Takeaway: If you want clients or internal stakeholders to invest money in SEO, you have to sell them on it. And you’re usually selling to people who don’t have the same background or level of understanding. Explaining and selling can be as much work as the SEO itself! Knowing your audience, tailoring your message and being transparent increase buy-in.

Action: Get to know your audience by asking good questions about your client’s business goals and expectations for website performance. Don’t feel like you have to come up with a “story” from scratch. There are a lot of resources out there on how to translate SEO-speak into business-speak. Here’s a recent article on SEL as an example to get you started.

Shift Gears

Key points from this chapter:

  • Shift your perspective away from negativity and find the positive
  • Confront problems instead of complaining about them
  • Don’t let your frustration get in the way of finding solutions - learn how to manage difficult moments
  • Reframe failure: see it as a progress report. Learn and return.

Takeaway: You’re not going to succeed immediately at every SEO task. This is why content gets refreshed and title tags get tweaked. Don’t let fear of failure stop you from trying, and don’t let actual failure stop you from trying again.

Action: There are two types of action required here. First, you need to do exactly what Arnold says and see failure as a progress report. Learn to extract valuable feedback from failure and accept it as part of the process. The second action involves managing expectations, which is trickier. You have to balance “sell, sell, sell” with “it depends” and “this will take time.”

Shut Your Mouth, Open Your Mind

Key points from this chapter:

  • The world is the ultimate classroom
  • Have a mind like a sponge: always be curious
  • Listen and observe more than you talk
  • It’s better to ask good questions than to make smart statements

Takeaway: This one directly relates to selling SEO. Don’t go into a new client meeting assuming you know everything just because you’ve worked with clients in that same industry before. It also relates to advancing in your career - remember that everyone you meet knows something you don’t! If you stay curious you’ll learn more and people will like you more, too.

Action: Whenever you meet with clients (especially initial meetings), take the time to ask good questions and really listen. When you’re working collaboratively on a project, avoid having a defensive attitude or being overly focused on your own objectives. Learn as much as you can from everyone involved. Understanding more about how a developer, designer, project manager or copywriter sees things is valuable information.

Break Your Mirrors

Key points from this chapter: 

  • Other people pave and point the way for us, whether we are aware of it or not
  • Make space for others to shine: we can all win in our own time, in our own way 
  • Me-first behavior only makes things worse: be less self-absorbed and more we-focused
  • You have more to offer than you know: show up and teach what you can

Takeaway: This one really hit home for me, especially in terms of workplace behavior. I’m introverted and had zero SEO experience when I started in this industry, so any time I had to talk about SEO with clients or colleagues I was a ball of self-centered anxiety, desperate to find ways to seem smart and valuable (or at least not be discovered as a total fraud). But if every person you meet knows something you don’t, that means you have something to offer to others, too. Pivoting from a me-first to a we-all perspective clears fear and pumps up productivity.

<div class="post-note-cute">Believing you don’t have anything to offer is just as egotistical as thinking you’re better than everyone else. Aim for objectivity in self-assessment. Then drop the mirror, look at other people and think of ways you can help them.</div>

Action: Make a habit of expressing gratitude and sharing credit - by sharing (or linking to) a helpful resource, thanking someone during a meeting or tagging them in Slack. Set your team up for success: take on some tasks if a coworker is in the weeds, be a second set of eyes on a piece of content or a client email, share a report template, or just offer words of encouragement.

Bonus: 7 Literal SEO Tools

Here’s a prize for reading all the way to the end of this blog! Seven tools I’ve found helpful: 

  1. Ahrefs SEO toolbar
  2. Awesome Screenshot
  3. GMB Everywhere
  4. Mobile simulator
  5. QuillBot Citation Generator
  6. Schema Markup Generator
  7. Thruu page comparison tool

<div class="post-note-cute">If you want to share your favorite SEO tool or some Arnold-style character-building advice, I’m here for it - you can find me on LinkedIn. If you have questions about Momentic’s approach to SEO or how we can work our a**es off for your business, don’t hesitate to reach out: info@momenticmarketingcom</div>

Bar chart showing increase over time with Momentic logo