Holistic SEO

If you’ve ever struggled with SEO or simply gotten paralyzed by all the technical jargon - you're in the right place.

This article is about the human side of SEO. I’ll explain what Holistic SEO means, how taking this approach can help you take action, and improve your odds.

I’ll also provide some tips & approaches meant to help you understand where to even begin with SEO. You might learn some ways how to cut through the jargon and add value to your digital marketing process.

For those of you who want to take action now, you can jump here:  4 actions you can take right now in just ~30 minutes.

What does holistic even mean?

According to Google:

Screenshot 2016-05-10 at 11.21.10 AM.png

Holistic means taking the whole situation into account. Everything is connected.  

So rather than viewing SEO as this eccentric, black magic performed around your website - we want to integrate and take advantage of everything else to guide how to build your own personal SEO strategy.

Let’s view SEO as just a wrapper around everything.  And not just your website but who you connect with online & offline. Every social interaction, every skill you ever listed on your resume, every personal talent, every life passion, etc.

What’s Holistic SEO?  

Holistic SEO is search engine optimization focused on the whole.

In general, SEO is the process of attracting relevant visitors to your website (ideally) returned by a search engine (mainly Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Baidu, etc).  But the reality is your customers are humans and they spend most of their waking hours outside of Google. What are they doing? How do they interact?  How do they solve their problems? Where do they go to learn or get help?

Why Holistic SEO?

Reason #1 - it’s the best way to understand the intrinsic value that is baked into SEO.  When someone touts SEO services, this allows anyone to understand the value proposition. It boils down all the jargon into clear and obvious things that any brand or business can clearly see why this would be valuable.

Reason #2 - My same friend told me, ‘holistic’ usage has spiked over the past decade - meaning enough people and businesses are using and understand the basic concept.

Screenshot 2016-05-10 at 11.20.34 AM.png

Reason #3 - I’ve gotten feedback from several clients that SEO is a “black box” of mysterious alchemy performed by only the most qualified snake oil salesmen.

Approaching SEO with a holistic mindset helps demystify all the rumors.  It helps you get past the jargon and get to taking action, step by step.

What are all the parts of the whole?

Ok, so I said it’s all connected. And realistically there are many ways to organize your world.  Below is my attempt to capture all the clear and obvious things that matter to you or your business.

Identity:  you, your team, your values, your quirks, your passions

Relationships: the people, your human connections in business: customers, vendors, partners, community, etc

Mission: what you do, how you delight your clients, why you do what you do

How does Holistic SEO work?

Getting the foundation right will make all the difference.  If you build a house on a faulty foundation - it doesn’t matter how amazing your tile work is, everything is going to collapse (literally) if you don’t get the foundation right.

In a holistic approach, the fundamentals are more around how you as a human connect with your audience as humans.  Then you build up from there. For now, let’s stay focused on the fundamentals of connecting and leveraging the pieces from above.
Now you have a basic understanding of holistic SEO.  Let’s take the next step. To help you get going here are some specific exercises you can do - right now - to help you build a holistic mindset.

4 Ways to Practice Holistic SEO Today

1. Reflect on Who You Are  (Personality, Strengths, & Weaknesses)

It’s time to look in the mirror and just recognize who you are.  To help with this, let’s take a personality test. The ones below are free and do a pretty good job of highlighting your preferences, qualities which can then be used to estimate why certain tasks are easy/hard for you when it comes to business.



Once you take the test it will summarize and highlight some of your strengths and weaknesses.  The tests above have some ties to the Myers-Briggs personality test.

Please note:  this is not the holy grail on who you are or will be.  These tests help tease out how you think and approach the world around you.  

Take some time to review the results.  With this additional data - answer some broader questions about yourself.  

  • How do you approach your work?  
  • How do you work with others?  
  • What type of activities come naturally?
  • Which form of storytelling do you enjoy most?  Which one do you enjoy doing?
  • Where do you draw energy from?
  • Do you like solo work? Collaborative
  • Do you enjoy coming up with big ideas?
  • Do you love crossing off items on your checklist?

2. Explore and Focus on Your Passions

This is an old fashioned exercise: Write down your passions on a piece of paper.  All of them.  No matter how silly or unrelated to your business.  Ok spend at least 10 minutes noodling on this.

Now read through your list. For every item your reaction should be “Hell Yes” or “Yes, I love this”.  If not, cross it out. It’s ok, just cross it out. We want true passions and we want to be selective and picky.

Next, pick one of your passions and cross pollinate with your business.  It might take a few tries to come up with a winner. That’s ok.

Take your time.  

Once you have a short list of options - then you can go into full SEO preparation mode  (Keyword research, Market research (blogs and social media), etc). To validate and ultimately build a strategy around how to leverage these topics.

A powerful way to defend yourself and your business: Unique Talent. Blending your personal passion with your professional storytelling is a powerful asset.  You can continue to build on this for years to come.

3. Invest in Your Relationships (think Professional/Business)

Send 3 thank you emails to customers, partners, vendors, or colleagues. If you have direct customers or clients - think of your customers who are true fans.  Think of recent or loyal fans who would appreciate a note from you. Make it personal.  Write it to that person directly. Try to include something that would make them smile when the read it.  Use your best judgement. No coupons, offers, or sales pitches - please.

Open your preferred email.  Open a new email draft. Start writing…”Hi George,”

Tell them 2 things:

  1. You appreciate/are grateful for them &  whatever they do (buy, support, collaborate, partner, etc).
  2. Say Thank You

Bonus:  If you can recall a specific, memorable moment with them - even better to share. If not, that’s ok too.

Once you finish rinse a repeat for the next two people.  These should be real live people with names and personalities.  Not influencers you admire from afar - they get enough attention already.  You are building and growing the relationships that you have already tied to your business.

Another Pro Tip:  Add a Monthly meeting to your calendar to do this exercise each month.  You can save a copy of your email to the meeting details to help you get going.  This is a powerful habit that will make you feel great and truly strengthen the business relationships that matter most.

What does this have to do with SEO?  

Investing in your relationships and stoking the fire that helps naturally generate happy client testimonials.  Whether your business in online or offline - customer reviews help build trust both for humans and robots who want to be human (ahem, search engines).

In other words, your human connections are critical to your business’s success - so is your SEO.  

Also, there may come a time where you want to ask a favor.  You’ve begun the process by giving before there is even an ask. Paying it forward is a beautiful thing.

Pro tip:  if you are on great terms with one or a couple of these people.  Make a gentle ask for a review of your business. On Yelp, Google, or Facebook. Bet
Extra credit: Ask for a short video testimonial.  Works best when done live or in person. You’ll need to provide guidance.  Say your name and why you love [your business]. Those videos are testimonial gold.

4. Showcase your skills 

You need to be honest and open with yourself.  If you’re on LinkedIn you can grab your list of skills to start with. Also be sure to consider soft skills (inter or intra-personal stuff) and hard skills (tools, software, etc).

“I don't even have any skills. You know, like nun chuck skills, bo hunting skills, computer hacking skills. Girls only like guys who have great skills.”

-Napoleon Dynamite

This is another chance to go old fashioned - grab some pen & paper.  Make two columns: 1 for your skills, 2 for rating them (1=good, 5=rock star) Start jotting down anything that comes to mind - you can always remove stuff later.  

Once you have a decent list of skills, focus on the skills at the rock star level.  Circle anything that regularly finds its way into your daily routine. These are naturally the skills you have the most confidence with. How can you leverage these when telling your story or helping others with related resources? Find ways to use these - with intention - as you tell more stories about what you do and how you do it your way.


I hope you understand and appreciate what holistic SEO means.  And maybe, you have a better grasp of what you or your SEO friends can do to help you.  Feel free to reach out if you have questions or comments.


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