Even though he’s never touched a computer, Elmer Michael Thomas, 92, from the South Side of Chicago, has some words of wisdom for us SEO folks.

1. Gargle Every Morning with Salt Water

Gramps likes teeth. In fact, the first time he meets you, he’ll probably check out your teeth and compliment you on how straight/white/strong/sharp they are.

Gramps still has every one of his teeth. And he’ll tell you it’s because he gargles with salt water every morning (and brushes with baking soda; he’d kill me if I didn’t mention that).

In SEO, it’s good to start every morning fresh with a little cleaning and inspecting between the teeth. A daily health check of our sites can flush out any bugs.

Every morning when I log in, I like to surf around my Google and Bing Webmasters' Tools to make sure the sites are clean (Any pages throwing errors? Any crawl issues? Any keyword traffic/CTR concerns?).

Oh, Gramps also wants me to mention that another secret to good health is eating a clove of garlic each day. No analogy there—just eat garlic.

2. Get a Good Whiff of What You’re Buying


Gramps’ mother was no sucker.

When she could afford it, she’d walk to the butcher and carefully inspect each cut of meat. When she deemed a piece of chuck worthy of her dimes, the butcher would nod and begin to wrap it up like any old sale.

But before the butcher could say salami, she had the cut in her hands and would sniff every square inch of that loaf.

In a matter of seconds, she would know how many days old that meat was, how long it had been sitting out, and which slaughter yard it came from.

She’d quickly pull those calculations together, then tell the butcher exactly what she was going to pay for that hunk of meat. A minute later, she’d be walking home with the best damn deal in the neighborhood wrapped neatly under her arm.

If we’re spending any amount money on content development/link building/PR, we better know what we’re getting into – and what we get out of it.

Before you spend a dime on a service to support your SEO strategy, be sure to

a) identify any risk the product/service may bring to your site,
b) know how to calculate the return the product/service could bring to your company,
c) research the company to know the value of the product better than the salesperson does, and
d) know the price of the shop down the block so you get the best deal.

3. Never Stop Knocking


After World War II (he served in the Navy at Guadalcanal, among other places), Gramps settled down in his old neighborhood with his new wife, Dorothy, (a.k.a. “Dot”, who also served in the Navy) and began a career in the aluminum siding business.

He knocked on thousands of doors over the course of his career. As his business grew (meaning he could hire a few locals to help him out with construction), he made sure to never take a sale for granted.

Even with a couple good jobs lined up, Gramps still hit the pavement to look for that next opportunity.

As SEOs, it’s important that we never take our SEO strategy for granted.

Once we get lazy (arrogant?) we lose touch with our visitors (and the algorithms). That kind of disconnect will eventually hurt our rankings.

We need to know what our visitors want before they even do. We need to stay nine steps ahead of the algorithm. We must never stop knocking.

4. Use Your Noggin, but Have Some Muscle


After 92 years on this planet, Gramps is no dummy. He sees the value in making thoughtful, planned decisions. He’s also learned that sometimes you have to get into the thick of the competition and throw some elbows.

Not bad advice for search marketing, eh? SEO is a science, but it’s also a sport. The best SEOs are often part nerd, part gladiator.

The science lies in knowing how to optimize basic on-page factors, setting up a content architecture conducive to search engines, creating a long-term link-building/content strategy, and interpreting and acting upon the data we collect, among other things.

The sport is birthed from our hunger to devour our competitors and be recognized as the best resource on the web for a given subject. It’s that competitive drive that pushes us to climb our way to the top and beat our chests atop of those SERP skyscrapers.

It’s also in the sport where we stand to lose the most. We fought our way to the first page, now we must be careful to play it smart so we can maintain our momentum. We can’t get greedy (by turning to cheap, short-sided SEO shortcuts) and lose site of our long-term plan to get (and stay) above the fold.

It’s critical we don’t get lost in the excitement of increased rankings. We could lose it all if we get caught in the hype and get too reckless in our approach.

Gramps has taught me to give myself gut checks throughout life. I try to give myself weekly or monthly gut checks to make sure I’m balancing SEO brawn with SEO brains.

Passing on Words of Wisdom

What are some lessons from your family and friends that you carry into your SEO career?