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SEO Is An Infinite Game, Not A Finite Game

We often define SEO as a long-term strategy, a snowball strategy that, as SEO gains momentum, gets more powerful, or a flywheel strategy that is self-perpetuating. Yet many businesses still view it as a strategy that can be won once their website reaches the top rankings in Google. Unfortunately, this mentality usually causes them to implement short-sighted strategies, negatively impact their SEO, and ultimately hurt their business and brand in the long term.

Listening to Simon Sinek’s newish book called The Infinite Game, I could not help but see the parallel to SEO and a new way to explain/define SEO to clients. So let’s get into it.

Infinite vs. Finite

To begin, a game exists if there are at least two players. So, for example, the game exists in SEO if two websites target the same SEO keyword – which is almost a certainty.

There are two kinds of games: finite games and infinite games.

Finite Games Defined

  1. Are played by known players
  2. They have fixed rules
  3. There is an agreed-upon goal that, when reached, the game ends
  4. There is always a beginning, a middle, and an end

Football, for example, is a finite game. The players are easily identifiable, there is a set of rules, all the players have agreed to play by those rules, they accept penalties when they break the rules, and everyone agrees that whichever team has scored more points by the end of the set period will be declared the winner.

Infinite Games Defined

  1. Are played by known and unknown players
  2. There are no exact or agreed-upon rules
  3. How each player chooses to play is entirely up to them
  4. They can change how they play the game at any time for any reason
  5. They have the choice to break the rules at any point
  6. Infinite games have infinite time horizons, and there is no finish line
  7. In an infinite game, there is no such thing as “winning.” The primary objective is to keep playing, to perpetuate the game.

Why Claiming Your Business Is the “Best SEO Company or Best Digital Agency” Is Ridiculous

If we listen to digital agencies today or read their website messaging, it’s as if they don’t know the game they are playing. They continue claiming they are the “best SEO company” or the “#1 digital agency.” This has become extremely common in web messaging, and a whole set of websites even claim they can tell who is the “best” based on random data points (or none at all). If we stop to think about it, we realize how ridiculous it is.

Whenever I see a digital agency or SEO company claim that it is number one or the best, I roll my eyes. I then look at or try to find the fine print (rarely defined anywhere) to see how they cherrypicked the metrics and timeframe to make their ridiculous claim.

One may argue that SEO and digital agencies may compete on a global scale with other agencies for clients, influence, or awards, which is a true, yet still an arbitrary data point; there is no such thing as winning digital marketing or SEO.

Finite SEO vs. The Infinite SEO Mindset

Leading with a finite SEO mindset leads to all kinds of problems, including declining brand trust and value, doing anything to “rank,” and declining long-term business growth.

When we think about SEO as a strategy, it is inherently the very definition of an infinite game.

  1. We may not know all the other digital agencies who do SEO, and new ones can join anytime.
  2. All agencies determine their SEO strategies and tactics, and there is no set of fixed rules to which everyone has agreed other than those set (loosely) by Google quality guidelines.
  3. Unlike a finite game, SEO has no beginning, middle, or end.
  4. There is no such thing as winning or losing; digital marketing and SEO agencies drop out when they run out of resources or desire to keep playing.

When business owners and marketers adopt the mindset that SEO is an infinite game, their business gains higher levels of trust, earns real SEO value, and increases brand awareness – and all the subsequent benefits that come with it.

How to Succeed In The Infinite Game Of SEO

To succeed in the infinite game of SEO, we have to stop thinking about who wins or who’s the best and start thinking about how to build lasting brands that are strong enough to compete in the game for many years to come.

This includes:

  • Creating content that users value instead of that which only targets search engine keywords
  • Creating a website that is focused on taking your offline experience and replicating it online
  • Being consistent with messaging and tone of voice
  • Being consistent with content publishing timelines
  • Learning what your users value and need help with
  • Building your brand value – whether locally or nationally

The benefits of the long-term approach – the infinite game mentality of SEO – ironically often make companies stronger in the long and near term.