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The fear of failure is something that affects everyone at some point in their lives.
While sometimes it’s healthy and helps people to do their best, at other times it’s a crippling problem that prevents them from trying new things.
I hate failing at anything, and there are many things I’ve never tried because I am convinced I couldn’t do them well.
I was a massive failure at the drums in high school even though people kept saying that anyone and everyone could play drums.
I decided to try the bells and xylophone (yes, seriously) and luckily had a knack for those (admittedly not so cool at my school) instruments.
Failure is all about how you look at it. It can be negative, but it can be incredibly positive, too.
1. You Can’t Get Better Unless You Try Something New
You can probably coast through many aspects of life by just being good enough to stay steady, but what does that teach us? It’s OK to settle?
Even if this new thing you try doesn’t improve something, maybe it will show you how something could be improved another way.
Whenever we try new things, our brains change a bit.
I was terrified of beans until I was in college.
The same holds true for olives and cucumbers. Ah, the time that I wasted!
One of my favorite things to do in the industry is to test out a new tool or a new function on a tool I already use.
I really love any new content ideation tool that comes out as I love trying to find new ways to keep my team creative since their work is fairly repetitive.
Even if something you try isn’t the right fit for you, it still might trigger an idea that will help you improve how you work.
2. You’ll Never Know What Works If You Don’t Test It
You can guess and that’s it. I think I’ve said this before but I am a notoriously “no that won’t work” type person, sadly.
Even though I’ve been proven wrong on many occasions, I still have that outlook so I have to fight it. I was 100% convinced that I’d hate yoga and never be able to use breathing techniques to calm down.
After some panic issues, I gave both a whirl and still practice them whenever I need to.
I remember the first time my yoga teacher told me that lying down with my legs up against the wall could realign my body and make me feel better overall. I humored her and hey, it worked wonders for me!
I have my basic way of building links, for example, but sometimes a client has an idea that seems completely impossible to me at first.
I used to fight way more than I do now, because I remind myself of the times when I was wrong.
After recently deciding to take on a couple of new clients who wanted me to do something outside of my usual, I can say that I’ve added to my list of services offered.
I’ve trained my team on something new, and we’re all better for it.
3. We Learn More from Our Failures Than Our Successes
I’d love to say that I haven’t made the same mistake twice but I can say that I haven’t made the same spectacularly huge mistake twice.
I’ve screwed things up miserably many, many times, and I’ve certainly been to blame for not properly overseeing someone who messed up.
I’ve told untrustworthy people things in confidence in a fit of anger and they’ve gotten back to someone that I cared about.
I’ve only recently really understood the actual proper rules of a four way stop despite years of complaining about how no one else did.
When content fails, it’s a big deal. So much goes into producing a piece of content that it’s not just a minor inconvenience when it doesn’t go well.
You want links, traffic, brand awareness, and conversions from your content. Sometimes you get none of that. Sometimes you mess up so impressively that you dig yourself into a hole that takes a while to climb out of.
Think of all the recent fashion houses that have had to make apologies for campaigns deemed insensitive.
Yes, the fashion industry does seem to keep making awful mistakes but I haven’t seen the same brand repeating themselves.
With regards to our industry, failure certainly isn’t limited to content, and you can learn a lot from reading about mishaps from other forms of marketing such as PPC.
4. We Are Less Likely to Repeat Big Mistakes Once We’ve Paid the Price for Them
My team has had some really, really big screw-ups. We’ve irritated webmasters and clients.
We’ve built some links that should not have been approved.
We still screw up every now and then but usually, thankfully, it’s on a more minor level these days.
Years ago, one of my link builders emailed an SEO site to get a link, which was probably number one on the list of things I said to never ever do.
It blew up, of course.
After that I tried to put every single SEO site out there into a Do Not Contact database.
Everyone makes mistakes but some are going to obviously be more detrimental than others. Accidentally blocking your whole site is a huge mistake that can cost a business a fortune.
Creating an infinite loop in a script can bring down a server. Making a recommendation without getting all the information you need can wreck someone’s rankings.
*Here’s a great article about a Skyscraper technique failure.
5. You Can’t Afford to Not Experiment as You Never Know What Might Flip the Dial
There are so many factors in play with Google that you can’t afford to not experiment as you never know what might flip the dial.
The fun thing about this industry is that it’s constantly changing.
Google has more than 200 ranking factors, and there is probably one article every week that tells us which ones are now the most important, usually without any proof because no one really knows.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what helps a site rank, too.
When Google updates the algorithm it can weed out sites with certain signals and their rankings can tank. There can also be sites that become the victim of an update where they shouldn’t have.
I have made very minor adjustments to my own site’s content and that’s moved the dial when my rankings have decreased for certain keywords. I’ve also done this and made it worse.
I once worked on a site doing title and meta descriptions years ago and decided not to do much keyword research mainly because there was no budget for it.
I also just wanted to keep it looking as natural as possible for users and it ranked better than many other sites where I did do extensive keyword research.
I’m not suggesting that anyone just blindly experiment with anything too important to see what happens on a major site of course, but in terms of content, you have more leeway.
Maybe that article that you’ve been considering but aren’t sure about will drive tons of traffic and give you some new clients.
6. You’ll Never Stand out If You Toe the Line & Do What Everyone Else Is Doing
I’ve never been a big fan of doing something just because everyone else is doing it.
Nothing great ever happens if everyone does the same thing constantly.
We’d never have the advancements we have in the world if someone wasn’t willing to take a big chance and break out of the mold.
There is so much content out there – so many people are saying the same thing in the same formats.
If there are 50 articles out there related to building a chicken coop yet you’re marketing chicken coops, you can’t just throw together the same basic info as everyone else or you’ll get nowhere.
Maybe you decide to create an article on celebrities and their chicken coops and it includes plans to build each one.
Something has to make you stand out.
7. Something Might Not Work the First 2 Times, but the Third Time’s the Charm
You’d never know this if you quit, right?
I don’t mean to say you should keep trying something that is very obviously not working though. I mean you should keep trying and not give up if you have a chance.
I wouldn’t expect to go run 15 miles without building up to it. I’ve seen those Crossfit videos of people trying to jump up on boxes and, many times, they have to try a few times to make it.
What if they just quit after the first failed attempt? They’d never get anywhere.
You wouldn’t write two articles and then completely stop writing if they weren’t getting enough attention, would you?
No, you’d keep going. You would hopefully be trying to figure out what would make things work though.
You wouldn’t take a look at a site’s fallen rankings and have two ideas that didn’t work out when you got all the data and just give up. You’d have to keep trying to figure it out, not just stop.
8. Closing the Doors Too Early Means You Might Not Have the Chance for Something That Could Be Amazing
I examined this idea when I wrote my last piece about critical thinking as I have trouble keeping my mind open at times, especially when things aren’t going well and I turn into Dr. No.
When you don’t keep trying, you are missing out on the chance to do something great.
9. Failure Gives You Motivation
I know failure doesn’t give everyone motivation, and it certainly doesn’t in all situations, but when you fail you have one more thing to cross off the list.
You know there’s one more thing that didn’t work, and that’s great information.
When my daughter was in ballet, I remember how the dancers who didn’t make pointe when others did would get upset, and then they would absolutely give it their all until they did.
We don’t always get chances to fail again when we’re dealing with clients. If you fail to improve rankings in 6 months, you might not get another 6 months to keep trying.
If you produce content that doesn’t bring in traffic, you might not be asked to do anything further for that client.
You just have to take that with you for whatever is next.
10. Failure Gives You Empathy
That feeling of failure is a very sharp one. While it usually fuels you with the desire not to fail again, it also makes you understand how it feels when someone else fails.
Empathy isn’t always something that is emphasized in marketing, sadly, but it’s well-needed.
I had a terrible speaking experience when I stupidly checked my email right before I went on stage and saw an email from my then-biggest client, saying they were canceling the contract.
I flew through my session in a bundle of nerves. Anytime someone seems nervous or freaked out on stage, I remember how I was that day and I feel nothing but hope that they’ll get through it and not let it deter them from trying again.
I usually really need to employ my empathy when clients are upset. As SEOs, we don’t always do everything right, just like anyone else.
If my client is upset, I try very hard not to react by getting angry, especially when they are blaming me for something that isn’t my fault.
I’ve dealt with clients who view links as the magic bullet when so much else needs to be fixed.
I have made recommendations that have gone completely ignored and then I’m the one the client gets upset with, but I remember that failure, by its very nature, is going to upset people, and not just the ones who have failed.
We all need to practice empathy and remember that we’ve all failed, and we all will again.
As Henry Ford said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”