The Flywheel Effect
The flywheel effect was conceptualized by Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great. Collins and his team of researchers found select organizations that drastically outperformed their competition for years, and analyzed their commonalities to assess what propelled them to their exceptional success.
What did they find? 7 key characteristics, culminating in the concept of the Flywheel Effect.
Keep pushing and the flywheel builds momentum. Keep pushing and eventually it starts to help turn itself and generate its own momentum – and that’s when a company goes from good to great.
As Jim explains:
“The flywheel image captures the overall feel of what it was like inside the companies as they went from good to great. No matter how dramatic the end result, the good-to-great transformations never happened in one fell swoop. There was no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no wrenching revolution. Good to great comes about by a cumulative process—step by step, action by action, decision by decision, turn by turn of the flywheel—that adds up to sustained and spectacular results.”
So what does a business flywheel look like?
Jim famously worked with Amazon to develop their flywheel, which is now used in his other works and publications:
In each step of the flywheel, the business takes a deliberate approach and step forward – pushing itself to the next stage of the flywheel and increasing organization momentum. Slowly, and surely, the flywheel makes a full rotation – by product of the business keeping itself focused and disciplined to the flywheel stages.
Sustained and spectacular results. Not a drastic pivot of direction – not a sexy new idea. Disciplined, focused dedication to progress is what creates results.
So what does all of this have to do with SEO?
The SEO Flywheel
At the core of our business philosophy, we believe in this model. That extends beyond just our internal operations, and into our SEO methodology. We have a pragmatic focus in our work, to do what generates the greatest level of sustained and long-term results for the customer.
Keep focused on what we know works, and ignore the rest. Don’t get distracted and don’t get discouraged – we’ve accomplished this for hundreds of companies, and that is the key to our success.
So what do we know about SEO methodology that works so well? What does that “SEO flywheel” look like, and how could it apply to your site?
The beautiful thing about business flywheels is that the great ones are usually the simplest. The same goes for our SEO flywheel:
The first stage in our SEO flywheel is site Relevancy.
After determining which keyword themes and phrases are relevant to your organization, a great SEO methodology first focuses on establishing the relationship between your website and those keywords.
We want to create a clear connection between the target keywords and your website’s content (what’s written on each of our main website pages), your website’s technical structure (which pages are being prioritized through the architecture and internal links), and your website’s backlinks (what relevant 3rd-party websites are linking back to our website’s pages).
Establishing relevance shows Google that your website is a preferred source of information as it relates to our target keywords. Don’t forget: Google search’s main purpose is to serve the searcher with the most relevant information to their search query (“keyword”).
By creating this clear connection through your website content, structure, and links, we are sending signals to Google that your website is a trusted and relevant source of information, compared to the billions of other websites on the Internet.
As your website’s relevancy grows, your “authority” (the website’s “trustworthiness” as determined by Google’s algorithm) improves over time.
Authority – also known as website “trustworthiness” – is the second phase of our SEO flywheel.
Once we’ve established your website’s relevancy, the methodology to achieve relevance is applied regularly over a consistent, disciplined length of time. This means practical efforts such as content creation and backlink acquisition are repeated in concert with the target keywords that were identified as valuable at the beginning of the flywheel.
Establishing authority through consistent application of the principles of relevance cannot be understated. It can take a website up to six months of consistent focus on relevance before it achieves breakthrough in authority.
Sound like a long time? It’s by design. Google created these “timed stopgaps” in the algorithm to ensure its software does not artificially reward websites with authority after only a short period of time creating relevant content. It’s sometimes referred to as the “sandbox.”
The good news is that by following our SEO flywheel, organizations that stay disciplined to establishing initial relevancy through consistent technical SEO, content, and link building see breakthrough in authority and – here’s the key part – cement that trustworthiness in search for years to come.
That cementation of trustworthiness and establishment of authority is crucial to Google, and required to enter into the next phase of our SEO flywheel.
As your website’s authority grows, your visibility (measured by how high and how frequently our website ranks in Google for our desired keywords) improves over time.
Visibility is the third stage of our SEO flywheel.
Your website’s visibility is the frequency of its exposure to search engine users for relevant keywords. In other words, the higher your website ranks in Google search results, the more visibility you receive with your target audience.
71% of search engine users only view the 1st page of results – the first 10 websites. So that means, unless we’re happy with only 29% of our target audience knowing we exist, visibility is a critical piece of the SEO flywheel.
Like we’ve discussed so far, the flywheel gains momentum through following each step with fanatical discipline and attention. Without first establishing relevance with SEO best practices, and then maintaining those practices for an extended period of time to establish authority, there is no visibility. We’d be stuck in the last pages of Google, or even completely unranked.
By adhering to the SEO flywheel, we maintain the basic foundations of great SEO that deliver the sustained and spectacular results we seek over the long-term. This means we don’t try “hacks” or “secret tactics” to cheat the system. Anything that sounds too good to be true in SEO is a scam – I promise. The SEO flywheel of relevancy – authority – visibility is what will get us what we want.
As your website’s visibility grows, your conversions – qualified visitors to your website turning into customers – improves over time.
The last stage of our SEO flywheel – the final step before we build momentum into the next rotation – is Conversions.
By establishing your relevance over an extended period of time, resulting in true authority in the eyes of Google, rewarded with prime visibility for your target keywords, we attract new, targeted audiences to your website.
These new visitors to your site are qualified by the keyword phrases they used when searching on Google.
We know from our initial keyword search services that visitors who use these phrases in Google search are “looking” with a business intent.
We know that visitors who use these phrases in Google search are “looking” for products or services directly related to those on your website and in the content we wrote, and they are most likely to convert into leads, customers, and promoters.
These visitors then engage your website by visiting pages and reading through the content that we wrote in relevance to the keywords they used. The connection point is made, and the visitor begins your buyer’s journey.
As your website’s conversions grow, you can reinvest the proceeds into more relevant website content, increased technical optimization, and more frequent backlink acquisition – thereby completing a full turn of the SEO Flywheel.
The SEO flywheel is deceptively simple. The secret is not in the complexity of the methodology. The secret is not in the special tactics. And the secret is definitely not in hacks or quick-results guaranteed.
The secret to our SEO agency flywheel is a rigorous discipline and adherence! Do you have what it takes as an organization to stay focused on the building momentum by following each step of the flywheel? To turn it slowly, step by step, for months as we build momentum?
If you do, you can achieve sustained and spectacular results. So take your spot on the wheel and push… to breakthrough!
If you’re looking for the first step to take, you can start with a free strategy session to create a sustainable SEO strategy tailored to your business goals.