Avoiding #SochiProblems and Other Olympic SEO Lessons

If you’re anything like me, you were glued to the TV last month in order to catch every second of the Olympic action. Who knew there were so many different ways to compete on skis, snowboards, and skates?

Over the course of the games, a wide variety of news stories have come out, both positive and negative. Because of their connection with the Olympics, these stories have captivated the entire world. Although your SEO campaign may not reach as many people as an Olympic broadcast, the viral attention paid to these stories means they hold valuable lessons for marketers and SEOs who hope to capture a small fraction of the interest generated by the Olympics.

#SochiProblems: You Can’t Hide Bad Work Forever

As the games in Sochi kicked off, the matter of strange Sochi happenings was undoubtedly one of the biggest stories of the Olympics, even though it had nothing to do with the competition. As journalists and athletes tried to settle into their hotels in Sochi, they encountered a wide variety of bizarre problems, from two toilets in one stall to stray dogs in hotel rooms and open elevator shafts and manholes. In order to document these strange findings, the hashtag “#SochiProblems” was created on Twitter – and went viral almost instantly.


For SEOs, the lesson is clear: if you build your SEO campaign on a foundation of lies and bad practices, they will inevitably be exposed. Black hat practices will be outed eventually by a new Google update and will incur harsh penalties. In order to avoid making the kind of mistakes that lead to Sochi-level problems, institute the following guidelines for your SEO campaign:

Even Dominant Competitors Like Lindsay Jacobellis Can Fall… Again

Poor Lindsay Jacobellis. Whenever she isn’t at the Olympics, she is dominant in her sport and considered a favorite to win almost any competition. Jacobellis is even known as the most accomplished female snowboard-cross rider in history. And yet – three Olympic Games in a row, and she has tragically fallen at every single one of them.

As an SEO, it’s important to recognize that even the most powerful and successful individuals and companies in the industry may not be able to avoid devastating blows. Even if you reach the top of the rankings, all of your planning and hard work could be wiped out in a minute if Google releases an update that penalizes one of your strategies. The best way to deal with these unforeseen blows is to pick yourself up and begin dealing with the problem immediately so that you can begin recovering rankings as quickly as possible. Take the following steps to get your SEO campaign back on track after a penalty or setback:

  • Perform an SEO audit immediately.
  • Eliminate problematic elements such as low quality links and spammy content.
  • Contact Google to try to get the penalty removed.
  • Establish a new plan with reasonable expectations.

Don’t Make Bode Miller Cry

Despite winning a bronze medal, Bode Miller was overcome with emotion when interviewed by a reporter at the end of his race. The topic of discussion? His recently deceased brother, who would likely have been a competitor at the games as well. The backlash over the reporter’s pushy questions was immediate and harsh, as social media users condemned NBC and the reporter for not allowing Bode to grieve privately.

Tact is a key part of every SEO campaign. It’s crucial to protect your brand from appearing insensitive or unsympathetic, because the public will notice and remember those mistakes. SEOs have to walk the fine line of PR or any campaign will ultimately fail. When dealing with a sensitive topic, think carefully about how you want to portray your brand in relation to the topic before publishing content about it. Ask the following questions:

  • How will this marketing approach look to the audience?
  • Is it possible that this content will offend some readers?
  • Is this topic really relevant to our brand?
  • How can I adjust this content to seem more sympathetic?

Even Cross-Country Skiing Can Be Fascinating

I’ve found that the most random sports in the Olympics can be strangely fascinating, even to the untrained eye. Take cross-country skiing, for instance. These guys literally ski around a mostly flat circle for hours. Sounds horrendously boring, right? Wrong! The announcers constantly talk, discussing individual skiers through each step until it seems like the most interesting sport in the history of the world. When the racers get even remotely close to the finish line, the announcers go nuts!

Cross-country skiing(1)

As an SEO, a major part of your job is to make even the most boring topics seem absolutely fascinating. Even if your clients are trying to sell highly technical machinery or services, it’s your job to show the internet why their products are awesome. The trick is to find a way to relate to your target audience. Niche marketing allows you to address ideal customers without dumbing down content for general audiences, so it is often perfect for less exciting topics. To get started with niche marketing, try the following tricks:

  • Publish answers to common questions in order to make a product seem more accessible.
  • Develop a voice for your brand using humor, tone, wisdom, or anything else to make the brand seem unique and engaging.
  • Interact with potential customers – let them know that your company cares about what they think.

What SEO lessons did you learn from the Sochi Olympics?

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Sarah Beth

Sarah Beth Wiltse earned her BA in English at Boston University. Though she currently lives in Dallas, TX, she spent a year in Paris, France after college, cultivating her love of the French language and a passion for travelling. She has spent much of her life developing her skills in the arts, primarily as a ballerina, violinist, and pianist - and now, a writer! Follow her on Twitter!

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