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10 Things Die Hard Will Teach You About SEO

We all know the film Die Hard. It’s the iconic 1988 action movie starring Bruce Willis, where an international band of terrorists hijack an entire Los Angeles office building and get their asses handed to them by a seemingly unstoppable, quick-witted John McClane.

Now, I’ve watched Die Hard more times than I care to admit to, but just recently, I realised SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and Die Hard have a lot in common.

Here are 10 of the similarities I spotted. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. Wear A White Vest. Cover It With Blood, Sweat and Tears

By the end of the film, John McClane’s vest looks like it’s been used to clean the floor of a slaughterhouse. It’s covered with blood (including some of his own) and grime.

What this teaches us SEOs is that we need to be prepared to get down and dirty. Optimising a site for search will require you to get involved at the most granular detail.

2. Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson

He’s a douche. He hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing and he goes out of his way to make John McClane’s life difficult.

As an SEO, you’ll encounter people that may not ‘get’ what you’re doing. More often than not, it’s just a lack of understanding that’s the issue.

Whilst I wouldn’t suggest blowing up half a building to make your point, you will need to be able to demonstrate how important SEO is in a way everyone understands. After all, not everyone knows the difference between a permanent and a temporary redirect.

3. International Terrorists

John McClane collectively lands a right-hook square in Terrorism’s mouth. Along the way, McClane skools baddies from most countries around the world: snapping German necks, blowing holes in Italian sweatshirts, and laying waste to American and Asian wrong-do’ers in all manner of testosterone-fuelled ways.

Along your way as an SEO, you’ll meet with resistance too. Now you shouldn’t have to deal with C4 or sub-machine guns, but you will get grief from sales departments, from legal, from brand, from pretty much everywhere. You’ll need to be prepared to do everything just short of leaping off the roof with a fire-hose tied around your waist to make the changes you deem essential.

4. Flat-footed Sgt Al Powell

He loves twinkies and he drives like an OAP, but he’s John McClane’s mate. And without him, John would have lost his mind.

Just like John, you won’t be able to tackle the world of SEO on your own. You’ll need friends, allies and sounding-boards. Your brothers(or sisters)-in-arms will come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but they will be crucial. Getting impartial advice on technical implementation or content strategies will help you overcome the burden of knowledge and subjectivity.

5. Have a 9mm Berretta stuck to your back with Xmas tape

SPOILER ALERT: As soon as 9mm Berretta and Xmas tape are mentioned in the same sentence, you know Mr Bad-Guy is going to end up falling out of a skyscraper window. There are some things you just can’t compete with.

As an SEO, you need a proverbial 9mm taped to your back. In the ever-changing world of SEO, an opportunity to improve your rankings may appear at any time. You need to be prepared to react at a moment’s notice and fire two of your best right between that sucker’s eyes.

6. “Ho Ho Ho. Now I have a machine gun”

Throughout the film, McClane is laying down the one-liners, thick and fast.

You will learn fast that as an SEO, it helps to have a sense of humour. Not everything will go your way. Learn to smile.

7. Make Fists With Your Toes

McClane meets a guy on the plane. He learns the best way to get over a stressful flight is to go barefoot and make fists with your toes on the carpet. “Trust me I’ve been doing this for 9 years”. Later on, John ends up having to pick bits of broken glass out of his feet.

Experience for SEO is just like this. We learn some things work really well so we rely on them. But this lethargy can cause our un-doing. As SEOs we need to use our experience to do what’s right, but equally, we need to be constantly aware of what lies in store, just around the corner.

8. “You asked for a miracle. I give you the F.B.I”

In short, the FBI are even bigger douches than Dwayne T. Robinson.

What does this mean for the average SEO? External forces will throw curveballs at you. Often. Google, Bing and the other search engines update their algo’s constantly. This means the SEO landscape is constantly shifting. You’ll need to learn how to interpret the changes quickly and adapt just as fast.

9. “Hans, booby, I’m your white knight”

Ellis is the slick, mouth-moves-faster-than-mind sales exec. He reckons he can talk his way out of trouble. He gets shot in the face.

Ellis teaches us SEOs a lot about content. Some general rules are: talk in a language your audience will understand; don’t pretend to be an authority on something you know nothing about; don’t fill your content with waffle, jargon and bull. Or you’ll get shot… in the rankings.

10. Yippee Kiiyay

McClane sees himself as a one-man cowboy-style wrecking crew. Just like Roy Rogers.

This is another content lesson for us SEOs. When trying to create content that resonates with your audience, tell a story. A story that involves a blood-stained, bare-footed cowboy, wielding a machine and has a 9mm taped to his back. Do that and you’ll never have to beg for attention, or another backlink, ever again.

So there are my 10 things that Die Hard can teach us about SEO. I’m sure I’ve missed some, so if you have any to add, please leave them in the comments.

Geronimo, Motherf*&ker!

– Gary Elliott

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