Management July 16, 2013 Last updated September 18th, 2018 2,284 Reads share

Applying The “Hedgehog Concept” To SEO

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The “Hedgehog concept” is a brainchild of business theorist and educator

The Hedgehog Concept

When a business is so focused as to allocate all its resources into something that they are extremely passionate about, can truly be the best at, and is the primary engine for economic growth and sustainability, their likelihood of success is very high. Although this looks like a simple concept to master, it is actually extremely difficult and requires the patience and determination of a talented manager/CEO to do so. Often times, it’s the inherent ability to uncover which products and values truly drives the company’s economic engine that separate a great CEO from an average one.

It takes bravery and an abundance of brutal honesty to find out what exactly a company can be the best at; for in order for a company to settle on something it can be best at, it must reject countless other ideas. It must ignore the noise and weed out all ideas on the fringe, even if the ideas seem at first to be highly promising.

Here’s a quote from former Apple CEO Steve Jobs that sheds light on this concept:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

E-commerce and SEO are rapidly changing environments, and as CEO of a bathroom & plumbing e-commerce company, I’m forced to make difficult project decisions on a daily basis: which projects are worth endorsing? In such cases, it is so beneficial to have a set of standards such as the Hedgehog concept that I can test my decision making against.

Do you think you can apply the “Hedgehog concept” to your SEO marketing efforts? The short answer should be “yes”, as long as you are able to identify and understand these three main principles.

Let’s start with passion

Let’s face it, competition in the world of search engine optimization is fierce. There are only ten spots on the first page of the search engine rankings, and yet there are thousands of sites competing on almost every keyword. But as with most things in life and business, often times the defining attribute that separates successes from failures is passion. You must truly love search engine optimization and every little nuance of it, from off site link-building, to social media marketing, to the trivial details of on-page optimization.

Are you missing an “h1” tag in your blog post? You shouldn’t be able to sleep until the most important keywords of the page are in an h1 title tag. Is the keyword density a little high on another post? Well, you shouldn’t be able to eat until you’ve fixed this redundancy. Did you find duplicate content on different pages in your domain? You shouldn’t feel right until a 301 redirect is in place and every page on your site has unique content.

Looking at the bigger picture, what’s equally important is to get the rest of your company in line with your vision and passion. SEO should be a passion, purpose, and priority for you and your entire company, even for the groups that don’t work directly in the field. Fortunately, passion in itself is contagious. If you are truly passionate about SEO, you’ll be able to instill this very same passion in the people you work with.

Are you willing to invest the resources needed to be the best?

It is important to know right from the outset where your organization’s strengths lie; can you truly be the best at SEO in your market or field? Also, along with possessing a deep understanding of your strengths, it is absolutely critical to know what your organization’s weaknesses are. In theory, company resources should be divested from outlying projects that highlight its weaknesses and then consolidated into the single most important project.

In the “Hedgehog concept” the single most important project is the only one worth focusing on; it is the project that embodies your primary organizational strength and one that satisfies the question: “Can our company be the best at this project?”.

If your company has both the innate desire and ability to be the best at SEO, you must truly invest in it by refocusing all resources on this singular mission. For a company structure and organization standpoint, you can approach this project in any way you desire: by tackling the project whole or splitting search engine optimization into smaller units such as on-page optimization, link building, social media, and content creation. Whatever approach you decide to take, remember that you must focus on your strengths while working to improve your weaknesses.

Does SEO drive your economic engine?

So far, we have covered the importance of having passion and the will to invest in the right resources to be the best. The third principle is one that revolves around the topic of purpose and reason. What is the purpose and reason for focusing all your energy and resources into a singular project? It must be that this project gives your company the greatest likelihood for success.

It must also be the case that your company’s economic engine relies heavily and/or is deeply affected by this project. For this reason, a company has no choice – it must be motivated to overcome any challenges along the way, for the future of the company relies on it. This clear link between the project’s success and the company’s success serves as an impetus and provides the fuel and motivation the company needs to give everything it has to this project.

Let’s say your company is a bakery in the heart of New York City. Now let’s assume the majority of your customers are recurring visitors, walk-by traffic, or referrals from people who love your shop. If your store’s sales are humming along, you might not feel inclined to take on a project with the size, scope, and risk that something like SEO might entail – especially since your strength is in baking fresh bread, and not marketing.

As a result, any attempt at SEO will be half-hearted, and more than likely, the project will fail. On the other hand, let’s assume your company is a head-hunting agency in Manhattan and that most of your clients are people who find you and submit their resumes through the internet. Your company’s future may rely heavily on how easily a new college graduate can find you on the internet. In that case, you have no choice but to invest in and succeed in SEO.


Can you say the same about your company with regards to SEO? Can you honestly say that the success of your company relies heavily on the success of your SEO? If so, your company may already be on its way to reaping the benefits of “the Hedgehog” concept.

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