I find the idea of “survivorship bias” fascinating. If you’ve not heard of it before, this short video from Eddie Woo is an excellent overview of it.
I see two places where this comes up in some of the areas where I work.
We frequently talk to our clients about why they chose to work with us. It could be our pricing, our process, our approach, or any number of things. That information is great to have!
However, we also lose some jobs that we bid on, and knowing why we lost those jobs is perhaps even more important. We’ve made it a practice lately to ask specific questions about why we lost a bid, in an effort to improve ourselves going forward. Some folks don’t answer (or just don’t say much), but some give pretty solid comparisons about why they chose a different firm.
It can be a little hard to hear, but the information that they give us is pure gold.
This also can apply to trying to improve your position in Google with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
We all have keywords that we want to go after, so we focus on those keywords, watch their rankings, and try to make them better. That’s a great thing!
However, what about the keywords that people are using that we’re not even aware of? Reporting will only show the keywords that you’re going after. There are likely hundreds of other keyword combinations that could be valuable for your business that you’re unknowingly ignoring.
Essentially, this is a form of survivorship bias since you’re not able to see the keywords that don’t ever work for you. Spending time to research and uncover those can be a huge benefit to your company.
To get started with that, Google Search Console can be useful. Among other things, it will show you keywords that you’re ranking for way down the list (that you never get clicks for), so it can be some good low-hanging fruit to go after.
Survivorship Bias can make it easy to only focus on the planes that come back, so remembering those that didn’t (and learning why they didn’t) can apply in a lot of different ways.