While SEO (search engine optimization) is not rocket science or brain surgery, it certainly isn’t the easiest paradigm to understand, especially to someone who doesn’t have a background in the internet or technology.
Whether it’s the way words sound (meta data optimization) or a particularly technical aspect of SEO (like schema markup), I tend to encounter confusion quite often with those customers who are new to the concepts of SEO. In order to guard against a customer’s confusion or worse, feeling inferior, a successful sales rep has to create a bridge between the customer and SEO in order to grow a clear understanding of the practices of a successful SEO campaign.
This is vital to bringing the sales process to a successful close. Having a customer leave a conversation confused in the least bit is often the death rattle of your sales cycle. Never fear; analogies are here! Just as the Internet is full of analogies (the web, crawling, server, etc…), SEO has some particularly helpful metaphors to improve anyone’s understanding of its basic (or even advanced) concepts.
Let’s look at three of these analogies in an attempt to acquire new tools to help others understand the basic concepts of SEO.
The Basic Concepts of SEO
Backlinks = Votes of Confidence
In attempting to explain the importance of acquiring relevant, authoritative backlinks into your website, I often hear silence or muttering at the other end of the phone. Who knew that simply placing the word ‘back” in front of a concept that is seemingly universally understood, ‘link’, would lead to so much misunderstanding?
I find that discussing backlinks in terms of their function is very helpful in establishing what they are in another’s mind. This is where “votes of confidence” comes into play. If one can understand that these websites linking to your site are vouching for your site to the search engines, one can begin to grasp the importance and role of backlinks in an SEO campaign. This simple metaphor helps do the trick of engendering a growing understanding of a key concept.
Alternate Metaphor – Popularity Contest
Conversion Optimization = Billboard on the Side of the Highway
Any (extremely) lazy optimizer can drive more traffic to a website. Heck, you can pay five bucks to boost your traffic overnight, and you don’t have to do any real SEO work. The catch is that it is highly doubtful that this traffic will lead to a conversion on your website. After all, the goal of a website is to guide a user to take some action, be it read an article, purchase a widget, vote on a picture, or fill out a contact form.
To get this idea across, a coworker of mine uses the billboard analogy regularly. He says something like this: “Your website is like a billboard on the side of the road. People can drive past it all day long, but, if they don’t pull over and write down your information, what is the point of having the billboard?” His point is that having all the traffic in the world matters little unless those users are converting. I really like this analogy, and I have adopted it in my sales calls.
Alternate Metaphor – Restaurant menu
Schema Markup = Writing Your 11th Grade Term Paper
This is one of the more daunting challenges when it comes to SEO, and, to be honest, it took me several conversations with coworkers and family (Thanks, Mom) to come up with this one. Just mentioning this word, much less explaining it, will cause eyes to glaze over and minds to be numbed.
So, and this is not a perfect analogy, think about when you had to write that high school term paper.
You likely had to use footnotes, MLA Format, and proper quotation practices or your teacher marked you off. There were certain structures that you had to include in your paper to properly convey the meaning you wanted to convey to anyone reading it. In the same way, schema markup is a way of coding a website so that the search engines better understand its content. Obviously, this explanation isn’t ground shaking in its intricacy, but this is the world of metaphor, so we are in the business of creating images, not math equations.
Alternate Metaphor – Please tell me if you know one
After writing my first two blog posts about SEO, much of the feedback that I have received from friends in family goes something like this: “I loved your post, and you write great, but I have no idea what you are talking about.” I can’t help but think that if I am not going out of my way to help my client understand SEO, he or she is probably leaving our conversations with the same confusion.
It doesn’t have to be this way if we work hard to create analogies that explain our industry in terms of everyday things, they will go a long way to helping people understand the basic concepts of SEO.