Explaining search engine optimization to newbies is something that anyone with sales or account support responsibilities at a search marketing or interactive agency is going to have to get good at. I used to spend a lot of time using the notion of “organic” and the whole “making fertile ground, planting seeds, nurturing, cultivating, watering, air, sun, bear fruit” kind of analogy but it gets old using the same description all the time.
The best way to explain the notion of optimizing web sites for search engines can vary depending on the starting point. For people stuck in 1999 SEO land, where it’s all about meta tags, submissions and SEO as a “one time” event, an explanation of the need for fresh, themed content and an ongoing pursuit of inbound links can become the focus.
On the other hand, if the company has been through 3 or 4 SEO overly aggressive SEO consultants, the situation may warrant some bad news about all the reciprocal links, third rate directory listings and keyword stuffed doorway pages that need to be cleaned up or dealt with before a reinclusion request can be filed.
The thing is, many of the companies that think they need SEO are in dire need of other process improvements first, such as a well defined conversion process, tracking and analytics. Sending a ton of qualified traffic to a site through relevant visibility on the major search engines, news search, blog search, social media and high profile links isn’t going to do you much good if there’s no accountability between the marketing and sales departments.
Many companies think they’re getting results from their online marketing, but do they REALLY know? In many cases, they don’t and need to spend some time on process and interdepartmental communication right along with their search marketing.
Search engines aren’t the only source of quality traffic either. The art and science of optimization can be extended to any document or file that can get crawled, indexed and ranked. Add to that the idea of social media and the effects of personalized search and explaining the variety of ways to optimize can become information overload.
The moniker, “search engine optimization” is a bit of a misnomer, since you’re not optimizing seach engines, you’re optimizing FOR search engines. SEO is fundamentally a set of methodologies that make it easier for search engines to find, include, categorize and rank your web content. That’s the starting point.
Because so many companies are in dire need of improvements with other matters related to marketing and business processes, many search marketing agencies that specialize in SEO provide a lot more than just keywords and links. That means the definition of what SEO “is”, means more as well.
So rather than spending a lot of time explaining algorithms, ranking and conversion analysis to someone who is very new to the idea of SEO, another explanation might have more to do with business marketing optimization. Or as an upcoming article I’m writing is titled, “Optimize Your Business for Search”.
This is a holistic approach to optimization that can affect a company from branding and communication to public relations, direct marketing and online marketing. For example, something as fundamental as including keyword research into corporate wide messaging can create many opportunities for search visibility as part of an ongoing process rather than individual “optimization” events.
How do you explain search engine optimization to newbies? Have you found clever analogies or metaphors?