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5 Analogies to Help Explain (and sell) SEO Concepts

Whether working in-house or in an agency setting, I’m pretty sure we’ve all been in a situation where it’s easier to explain some of the basic elements of SEO by using analogies.

When pitching changes to things your client doesn’t even know exist, it’s important to remember that business owners, executives, marketing managers and even your boss (here’s to you, Mr. Fussy) are thinking big picture and simply don’t have the time, or need, to get deep in what you’re doing to increase organic search visibility.

For this reason, I often resort to some of my favorite tried and true analogies.


Robots.txt ““ “The Gateway”

Whenever a client looks at me and scratches their head when I mention the robots.txt file, I let them know that it can be thought of as “The Gateway” to your content for search engines. It points search engines in the direction of the sitemap, and tells them what they can ““ and cannot ““ add to their index. Another fun way to explain it is to have them think about it as the security checkpoint at the airport, minus the intrusive body scans.

Sitemap.xml ““ “The Directory”

A sitemap.xml file often gets confused by clients with their HTML sitemap. While on the surface each type of sitemap wants to accomplish the same goals, each one has a different type of audience: humans and search engines.

One way I like to explain how sitemap.xml files work is kind of like a mall directory ““ you know, the thing we always walk right by on our way in and wonder why we don’t know where we’re going. Mall directories come in all different shapes and sizes ““ deep and not so deep ““ complex and simplistic. The only thing that matters is how many store types (categories) and stores (pages) you have in your Mall (website).

Analytics & Tracking ““ “The Guiding Light”

As a marketer working in a metrics-driven specialty, it’s important for clients to understand that without the ability to track, measure, and iterate ““ we as search marketers will never truly provide value to their account. Without analytics, it’s like we’re SCUBA diving in murky waters with 3ft of visibility. We can only imagine what will happen if we continue to tread in murky waters.

Meta Descriptions ““ “The Ad Copy”

Whenever I’m explaining to clients that keyword usage in Meta descriptions isn’t weighted in Google’s algorithm, I’m always asked the same question: “Then why optimize it?“ The easiest way to break down Meta descriptions would be to compare it to an elevator pitch; you have the person with you and interested”¦ The next step is to “hook” them and get them to your site. Plus, you could always just explain that it’s our chance to step out of spreadsheets and crawler tools to be creative. Clients LOVE creativity.

Qualified vs. Unqualified Traffic ““ “Quality vs. Quantity”

The final analogy comes from one of my coworkers, Ross Monaghan. He once compared qualified and unqualified traffic as the difference between building your store on a commercial street with lower traffic, and having more sales/leads/conversions than you would if you built your store on a heavily trafficked residential street. Even though more people travel along the residential street, they have little-to-no intent to purchase so your presence as one of the few vendors is just noise.

As the saying goes, there’s always more than one way to skin a cat. Have you had a positive experience using analogies to explain or pitch clients on harder to handle SEO concepts? If so, feel free to share!


One Comment

  1. santa October 18, 2012

    Instead of focusing on creating a call to action for recipients of your direct marketing materials, you can instead use those materials to simply advertise a specific product or to create brand awareness for your company.

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