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February 13, 2007

Using Analogies to Explain the Benefits of SEO

By Karl Ribas

In an upcoming interview that I"ll be publishing later this month (on my Blog), I asked Li Evans what she thought was one of the biggest misconceptions of the search marketing industry. Her reply:

"That the general public has figured out what Search Marketing really is. Inside our own 'world' here, our fishbowl so to speak, we all know that Title Tags help. We all know a linking strategy is important - this is easy stuff for us. But ask your neighbor, or the small business that's a carpet installing service - they have no clue, and are only just realizing that the internet is likely more valuable to them than a yellow page ad."

I certainly couldn't agree with her more!

3 1/2 years ago, before I entered this field, I was like most of the world... clueless to the industry that lied beneath the surface of the Google results page. As a user, I didn't care too much about how a search engine worked... only that it did and that it found the content that was most important to me. I think that this can be said for most internet users and shoppers.

As common as website optimization, content-building, link building, social media experimenting, and any other forms of internet marketing that I've failed to mention are to us... there still remains many, many more people whom are clueless to it all. Take my parents for example. They're clueless to what even a search engine is. To them, and most of my family and friends, I am simply a website designer. Trying to explain the dynamics of what I do day in and day out and why I do it is a relatively hard thing to do. So in order to cut through much of the confusion, I simply claim that I am a website designer / developer... everybody seems to have an understanding of what that is.

I'm sure most of you are in a similar boat and do the same, do you not?

Well, we, as search marketers, don't have that same luxury when in comes to speaking with potential clients. In regards to clients, we have to have our "game faces" on and be able to explain not only the benefits of search engine marketing and why it is an important step in developing a successful web presence, but we also have to do so in a way that the client will understand. This, as most of you know, can be a very difficult task.

So how exactly does one do this? I am sure if you polled everyone you knew in this industry, you'd probably come across several different answers and strategies. For me personally, in association with All Web Promotion, I tend to rely on the use of analogies when making my arguments for search marketing services. In most cases, It usually takes me a minute or two to realize what the person on the other end of the phone knows about website development, search marketing, and basic business practices in general (online and offline). Using this information, I can usually come up with analogy that will allow me to explain the SEM industry and the services we offer in such a way that eliminates most of the confusion. Basically, I just look to find some common ground.

The following is one of the better analogies that I've put together and happen to use quite often. Maybe it can be of some help to you, and your client-communication efforts.

The Statement:

Creating a website, essentially an online store, is obviously the first component of a successful online presence. It is not the only component, but an important one to say the least. Another component, which is equally important, is the marketing of a website. Seeing how millions of internet users use search engines as their tool for navigating the web, it's extremely important for websites to not only appear among those listed in the results, but to appear high enough to attract this targeted traffic.

The Analogy

Developing a website without a search engine marketing strategy in mind is the equivalent of opening a store on some back country road... maybe somewhere in the vicinity of Starkville, Mississippi where my good buddy Rob is from. According to him, there's not much there with the exception of a Copy Cow and tractor-pull competitions. A store in such a location is certainly capable of attracting an occasional passerby here and there, but its nowhere to the point where one can make a living.

Enter 'search Marketing". A website that has been optimized thoroughly for keywords that specifically targets the necessary audiences is the equivalent of taking that same store from the back-country road and placing it in the middle of say Times Square, NYC. Actually it's a bit better than that... because search marketing offers such a relevant method of advertising, it's like saying that everyone who now walks down the street of Times Square is interested in the products and services you sell. With great search engine positioning, any website is subject to immediate and constant traffic. In turn, this traffic often leads to new business and sales.

Using this same analogy, one can easily apply it to other areas of search marketing. For instance, we all know that when potential shoppers walk past a store, they expect to read information such as the store's name and other signage to help them understand what products and services are being sold inside. The same is to be said for traffic coming from a search engine. A compelling title and description tag is the equivalent to the branding and information signage that hangs in the windows of a brick and mortar store. The search engine is essentially a street or a mall. The sites they list are the stores and businesses along that street or inside that mall. The more information an owner provides about their website via its virtual signage, the better the chance that someone will click-through and enter.

Again, once you have found the common ground in which you can relate to your potential clients, the complexity of our industry and services seem to disappear. Do you use analogies in your client-communication efforts? If so, which ones work best for you? If you don't, what methods do you use for when communicating with a potential client who doesn't understand the need for search marketing?

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Comments

Although my career has been short, I have learned the hard way that most of my potential clients don't fully understand what SEO is. When I goto meetings I can see their eyes glaze over as soon as I mention the word "Title Tag." Oddly enough I haven't used an analogy yet, but that might be the trick! I usually show examples and try and give them a 15 minute lesson on SEO.

I love your analogy though Karl, and I'm planning on using it! I can just see the relief on my Grandparents face when I explain it like that and they finally get a clue as to what I do all day.

Do you think it is a good strategy to use an analogy and then explain the very basics of SEO to them?

Thanks for the comment Pratt.

Feel free to use the analogy, or build off of it. Whatever you need to do to make your clients (or your grandparents) see the light.

To address your question, I do think using an analogy first and then moving into basic SEO is a good strategy for when talking with potential clients. However, if you should start to see their eyes glaze over, as you say, be sure to reference back to the analogy to clear up any confusion. On the phone, its obviously a little harder to know when you’ve lost the client on an idea, but than again it’s up to them to let you know should they have trouble understand a concept.

I have received just like millions of others ads saying to make money in the search marketing biz. What can you tell me about these opportunities or are they just bogus companies. They usually have a work from home spin from your own computer. I would really like to find work from home income due to certain personal conditions but I am only looking for legit work and pay.

I like using the analogy of horse racing in regards to search engine optimisation. The course is like the Internet, the horses are the websites, the search marketing companies are like the trainers and the search engines are like the official handicappers. However, it's not just about being at the top of the search engines anymore - it's about providing relevant PR content and information and putting things in place that will convert traffic. I guess the elements added to a website to increase conversion rates such as a video testimonials or a video spokesperson is like the jockey.......lets not forget the jockey! There's also the analogy about the old spinster but I'll save that for another time!!!

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