Let’s face it, SEO is a little bit complicated to people who have never heard of it. At least once a week someone asks me what I do for a living and if they don’t know what SEO is I have trouble answering that question in less than five minutes.
I’ve worked at SEO agencies where you have to sell the service as a salesman but also explain the process as an account manager to a client. I’ve also done in-house SEO where explaining SEO seems to happen on a daily basis to a programmer, a marketing executive, a designer, a PR person or any number of other people.
Because you and I have to explain our industry so often, I thought it would be helpful to share an analogy I’ve used to show others how search engine optimization works. SEO is really a lot like buying a home.
The Process Of Buying A Home
When buying a home, most people consider hiring a realtor. Sure there are people who drive around town trying to find “For Sale” signs. Sure there are people who ask friends, neighbors and co-workers about available real estate they may have seen.
But these people usually don’t find what they are looking for. They find a lot of real estate that doesn’t exactly match their needs. This is why so many people hire realtors.
Realtors have access to the MLS listings database. If there is any home for sale in the database, they know about it. They can access hundreds and thousands of listings for you, and pretty quickly.
All you need to do is tell the realtor what you are looking for and they find it for you. Usually people specify a certain price, location, number of bedrooms, square feet or some other requirement in the home they are looking for.
Realtors take all of this information as well as what they know about you from meeting with you and sort through all the listings to find viable options. Once they have found matches to what you are looking for, they show you the homes.
Now realtors only get paid by commission, meaning they only make money if and when you buy a home. It is in their best interest to show you exactly what you are looking for as quickly as possible. They will only show you the properties that match your needs that are most likely to sell.
So once your realtor has found all the listings that match your requests, they determine an order to show them to you. They do this based on what they know about you and about other buyers in the area who have looked for similar homes. They also base it on how likely a home is to sell. As you see new homes, you will explore a bit and find more information about the property from your realtor.
Eventually you will settle on a home you would like to purchase. Before you buy anything, however, you want to get an inspection. You’ll want a contractor to look everything over, or you may even have a few specialists come over, like an electrician, a plumber and a roofer.
Once you’re satisfied the home is in good condition and meets your requirement for what you were looking for, the process is finished. You found what you were looking for and you have your realtor to thank for it.
How This Relates To SEO
This helps to explain how search works. Search engines (realtors) have access to a large web index (MLS listings database). They understand certain characteristics of every website (home which they have discovered. When someone comes to them with a request for a website containing certain information, they quickly match websites to their query and display them in an order they think is most relevant to the search.
Now, a good realtor won’t take you to a run down home that is in need of major repairs. They won’t take you to a home that is filled with trash, has holes in the walls and is a danger to those inside.
Likewise, search engines have a habit of filtering out bad websites that they feel are either of low quality or could literally harm your computer.
And just as a realtor will only show homes they think can sell, a search engine will only show websites they think are useful to users.
I tell people that web design is the landscaping and exterior of the home. If that doesn’t look inviting, people are very hesitant to see how the inside looks.
Performing search engine optimization is like cleaning up and staging the interior of the home. It’s also the process of defining the space in the home. No one wants to walk into a home with no walls or rooms. They want a space for a kitchen, a space for a bathroom, a space for a bedroom, etc.
The more staged a property is, the more likely it is to sell, so the more useful and cleaned up a website is, the more likely it is to rank well in a search engine.
It’s up to those of us in SEO to look at the function and utility of the website. We also have to make it pass inspection if you will. A website must be crawlable and free of malware, just like a home needs sound plumbing and electrical connections.
Now think on this. You wouldn’t hire a gardener to inspect your electrical, would you? And you wouldn’t hire a painter to inspect your plumbing, would you? And you wouldn’t consider hiring a roofer to stage your home, would you?
So why would you hire graphic designers, programmers or similar people to make sure your website is SEO friendly? You want an SEO expert doing this.
Hopefully you can use this example to help you explain our industry to a boss, co-worker, client or potential customer. The more we can simplify SEO for people the better.
I’m not sure how all facets of SEO fit into this analogy, but I would love to hear how you could expand this analogy further to include them.
Article source: http://www.seomoz.org/ugc/seo-is-like-buying-a-home-12444