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Analogies And Metaphors To Help Explain SEO To Your Boss

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Happy Thursday everyone.  A quick SEO post to bring some brevity, tips, and pop culture into your day.

Yesterday I had a client ask for some campaign items to present to the CEO. He is concerned about year over year natural search gains.

As an SEO I bet your chest just tightened up reading that.  We’ve all been there.  Our lot in life will put us there again.  When the spotlight is put on natural search performance, it’s almost always put on you as a performer (at least semi-consciously).  Maybe you feel threatened or defensive.  The counter-arguments start squirting through your neocortex.

The problem is, you can’t usually get away with telling the c-suite, “you’re damn lucky I (we) were able to stop any bleeding and keep you climbing the mountain Google’s model is destined to swat you from.”  As SEOs we know it’s the Pareto Principle.  We know consistent top positions is vital for query revision.  We know Google wants to keep the index fresh and, relatively speaking, very few brands seem to be sacred cows.  I bet you’d love to say, “imagine where you’d be if I wasn’t here!”  Unless you have no fear of losing your job, you probably can’t get away with that.

We need to help the c-suite.  They’re never the enemy – they’re your best allies, and you are their partners.  The smart ones listen and appropriately challenge you, while others may be a bit slower.  They’re all regular folks with their own strengths and weaknesses.  I’ve had my share of executives who just couldn’t get it – whether because they weren’t capable of seeing the big picture, or didn’t care because of the demands that were on them.  Before my agency life, I had one boss who set unrealistic goals and put no resources behind his team. He convinced himself that since he was once on top, he should be natively staying on top.  I quit.  He lost his natural search lead, and last I heard, his company is toast (your first analogy).

If we don’t step in, the folks we consult for could take uncorrected preconceived concepts to their next jobs and cause more complications.  We can be heroes, but it takes work.

What’s the ROI of SEO?  Staying competitive!

Words that work

I’ve found analogies and metaphors work well in explaining the obtusity of SEO.  Here’s two that have worked for me.  And since I’m currently celebrating 80′s Thursday (my own personal holiday), I’ve got incredible movie posters to boot.

affiche-the-ice-pirates-1984-1

SEO and Pirates

“As an SEO, I can help identify the opportunity and draw a loose perimeter on the map.  But I can’t necessarily tell you exactly where in the perimeter the booty is; nor can I guarantee how deep it is.  But, as luck would have it, I can also help you dig.  The time is all dependent on how many shovels we have in the dirt, and how hard we dig.  The timing may be up to luck, but we will find the gold to offset all the effort.”

I told this to a group of interactive marketers while running the SEO department in a 200+ person agency.  Clients were asking account managers for SEO help, and they were hesitant to bring us in if we couldn’t guarantee an ROI. We found ourselves pitching to our own peers. After the meeting, one person in particular scheduled a meeting with me.  “It clicked,” he said.  This person was an analytics and data wiz, and became a huge ally – and friend – during my years in the agency.  He went on to run some major accounts (think national sport leagues), and did SEO a huge service by not only explaining it correctly, but in selling the real value through to the clients.  He pre-qualified a couple opportunities for our group as well.

SEO and Racing

“To win a race, not only does the car need to consistently be upgraded (aka optimized), but many factors need to be analyzed routinely like track builds, track conditions, talent of driver and pit crew, talent of competitors.

cannonball-run-movie-poster-01So let’s imagine you are a team owner. You implement an expensive, cutting edge exhaust system on your best car. You notice in your trials that the car clocked better, but you still didn’t win that week’s race.  Next week you install a new suspension, but again lost the race.  Worse, your competition still beat you soundly without the two optimizations you have. Some of your team starts to get frustrated and confused. Theories and opinions are flying.  Chaos level rising!

But you do the right thing. You keep buying, trying, testing, and removing optimizations. You watch your competitors and study their moves for inspiration, but you don’t worry.  You stay on target.  Suddenly, towards the middle of the season something happens. You start placing in the top 5. The points and rewards (money) you’re receiving is slowly starting to add up.  Chaos level lowering!

Eventually you start winning. Your wins offset all your losses with a healthy margin of revenue leftover to enjoy.  But it’s important you think about next season, and your next level of racing.  New technology will arise.  New track conditions, new team members for both you and your competitors, and a hundred other factors will need your monitoring.  Don’t sit still just because you’re winning – if you don’t stick with it, you’re going to fall behind again.  You can’t afford to do that after all your investments.”

I’ve used the racecar parallel a zillion times.  I’ve used it mainly in pitch decks so I can make sure from the outset I’m explaining what the client will be in for with an engagement.  Want to compete?  Come with me.  Not into the risk?  Try paid search.

Conclusion

I know this post is dangerously close to “What Dom DeLuise taught me about SEO” type posts, so you’ll just have to forgive me this one time.

Also notice I didn’t use Field of Dreams “If You Build It They Will Come.”  That’s a myth and a terrible movie.

What Analogies Do You Use?  Share In The Comments!

 

 


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    Comments

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    1. Scott Dodge
      November 8, 2013

      I’m an analogy guy at heart, so I totally love these ideas.

      I always use the car analogy as well, specifically regarding how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

      For example, only focusing on linkbuilding is like slapping four turbos on an engine – sure, turbos make the car quicker, but do it without focusing on other parts of the car, and you may blow the engine.

      I recently used the house analogy, and that seemed to be understood very well.

      The concept of the technical health of a website relates really well to the foundation of a house – it does incredibly important work, is behind the scenes, is quite involving and expensive to repair, and you don’t want it in a compromised state.

      Reply