Every day, some of the best search engine optimization firms on the planet answer questions from business owners about search engine optimization. Most of these discussions include explanations about "on-page" optimization and "off-page" optimization. SEO typically involves a line-by-line inspection of website content and its coding. Of course, off-page SEO will always involve some form of linking. In other words, the way the rest of the Internet relates back to your website. As of this writing, successful campaigns usually include direct and indirect back-linking, social media participation and citations from trusted websites.
It's no surprise that the web design process is still very much a design-driven industry. This is because most web design companies are owned and managed by web designers and as such, the main goal of the design process is to create a great looking design. A web designer's main goal is not usually, however, to create a website that is designed to achieve high organic search engine rankings.
It takes at least three skill-sets create an SEO friendly site. You need a great designer that can deliver the eye-candy. Any company that is spending money on a custom design will want a great design that has the "WOW" factor. Second, you also need a talented, disciplined developer that can take the digital artwork and convert it to clean, validated website code. The third is the SEO talent. Your consultant needs to be able to research and develop the search data and work with the web developer to weave the strategy into to first line of code.
In practice, however, the designers still drive the entire process. When this happens, the company gets a great looking new site that is hacked together on the back-end. These sites almost never get search engine rank for competitive search terms. The client company then searches for Internet marketing assistance, but the new consultants start at a disadvantage because they have to try and rank a site that is poorly structured and coded.
Then the company gets the bad news: they have to drastically modify the website in order to rank well on the search engines! Those of us in the Internet Marketing profession need to be able to explain in simple terms why new websites are not able to rank, despite the high development costs. The following are some useful analogies that have been used by a leading Kansas City web design company:
1. The Race Car Driver: This is an effective SEO analogy and may be among the best. To excel on the search engines, you need to have an optimized website that is well structured with search engine friendly coding. Your website is the race car. No matter how fast your car is, it still needs a driver to be able to compete. A skilled driver cannot win with a substandard car, and a poor driver cannot win with a the most advanced race car. This is an ideal analogy for search engine optimization - you need a great driver and a great car to win the race, just like you need a great website and a great Internet marketer succeed with Google. The only difference is that with Google and the other major search engines, the race never ends.
2. The Home Builder: The web design process is similar to the design stage of construction. This is the time when the sketches and drawings can be easily be modified. Once the blueprints are approved and the concrete is set, it becomes very difficult to move a wall or change the floor plan. Website design and development is the same way. Designers can modify digital construction plans quickly. When the coding process starts, however, design changes are harder and more time consuming. In terms of SEO, the home construction is similar to the role of the builders and inspectors. In web design, the search engine optimization consultant should be managing the design and development stages so that the website has the best possible chances of ranking highly on the major search engines.
3. Sharp Shooting: The analogy of the sharp shooter is another good one. This one is simple and makes the point clearly and concisely. The world's best sharp shooter is powerless without a great firearm, and a the best firearm on the planet cannot shoot by itself. The same goes for SEO - a perfectly coded website cannot rank itself and a the world's best consulting firm can't do anything without clients and websites to rank.
4. Landscaping: The landscaping analogy is a great one for SEO in particular, because it plays into the nature of it as an ongoing strategy. Just like search engine optimization, you need a landscape design plan and a lot of upfront effort to prepare, grade and prep for planting. In most cases, a newly landscaped property will not have the same aesthetic value as a property that has a properly maintained, mature landscape. SEO is the same - we work hard in the initial months, and most often this effort does not produce organic ranking results for weeks or months later. Further, just like landscaping, it takes ongoing effort to improve results.
5. The Fisherman: Fishing is favorite SEO analogy for many reasons. The best angle to use for this analogy relates to net fishing. Think of recreational fishers in an area using chum and other luring techniques to draw fish into a body of water. Fishermen use specialized lures, bait and equipment to catch fish one-by-one. This is akin to traditional marketing where companies use mass marketing to target a relatively small group of potential buyers. In the online marketing field, we call this: offline demand creation. As fishermen use all their fancy methods to attract fish, think of a commercial fishing vessel that comes by and scoops up all the fish. This is EXACTLY what a SEO does. Consumers see the demand creation by companies on TV, print and radio...then then run to the internet to research when they are actually ready to make a purchase decision. Internet marketing, when done effectively, enables your company to steal this market share created by your competitors.
If you are a web developer or Internet marketing professional, try using one of these analogies to explain SEO and web design to your prospective clients.
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