I try to teach my mom SEO stuff from time to time, and often do so through the use of analogies. Some analogies perhaps oversimplify the SEO process, but are good for helping get the basic concepts across.
On Page Content
- fish and a fishing pole - when explaining how text heavy sites often outrank thin ecommerce sites, I like to call searchers fish and each word on the page an additional fishing pole in the water. This is really powerful when used in combination with analytics data, showing her the hundreds of phrases that people searched for to find a given page on her site...helping her see the long tail as schools of fish. :)
- Don't Make Me Think - people scan more than they read. Large blocks of text are imposing. People are more likely to read well formatted content that uses many headings, subheadings, and inline links. Expect people to ignore your global navigation, and do whatever you ask them to do (via inline links).
- Broadway Street in Manhattan - used to describe the value of descriptive .com domain names, and when describing what top search engine rankings are worth.
- a pyramid - when explaining how some phrases are more competitive than others, and how to structure a site.
- chapters of a book - used to describe the importance of focused page titles, and how to structure a website.
- search engines follow people - helps explain why new sites tend to not rank well, and how links are seen as votes.
- roads and highways - used to describe PageRank and why some votes count more than others.
- multiple audiences - used to describe why many types of content are needed to address different audiences, and the importance of creating content that is loved by buyers, linkers, and search engines.
- rising tide lifts all boats - used to describe how links to one part of your website help other pages on your website rank better
- pet rocks & overpriced dolls - describing how perception becomes reality when describing cumulative advantage, and how some poor quality sites are popular while better content remains hidden
Pay Per Click
- instant market feedback - describing how it can be cheaper to test and learn than it is to theorize
- taxing irrelevancy - explaining how irrelevant ads are priced out of the marketplace.
- users vote with clicks - if your ad does not get clicked on it costs way more or is not shown
- flying blind without autopilot - when explaining the importance of analytics, and how most businesses that do not track results stand a good chance of failing.
- people are lazy - describing the power of defaults and how a #1 ranking gets way more traffic than a number 5 or number 10 ranking.
- Trust is Important - cares deeply for user experience, unless they are paid enough to think otherwise.
- The House Advantage - when explaining why YouTube and Knol pages rank better than they deserve to.
- Link Authority is Important - explaining why garbage general made for AdSense sites like eHow clog up the search results when higher quality information is hidden.
- Informational Bias - when explaining that Google's business model relies on people clicking paid ads for commercial sites, and why Wikipedia ranks for everything.
How do you describe SEO to people who are not deep into the field?
Update: A few months ago Jaan Kanellis posted many analogies.
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