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SEO: A Really Elementary Breakdown, Part One

by Shari Finnell

“What do you do?”

For those of us working in the SEO industry, there’s no way to answer this question in 20 seconds or less, especially if you’re encountering about 98.5 percent of the population. When it comes to professions, SEO comes nowhere close to qualifying as the “oldest.” Search engine optimization is about as new as you can possibly get.

Responding that you work for a professional SEO services company will rarely be returned with the glimmer of recognition it would if you said, “I’m a … lawyer, teacher, secretary, doctor, cashier, accountant, bus driver, researcher…” or any hundreds of professions.

Recently, while volunteering at a local nonprofit agency, about three dozen employees from Slingshot SEO were confronted with that simple question just before we rolled up our sleeves to get busy building arbors for community projects.

A couple of us responded that we worked for an SEO company. Of course, as many of us had expected, that answer was immediately followed by, “What does that mean?” There was a collective pause before we offered a spattering of explanations that left our host still looking confused.

In my short experience working in the SEO industry as a content editor, I’ve come to rely on a rather elementary explanation that seems to make the light bulb click for the people who have asked that “What do you do?” question.

It’s not short, but it gets the point across. The conversation goes something like this.

  1. What did people do years ago when the car didn’t start? The washing machine overflowed? Or they needed a new hairdresser or wanted to take their spouse to a new restaurant? Or, worse yet, the toilet just overflowed?
  2. Let’s say that person wanted to find a plumber. More than likely, they went to the Yellow Pages … those big shiny telephone directories filled with dozens of listings of plumbers just waiting to fix that toilet.
  3. The homeowner thumbs through the Yellow Pages to find some company willing to fix the toilet as soon as possible.
  4. Of course, all the plumbers in town know that most residents in town will use the telephone directory, so some of them have a strategy for getting the most calls. It’s called the Triple A-Strategy. In other words, if my company is called AAA Ace Plumbing, chances are my company will be listed right at the top of the Plumbing Category in the Yellow Pages. And more than likely, consumers won’t bother thumbing down to the companies that start with H’s, P’s and Z’s if they’ve got an overflowing toilet on their hands.
  5. Fast forward to the age of Google and other search engines that allow billions of people to search for whatever they’re looking for — services and goods — within seconds on their laptops, cell phones, iPads and miscellaneous gadgets, wherever and whenever they want. (And telephone directories, for the most part, are now being used as kiddie chair boosters now that the Yellow Pages also has gone digital).
  6. Though people’s patterns for search have changed, their habits haven’t. Although there are dozens of pages with options for say, “plumber Indianapolis,” the vast majority of people choose from among those options on Page One, and more than likely, those in the top 4 to 5 positions. Those companies stuck with silly Triple-A names are out of luck because search engines don’t put companies at the top of the list simply because their names begin with the first letter of the alphabet.
  7. Companies that want those top spots have a couple of options. They could pay for the privilege in the same way that companies pay a premium to get the top advertising spots in magazines, newspapers, billboards, TV prime times, etc. They will pay an ongoing fee if they want to stay. The fee depends upon how competitive the category is.
  8. Companies also could hire a professional SEO company to get them to the top naturally. Here at Slingshot SEO, we work with deserving brands — those with the reputation, service and experience that qualifies them for a top spot in search engine rankings — to make sure they have the proper strategy that will land them on Page One.
  9. So, here’s the answer to the question, “What do you do?” At Slingshot SEO, we help people get to the top of search engine pages through a strategy called C.L.A.S.S. As a team, we figure out the steps it takes to build Content, Links, Architecture, Social and Strategy — all components search engines look for to push results to the top—for our clients. We help these deserving companies optimize (or leverage) the tools to naturally land them on Page One. Unlike many companies, we also help execute that plan through a collaborative approach.

It’s a long answer, but it seems to be one that works. Check out next week’s post on another elementary breakdown that will take you to the next step in explaining to the average person what happens in the SEO industry and why deserving companies can’t afford to neglect this essential marketing strategy.

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