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How to Explain SEO to a Child: The SEO Bedtime Story

Mike Essex

by Mike Essex on 27th April 2010

Despite living and breathing the topic, most SEO professionals have a hard time explaining Search Engine Optimisation to their friends and family. So what would happen if we had to explain the topic to a child (e.g. what does Mummy / Daddy do for a living?), could it be done?

This blog post attempts to do so, through the story of Christopher Carrot and his desire to be found…

Once upon a time there was a land filled with creatures great and small, and one such small character was Christopher Carrot or Chris to his friends.

Chris spent his day in a local carrot patch (well he is a carrot after all) and was always surrounded by friends. Everywhere he looked there were friends; One hundred to the right, one hundred to the left, in fact hundreds in every direction.

For Chris, it had always been this way. For as long as he could remember, each of his friends were stacked neatly in rows in the ground. Although Chris loved having his friends nearby he wanted to be noticed by the world outside of the field.

Every day Chris saw other carrots picked from the ground and taken by rabbits He longed to also be taken. He lay awake at night dreaming of the fun those other carrots must be having.

But how could Chris be noticed? In a field of identical carrots, it made it hard to stand out. Many of the carrots that were taken had paid for the privilege. They had convinced farmers to put them at the top of the field where the rabbits circulated, almost ensuring they would be chosen.

This paying for the privilege didn’t appeal to Chris however, he wanted to be Organic.

To be found Chris laid out a plan, and tried to encourage the other carrots around him to help. He promised he would teach them his secrets when he was finished, and they offered to help.

Before Chris could do anything he knew he would have to make himself as appealing as possible to the rabbits. This involved optimising himself in the best ways he could. He used fertilizer to make himself grow big. He started wearing a t-shirt with the words ‘juicy carrot’ so it would be clear what he offered above and beyond the other carrots. He even wrote an article about himself and put it in a letter.

Once Chris was optimised he wanted to ensure the rabbits would know who he was. So he took his letter and started distributing copies around the other carrots in the field. Soon word spread that Chris was a desirable ‘juicy carrot’ and the other carrots carried on spreading this social word of mouth long after the letters had been read. Chris hoped this news would eventually reach the ears of the rabbits.

Once word had spread of Chris, he attempted to encourage those who had read the letter, or heard the word of mouth to link with him. Although carrots do not have vines, the other carrots were able to link to Chris with their leaves.

Soon enough, they had all connected with Chris, he had a large Network of Social friends who would vouch that he was a juicy carrot. He also encouraged these followers to wear T-Shirts with the words ‘juicy carrot’ only this time they had arrows pointing to Chris so the Rabbits would know where to go.

By this stage Chris felt good about his chances. He had loyal followers spreading links bearing his message; he was fully optimised thanks to the fertiliser, and had word of mouth being spread around the field.

Although there was no way he could ever understand the 200 or so workings of the rabbit brain, Chris hoped by doing what he felt was right he would be able to catch their attention and come out on top.

Then he noticed something, the rules had changed. He thought he had understood what the rabbit brain wanted, but then he saw something new: Speed. Chris observed that the carrots who were getting picked were also those who were fast jumping out of the ground. This changed everything, and Chris knew he too would have to be faster if he wanted to get to the top.

So Chris started jumping up and down and soon his followers saw what he was doing. They rushed to his aid and formed a trampoline with their leaves. He had treated them well, grown a network and now he was seeing the reward.

As Chris’ friends pulled their leaves together, Chris took place on their leaves. As they bent down to start the trampoline Chris yelled out “STOP!”

He had promised them he would reveal his secrets first, and he did. If this act was to make him top when the rabbits came searching, he wanted to make sure others knew what he had done. By sharing what he had learnt, he could help them be found.

Although he was unsure if the rabbits would mind, it seemed they would get better carrots if everyone was using his techniques. Organic carrots, relevant to their needs and well recommended by others. Surely that couldn’t be a bad thing?

When Chris had finished sharing what he had learnt, the other carrots felt a wave of gratitude and were more determined than ever to see him succeed. What’s more, because they’d spent the whole time holding their trampoline tight it was more than ready to do the job.

As Chris waved a goodbye, the carrots released their leaves and Chris was sent spiralling in to the air. He was travelling faster than any of the other carrots, giving him all the speed he needed. As he started to see the ground he realised he was just moments away from crashing in to a tree.

WHOOSH

The wind rushed past.

WHOOSH

He closed his eyes.

WHOOSH

It went black.

THUD!

….

As Chris opened his eyes he saw something he had never seen up close before. Fur. The fur of a rabbit cradling him in her arms. As he was about to hit the tree, the rabbit had been so inspired by his speed, t-shirt message, and the sight of the other carrots helping him, that she had to choose him.

It was clear; Chris had satisfied her search for a carrot. She had wanted a juicy carrot, and he had provided.

As the rabbit carried him off in to the distance, he looked back on the field and hoped his friends would find the same success.

THE END

Next time your kids settle down for a bedtime story why not give it a go? You might even find that it works just as well with those who are young at heart and others who struggle to grasp the basic principles of optimisation. Why not write your own story and post it in the comments, or leave feedback on your own ways to explain SEO to all ages.

This post was party inspired by the Steve the Egg stories on Kerrang Radio. It even has a theme tune.

Mike Essex

Mike Essex

Mike Essex specialises in digital marketing and everything search. A recent project of Mike’s was featured on BBC News, Radio 5Live and the Times here in the UK, whilst also featuring on USA Today and ABC News in the US. He will be writing throughout the month about digital marketing and much more...

5 Comments

  • Stephen Logan

    Stephen 27th April 2010

    Great blog post Mike; although I have to confess I’m a little disappointed that in an SEO story with rabbits and carrot trampolines you didn’t manage to get a small mention of bounce rate. Opportunity missed methinks.

    Reply to this comment

  • Andy 27th April 2010

    Wait. SEO’s going to get me eaten by a rabbit? That’s not too appealing to me…

    In all seriousness, fantastic post Mike. Brilliantly quirky, and the sort of thing that’ll get this carrot talking about you!

    Reply to this comment

  • judith 27th April 2010

    Organic carrots, that’s funny.

    Reply to this comment

  • Mike Essex

    Mike 27th April 2010

    How did I miss Bounce Rate? Would have tied in nicely with the rabbits bouncing around too. Oh well perhaps one day Chris will come to term with Analytics…

    Thanks for the positive feedback Andy, good to hear from a happy bunny. As for whether Chris got eaten, that’s another tale / tail.

    Reply to this comment

  • Colin Differ 27th April 2010

    This is a great post Mike.

    I’m not sure I have ever put SEO and trampolining carrots together but it all makes so much sense.

    Reply to this comment

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