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Stephen Logan

The SEO Analogy

11th Sep 2009 Content Marketing 3 minutes to read

There are occasions where we look to simplify things, or make them clearer through ‘real-world’ situations. However, SEO and its incumbent offshoots, including analytics, link building and, perhaps most excessively, copywriting, appear to have been almost entirely overrun with mysterious euphemisms, metaphors and analogies.

We’re all guilty of it. You won’t have to search too far through the Koozai blog to find a tenuous link of some sort. Unfortunately though, whilst some analogies help shed a little light (yes, another metaphor) on a subject, others just serve to confuse it further.

Here’s one we unearthed earlier this week on SEOmoz earlier this week. Entitled SEO and Copywriting Can Be a Real Workout, it compares the role of an SEO Copywriter to a visit to the gym. First up I should admit two slight prejudices that may sway me slightly; 1) I dislike articles that are entirely based on an analogy, in moderation fine, all the way though, unreadable, 2) I’m not exactly a major exponent of the gym culture.

So we’re off to a bad start. But this isn’t a personal attack, far from it. The article in question just serves the purpose of showing how complicated we can make it for ourselves. In the world of SEO everything has been written about; every conceivable subject has a blog post or news story circulating about it somewhere. So how do you go about explaining SEO and copywriting without covering old ground? You find a new angle.

The easiest way of packaging this is in the form of an analogy. Unfortunately though, we writers have cottoned on to this, and so even the analogies are starting to overlap. This of course creates a situation where the analogies themselves have to become far more fanciful and unique. Occasionally this can spawn a fantastic new way of looking at things; however, in the most part it is just recycling the same information in a way that is barely comprehendible.

For example, would I compare preparing to write a piece of copy to a warm up at the gym? No, probably not. Essentially I consider exactly what needs to be said and then the best way of doing it. Copywriting should be a malleable process anyway; keywords should be written, not forced and you never know when you might find a better way of saying something might arise.

From my perspective, analogies stand in the way of plain English. Occasionally we as industry insiders need to take a step back and consider whether the information we are offering is relevant, and if it is, ensure that it is clear. If I used the aforementioned article, or any other that is based solely around an abstract notion, without having any prior knowledge of SEO copywriting would this really help me? The simple answer is that it wouldn’t.

This isn’t a unique case, in fact it probably won’t be the only SEO article today that you see which chooses to use an analogy throughout. Occasionally they do work, very well in fact, but they shouldn’t be a substitute for good old fashioned plain English. Yes, the two can work in harmony; but the division between a good quality helpful anaolgy and a tenuous and largely pointless one is remarkably fine.

As a copywriter I know how I approach my work. As a copywriter I’m probably stubborn enough to keep by this method. Whilst I’m open to new ideas, they should at least be new. The point is, if you’re an industry professional writing for industry professionals, be complex, be unusual, be different, but at the end of it look to teach somebody something new. If you’re writing to SEO virgins, approach it as such. Be clear, concise and practical – don’t start muddling in our (much overused) jargon without explanation or complicating it for the sake of complication.

Anything can be simplified down to its core level and explained in such a way that anybody can understand; sometimes it just takes a small step backwards to see exactly what it is we’re missing.

What do you think? Does the search engine marketing world overcomplicate messages? Do we rely too heavily on bold analogies? Is there enough originality in the blogs and news of the community? Am I just hopelessly out of touch? As always, your views are always extremely welcome.

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