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Why SEO Is A Lot Like Cooking

By Karina Neves - March 6, 2014

For those of us who work in SEO, it can be really difficult to explain it in a way that’s simple enough to make sense to the average person. I’ve struggled with this countless times trying to explain to friends and family members what I do. I’ve heard every SEO misconception under the sun, from people thinking I work for Google to people asking me how I “manipulate algorithms” to get webpages to rank.

Since most of my analogies always seem to go back to food, I’ve come up with yet another food-related comparison to help explain how SEO works and how different elements of a website work together to help a webpage rank.

Easy Way to Explain SEO to the Non-SEOer

SEO is like cooking. I know, it seems weird, but bear with me!

If SEO is like cooking, trying to rank for Google is like participating in a cooking competition.

In most cooking shows, you’re given a set challenge like “create a breakfast dish.” That challenge is equivalent to the topic of your page. Your dish is like your webpage, and your rivals’ dishes are like the pages trying to rank for the same topic as you.

So if the goal is to win first place in the competition, or rank on the first page of a Google search, the judges represent the Google algorithm and the audience of the competition represents the website visitors. To win the competition, you must create the best dish to win over both the judges AND the audience. To rank first on Google, you must create the best page that pleases the algorithm and the website visitors. Still with me?

So how do you create the best “dish”?

Relevance vs. Originality

Firstly, you want to make sure your recipe is relevant to the given challenge but still unique. So, going back to the example of creating a breakfast dish, making a basic dish of fried bacon and eggs won’t put you in first place unless you give it a new spin and bring something new to the table, literally. On the other hand, you don’t want to go so out of the box that it no longer fits the challenge. In the same way, webpage content should be relevant enough to fit the topic, but original enough so that it doesn’t blend into content already on the web.

Focus on Your Audience

As professional food critics, the judges will have specific guidelines set for how a dish should look and taste. However, in this particular competition, the majority of the judge’s scores will come from how the audience votes. You want the meal to please the judges by following their guidelines (Google’s algorithm), but the best way to do so is to focus on pleasing the average food lover in the audience. So, a vote from the audience is a lot like receiving links or shares from your website visitors – the more you receive, the more likely it is that your page will rank because people are finding intelligent information that they want to share.

Use the Right Ingredients

salt shaker
Over-using keywords is like making a meal with too much salt!

Let’s say each ingredient in your dish is a different SEO factor. So let’s say the keywords are the seasonings in the dish.  With no seasonings, the meal is lacking in flavor. While seasonings are great, there should be just enough to add the flavor without overpowering the dish. Similarly, content with no keyword strategy lacks in direction and keywords shouldn’t overpower the content.

Make it Appetizing

Finally, don’t forget about design. No matter how great your dish tastes, taste won’t get you anywhere if it doesn’t look good enough to eat. In the same way, great content can be hurt by bad design or formatting. If your webpage isn’t visually pleasing and user-friendly with legible font, broken up paragraphs and images, then no one will stay on your page long enough to get a taste (see what I did there?) of your awesome content.

Original Website vs. Template Website

A really great website is a lot like a meal that’s made from scratch with fresh ingredients, whereas a template website is more like a frozen dinner. It might look great in the picture on the box, but will most likely taste like the cardboard it’s made from. Also, the frozen entrée will be the easier and maybe cheaper option, but the homemade meal will certainly taste better. Which one do you think is more likely to get the audience vote and win the competition?

So next time you’re trying to explain how SEO works, use this same comparison to see if it helps whoever you’re explaining it to understand a little better. I know I can relate to anything if there’s food involved…

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