For those of us who work in the industry, the concept of SEO is fairly straightforward. It's simple to understand - almost innate.
But for people on the outside looking in, that may not be the case. Knowing how to communicate with that segment of the business world is essential to your success.
Bridge the Gap Between SEO and Non-SEO
Have you ever found yourself in a physician's office or exam room sitting across from a highly qualified doctor who had decades of experience in his or her field of medicine? If so, you probably weren't thinking about all the skills, technical knowledge, and education embedded in that doctor's brain.
If you could have been given even a momentary glimpse into the person's brain, you would have been shocked by how much information was stored in there. Yet, despite all this advanced training and info, the doctor was probably able to break a complex issue down into practical, digestible bits of information you could understand.
You walked away with some grasp of your condition, illness, or physical state, even without any ability to comprehend the big picture of biology or medicine.
The next time you find yourself lamenting over the fact that you can't possibly explain SEO to someone without a background in it, think about sitting in a doctor's office and having a physician explain what's going on inside your body. If a medical professional can simplify decades of formal education and medical experience in a five-minute conversation, you should be able to do the same with SEO.
The key is to be strategic and purposeful about how you communicate.
Six Tips for Explaining and Discussing SEO
It takes time and practice, but you'll eventually become more proficient at communicating SEO phenomena to the non-SEO stakeholders in your outfit. Here are a few practical tips to help you along the way.
If you're working with someone who has zero knowledge of SEO, it's essential to start with the basics. Everyone has their favorite way of explaining SEO, but be wary that you don't overcomplicate the situation.
One of the best methods for explaining SEO and why it's essential is to break it down into two steps: optimization and authority. Explain that optimization is about making sure Google can understand which keywords you're targeting, which products and services you're selling, and where you sell them.
Then walk the person through the idea of authority and the fact that SEO is about showing Google your website/content is valuable and worthy of being served to their users.
2. Use Layman's Terms
As you interact with other SEO experts and people on your team, there's a common set of lingo everyone on the inside uses. As comfortable as this verbiage is, remember that it will sound foreign to someone on the outside looking in.
The best thing you can do is use layman's terms and illustrations to paint a picture of what's really happening. The key is to simplify without being condescending.
As you explain something, ask leading questions and look for both verbal and non-verbal cues. Make sure people are tracking with you and adjust if you feel like you're speaking below their level of comprehension.
As long as someone understands what you're saying, it's okay to stretch their understanding by throwing in new terminology and raising new concepts.
3. Get Visual
The majority of people are visual learners. The human brain processes visuals at a much faster rate than text, so you can use this piece of knowledge to your advantage.
Instead of rattling off a bunch of statistics and data points, show people what you're doing. A visual dashboard with charts, graphs, and interactive tables can be far more memorable and effective.
4. Don't Over-Explain
When a non-SEO person asks you a question about something, resist the temptation to over-explain or go off on a tangent. Answer the question and stop.
Your goal should be to satisfy the questioner's specific concerns, without overwhelming them with additional information they aren't likely to retain. Always be prepared to explain something in further detail, but let your audience guide the conversation.
People will have questions they want answered, and they would rather focus on those specific elements of SEO than other elements that seem irrelevant.
5. Get Them Involved
Imagine if you had no experience playing a musical instrument and someone tried to tell you about how to play the piano. They explained the concept of keys, pedals, notes, chords, tempo, sheet music, posture, and everything else that goes into playing.
You'd get the basic gist, but without actually sitting down and trying it for yourself, a huge piece of understanding would be missing. So if you want people to understand SEO, get them involved.
Ask them to help you with specific steps and tasks. The more hands-on experience they gain, the more they'll understand the value of it.
6. Be Consistent With Updates
If you only provide an SEO update once or twice a year, don't be surprised if people greet you with confused looks. In order to help non-SEO folks understand what you're doing, be consistent with your updates.
It's much easier for someone to understand bounce rates, conversion rates, and other metrics if they track them from week-to-week or month-to-month. After a little while, they'll start to identify trends and find meaning and value in various specific numbers.
Communicate Like Your Job Depends On It
If you really sat down and spent time thinking about it, the way in which you communicate SEO happenings to key stakeholders in your organization is crucially important to your job security and career growth. If you aren't able to explain why SEO matters and how your department is performing, the folks who lack an understanding of SEO will eventually conclude that what you're doing is insignificant.
At the very least, they'll decide they need someone else for the job.
Instead of viewing this as a frustrating part of your job, start communicating like your work depends on it. With this sort of pressure behind you, you'll inevitably find ways to improve.
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