Overly Long Post About Why You Should Talk More To Non-SEOs

I’ve always struggled with explaining what I do to people who aren’t in the SEO industry, and generally just say that I have an SEO company (blank stare or, as Paul Madden likes to call it, the “dog stick stare”) or work in online advertising. Sometimes I do get more specific and tell them that I build those clickable bits of text on websites. If I’m lucky, I get a nervous slow nod intended to shut me up so they can move on to talking about how awesome they are.

While this is slightly challenging, it’s nothing compared to doing an hourlong presentation to people who need to be taught a basic outline of what I’ve been doing for year, which I did recently at the Parenting Media Association conference in Chicago. I could have spent a semester on this information yet I had to condense it, relate it to what these guys are doing, and make it interesting. For a person like me (wordy, annoyingly wordy, prone to using long-winded sentences to make a short story long, etc.) this was seriously challenging but I realized that it’s probably one of the most beneficial work experiences I’ve ever had.

As wordy as I am, I’m highly annoyed when other people are the same way. I try to blame it on my earlier social work training (which was solution-focused and bigger words and longer sentences don’t get someone helped faster) but in reality, I think it’s because I am highly impatient and have trouble being concise and an efficient user of words. Being online so much is causing my social skills to further erode. Just ask my husband, who tries to tell me about his latest interesting dream and is rewarded with a sharp “what’s the bottom line here?? Could you actually scream or not??”

Hemingway

I always hated Ernest Hemingway anyway.

I’m devolving further as you can see so let’s get back on track and I’ll explain why I loved having the chance to organize my thoughts in such a way that someone who had no clue about link building could start to successfully build links. (And as it turned out, they had way more of a clue than I thought they would, which was a lovely and fun surprise.)

When you can’t assume that someone will understand what you’re talking about, you tend to slow down and think about it more clearly. You can better see the breakdowns in logic and actually think about terms instead of spouting off technical acronyms and catch phrases.

When you’re dealing with people who aren’t just sitting there waiting for you to make a mistake, you realize that if you do say something that’s incorrect, you might cause a lot of problems. For example, if you don’t keep up with Google’s latest updates and you stupidly tell a group of people that using exact match anchor text for 75% of their links is the best idea, you could really screw them. Obviously if you said this to a group of SEOs, you’d get smacked, but when SEOs are not there to check you, you will hopefully research what you’re saying and make sure it’s as correct as possible.

You might realize that what you think is the most important upcoming social network isn’t. I am not a Google + fan really, but I do understand that to do well in Google, I have to play by their rules so I’ve sucked it up and tried to use it. However, I fell into the same trap I fall into a lot, and that’s thinking that everyone knows what I know and thinks the way I think. Most people don’t give a flip about G+ but they’ll use the hell out of Pinterest, a platform that I personally detest. Witness my Bald Board, which hasn’t even been updated recently!! I can’t keep up with all the sheer amazing baldness in the world but based on the last James Bond flick, you may be seeing Ralph Fiennes there soon. In my session with the parenting media group, I asked who used G+. I didn’t see a show of hands. I asked about Pinterest and almost everyone used it. Think about it though…for that niche, Pinterest is going to be much more important since their audience wants to see recipes, crafts they can make with the kids, etc. Recipes and crafts don’t translate as well for G+ and by and large, moms who want parenting content aren’t all jumping on G+ like a duck on a june bug.

I’ve always believed that if a completely clueless site owner emails me and isn’t a condescending asshole, I should do my best to at least point him or her in the right direction as far as finding a competent SEO with openings is concerned. There are so many loudmouthed know-nothings out there and it’s frustrating to just say no, I don’t have room, but best of luck finding someone who does, so I generally try and send these potential clients to someone that I know isn’t going to screw them over further. Most good SEOs are busy as hell these days so it’s getting harder to do that, which has caused me to do a bit of quick and free digging just to see if there is anything I can immediately point to as being a reason these sites are suffering. Many times it’s obvious, as they have backlink profiles full of nothing but spammy footer links on irrelevant sites, or they have an IT guy who forgot to remove the no index nofollow on the whole site. These site owners don’t understand when I say “you really need unique titles and you have some messy 301s going on” so I have to break it down into extremely simplistic little bits of instruction and explanation. You’ve no idea how beneficial that’s been for me, as since I came from a programming background, a lot of technical jargon is an ingrained part of me and I forget that not everyone immediately knows what a crawl issue is.

I also have made the mistake of not always educating my link builders about things that may not immediately impact them on the job. To be honest, some of them probably don’t care and if they’re still doing well and building great links, I’d rather not annoy them. Some of them do care though, and while I feel pedantic explaining why a link one of them got is so good in my eyes, the feedback from my own feedback is always very positive, and it makes me realize what a disservice I’ve done them when I haven’t always explained myself. Again, it helps me, too.

Also I’d like to thank Rae Hoffman from Pushfire for allowing me to use her fantastically efficient socialization plan in my presentation, which saved me from having to write one, gave me a better version of my own plan for my own work, and elicited knowing nods when I mentioned her name. You can read that here:

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10 Responses to “Overly Long Post About Why You Should Talk More To Non-SEOs”

  1. Rob Chant says:

    It’s dead easy to explain SEO to lay people. I just tell them it’s about getting traffic from Google. I think pretty much everyone gets that.

  2. Julie Joyce says:

    Well if I felt that way I wouldn’t have gotten an overly long post out of it.

  3. Anthony Pensabene (or Content Muse when dressed in costume) says:

    “Listen old man, see here, i’m not writing in your succinct sentences..”

    I agree with the message. Parents are not jumping on G+ like a duck on a junebug.. No, you’re right knowing your stuff as a practitioner is essential, but if you want to teach others, or as a marketer, sell your services, you need to be a communicator.

    Using jargon or positioning the clients needs in technical terms is a turnoff and may raise warning flags. “If this dude/dudette can’t communicate to me how they’re helping me, how are they helping my business reach its target market?”

  4. Matt Cutts says:

    Do you ever write anything useful??? every time i see a super piece of *** content!!! Sorry but this blog can be listed in the top 1000 SEO blogs(on the last spot)

  5. Kate Rose says:

    I’m with you on the clueless site (business) owner front – my equivalent is an opener like “I need to get 10,000 fans on Facebook”, usually from an engineering company making valves for sewerage tanks or something, with no budget and no marketing resource. I hate those calls ‘cos I feel as if it’s my moral duty to explain a few basics and try to steer them away from those who’ll fleece them.

    So go on, what do you do with the ones who *are* condescending assholes?!

  6. Julie Joyce says:

    I stop helping them the second they act like jerks. If I’m doing it for free and neglecting something else, there’s no way I’ll keep talking to anyone who treats me like that.

  7. Kirby Hopper says:

    My biggest challenge seems to be convincing a business owner that their webmaster, who is their nephew who “sits at a computer all day” knows how to do what I do and get their website ranked.

  8. Kieran Daly says:

    Love the Pinterest reference here. We tend to forget that there are so many people who don’t live in front of their screens all day long.

    And be nice to hubbies – signed “A Hubby”

  9. Dale Lovell says:

    I head up a team of content writers and bloggers for content marketing agency Search News Media in the UK: when lay people ask me what I do for a living I tend to just say; “We write content for websites.”
    Which is usually followed up with “Oh, your a coder.” After several more minutes they understand that we write actual words for websites; and then I tend to end with “to help sites get up the rankings in Google.” If you get onto anchor text, social likes, viral ads and the pros and cons of guest blogging and online PR it means either; A). You are really boring at parties; B). You are talking to someone that works in search, or C). It’s amazing after a few drinks how you can make this topic seem interesting. In my experience, I tend to fall into category A (but it’s refreshing to not have to pretend I like football!)

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