The Gardening metaphor improves everyone’s understanding of SEO.
SEO is not always easy to understand but we recently heard this analogy by head of SEO communications at WIX, Crystal Carter, where she explained that “SEO is like a garden. It is not a one-and-done method”, we had to write a blog about it.
It clicked as an amazing analogy to explain to our clients how SEO works. Often clients ask us to do SEO and they want it done in a month and they want to rank on the first page of Google.
It’s understandable to think that SEO is something that we do, and once it is done, it is done, but that is not how SEO works.
Yes, you can put a solid amount of money upfront to get your website optimized both front and back, optimize your Google My Business along with correcting issues on your website.
However, that is just the beginning of a long process that will take months and even years to complete. If you don’t want to invest time and money into a long game – it might be best to focus elsewhere to get bang for your buck.
If you are ready to think about SEO as along game or just understand it better as a strategy, this article will make it easy to understand.
SEO is like Garden
SEO is like a garden because you have to do a ton of work upfront, but you can’t just walk away and hope for the best. Your garden will die.
You don’t need to be a master gardener to get this metaphor, but if you are, then I am sure this hits home even harder for you. Gardening takes a lot of work, nurturing, and care. It is not linear, and you have to address problems that come up as they do because often they are unexpected.
When we start an SEO process, is it very similar to starting a garden. For the garden you need to make sure you find a good place to start with good soil. You need to know what plants you are going to plant and how you will take care of them over time.
That might sound simple enough but there is so much more in the details and time it takes to start, build, and nurture your SEO garden.
The planning stages of a garden is like SEO.
The planning stages of a garden is like SEO because with gardening and SEO you can’t just jump in and hope for the best to get amazing results – you need to plan.
Like anything when we make a plan (like a business plan), we have to leave room for variables and unexpected factors to creep up into our plan, but we still have to make a plan and strategy.
When you start a garden (let’s say you have never done it before – you are a rookie) the goal is to make a plan first. You will need to figure out the location of where you will garden, take into consideration the soil, and decide what kinds of plants you might use.
You will need to think about what tools you might use to help you.
Perhaps it will be a flower garden or a vegetable garden or both. Maybe you will choose to make the garden more special and pick plants that are really only for aesthetics. Either way, you will have to do some planning before you break new ground.
You need tools to help you start a garden as well as in SEO.
You will need to know what tools you will need to start your garden. Do you need a shovel, hoe, hose, or watering can to tend to your garden?
This applies to SEO because before you start an SEO process, you must first have tools to get this done. Many SEO agencies and freelancers use software to help start the process and run an SEO audit such as Semrush, MOZ, and Ubersuggest.
However, not all tools are software-based, some of the tools that are used are also observation and research-based beyond software.
For example, look at a website’s UX (user experience) by reviewing the homepage on a website and then looking further at the website’s other pages and blogs. How a person experiences your website plays a huge role in SEO.
If the site is not aesthetically pleasing, loads slowly, and makes no sense what it is when someone stops by.
It may appear a mess and not easy to navigate, people won’t stick around, and no one will link back to you. Linking building is also important in SEO, we talk more about that later.
After you plan your garden and decide the tools you will use to execute it, the next thing is strategy.
As an agency, our first step is to run a website audit through more than one software. Each SEO software audits sites differently. While certain errors and issues show up on one, it might not show up on the other.
We also look at a ton of other factors like a client’s Google My Business, your website’s UI & UX, social media, reviews, etc. They will look at how long you have been in business, the region that you want to rank, and your competitors as well as do keyword research.
SEO is very complex and has many layers to it.
There is no one way to do SEO, just like there is no one way to garden.
When working with an agency or a freelancer, understand that if you get proposals from numerous people to do SEO work, you will get numerous very different approaches.
Similarly, if you met with a couple of master gardeners to get feedback about gardening, each would have a
Does the SEO expert you are working with, do good SEO for themselves? If not, find someone else.
Quick Note: Is an SEO agency or freelancer doing good work? Check their own website. For example, if you Google search “Digital Marketing Eugene” we come up in the Google 3-pack. Meaning we are always in the top 3 companies in specific search. Which means as company that does SEO – we are walking the talk!
This is a simple way to see if someone you plan to work with is doing good SEO for themselves. If they are not, you can’t expect them to do good SEO for you.
Frankly, this goes with any business. You would not go to a hairdresser with bad hair or a company that does social media that has no following. Doing your research is imperative.
In fields of technology where the lingo that is spoken, the plans and strategies are quite a bit enigmatic, you need to do your research so that you are not taken advantage of.
Once you have the strategy, it’s time to start planting your garden (building your SEO).
After the SEO expert, you work with looks are all the factors we mentioned above to improve your SEO and run an audit they will provide you with a strategy. This is where it gets fun for us nerds, perhaps not as much for our clients until the results start rolling in.
Results are not immediate, no matter what anyone tells you, they are not telling the truth. SEO is a long game built on strategy and expertise that takes time and precision.
There will be various pieces and parts to consider in the process. For example, will you need to redesign your website or just change some things around?
Many times we run into a website that is in such a mess that the amount of money it would cost to repair the issues would cost more than a rebuild with SEO strategies in place from the beginning.
Patience is a virtue in life as well as SEO
Once you start working with an expert they start acting on the plans and strategies lined out, and the waiting game starts. Just like planting seeds into the dirt, it’s hard not to just stare at the dirt hoping to see a little green bud popping up.
Even those of us that have been doing SEO for years, have to remember to not watch the clock and check things hour by hour looking for a dopamine rush when we get results. So we encourage our clients to relax during the process.
Don’t waste time and money. Ask for reports and transparency
Quick Warning: That being said, you need to make sure that work is being done by the professional you are working with.
There are tons of people praying for businesses by providing them with SEO but not actually doing anything or they using very damaging Black Hat SEO techniques. Since results vary and nothing can actually be guaranteed, it is easy to collect money and do nothing.
Don’t let that happen to you.
Ask for reports and transparency. An expert SEO professional will know the anxiety that comes from a client that does not know what is going on and wonders if they are wasting money.
We do our best to alleviate that stress and anxiety, and if the person or company you are working with is doing the same – that is great.
However, make sure that they are also providing results.
So much time and money wasted with no results can make you want to pull out your hair.
Time and time again we meet with clients that have paid thousands of dollars to an SEO professional with zero results and no accountability.
It is painful for business owners because they don’t know if the person was not doing their job or why the process was not working.
Sure, we have eager clients that say, “we paid for SEO for a month and got nothing.” – and most times this is true and actually normal. Expecting SEO results in a month is unreasonable.
Yet when we meet new clients who have put 6 months to a year of budget into SEO with no results and no accountability, it can be very frusterating and can put a very bad taste in their mouths.
SEO is not easy, it takes time but it also needs to be done well to get results.
Weeding and critter control is a must in gardening just like SEO
As the garden starts growing and you start seeing results, there are often things you must do to help move the process along. Nurturing your garden and SEO is a must, but also weeding out the bad and removing pests is also a must.
Take the time and look at what pages are performing well, and see if you have any extra pages or content that is not quality and is taking up space.
Remove dead links. It happens on all websites that links will break because you moved someone on your own website or changed the name of a page, or an outside link breaks for the same reason.
Tending to things like this is important. If people are on your website and they keep finding deadlines they will leave. Good SEO is providing faulty content that keeps people on your page because you are giving them something they need.
Gardening also comes with variables and troubles that sneak up on us just like in SEO.
There is that darn deer again eating all your vegetables. You shake your head and realize you have to do something, it is killing your garden.
This is similar to competitors using Black Hat SEO tactics. Black Hat SEO is a marketing method that uses unethical, deceptive, and sometimes even illegal methods to improve search engine rankings.
It’s considered to be a violation of Google Search Essentials (Formally Known As: Google’s Webmaster Guidelines), which means that if you’re caught doing it, the search engine will penalize your site.
As an SEO expert, we never use Black Hat SEO but we often have clients that come to us and ask “What Do I Do When My Competitor Uses Black Hat SEO?”. The only thing you can do is do the right thing and over time you will take the lead over unethical and deceptive tactics used by others.
One of the best things you can do is to do the best you can and get someone on your team that can help you do SEO right. If you do SEO in ways that can harm your ranking like paying for backlinks – it can hurt you in the long run.
Here we share 5 backlinks mistakes to avoid.
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Gardening takes time, but wait until the excitement of those who finally come to see your garden.
The idea of SEO is to get more people to see your website and know about your brand. As a gardener, it is wonderful to look at your own garden in full bloom and flourishing, but it is also great to share it with others and get positive feedback.
Great SEO feels great when people start to notice you from all the work you did. You get calls from searches on Google, people connect with you based on your social media or amazing blog, and you get linkbacks from awesome websites that have amazing domain authority.
When you start to see SEO work for you, it is very exciting. The more time you put into SEO, the more your garden will grow and flourish and it will get bigger and bigger.
At some point, it might start taking over your neighbor’s yard because it is getting so big. In gardening that is a bad thing (don’t do that), in SEO it is a good thing.
You can beat your competitors with an amazing SEO plan and strategy and be a leader in your industry.
SEO for the long game.
SEO is not a one-and-done strategy. SEO takes an investment of time, money, and patience. It is an amazing way to level up your business and move it to the next level.
When you are ready to start SEO, remember all the things we mentioned above. Make sure that you are working with the right people and that you have plans and strategies lined out well.
Make sure you have game plans for challenges that come your way. Try to find a way to look at SEO as a game that you have to keep playing to get good at, but once you are good at it you will be able to terminate your industry which is good for business.