Introducing the Gardening Metaphor for SEO

SEO Infographic - Garden Metaphor and SEO

Because the technology behind search engine algorithms is so complex and ever changing, I wanted to find a better way to explain the basic concepts to marketers and business owners in a way that is memorable and easy to understand. Introducing…the garden metaphor. This metaphor helps explain some of the major factors in search engine ranking. I like to joke that this should be easy enough for your grandmother to understand (although it’s certainly possible your grandmother works for Google!)

In addition to making for stimulating inter-generational Thanksgiving dinner conversation, I hope this metaphor will also come in handy when you are trying to explain the importance of SEO to clients, bosses, employees, investors and other stakeholders in your organization. This is an infographic is based on the book I conceptualized, wrote and illustrated: “Grow Your SEO: Search Engine Optimization Concepts Even Your Grandma Could Understand.”

For the purpose of this metaphor, we will say the main goal for both the garden and the website is driving visitor traffic (this is a public garden). So let’s talk about how websites are like gardens.

On the most basic level, gardens and websites both have content.

No two gardens or websites are the exact same. Even if two different gardens are made up of the same plants and designed in the same fashion, they will have unique characteristics. The same goes for websites.

Gardens and websites are both affected by internal factors and external factors, some of which are beyond your control. For websites, those internal factors are the site’s architecture, code, design, the type and amount of content and the actual words used in the content. External factors include the search engines themselves, competitors’ websites, user behavior, industry and technological trends, the website hosting server and more.

For a garden, the internal factors are the plants or seeds and the care you provide (water, fertilizer, pruning, etc.) The external factors are soil conditions, weather and climate.

In both cases, the external factors may be influenced but not controlled.

The most important parallel between gardening and website search engine optimization to understand is this: you must constantly invest time, money or both in order to continue driving traffic. You cannot plant a few seeds and expect them to turn into a beautiful garden that people will want to visit without a good bit of care and maintenance. Likewise, you cannot build a website and expect it to fare well in search engine results without ongoing effort.

This book is for people who are just being introduced to the concepts of SEO. When you start getting into the more advanced search engine optimization (things like canonical page URLs, duplicate content and permalinks), this metaphor may not work as well. While the metaphor may not hold up 100%, I hope it makes these technical concepts easier to digest.

  1. Quantity + Quality is Critical: Content Marketing & User Engagement
  2. Relevance is Imperative: Research & Audience
  3. Organization is Important: Architecture & Navigation
  4. Good Design Gets You Far: Design & Audio Visual Content
  5. Easy Access is Crucial: Speed & Accessibility
  6. Longevity is an Advantage: History & Authority
  7. Reputation is Everything: Backlinks & Social Media

We discuss all the parallels of gardening and search engine optimization in the book. Let us know what metaphors for explaining SEO you have used with your clients…and grandmothers.