In this article I’ll explore the commonalities between gardening and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It can be helpful to use a simple analogy like gardening to understand a more complicated topic like SEO and content creation.
Seeding, growing, maintaining and nurturing a garden full of plants, trees, shrubs and flowers takes a lot of work and time but is very rewarding. The same is true with a website full of different types of content that “flower” and provide rewards (of the financial kind).
If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, both SEO and gardening can be very rewarding.
Okay, let’s get into gardening … and SEO.
Table of Contents
- Both require planting and seeding
- Both require consistent and regular care
- Both require sharing with others
- Both require looking out for pests and diseases
- Both involve planning and strategy
- Both take time to flourish
- Both require monitoring
- Both require pruning and the removal of weeds
- Both offer long term benefits
- Both understand you can’t control the weather
- Final Thoughts
Both require planting and seeding
In gardening terms planting and seeding are two techniques to grow plants. They are slightly different though. Both are similar to content creation and SEO practises so let’s examine both.
Planting involves placing an already grown or established plant into the ground. Planting is used for shrubs and trees that have outgrown their original container.
In terms of content creation, you might have written a smaller article that has garnered a modest amount of traffic. Now, you’re considering expanding and updating the article to target additional related keywords. By doing so, you aim to create a larger, more informative, and helpful piece of content that will attract even more traffic.
Think of “planting” as taking an existing piece of content and expanding, enhancing and updating the content to attract a bigger audience.
Seeding is the process of taking a seed and sowing it into the soil. The seed may or may not germinate and develop into a plant. There’s no guarantee of success.
In SEO terms this is like taking a blog idea (or “seed”) and creating an article from this idea. It may, or may not, attract organic search traffic. It could grow into a huge, bountiful flowering plant with many fruits, or it may whither and die on the vine.
Both require consistent and regular care
Both require nurturing and care. In gardening, you need to water, fertilize, and prune your plants regularly. In SEO, you need to create high-quality content, optimize for search engines, do keyword research and promote your content.
Water and fertilize for growth
Plants don’t grow without being watered and fertilized. You can think of keyword research and SEO techniques as the watering and fertilizing of your content.
Great content is necessary, but not sufficient. Using keywords your audience is not searching for results in little or no traffic.
Similarly, not taking into account search engines and understanding basic SEO techniques such as:
- Place your primary keywords in the title
- Add other keywords into subheadings, body of the text and meta description
- Ensure your content is mobile friendly by finding and fixing any mobile issues
- Use an image compression plugin to optimize your images for speed
- Understand the search intent of visitors to ensure you answer their questions and issues
Promotion is like watering your plants, it helps your content grow (with more impressions, clicks and ultimately conversions).
A gardener can grow plants without being an expert. The same in SEO, start producing content and learn as you go.
Both require sharing with others
In gardening, 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. Similarly, in SEO, the idea is to get more people to see your website and know about your brand.
Share your content by:
- Posting recaps/summaries of your content on social media and linking to the blog article
- Add social media sharing buttons to the bottom of each blog article
- Use social media ads to promote your content
- Use Google Ads to appear at the top of Google for specific keywords
- Guest blogging with a link back to your website
- Use forums websites like Quora or Reddit to build credibility and trust
- Create a mailing list and share weekly newsletters
- Join online discussion websites for your niche
- Add an email signature with a link to your website
Use a content promotion method that works for you and remember to be social and helpful to build credibility and trust.
Both require looking out for pests and diseases
A garden can be ruined if an intruder arrives such as slugs, caterpillars, snails or whiteflies.
Like a gardener a website owner must be wary of intruders such as viruses, spammers, hackers and ransomware gangs.
As bloggers we need to have a good understanding of web server security to keep our website safe.
Gardeners inspect their plants for signs of attack. As website owners and content creators we need to inspect our website and content for signs of attack.
Choose a web hosting platform that has good web security with 24/7 customer support. As a long time website owner and administrator I can recommend SiteGround for website hosting especially if you intent to use WordPress for blogging.
Both involve planning and strategy
Both gardening and SEO can be overwhelming if not approached with a clear strategy. In gardening, if you don’t have a plan for what you want to grow or how you want your garden to look, it can quickly become overgrown and chaotic. Similarly, in SEO, if you don’t have a clear strategy for creating content and optimizing for search engines, your website may not rank well.
In gardening, you need to plan the types of plants, trees, and shrubs to plant and the layout for the best visual presentation. In SEO, you need to plan the types of content to create and optimize your content around a topic with keywords you are targeting.
Decide on a clear content strategy before you start blogging (content types, topics and keywords, publishing schedule, promotion etc)
Both take time to flourish
You have to be patient when gardening, it takes a long time for an acorn to grow into a mighty oak.
It’s the same with your content. Writing an amazing piece of content will not immediately result in thousands of viewers flocking to your site. Over time, your content will rank higher in search engines, acquire backlinks from readers who appreciate your content and link to it.
Eventually, if your content is the best or highly rated by visitors, it will appear on the first page of Google.
As with gardening, not every plant will flourish no matter how much attention and time you give it.
Understanding the 80/20 rule
With your content you need to play the percentages. You can expect 80% of your traffic to come from 20% of your content. Unfortunately it’s not obvious which 20% of your content will be successful. The solution is to write plenty of helpful and useful content for your target audience.
Both require monitoring
A gardener will spend plenty of time in his garden, checking his plants, looking for weeds, repositioning to ensure optimum access to sunlight and shade. Re-potting, adding more soil or fertilzer.
As a website owner, we also need to spend time with our content and website. The tasks we need to perform are:
- Checking our content is performing well (see the next section for fixes)
- Check the user experience is good (fast loading website, easy to read fonts, high contrast colours)
- Monitoring ranking positions for all targeted keywords
- Checking the competition for ideas and strategies (and keywords) we can use
- Understanding the search intent of the visitor
A great free tool to help you understand how your website is performing is Google Search Console. I check that website every day to see how many impressions I receive for each keyword. A wealth of other useful information about your website is tracked, here are some examples:
- Mobile usability issues on your site
- HTTPS for your site
- Sitemaps submitted and the current state of indexing
- Submit a URL for indexing (or re-indexing)
- Check for manual actions or security problems with your website
You can register your website for free with Google Search Console. It’s highly recommended for every website owner.
In addition, you are definitely going to need an SEO audit tool, keyword research and competition research tool and a keyword rank tracking tool. Luckily tools are available that do all of these tasks for you. Recommended are:
- SE Ranking – I use this tool for all my keyword research (review here: SE Rankings Review – Affordable SEO tool that’s surprising good)
Premium SEO tools can be expensive, typically over $100+ per month. More affordable tools are available and recommended for beginner bloggers or those on a budget.
SEO and keyword research tools are essential for every blogger and website owner
Both require pruning and the removal of weeds
The tasks required to keep plants healthy in gardening are similar to what bloggers need to do. Let’s explore these gardening tasks and how they relate to digital content creation and SEO tasks.
Pruning is the process of selectively removing parts of the plant (branches, bud, flowers or stems). It’s used to maintain the health of the plant by cutting out dead or damaged parts.
You want to use the same process for your content. Think about it, over time some of your content becomes outdated, not useful or even plainly wrong. Google cares about helpful, relevant and useful content so you need to prune your content regularly.
Weeding is different than pruning. Weeding is about removing unwanted, harmful growth.
Your articles may accidentally or through carelessness contain harmful content. By harmful, I don’t mean content that is wrong or inaccurate. I mean content that diverts from the main topic and causes your article to lose it’s focus. It’s easily done but can be harmful by making your content overly verbose, unfocused or just difficult to read.
Focusing on the main topic is a good goal when writing an article. Write other articles if you want to discuss a side issue or related topic.
Think of the weeding analogy to find clumps of content that are “weeds” (unhelpful content) and removing them. This helps keep your content tightly focused, less verbose and ultimately more helpful and useful to the reader.
“Prune” and “weed” your content to keep it tightly focused, accurate and useful
Both offer long term benefits
Gardeners get a great deal of enjoyment in creating and maintaining a garden full of flowers, trees and plants. A blossoming garden of many different colours, types and sizes.
A garden can reward you with fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs. By keeping your website content well maintained you can be rewarded financially through sales, commissions, sponsorships or ad revenue.
Your website, over time, can grow into a huge source of content of many different types that provide benefits, to you and your audience.
Patient is needed because your time and effort is invested upfront with the payback coming over a long period of time.
Still, you can use monitoring tools to watch your content grow, blossom and thrive. Occasionally pruning or weeding as necessary to keep your content healthy.
Patience is needed to grow your content and readership over time
Both understand you can’t control the weather
Bad weather can damage plants or, in extreme cases, wipe out your entire garden.
This can also happen for websites.
Your website is one Google Algorithm update away from getting wiped out. Not understanding or knowing Google’s SEO guidelines can result in penalties, including site-wide penalties, resulting in a loss of all your traffic.
You can’t control the “weather” (external events such as algorithm updates, economic trends or fashion trends). So you have to control how you react to these external events.
In the case of changes to the Google Search algorithm you will get notes from Google about the changes and what you need to do to rank well and how to avoid penalties.
To ensure your content ranks well with Google, it’s important to follow the guidelines. Taking a long-term approach to growing your content will yield the greatest benefits. Focus on crafting high-quality content that is thoroughly researched, helpful, relevant, and useful.
Consider doing a content quality check on your website to ensure your content is high quality, people-first, useful, relevant and helpful.
It’s useful to think of the gardening analogy when doing SEO. Think of your content as your plants and make such your maintain, water and weed your content for best results!
Some gardening tips to help your content and SEO efforts:
- Grow your plants in good soil (pick a good SEO niche without too much competition)
- Prune and weed your content (remove redundant, outdated content and keep your content tightly focused)
- Remember you can’t control the weather (external events are outside your control)
- Long term thinking for your content and SEO efforts will pay your rewards in the end
- Monitor your garden (check your content for signs of problems)
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