Do you like cocktails? During a company-wide meeting yesterday, an offhand comment was made about margaritas, tequila, and cocktails thereof. While I’m none too fond of tequila drinks, the topic did get me thinking, and such was birthed this blog post. Once I actually sat down and started writing, I realized just how similar mixology and SEO were, and how easy it would be to compare one to the other.

In this extended analogy, Google can be compared to an exacting judge at a mixology competition. It may order a specific thing, but the exact ratio of the contents it desires is known only to it, and us SEOs/Mixologists must work to make the cocktail as perfect as possible. Much like a picky customer, Google prefers only the finest of ingredients and will react negatively if given a substandard product. In SEO terms, these would be the equivalent of getting website penalties from Google or negative feedback from clients.

Ingredients of your SEO Cocktail

Much like a cocktail, SEO is made up of many complementing parts and can have many different combinations, depending on the taste of the customer and the season. A Hot Toddy might be a better winter drink and a mint julep might be a better summer drink, much as a content-heavy strategy might be better for one site and a PPC-heavy strategy might be better for another. I believe that SEO ingredients can be roughly compared to cocktail ingredients, and much like cocktails your particular tasty blend of SEO will be determined by the ingredients and their combination.

Your Glass Is Your Domain

While not the most important part of your SEO cocktail, the glass in which you serve your creation will impact not only the presentation but also the taste of your cocktail. Just as you wouldn’t want to serve a mojito in a red wine glass, so too would you not want your Raleigh Dentistry website to be named “www.hotdentists.com.”

The analogy also extends to the cleanliness and quality of your glass. Serving a cocktail in an obviously broken or dirty glass is a quick way to acquire a very unhappy customer or even a displeased judge in the great mixology competition that is SEO. In website terms, this could be thought of as utilizing a domain with a bad backlink profile or a hacked website. These conditions can ruin any other good effort you put into your SEO cocktail and bring the whole endeavor crashing down with a Google penalty.

Content: Your Liquor

Liquor is at the heart of any cocktail. It is the central ingredient around which all other elements are structured. Depending on the type of cocktail, there are also wildly varying individual preferences. When I was writing this, I texted my younger brothers asking about their favorite whiskeys for old fashioneds as a miniature case study. The first response was a correction just stating “they’re made with bourbon, not whiskey” and then a list of half a dozen different bourbons. (For those of you that are curious, the list was: Buffalo Trace, Woodford, or Makers’ if it was lower end; Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, Basel Hayden’s, or Jeffersons if you wanted to spend a bit more money).

I mention this story primarily to point out how many different tastes and opinions there are on liquor. There are just as many different interpretations and tastes for SEO. Some businesses, like the dentist in Raleigh I mentioned above, would be better served by factual, relatively dry copywriting with lots of information. This sort of copy could be thought of as copywriting gin, perhaps. By contrast, a local Mexican restaurant might consider more lively copy and excited writing, a sort of SEO tequila. Each customer will have their own tastes in copywriting liquor and it is up to you (or your SEO mixologist) to discover what liquor best suits your clientele.

While there are no wrong answers as to what liquor off of which to base your SEO cocktail, it is worth remembering two things. First, you must remember that the quality of the liquor (content) is perhaps even more important than the type. High quality liquor/writing allows you much more flexibility when adding ingredients, and also guarantees you a strong foundation off of which to build your cocktail of optimization. Second, while experimentation with new flavor and service mixes should always be encouraged, remember that your customer will be expecting certain things from certain cocktails. If the customer orders a painkiller, they expect a rum-based cocktail with pineapple juice, cream of coconut, orange juice, and ideally topped with nutmeg. If you deliver them a cocktail with a vodka base, they will be understandably confused. This works the same way with content. If you are a dentist but your content sounds like a tourist agency, your consumers will be understandably confused, even if the content itself is delicious.

Linkbuilding as a Mixer

Over the last 10 years, there have been a plethora of articles declaring the death of link building or the rebirth of link building. Perhaps as SEO has aged, it has started to appreciate its liquors without mixers! However, cocktails are, by their definition, more than just liquor, and a good cocktail will usually have an equally good mixer.

I believe that link building is best equated to a mixer because, while it is not the base off of which the drink is constructed, it can be equally as important. The gin and tonic was actually invented to make the quinine in tonic water palatable to British colonial administrators and soldiers, and the pink gin of Royal Navy fame was created to get officers and men to drink the bitters that were believed to prevent seasickness. Much like these examples, while your content will still be your base, sometimes your SEO needs to be centered around link-building or relationship building. This would be most applicable for a blogger or business trying to earn money through ad revenue.

Much like your content, however, your link building must be high-quality and not bring down the quality of the drink as a whole. The nicest rum will be overwhelmed by a crummy off-brand soda, and milk used as a mixer will curdle when exposed to liquors with a higher ABV. With this in mind, choose the right link building mixer and choose it carefully in relation to your content liquor to get a delicious combination where both elements improve the other.

Aperitifs and digestifs can also often be found as mixers in certain cocktails. These nominally before- or after-meal drinks are represented in our SEO cocktail by link building done via Social Media, such as Pinterest pins pointing back to your site, tweeting out a blog post, or the basic inclusion of a site link on your Social Media profile.

The Bitters of Social Media

Some cocktails do not use any bitters, aperitifs, or digestifs, and that is perfectly fine. However, some cocktails rely heavily on them, and some cocktails like Jägerbombs even user bitters as the base liquor. Bitters can be best thought of as Social Media in the SEO landscape, where they add a dash of flavor and uniqueness to businesses, and can occasionally be the center around which everything turns.

Aperitifs and digestifs merit mention as social media equivalents as well, because not only are they often used as mixers, but they can also see consumption before or alongside your business. In this case, they can serve appropriately as their cocktail names imply: aperitif is a word derived from the Latin verb “to open” and can be thought of as using social media to open your consumers up to the idea of tasting your website cocktail in a more thorough sense. Digestifs are after-dinner drinks, some bitters, some liquors in their own right, and can be seen as continuing the relationship with your client to facilitate their return.

SEM On The Rocks

Ask many connoisseurs whether or not their favorite cocktail or liquor belongs on ice and you will get many different answers, ranging from “it’s an integral part of the cocktail” to “no, it’d just water down the flavor”. These answers will vary depending on both the cocktail in question and the person answering. Some cocktails, such as martinis, almost never have ice in them, while other cocktails consider it a key part of the recipe. When making this decision, the choice between watering down or lessening the amount of the drink and providing the coldest drink possible is one that has to be made on a cocktail-by-cocktail basis. For some drinks such as hot toddies it’s a no-brainer to exclude ice, while some drinks like frozen daquiris require ice to get the slushie-like consistency.

PPC is much the same way. You and your SEO mixologist have to decide whether your cocktail is better served “on the rocks” or “neat”, aka with or without pay-per-click. This decision will be based off of numerous factors including budget, market, ideal customer, and a host of other business-related decisions. Is the “watering down” of your copywriting liquor with the diversion of funds to PPC worth it to achieve the coldness of easily-verifiable and trackable conversions? For some businesses, the answer will be quite obvious, but for others it might be a matter of taste or experimentation.

Garnish Your Web Presence

During my research for writing this blog post today, I’ve read literally dozens, if not hundreds, of cocktail recipes. Many of them don’t mention garnish at all, but those that do often state that it adds a certain modicum of flavor to the cocktail that would be otherwise impossible. Much like the state of the glass in which you serve your cocktail, the garnish will rarely make or break your cocktail unless it is exceedingly glorious or hideous, but it can be that extra inch that transforms your alcoholic alchemy from above ordinary to extraordinary.

In SEO terms, the garnish could be considered visually-appealing and/or well-designed areas of your website. Having an improved conversion rate from conversion rate optimization and constant testing might just be that certain garnish to your SEO cocktail that turns it from a solid, if not awe-inspiring drink into a drink that takes the world by storm and is seen in SEO blogs, the bars of the SEO world, from here to Timbuktu and Kathmandu.

It’s 5 O’clock (for SEO) Somewhere

Mixology need not be a rigid following of what has come before. Much like cooking, if you know your ingredients, know your customers, and know your abilities, you can mix and match core ingredients to create new flavors appealing specifically to the palates of your target audience. In addition, good ingredients can make or break your drink. Better to invest up front in a good bourbon for your old fashioned than serve substandard old fashioneds and tarnish your reputation as a mixologist.

You can apply the same ideas to SEO. A strong base of copyright liquor, link building mixer to taste, a dash of social media bitters, a garnish of conversion optimization, all served in the clean highball glass of an appropriate and safe domain is quite the potent cocktail indeed. You are free and encouraged to work your mixologists’ magic on the ingredients themselves to meet the needs of your clients, and there are enough ingredients at your disposal that you can make a truly wondrous and delicious cocktail.

I figure that this blog post would be sorely lacking if I didn’t end it with a toast, so:

Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine,
The summer land where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,
Here’s to “Down Home,” the Old North State!

Fair winds and following seas, Cheers, Proost, zum Wohl, Pohjanmaan kautta, L’Chaim, Noroc, 乾杯, Salud, Skål, and На здоровье SEO mixologists!