I’m a big fan of analogies. It’s something my coworkers here quickly learned upon my arrival, and a fact my friends have known for years. They help make content relatable to people who might not otherwise have a good frame of reference and can distill down some of the most complex concepts into simple-to-grasp ideas.

One of my favorite subjects of comparison when talking about digital marketing is the car. Practically everyone understands – at least in broad strokes – a car. It drives on the road, is controlled by pedals and a steering wheel, requires a steady supply of gas – you know what I mean. It’s also what makes it such a good subject since everyone can relate to it. Here are five of my favorite digital marketing and car comparisons for you to keep in mind the next time you need to explain something to a client, a boss or yourself.

Car Analogies - Digital Marketing
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Your Website Is Your Car

This is perhaps the first car analogy for the web I’d heard and what kicked off this whole comparative exercise. Basically stated, your website itself is your choice of car. You can have a very basic, simple website – your daily grocery-getter kind of website that will provide all the basic functionality you need without any special features or functions. Or you can opt for something much more robust that’s capable of taking orders or booking service appointments – your proverbial Ferrari or Lamborghini by comparison. And, as with a car, it’s important to know what features you need from your website from the start. Different functionality choices can be more or less expensive or achievable on different platforms, and just like a car, you can’t decide later to install major features like four-wheel drive after the fact – at least not without a substantial cost.

There’s also the matter of choosing a website platform, something akin to choosing an auto manufacturer. If you’ve owned a Chrysler and had a good experience with it, you’re more likely to stick with that the next time you look to buy. Similarly, if you’ve used WordPress and had a favorable opinion of it, you’re probably going to build your next website or refreshed site on that platform again. Brand loyalty exists in development as much as anywhere else, but to a limit – not all platforms can achieve the same features, and if your website needs outgrow the capabilities your favored platform, you’ll have look for another provider.

Local SEO: Like GPS in Your Car
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Local SEO Is Your GPS (or Your Rand McNally Road Atlas)

Of course, the web is big for business, even those that rely on local customers. When a small local business opened up shop 50 years ago, they would need to get the word out. That would mean placing television or radio commercials, getting a listing in the phone book, sending out mailers or fliers, and/or buying an ad in the local paper so that people knew you were open for business – and where you were so they could find you. Nowadays, whether your business is all online or offline with a website, you still need to achieve the same end goal – getting customers to you. That’s where local SEO steps in.

Search engine optimization helps a website appear as a result for search queries that are related to your business. Local SEO takes it further, working to optimize a business’ appearance for results in the local area for terms or phrases like “pizzeria near me,” “shoe repair in Buffalo,” “local lawnmower service” and so on. It’s like the GPS in your car, helping you find what you need in your area (and, in fact, can be literally part of your modern-day GPS, with Google Maps connecting with Google My Business listings for many types of businesses, whether used on a phone or in many modern connected vehicle navigation systems).

Digital Ads Are Billboards on the Information Superhighway

They call the internet the “information superhighway” – well, they used to, anyway – and so it only makes sense that some of the features you might expect on the freeway have some digital equivalents. Paywalls on news sites are your toll barriers, 404 errors are your “Road Closed” signs, and digital ads are your billboards.

Whether seen atop organic search results or as a banner on a news site or directory page, digital advertising is in many ways no different than the long-standing billboard. These ads are designed to promote a brand and capture the user’s attention in a very short period of time and drive them to make a purchasing decision. On the road, you may be prompted to call a business or stop by their location (often conveniently at the next exit). Online you’ll find instead that you’ll be directed to a landing page that explains in more detail the offer, service or product, (often falling in place with where you are in your consideration and research within the “buyer’s journey”). In either instance, online or off, in a car or in a browser, a billboard is still a billboard.

Your Website and Your Car – Making Sense of Digital Marketing
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Life Is Better in the Fast Lane

If you have to get across town and can take your choice of the highway (assuming that traffic is good, of course) or the surface streets, which are you more likely to take? The highway is the answer for most people. You can drive faster, get to your destination sooner, and avoid the stop-and-start of stoplights and stop signs. The same is true of the web, where users expect pages to load quickly regardless of their device.

That’s the same decision that consumers make when evaluating a business online. If they click the link to your site and the page hangs up or takes a long time to load, they’re more likely to bounce away from your site entirely, meaning you miss a possible sale before they ever even saw your content. Google lays out some pretty compelling stats – a 3-second load time increases the probable bounce rate by 32 percent vs. a 1-second load time. If your site is especially slow – 10 seconds – that probability of bouncing jumps to 123 percent. There are many factors that play a role in site speed, ranging from coding issues to technical fixes to even just your choice of hosting provider, so if your speed is bad – something you can easily test at sites like Pingdom or even directly through Google – it should be a priority to fix.

Safety Features as Standard Equipment

When you consider the early automobile, you see something impressive in terms of its engineering, but also something that was incredibly dangerous. The first cars didn’t have seatbelts, airbags or even some simple features like blinkers and windshield wipers that we take for granted today – and that are now often required equipment in most new vehicles. The early web was much the same – an impressive innovation, but one much in need of safety improvements like secure sockets layer protection, Captcha forms and other ways of protecting users, website owners and information being transferred.

Today, many developers make security features part of a website from the start. That means designing contact forms that include an anti-spam protection of some form to prevent mass submissions. It also means using an SSL to provide a secure experience for visitors and preventing third parties from spoofing a site to steal user information. In fact, Google has noted that having a secure website is a positive ranking factor in its algorithm, so it helps with a site’s SEO, as well. Finally, host-side protections are highly encouraged for site security, including routine website backups, prevention of DDOS attacks – distributed denial of service – and automatic platform and plugin updates for sites are all incredibly valuable for site owners to ensure a protected and safe site.

Get on the Road to Success

What good would a post about cars and analogies be without another to wrap things up?

Using car analogies may seem simple, but sometimes it’s the best way to grasp these evolving concepts – not only for your own use, but when discussing different marketing options with customers. Many clients appreciate a more relatable way of understanding, and seeing some of these complex ideas through a simpler lens can help them know not only the campaigns you recommend, but the importance of that work. So put some gas in your tank and use these analogies to get on the road to success for yourself.

This article was originally posted on the J. Fitzgerald Group blog.

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