Or is homebrewing the SEO of hobbies? I suppose the answer to those questions doesn’t necessarily matter. What I’m getting at is that as both an SEO and a homebrewer, I find a lot of crossover. From a process level, anyway. And I started doing SEO only months before a buddy of mine helped me brew my first batch of a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone. Effectively, I’ve been refining my skills at both for the same amount of time. Follow me while I point out the similarities between homebrewing and SEO.
Art vs. Science
This is probably the area where I’d say homebrewing and SEO are most alike. In my 7 years of homebrewing, I’ve come to learn anyone can create decent beer. And I suppose nearly anyone could be functional in SEO. In both instances, with a bit of training, of course. But in both cases, the best results are going to come from a mix of art and science.
With both beer and SEO, the foundation needs to be sound. A beer recipe needs a grain bill that makes sense, hops that will work well with the flavors the grains impart, water with the right chemistry, and yeast that match the style of beer you’re brewing. From there, aspects like mash temperature and length, boil intensity and time, fermentation temperature, and a host of other variables need to be right to ensure a quality product.
In my opinion, the single most important piece is having clean equipment. This alone won’t make your beer great, but it’s the easiest way to take a drinkable beer to a dumpable beer. This isn’t so much different than SEO. You can create the most compelling content, write spot-on meta tags, and mark your site up with schema, but if it’s got a toxic link profile, duplicate content, or site structure and hierarchy that doesn’t make sense, your foundation isn’t clean.
Once the foundation is clean and everything is architecturally sound (whether it’s your recipe or your website), elevating your product from pedestrian to excellent is where the art and creativity come into play. Sure, that beer may be drinkable. But is it exciting to drink? And sure, your website passes most of the tests. But is it really converting, or are users sharing your content? Be creative! Do some A/B testing! Try brewing that beer again, but adjust the hops, yeast, or specialty malts. Try taking that informative web content and refreshing it to really make it engaging so that users want to share it. Optimize your pages with clear calls to action.
On rare occasions (hopefully), a brewer ends up with a batch of less than desirable beer. Or something that’s a little off. Maybe it’s got some off flavors, it’s too sweet or too dry, or your efficiency was really low. Sometimes this can be an easy fix (or at least an easy diagnosis). But with an issue like low efficiency, there may not be an easy-to-spot smoking gun.
SEO is wrought with many of these same conundrums. What happens if you see drops in performance, but Search Console and audit tools aren’t throwing up red flags? As an SEO, performance drops obviously aren’t something that I enjoy seeing. That said, I do enjoy the challenge of diagnosing an issue that takes some intellectual sleuthing. These types of challenges are what I love about both my hobby and profession. If it gets easy, it gets boring. Luckily, Google and mother nature (and more so in the case of homebrewing, human nature) help keep me on my toes.
As Tom Petty so eloquently put it, “The waiting is the hardest part.” With both homebrewing and SEO, we need to wait to see the real fruits of our labor. With beer, the earliest you’re really going to be able to fully understand your product is a couple of weeks. With most beers, you’re looking at a brew day of 5-6 hours, give or take, a week or two of fermentation time, and then about another week or two after packaging for a fully carbonated (and fully enjoyable) beer.
Likewise with SEO, after the initial work is complete, we rarely see immediate results. Migrating to HTTPS, disavowing toxic links, cleaning up duplicate content, optimizing page meta tags, etc. usually takes some time to make a significantly noticeable impact.
Of course, the reward of the laboring and waiting around for your homebrewed beer is, well… the beer! All that time spent on brew day, then waiting through the fermentation process, through packaging (whether you keg or bottle) culminates in what is hopefully a delicious adult beverage. The same goes for SEO. You create a more logical sitemap, optimize the user experience and on-page elements, perform a link detox, and increase site speed. Within time, you see the rewards of your work through an increase in qualified traffic and conversions.
About the Author
Caleb Dann is the SEO Technician for Site Strategics in Downtown, Indianapolis. He enjoys homebrewing (obviously), riding bikes, discussing the finer points of beards, video games, his deaf Boston terrier, and his wife and two- and four-legged kids. If you’re interested in reaching out to Caleb about SEO or beer, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.