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What is SEO and how to explain it to your Mom

by Pauline
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If you’re like me, and you work in digital marketing, you may have had some really interesting conversations with clients, friends and even your parents about various digital activities.

One of the most confusing concepts to explain to people is SEO and it can be quite hard to get people to understand or buy into the benefits that SEO can have for them.

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is “the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as “natural”, “organic”, or “earned” results” (good old Wikipedia) .


Let’s throw it back to the start of the internet or more historically the www (world wide web). The www is all the content you see and find when using the internet. Historically text based files but now an abundance of intermingled HTML files that are linked.

To access these files aka websites, people use browsers which are run by search engines. Read more about the best browsers out there and some history around them here. SEO aims to ensure that your website is appealing to search engines so that it will have more visibility over other sites.

Simple to do? Not really..

Algorithms and ranking factors

There are many strategies and tactics specialists will try and account for to encourage favourable SEO rankings. As search engines are algorithm based, you’ll want to account for as many of the ranking factors contained within these algorithms.

“An algorithm is what the search engines use to determine the relevance of the information in the database to what the user is searching for. A search algorithm is defined as a math formula that takes a problem as input and returns a solution to the problem, usually after evaluating a number of possible solutions.” – SEOchat (read more about what they have to say about it here).

No one knows the full list of ranking factors that search engines use to determine relevance BUT a lot of really smart people with tons of patience has worked hard to develop various strategies and tactics which give you the best chance to rank at that #1 position in the Search Engine and ultimately reach your potential customer.

Ranking factors are pretty much like trying to bake your Grandma’s famous chocolate cake without the recipe. You know some of the ingredients that you need but not necessarily all of them. You don’t have the exact instructions on what to mix together when and at what temperature to bake your cake. What do you do? You keep practicing, you consult some recipe books and ask your Mom, and eventually on the way you learn some tips and tricks that make your chocolate cake just as good as Grandma’s.

In essence, you know what you want the end product to be. That top search visibility.

It takes time and there’s no cookie cutter approach. In our fast paced world, clients are rarely content or patient enough to follow an approach with no instant return. It is however CRUCIAL for success.

So how do I explain the value SEO to my non tech savvy client (or my Mom?)

You have to explain what it is first. My approach is always to relate a concept to something very familiar.

You’ve just moved to a new town and you’re looking for recommendations for a new Dentist. You ask your co-workers which dentist they go to. Sally in HR says she recommends Dr. A. Jared in reception recommends Dr. B. Alex in your department recommends Dr. A too. Your boss recommends Dr. C. Although Dr B. didn’t get 100% of the “votes” you probably still opt to go to Dr B as the majority of the group you spoke to, spoke favourably about her.

Using machine learning and AI, Google is able gather search queries that most people favour. The more people “recommend” the same place the more authority and credibility the site builds and the more likely their site is to appear when someone searches for a corresponding search team.

Voila! Simple recommendation based responses but on a much larger scale based on actual user based behaviour.

Now why is this valuable? Clearly you want to be the most recommended provider to your potential customers.

But if you need 4 clear reasons to explain why it’s important to know what SEO is:

  1. SEO furthers your brand visibility
  2. It can help you glean amazing insights about your customers
  3. Credibility – how often do you scroll past page 2 on Google search?
  4. As it’s a longer term strategy, with some strategic care SEO does not need to cost a fortune and can give you an edge over your bigger competitors

Do you do your own SEO or have you approached a professional SEO expert to get your site seen?

Let me know in the comments below or visit Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more from Not The Boss.

Images: Pexels

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