How to Explain SEO to Your Grandma

How to Explain SEO to Your Grandma

If you are in the SEO industry chances are you have been at a function or event and received that dreaded question, “and what do you do?” How do you respond?

Do you simply say that you are in marketing or perhaps mention you are a digital marketer, or possibly you tell them that you do SEO only to get a response like? “What is that”

This article was born from my own experience trying to explain to my grandmother what I do for a living. Generally speaking, this experience has helped me find the right way to explain SEO to anyone regardless of their age or technical experience.

The truth is that most people have a difficult time understanding what SEO is and how it works. So how do you go about explaining the basic concepts of SEO to people so they leave with a general understanding of what your job entails.

I’ll show you how I explain SEO to outsiders in a few simple steps.

Explain Why Showing Up in Search Is Valuable to Business

When explaining to people what I do, I always start first by explaining how important online visibility is to businesses. This usually does not take much convincing as people today are accustomed to using a search engine to find new products or services. I find walking people through a mental exercise helps cement the point.

I’ll often ask my inquirer to recount a time when they looked for a product or service via Google. I’ll ask them how they went about that process and how many pages deep they went to before selecting a website to visit. Usually, at this point, I get a comment like, “I almost never go past the first page”

I then explain how the results on the first page of Google are much more value than those on pages 2 or 3 since they receive a larger percentage of traffic.

By the time I explain this, there is no doubt in their mind as to the value of prominent search engine visibility.

Explain Google’s Mission and Their Business Goals

The next step is to explain Google’s mission, which is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

In other words, Google wants to give users exactly what they are searching for. This means that good SEO tactics should focus on updating a website in such a way that it helps the readers quickly find what they are looking for.

Explain that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization

If my audience has never heard of SEO, chances are they don’t know what it stands for. I will let them know that SEO is an acronym meaning Search Engine Optimization.

Explain The Effects of SEO in Simple Words

Even after you explain what SEO stands for, your audience may still not understand what all is involved or how it works. It helps to explain to them that SEO is the practice of helping a website appear more prominently in the top positions of Google and other search engines. From here I explain why this is valuable for businesses who need more exposure.

Explain Why Online Businesses Need SEO

At this point, some people will already get it. You won’t have to explain the value of SEO further, but if the light bulb has still not come on, then it might be helpful to explain how a well-crafted SEO approach can lead to more traffic, more sales and higher revenue which can can bring a business owner one step closer to their marketing and sales goals. I often give a few examples of some of the ROI our SEO efforts have brought our clients.Example.

In 6 months of work we were able to get Jones Tire company a 100x return on their monthly marketing investment.

I ask them, “If I was able to take $1 and turn it into $100 each and every month, would that be of value to you?” You can, of course, guess their answer.

Give Some Examples of SEO Tactics

With the why’s out of the way, I’ll move on to the how’s. I usually explain the basics of search engine optimization and outline the key steps of the SEO process by detailing the concepts below.

Keyword Research:

I’ll explain that by finding keywords that have high search volume and reasonably low competition, I can determine what terms are most beneficial to targeting for my client’s campaign.

On-Site SEO:

I then move to explain the different aspects of SEO, starting with On-Page SEO . I discuss how it aims to provide search engine crawlers with compelling signals in order for them to understand what a given websites topic and subject matter is. From here I outline how the specific technical aspects of a website impact how the search engines crawl a website and how this in turn impacts where a website gets placed in the search results.

Off-Page SEO:

Once I explain On-Site SEO, I continue by detailing how other factors such as links and user signals effect how search engines evaluate and rank a website. I find when explaining link building, using analogies is helpful. Sometimes I’ll make a comparison between the political voting system and links (both quality and quantity) to help explain how links work to build the authority and reputation of a website. I’ll also explain how other factors like user signals play a role in this environment and detail how Google’s algorithms enable them to measure this authority and rank a website accordingly.


SEO is an ever evolving science, because of this it’s not always easy to explain to someone who is untechnical or simply unfamiliar with the craft what’s all involved.

Just remember, while a lot of people are unfamiliar with how SEO works, they are familiar with how search engines work. If you start with these reference-points and break things down, using both experiences and terminology that are understandable you can often leave the conversation feeling understood and empowered.

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