Digital marketing

What Is SEO and How It Works?

28 August, 2020

In our previous article, Plerdy team has shared ideas on how to explain what is UX to your grandmother. Although search engine optimization sounds more tricky than usability, you can use the same metaphor-based approach.

Put yourself in the shoes of the older generation and try to think about what concepts familiar to them resemble SEO. Draw parallels to make sure your grandma knows you have a decent job and do something useful. She will be proud of your position as an SEO specialist.

Note that these comparisons also work great for new customers who have never dealt with SEO before. Find some ideas on how to explain what is SEO to your grandma and anyone else who needs an explanation below.

How to Explain What is SEO optimization – Idea #1. 

Refer to traditional marketing

Everyone knows what is marketing even if they have never been related to this field. If you think about it, offline marketing and SEO optimization have a lot in common.

The promotion of goods and services online is no different from promotion in real life. It’s just more large-scale, focused, and flexible. SEO specialists can easily adapt to changing trends and update their optimization strategies accordingly. For example, when a new product is about to appear and people start searching what it is, SEO experts immediately spot a new trend. With small changes to website content and SEO, they can attract the attention of the necessary target audience. In this respect, traditional marketing is less agile than SEO and requires more steps.

Now let’s get to the very explanation of what is SEO optimization. Start with history. A few decades ago, grannies learned about a new product from newspapers, radio, and (later) TV. Yellow pages with ads of different businesses and telephone directories were a particularly popular source of information. People could open them anytime and view the necessary contact details.

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A predecessor of Yellow Pages was word-of-mouth marketing when people received all information from their friends and acquaintances. Many of us still use it to learn news and ask for recommendations.

All these ways of getting information are based on the principle that has laid the foundation for effective marketing: Target the right people, and your business will grow.

With the emergence of the Internet, limitless online space has become one of the main business areas. Search engines have turned into global classified ads. People use them to find what they need. And, like in newspapers, the closer the ad is to the first page or the beginning of a section, the more likely it is to be noticed.

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Here’s an example of modern advertising. Glacial, a beer brand, placed this ad in one of the print magazines. They intentionally covered the advertising page with salt to simplify consumers’ lives. The instructions offered people to wet this page, wrap it around a bottle, and put the bottle in the freezer since the salt significantly speeds up cooling. In such a simple way, the manufacturer solved the typical problem of quickly cooling beer when it’s too hot outside. They had to invest in design and finding a magazine that would agree for this experiment, but that was worth the effort. The ad made Glacial more popular and recognizable.

The wording of the offer is another crucial thing in offline marketing. The more information you communicate through several lines, the more likely it is to attract consumers. The same with SEO. Businesses need to make sure their website pages are relevant and contain valuable optimized content.

If someone doesn’t understand why you need a specific budget, compare your work with the competition in periodicals. The hottest and most interesting topics are discussed on the first pages. Getting there is not easy and quite pricey. Nevertheless, the first pages attract the most attention and include more expensive (sometimes even 10x times) ads than other pages. Thus, an investment in SEO optimization is essential to promote your product or service to the top positions in search results. Such a comparison should help anyone understand what is SEO and what value it brings.

How to Explain What is SEO for Beginners to Your Grandma – Idea #2. 

Rely on your direct duties

Search engine optimization is not rocket science. There are many books and other content on SEO for beginners that enable you to master it. Even though this field is relatively new, it’s just a subtype of office work. That’s why talking about SEO with your grandma, you can simply describe what you do every day:

  • Analyze the data on assigned SEO projects

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  • Coordinate the work of other people, such as copywriters who create marketing SEO articles (guest posts) or assistants that negotiate with other website owners to publish these articles
  • Communicate with other departments that directly negotiate with customers (account managers) and technical specialists that eliminate all possible technical SEO issues
  • Monitor how customers interact with the project, what buttons they click, and what pages visit with the help of special tools such as heatmaps

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  • Write technical specifications to upgrade the SEO project
  • Develop a plan to attract visitors, generate progress reports and present them to customers

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This SEO for beginners idea has one huge drawback. It makes your job sound less mysterious and grandiose. The grandma may be disappointed to find out that you’re just an office worker. Yet it’s a great alternative if you need to answer quickly, without going into details, when someone asks you what is SEO out of idle curiosity (yes, this also happens). The list of core responsibilities will help the curious questioner realize how the working day of an SEO specialist looks. This should be enough to draw some conclusions.

If the person comes up with additional questions after your brief story, provide more details. The ideas on what is SEO from our article should help you with this.

How to Explain What is SEO in Google – Idea #3. 

Get closer to the main goal of SEO

When your grandma vaguely understands what is SEO in Google, it’s time to explain why we need it at all.

To do this, complete the following steps:

  • Explain why website visibility is important for businesses. It should be easy since even your grandma knows that searching for something online is very convenient and fast. For example, you can compare two different ways to buy the necessary pills. Let’s admit it’s much better to type in the name, compare prices in different pharmacies, pick the best one, and place an order (sometimes even with home delivery) than to do everything offline. No need to go to several pharmacies, wait in queues, and waste a lot of time and effort like it was several decades ago.
  • Tell that people usually choose a website from the first page of search results. In 9 out of 10 cases, the necessary information can be found on one of the top 5 (maximum 10) pages. If your grandma needed to buy groceries, she would also go to the store that is closer to her house.

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  • Continue with ranking results. Google Search rating reflects the relevance and usefulness of the displayed resources. Tell grandma that websites on the first page are more valuable than the results from the second and third pages. That’s why they attract more people.

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  • Link the goals of businesses to the goals of Google. Search engines are responsible for establishing order in the global ocean of information. On the other hand, businesses want to gain the highest position in this hierarchy to maximize their profit. Their goals are somewhat opposite. Google aims to determine which offer is the most relevant and discard those that don’t meet its criteria. Businesses strive to get to the top whatever it takes. Well, in this battle, Google wins. Thus, businesses have no choice but to adapt their websites to Google’s SEO requirements and optimize them. This is actually what SEO specialists do. They fine-tune a website to promote it in Google Search results, increase traffic, and bring more customers.

Summing up, Google’s top includes the pages that provide fuller, clearer, and easier-to-understand answers to user questions. Getting there is the essence of search engine optimization and your key task as an SEO specialist. Although there are a bunch of search engines, SEO in Google is the most critical for business success. If after this explanation, your grandma will belittle the value and importance of your work, use the next idea to convince her that your job is very important.

How to Explain What is Search Engine Optimization Digital Marketing (SEO) – Idea #4 

Tell about Google’s monopoly

Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Search Engine Market Share

To prove that search engine optimization digital marketing is essential for online business, try to describe the world without SEO. What would users and businesses do without the clear rules of online competition? The answer to this question will help you kill two birds with one stone:

  • Introduce your grandma to web analytics without going into the jungle of SEO terminology
  • Restate the importance of SEO

The latter is particularly useful in conversations with conservative and skeptical people. You often need to prove to them that search engine optimization digital marketing is not about pressing keys, clicking a mouse, and pushing paper. SEO is one of the cornerstones of modern business (let’s face it).

Here’s what you should do:

  • Tell that some search systems, namely Google, have a monopoly in the online world. To attract the attention of potential customers, business owners first need to gain the affection of Google. In this case, Google Search is like the man of the people who represents the interest of the community (users) in a governmental body and has their trust. Google selects the most relevant candidates for its team (search index) and decides what positions they should take to effectively solve the problems and requests of voters.
  • Clarify the criteria. Instead of high-profile promises and repeated statements (keywords, links), the selection will be based on specific requirements that help to determine whether the resources really meet people’s needs. Speaking in terms of SEO, their content should match their field of work.

There are several key factors Google takes into account. In particular, it analyzes the quality and frequency of new publications. Quality means that the updated SEO content should be relevant and professional. Therefore, it’s preferable to publish expert or thematic articles. Also, remember that the more often you add new articles and the larger they are, the higher ranking they will have.

Besides, search bots take into account the interlinking of pages. Users should be able to go from one page to another through a separate link, then another one, and so on until they navigate the whole website just going from page to page.

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SEO content (text blocks related to the main subject of the page) is another factor that affects Google Search ranking. The page is considered relevant if it includes a high level of keywords that correspond to its title and description. Google will scan the title and headings for such keywords to make sure the page satisfies the user’s needs. Keywords must always be included in content, at least in a scattered way.

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Apart from strict Google’s criteria, the versatility of search engines additionally complicates the work of an SEO specialist. It’s necessary to find the balance and achieve maximum results in as many search engines as possible. To explain this to your grandma or a new customer and convince them that SEO isn’t a piece of cake, you need to:

  • Mention that the optimization requirements are challenging and explain what makes them so tricky. There is no checklist that can guarantee a place in top results if you complete it. Leading web resources need to meet a bunch of criteria (over 200 according to some estimations). At first glance, the requirements seem contradictory. At second, they look unrealistic and counterproductive for businesses. How can we publish minimalist and concise content if we need to hold an engaging and detailed presentation to nudge customers towards a purchase?
  • Find a starting point. The previous paragraph demonstrates the difficulty of working in contradictory conditions that can make you lose or win. Without meeting them, an online business is very likely to fail. Under such circumstances, the primary task of an SEO specialist is to determine what requirements are life-critical. There are some minimum criteria to be at least included in the search index. Meeting them, you won’t increase sales or something, but the business will become a part of the Google Search family, which is already an achievement. That’s the main task at the first stage of SEO promotion.
  • Focus on promotion and keeping your positions. Generally, almost all modern websites meet the criteria necessary to be included in the search. Yet it’s just the beginning of the most challenging stage – competition. From now on, SEO specialists have to find the balance between all the criteria to promote the website to the first page of search results or, ideally, the first place.
  • Remind that one-time success won’t last long. Since search algorithms take into account fluctuating customer preferences, the requirements often change. This makes search engine optimization even more problematic. Googlers rely on special tools and algorithms to analyze what solutions provoke the most positive response from Internet users. Based on this data, they develop new requirements that may be completely opposite to the existing ones. As a result, even if a website was almost on the top, one morning, an SEO specialist may be terrified to find out what has happened to the page ranking. Each change in Google algorithms impacts search results. Even if your page was in the top 3 yesterday but had some vulnerabilities, it could rapidly lose its positions tomorrow.
  • Determine what makes search engine optimization digital marketing successful. The result of SEO optimization is the position of the website in search results. The higher it is, the better the SEO specialists did their job. Here you can also mention your previous projects and what results you achieved.

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If you have the projects to be proud of and manage to explain the challenges of SEO, the grandma (and potential customers) will definitely recognize the seriousness of your work.

How to Explain What is SEO Marketing and How it Works – Idea #5. 

Compare SEO to grandma’s cookies

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You can steer the conversation to something very familiar to your grandma, for example, cookies. Make her the main character of your story about what is SEO marketing:

  1. Your grandma has a signature recipe for cookies. Not only you praise them, but also anyone lucky enough to have a bite. At some point, whether on her own or on someone’s tip, she decides to make money on these cookies and start mass production.
  2. First of all, she needs to collect information about potential buyers. It’s necessary to know how many consumers are interested in her product, what key groups of buyers exist, and understand what their tastes are, of course. This basic data can already help to determine the volume of production, raw material, and planned expenses.
  3. Now, compare this case with website promotion. Or rather with the channels used to promote a business online (social media, newsletters, advertising, organic traffic, etc.) These are the groups of potential buyers. The volume of traffic is the number of people interested in the offer. The budget is something universal – the investment in each type of source, the cost of a lead, etc. The steps taken to promote the website online and generate more traffic is SEO.
  4. To explain that online competition is very similar to the offline world, add more details to the case. Let’s say your grandma’s neighbors decided to follow in her footsteps and also bake cookies. Now she doesn’t only need to target consumers but should also make her product stand from the crowd. For example, she may open a store that attracts customers with its cozy exterior. On the web, this would be equal to a convenient thematic website helping people to buy what they need. The same with leaflets (contextual advertising), word-of-mouth marketing (social media), or invitations to the grand opening of the store by mail (email newsletters).

Provide as many details about SEO marketing as possible. The more vividly your grandma imagines the situation, the faster she will understand everything. Believe us, deep down she will be extremely proud of such a talented grandchild who knows what they’re doing so well. And that’s the only thing she really needs.

How to Explain What is SEO in Google to Your Grandma – Idea #6.

Refer to paper books

The analogy between SEO in Google and book publishing can show how SEO specialists optimize websites to attract readers. Your grandma or anyone else, regardless of their age, have held paper books in their hands for many times. They know what makes a good book. Even if they aren’t voracious readers familiar with the nuances of quality writing, editing, and the latest Nobel Prize holders, they realize that typos, mistakes, weird sentence structure, or poor design make a book less valuable.

Modern websites are somewhat similar to books. Especially blogs or informational resources that don’t sell anything. To promote such websites, their owners need to make sure the published content is quality and meets the preferences of the target audience. That’s when the tasks of a publisher and an SEO specialist overlap. Both need to go through the following stages:

  • Conduct market research. Before investing money in translating a book (creating SEO content), it’s necessary to check whether this topic is relevant. Of course, you may publish something just because you like it but it won’t bring you any profit. Thus, both a publisher and an SEO specialist should analyze the current trends and understand what people are looking for. In the case of SEO in Google, this will help to determine the target audience of the website.

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  • Prepare a task. Once you know what product is demanded on the market, it’s high time to start working on it. At this stage, the publisher hires designers, translators, editors, and other specialists that need to prepare and fine-tune the future book. They discuss the volume of the project, possible technical issues, and deadlines. On the other hand, the SEO specialist hands out tasks to content writers and developers with technical specifications and keywords.
  • Once the content is ready, both the publisher and the SEO expert should double-check it. Whereas the publisher focuses on the book layout and post-editing, the SEO specialist has to make sure that all the necessary keywords are included and the content is error-free. Typos and mistakes can ruin both a good website and a good book.

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  • After publishing the content, it’s important to keep monitoring the number of readers and feedback. This helps to eliminate problems that could harm the reputation of the print or web resource. Since Google’s algorithms take into account user behavior, low-quality content will reduce your chances to end up in the top.

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These four steps should allow you to explain what is SEO in Google to your grandma. Similarly to the publisher, you are responsible for finding the right niche for published content, its relevance, and quality.

How to Explain What is Ecommerce SEO – Idea #7.

Draw an analogy with offline shopping

If your grandma likes shopping for clothes, use this affection to explain to her what you do for life. She has probably witnessed the emergence of huge malls and knows how difficult it may be to find the necessary item. Everything is even more complicated if the mall offers all possible products at once, has no signs or store assistants to help you. You either stroll there for hours and cannot find what you need or go away without completing a purchase.

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In fact, such a shopping mall is very similar to Google Search and websites without ecommerce SEO. Visiting a non-optimized website customers cannot instantly find the product they are looking for. There is no additional information (e.i. blog articles) that help to make the choice. It also often happens that the store they enter offers an absolutely different category of products. As a result, they get irritated and go to competitors.

That’s why you should tell grandma that as an SEO specialist you: 1.) Make sure that when visitors come to the store they see the relevant products (= keyword analysis and optimization). 2.) Do everything to locate the store in the place with the highest traffic (=Top search results). 3.) Track the popularity of the store (Ecommerce SEO and analysis). This improves the quality of online shopping experience and makes users more likely to instantly purchase. That’s a win-win strategy both for store owners and consumers.
Want to check more options? We’ve prepared some bonus ideas on how to tell about SEO in a creative way.

How to Explain What an SEO Specialist Does – Bonus Idea

Analogy with a park

This analogy may not look like the best way to explain what an SEO specialist does. Yet a city park or botanical garden has something in common with SEO. Do you know what? – Both seek to attract visitors.

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Use this algorithm to compare the two concepts and show what an SEO specialist does:

  • Simply put, any park is a composition of plants. It has a unique climate, soil, and requires custom maintenance (watering, pruning, fertilization). Thus, the final look of the park largely depends on the efforts of urban services.
  • A website is a similar system where all the elements (code, design, types of content) are used to ensure the maximum comfort for visitors. These are internal factors that website owners can change to attract people.
  • In both cases, there are some factors you cannot predict or control. If the weather is bad, fewer people will go to the park. And the urban services can do nothing about this. The same with the website. If it’s a low season for your product or service, the sales won’t grow. You can stir interest with discounts, but this may only make you end up in the red.
  • To bring more people both to the website and the park, you need to invest time and money. A few birches won’t grow into a park that everyone loves to visit. Therefore, don’t forget to mow the lawn, prune trees, plant flowers every season and weed them. You will also need to fight with moles that like digging a hole in the middle of a central flower bed just after a gardener puts it in order. These tasks take a lot of regular effort. Use this allegory to describe what is SEO. Tell your grandma that to create a quality website with considerable traffic and sales, it’s owners need to work on its optimization.

How to Explain What is SEO optimization – Bonus idea

Example of a personal blog

Some grandparents are so tech-savvy that they may have a quite successful personal blog or YouTube channel. Still, SEO optimization is a less familiar concept than blogging, so the chances are they don’t know what it is. Then, the grandma will ask you a predictable question: “Sweetie, how does it work?” In this case, you should understand the difference between the Internet in its early days and now.

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When search engines (namely Google) appeared in the late 90s, they already used custom ranking algorithms. Yet old search bots were very primitive. They could only read the Title and Description tags. Even if the future software giants realized that these factors weren’t enough, there was no need for complex crawling at that time. Search bots used the tags to find websites and include them in the search engine database. It was comparatively small, so users didn’t have much choice.

Such simplicity had the downside. If a website owner accidentally forgot to fill in the necessary meta tags, search bots just skipped the website. No matter how user-friendly and interesting it was.

After the epoch of metatags, keywords and micro-layout gained importance. They allowed search engines to categorize pages automatically. Unfortunately, the quality of content could still remain low. Relevant title, keywords, and thematic images? Okay, that’s enough.

At that point, basic search engine optimization skills were already important. Your grandma and her blog could lose to the website owners with deeper SEO expertise. To successfully manage her blog and generate traffic, she would be forced to figure out what is SEO optimization and how it works. It’s almost learning a new trade. Sounds inspiring but in reality, causes too many difficulties and isn’t worth the candle.

Let’s fast-forward to the end of the ninetieth. That’s when the modern web and SEO emerged. Search bots are no longer those primitive lines of code they used to be but a powerful force. In fact, these are smart guys who have gained experience in analyzing content (over 20 years!), and you cannot cheat them with beautiful headlines. Now they can easily evaluate the quality of page content, including such subtleties as whether the user accidentally clicked somewhere or mistaken this element for a link. Nice headings and other show-offs have taken a back seat, giving the priority to usability and content relevance.

Therefore, today your grandma can relax and not dive into the intricacies of technical and search engine optimization. All she needs is to be an expert in the topic chosen for her blog and regularly update the resource. It doesn’t even matter where she publishes her articles – on a custom website designed by a friend of her grandson or a free default template with basic optimization. Even with such a primitive resource, she can get to the TOP, with other things being equal.

And the conditions are really equal, since Google instantly detects the websites stuffed with keywords or engaged in a massive link exchange, and filters them out. Does your grandma know about black-hat SEO practices? Most probably, no. This means that she has a pretty good chance to be ranked in the TOP.

So what do you as an SEO specialist have to do with this? Your task is to explain to your grandma and other people how to promote a website on Google. It’s the best way to show what you do every day.

How to Explain What is Etsy SEO – Bonus idea

First, it’s worth noting that Etsy SEO is in many ways similar to search engine optimization in Google. An optimizer also needs to find the relevant keywords, add titles, descriptions, and build links. The only difference is that internal Etsy buyers are their main target audience. Thus, if you want to explain what is Etsy SEO, you can use any analogy from this article. For example, the next one.

Does your grandma have a garden?

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Compare your work with gardening to show how you optimize a website or an Etsy product card.

Planting seedlings is more than just putting them in the soil. The same relates to website optimization. For a large crop or high conversion rates, you need to complete these 5 steps:

Step #1. Decide what plants you are going to grow and how many seedlings you need. Speaking of SEO, it’s the same as setting tasks before optimizing a website. What is your target audience? What goals and metrics you want to achieve?

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Step #2. Start preparing the soil for planting. Remove the weeds that have already grown this spring as well as the dry straw left after last autumn. In SEO, this is the same as auditing the old website and detecting the problems that may harm future optimization. If the web resource is totally new, it’s also necessary to analyze its main competitors and market niche.

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Step#3. Loosen the soil. Depending on the size of the land, you’ll either use a tractor or the old fashioned approach with manual work, shovel, and some swear words to speed up the process. Don’t forget to remove the roots of old plants and particularly stubborn weeds left after step 2. You can also add sand for better looseness of the soil and use special chemicals to avoid pests. This stage is equal to technical website optimization, SEO research, creating SEO content tasks, and other significant preparatory works. It’s also time to fix the issues caused by the previous low-quality optimization efforts.

Step #4. Plant the seedlings or start publishing SEO optimized content.

Step #5. Keep taking care of your garden after planting. Cultivate and irrigate the soil. Protect your plants from pests and weeds. In search engine optimization, this period requires regular updates of content, link-building, continuous monitoring of search ranking through different SEO tools, and making the necessary changes. These actions help to make sure the harvest will be rich = your website will be displayed in the top and get tons of relevant traffic.

Of course, some grannies have lived in cities all their lives. They might not understand the allegory with the garden. The chances are that the planting and harvesting chores are even less familiar to them than SEO. No problem. Use any other idea on how to explain what is SEO from our article.

Conclusion

We have provided just a few options you can use to explain the complexities of search engine optimization to someone who knows nothing about it. Sometimes, when you deal with the same tasks every day, you can lose touch with reality. You start perceiving field-specific concepts as something extremely clear and common. As a result, meeting someone who has no clue about SEO and wants to understand what you’re doing, you cannot find the right words

The mentioned ideas will rescue you not only when you chat with your grandparents at a family dinner. The ability to explain what is SEO is also useful both in a conversation with a customer and an SEO trainee. Or during a job interview since most companies value employees who can make complex things easy to understand. When a candidate can explain their actions, it proves their expertise much better than a portfolio.

The Plerdy team just used the example of our grandmas since most of them have no idea what is SEO. If these comparisons will help them understand what is search engine optimization, you will be able to explain this to anyone.