How I Will Try to Explain SEO to My Family This Christmas
It’s going to happen.
A family Christmas dinner, with that one unavoidable ritual – the mocking of everyone’s lifes choices.
I am sure you know how it goes. Questions, making fun of someone’s new job or that recent crappy car they bought, remembering embarrasing moments from the past, mocking the choices we’ve made. None of it’s malicious, of course. It’s just fun.
Well, apart from that moment when someone asks me about my job.
I am not sure about you but I often have hard time trying to explain SEO to others. The profession is just too… ummmm… I don’t know (see, I’m having trouble again)…
Now, with the Christmas dinner so imminent, I decided to try once again and figure out how to explain SEO to my family. It’s not going to be easy but perhaps this is the year I will make it.
Before I begin, please note that the following is aimed at non SEOs and by far a very non techie people. Those of you who are working in the industry, please forgive me for simplifying many aspects of our profession. I am sure you will agree that it’s necessary to explain the complexity of what we do.
So, what exactly is my job?
I help people find the stuff they are looking for in Google, simply.
Oh well, to be more precise, I contribute to that by trying to place websites with that information as high in search results as possible.
Still confused? OK, let me illustrate this with an example then.
Let’s take a hotel. I am sure everyone stayed in one. We all know how hotels work (or at least how they are supposed to work).
My job is to help those who search for an accommodation on Google (or other search engine at that) to find the hotel I work with. Sure, there are other hotels in town but since I work with a particular one, it’s the only one I care about.
And here’s how I do this.
First, I look after the website. I don’t build it but I make sure there are certain elements on it.
Since Google is in a way a recommendation engine (as it shows you search results it deems a good fit for what your search intent is), part of my job is to ensure that elements of the website which might help the hotel with being recommended are in place.
And this process works almost like it would in real life. It doesn’t matter if a hotel has the most comfortable beds but if the facade is ugly, no one’s even going to walk into it, right? Let alone recommend it.
The same goes for other things, like phones for instance. What would you think of a hotel you are trying to call and no one answers the phone? And that’s no matter how often you ring.
Or one without any parking spaces, or windows at that? There is hardly any chance you would recommend it to anyone, right?
Well, Google works in a similar way. It looks for certain elements on each website to ensure that it is worthy to be recommended. They include content, structure and many others that make the website relevant for the audience.
My job is to ensure that those elements are there.
Next, The Authority
Having the most beautiful facade or working phone lines naturally isn’t enough. After all, most hotels pass this criteria in one way or another. For people to start talking about it, a hotel also needs to provide an amazing guest experience, among other things.
So, these website factors are only a starting point.
Next factor is the authority. It is hard to recommend a non authoritative person, right? Or a place with a bad reputation.
Well, it works in pretty much the same way online. The more signs there are of a website being an authoritative source, the greater chances are that Google will recommend it to searchers.
But how does Google measure the authority?
Once again, it does it in the exactly same way as we humans do it in real life – by checking how many people talk about it. The more do, the greater the sign of the authority.
And to measure that, Google uses a simple metric of links.
Google considers each link pointing to a website as a potential thumbs up for a company. After all, just like in real life, you wouldn’t be recommending something that’s not worth it, right? The search engine does one more thing though, considers the quality of each link. strangely enough, just like we would with recommendations in real life.
Going back to our hotel example. Imagine that a drunkard on a street recommends it to you, would you rush off to book a room there? Well, how about if it’s one of the most successful business people in town telling you to stay there? This time you’d behave quite differently, no?
Links work in a very similar way. Google checks the website that links to you for authority and assigns a specific strength to it. As a result, no links are equal and the key is to get as many of the strong ones and avoid the weak or even negative ones.
My job is to help generate those thumbs ups. I do it through a number of various techniques, from posting content on other sites, press mentions to many other tricks.
And if I do my job right, the website I work for, or its particular pages stand a chance to appear in front of the very people who are searching for whatever information, products or services the website offers.
Will this be enough to explain SEO for my family? Is this enough to solve the mystery of my profession once and for all (after all I deliberately skipped some aspects of SEO, like keyword research for instance, focusing only on the general idea)? Well, I hope so.
How do you define SEO to your family? Are you using a different analogy or try to be very technical, stating things as they are, without trying to simplify them? Let me know in the comments.