How I Would Explain SEO To My Teenager


My daughter is 13 and I’ve yet to explain anything about SEO to her…partly because she lacks the technical background to understand the mechanics and partly due to my perceived lack of interest on her part. However, if I were to remove all the technical components of the SEO definition, I would probably say that SEO is a process to get the search engines to rank your site as high as possible for relevant search queries that serve the commercial interests of the business in question. The search engines have an “algorithm” that weighs the various components of relevancy as it pertains to a certain search query and it is the job of the SEO to influence the website as much as possible in a way most favorable to the algorithm.

There are many components to relevance as it relates to website ranking. The text on the website in question is clearly one important component for ranking. It is the job of the SEO to make sure that the text on the site is relevant to the web queries of the visitors they wish to target. It is also incumbent on the SEO to make sure that the site’s content is evolving and changing in a relevant manner because it’s a better user experience when website content is current.

The age and keyword relevance of the website domain name is also important. An older site is more likely to have gained trust and credibility…therefore, the search engines see that as a trust factor. If the search query matches (or is close to) the domain name, the search engines will also trust the website more, since the domain name is (usually) a permanent statement as to both the reason the site exists and the type of visitors it wishes to target.

The links to the website are definitely a critical component of web ranking. Each link to a website is a vote in favor of the site’s credibility…however, not all votes are created equal. A link from a well-known, famous site that’s considered very authoritative in the eyes of the search engines and is also topically relevant to the site in question will greatly contribute to the site’s search engine rankings. If the SEO’ed site has many such quality links, it definitely has the opportunity to rank well for the search terms it is targeting. One function of an SEO professional is to help generate or broker these sorts of powerful links to the site.

One other credibility sign for a top ranking website is that people are “talking” about the site online in social media. Search engines are measuring social media “chatter” as a ranking signal. So, when people “share” sites via Twitter, Google Plus or Facebook, the search engines assign value to that social sharing.

An important sub-facet of social sharing is business reviews. Similar to social media sharing, a search engine will see a business as more relevant to consumers (versus its competition) at certain well-known places online dedicated to reviewing businesses. Apart from just reviews, if a certain business is just mentioned more often than its competition online (aka “business citations”), the search engines will see that as a positive ranking signal.

As I look back at what I written, I realize that the language I’ve used would probably be a bit more advanced than my teenage daughter would understand and that my writing level doesn’t reflect her level of comprehension. I would definitely have to verbalize my thoughts in a much more granular fashion. However, if I go slowly and allow lots of questions, I think she’d get it.


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