4 Ways to Explain SEO to Your Mother

By | April 14, 2010 at 6:15 pm | 11 comments | SEO | Tags:

You know how it is, you’re in a situation and someone that you know (in my case my mother) who doesn’t really “do” the internet asks you what SEO is and how you do it. You get that feeling in the pit of your stomach that this is not going to be easy and you try to think of several analogies to explain what you do whilst trying to keep it simple – but you draw a blank.

Well, I have created the following list to help you out – and yes, this was because my mother asked me 4 times what SEO was!

The Simple SEO Explanation

Start off simple.  When you type something in your search box, my job is to show your website on the 1st page.  So if you are searching, for example, a “Blue Dorothy Perkins Dress”, my client’s website will be one of the first results you see.

At this point she asked if “by search box, do you mean Facebook”.  Yes, FB’s corruptive reach is far and wide and my 52 year old, computer illiterate mother is on Facebook; Time for number 2.

I’m like a Mechanic for Websites

A slightly more serious one that always gets an “Ahhh, I get it”. Simply explain that you are like a mechanic in the respect that to make a car go faster and perform better on the road they have to work on the engine under the bonnet (hood for the Americans) to tweak it, strip it and optimise it’s performance and that’s just what you do with websites.  If she starts asking how you do that, simply say “Read a Haynes Manual”, chuckle and walk away – quickly!


Sometimes you just have to play the “It’s Voodoo” card.  She finally gets that you search for something via a search engine and you make a site appear in front of her – but then she asks how.  Make it sound like a mysterious art and you couldn’t possibly tell her how you get a website to appear on the 1st page of Google and start mumbling “Yama Yama Yama Yaaamaaa”.

Bore Her

This one can work really well if you have had enough.  I did this once over Christmas lunch when I had to explain SEO to her (again) but this time in the company of cousins, uncles, aunties, who all lived in a very rural town and had very little time for computers.

“Well, I take the words on a particular page on a website and optimise them for a targeted keyphrase.  These are chosen using keyword research which identifies the largest volume of searches cross referenced with competition for the chosen keyword.  Whilst optimising I look at several core factors including Title tags (the thing you see in the top left of you browser) – btw do you use IE or Firefox?”

At this point the eyes glaze over and you can safely wait a moment too long before someone changes the subject.  Downside is, you look like a massive geek – but at least you get to eat your dinner in peace.

Obviously there are many great analogies out there for describing SEO, but sometimes you just can’t be bothered – especially after a day hammering out SEO advice.

About the Author

Kev Strong

Kev Strong is an online marketing consultant at Newcastle Upon Tyne based digital marketing agency, Mediaworks. A lover of all things search and an ex-web developer, Kev Strong (a.k.a Goosh) is a specialist in advanced search engine optimisation.


  1. Carly (12 years ago)

    I just tell everybody I do web design. It’s much easier.

    Or something along the lines of:

    You know when you use Google to find something… You do know that people can influence what’s at the top; Google don’t pick this by hand… right?

    I do this as a job. I get people up to number one in Google.

    Urgh, that’s a long story, it’s all to do with links, content and clever code magic.

  2. Carly (12 years ago)

    Oh it stripped away my fancy comments. Silly angler brackets.

  3. Goosh (12 years ago)

    lol. I used to do the web design thing, but that opened up so many can of worms.

    “Can you build my mates uncles pet hamster a website for £50? He’ll pay you when he makes it big!”

  4. Sarah (12 years ago)

    These are great until, like me, you find out that your mum is involved in a web project (my mum’s a nurse, this was a scenario I never imagined) then you find yourself giving a crash course in SEO to someone who types web addresses into the google search box…you have an easy answer for that one?

    • Goosh (12 years ago)

      The whole web address in the google search box really gets me. I despair when I see it in Analytics.

      As for explaining that one to your mother, you couldn’t even fake illness – she’s a bloody nurse. Suck it up would be my only advice.

  5. safcblogger (12 years ago)

    I think i may be one of the lucky ones, i do not have to explain it to my mother anymore. maybe because she gave up trying to understand what it was a long time ago.

    I have pacified her into nodding her head, not because she gives up wanting to know you understand.

    The easiest way i have come to describe it is;

    “I help websites make money through what they do best”


    “I help potential customers find what they were looking for”

    Or as a Mackem about 10 minutes away from you Goosh i simply apply a footy terminology.

    “SEO for your website is similar to the Premiership, everything else is Championship or worse”

  6. Goosh (12 years ago)

    Thanks for stopping by safcblogger, as soon as I saw the name I knew a dig was coming hehe.

    Let’s just say we suffered a Premiership Dance and we are back where we belong 😉

  7. safcblogger (12 years ago)

    Aye welcome back, the banter is so much better when we have someone closer to laugh at other than Burnley 🙂

  8. Goosh (12 years ago)

    My office is a straight split of SAFC & NUFC. It’s made for a very “interesting” season.

    Looking forward to it with a small hint of dread in teh back of my mind – banana peel style.

  9. Rhys (12 years ago)

    Following the nurse analogy. The next question is usually “oh you must be good with computers, why is my hard drive so hot/why is facebook not working/why won’t it save/(something else silly)?”.

    To which I usually answer – “I’m not good with computers, I’m good at Internet Marketing. You wouldn’t go to a gynacologist with a toothache” 🙂

  10. safcblogger (12 years ago)

    How many times do you think you have been asked the question “i have got a virus…” or “my computer is running slow..” “can you fix it?”

    “well you do computers don`t you?”

    Jesus even Yahoo Local had me down in the Computer repairs category and you think they would have took the hint from my url.

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