This question is quite possibly one of the most difficult questions to answer if you happen to work as an SEO. The question becomes even more difficult to answer when the person asking is over the age of 50, and is your mom.
Since starting at Terakeet, I get asked this question A LOT. Many times I reply with, “we do internet marketing” and the conversation stops. This is typically the case, unless the person on the other side of the table is your mother, and she wants the whole story about SEO, not just a generalized two-word definition.
Describing search engine optimization is difficult, but I find the best way of doing so is by making comparisons. Using the principles of library science to aid my explanation, I asked her how she would locate a specific book at the library.
“Well, the card catalog, obviously.” She quickly replied.
This helped me make my first comparison. Think of search engines as the card catalog for the Internet. An organized system to help people find the information (or book) they are looking for….but instead of being alphabetical, search engines try and sort by relevance.
“Okay, so what do you do with this internet card catalog?” was the question I knew would be next.
The library’s card catalog didn’t just appear when the library was built. Someone had to organize the shelves, create a card entry for each book, organize them in a fashion that makes sense and help make sure this information is up to date and clear. This is where SEO’s come into play. We work to help make sure search engines are able to see which sites are relevant. We make sure that websites are optimized properly so Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. can find these sites and organize them appropriately. How frustrating would it be to find a library with an old card catalog that lacked organization?
Suddenly I could see she was connecting the dots. It was like a light bulb turned on and she was more fascinated than ever. I explained to her that a website must be structured with relevant content, appropriate titles, proper coding and more. This helps search engines “read” and “organize” them in a way that makes sense to the everyday Internet user.
While I could have continued to bombard her with details that would have taken longer than a family dinner to explain, I stopped and let it sink in.
“Wow, that’s pretty cool!” was her reaction as she proceeded to tell me that she could now explain my job to her coworkers. This made for not only one newly confident mother but also one very relieved SEO daughter.