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Agony Aunt: How Do I Explain SEO To My Grandparents?


Written by

Katherine Collins



Agony Aunt: How Do I Explain SEO To My Grandparents?

When you work in SEO, you often dread the inevitable question of “what do you do?” coming your way when you meet someone new. Do you try and explain your job or give a vague response about what business you work for and leave it like that?

Which brings us to today’s Ask Adzooma question:

“Dear Adzooma, 

It’s summer, which means a lot of weddings, BBQs and family gatherings. Which is great, until someone asks about work. 

My brother is a teacher. My sister is a doctor. My cousin is a mechanic. All of these jobs are something that family understand and they can spend hours talking to them about their day. 

But then it turns to me. After I try to explain that I work in SEO for a marketing company, I either get awkward silence or fake statements like “oooh that’s interesting”. That’s it. The conversation moves on and it’s back onto how many lives my sister has saved this week. She always was the family favourite.

It’s hard to talk about what I do to people outside of the industry because they don’t understand it. How could I explain SEO to my grandparents?”


We feel your pain, Elle. We really do.

It’s an absolute nightmare explaining what you do to people. Especially when you watch all the light behind their eyes die and the immediate regret on their face that says “I wish I just asked them if they had any pets instead”.

The first time I tried explaining this to my own grandparents, I gave up after about 2 minutes.

That’s because they are the furthest people away from the technology that I know. They refuse to get wifi for their home and once famously threw their first mobile phone away because they couldn’t wrap their heads around it.

My conversations usually end with “I work with computers” and they nod and ask me how to fix their camera because this now means I’m good with technology and can do that sort of thing.

But there is a way to explain SEO to your grandparents. You break it down into their level. 

This is actually useful for explaining SEO to anyone that needs it. After all, if you can explain it to your grandparents, you can explain it to anybody.

Break SEO down to its core

Break SEO down to its core

Before we dive into how you should explain SEO, we need to take a moment to discuss what it is.

You already know this. But when you’re explaining anything, the first step should always be to break it down.

SEO (search engine optimisation) is a set of strategies to help improve your organic search rankings. That means that on search engines like Google, your business will be shown higher on the list.

The higher you rank, the better this is. It’s not some ego-boosting tactic to see your business on top. Here are the facts:

  • The first search result gets 32.58% of all traffic.
  • This rate goes down for every position under that.
  • The website in 9th place only gets 1.53%. That’s 18 times less than the first position!

The higher you rank, the more traffic you get. 

In essence, SEO is all about getting customers to find your business. Great, now that’s a concept we can roll with and your grandparents can understand.

Relate it to something they’re interested in

If you want to explain a concept to someone, you need to explain it in terms that they’ll understand.

Unfortunately, I don’t know your grandparents. But, using the holy power of stereotypes I’ll just assume that they’re interested in knitting.

And who wouldn’t be? It’s making clothing using tiny swords. Well done to grandma for pulling this off.

Anyway, your grandma wants to knit a special present for their granddaughter. But they need a new ball of yarn in this fantastic purple colour because they just know that baby Jasmine will look amazing in it.

This means a trip to a local store for wool. So, grandma heads off into town where there are 5 different shops that sell the exact wool she’s after.

All of these shops are on the same bus route. Grandma can get off at any time and visit any one of them to get her wool.

So, which one does she go to?

When you’re online, Google tries to answer that question for you.

It puts what it thinks is the most relevant place at the top of the list, so people can go there first. It’s quicker, it’s easier and if they find what they’re looking for, they don’t have to visit any more stores.

SEO is all about making it easier for people to find a particular business, so they’ll visit that store instead.

How does SEO do that?

Okay, your grandparents are absolutely absorbed by your story so far. Here comes the next question: “Well, how do you do that?”.

And boom, now we can get into some of the more interesting parts.

With SEO, there are tactics you can do to make sure that one knitting store is at the top of people’s minds. Such as:

Increasing the store’s authority

This would mean spreading the word about how useful and knowledgeable the store is to its visitors.

In this example, the store’s owner, Karen is the best knitter in the town. There’s absolutely nothing she can’t help you with and her advice is much more trustworthy. You can come in with any knitting problem and she’ll sort you out with the right solution.

The more trustworthy the store is, the more people are likely to visit it first. 

Regularly updating the store’s content

Karen, the store’s owner, doesn’t just sell knitting supplies. She’s always changing the displays with her latest creations and offering the patterns up to anyone who wants to make it at home.

If you knew that there was always something new and exciting going on in her store, people will take a look more often. Which again, makes her store the first one people think of.

Doing these tactics online means that Google recognises that your store should be visited first. So, it moves the website higher on the search pages, which brings in more customers and sales.

Go forth and tell your grandparents

Admittedly, this explanation is a little long.

So, it may be easier to just run away, or pretend that you misunderstood the question.

But if you’ve got the time, break SEO down into its fundamental parts and explain it to them using something that they are familiar with. That’s how you get people to understand it and ultimately be interested in it.

Do this, and suddenly your job is much more interesting than being a regular old teacher.

All the best,


Kathrine Collins. Bio:

I am the guru of all things online advertising, giving advice from my home that I share with my two cats, Moon and Dustie. When not online, you can find me tending to my lucrative garden, reading up about space travel or relaxing with a glass of wine.

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