Explaining SEO to your grandparents

How do you explain SEO to people who don’t know the first thing about it? What is SEO really about? Before anyone accuses me of discriminating against the elderly, the title of this post is only a figure of speech. Joost’s 90-year old grandmother knows exactly what SEO is, while some of our 30-something friends have a hard time grasping the concept of SEO. So, lots of people do not understand what SEO is really about. How can you explain it to them? Here, I’ll tell show you how to explain SEO to all of your friends – and to your grandparents – in four simple steps.

1. Explain the influence of search engines

I always start my anecdotes about what SEO is exactly with pointing out the importance, or the monopoly, of the search engines. For most people, the search engine is pretty much Google. I point out how much people use Google and for what purposes. With so many people using Google, every website wants a good position in Google. The more people find a website, the more they’ll read articles and buy products on that specific website. Explaining the importance of the search engine is a really simple thing to do. Most people – even grandparents – know about Google, right?

2. Explain what SEO stands for

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. That basically means, optimizing a website for the search engines – Google – in such a way it’ll appear in a high position in said search engine. That’s usually the second step I take in explaining SEO to my friends and relatives. The tactics SEO uses in order to optimize for the search engines differ over time and between professionals. But every SEO strategy is always aimed at aspiring a high ranking in Google.

If people understand the importance of search engines, they’ll now know why SEO is important. They’ll be now wondering how to achieve such a high position in Google. The hard part is yet to come!

3. Explain Google and Google’s mission

The third step in explaining SEO to your grandparents is to tell them about Google’s mission. In order to understand HOW you can achieve a high position in Google, you should know a bit more about Google and Google’s mission. Google’s mission is:

“to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Google wants to serve the client a result that fits his question. So, SEO tactics should be focused on making a website in such a way, that the customer will quickly find what he or she is looking for. The best SEO tactic is always to be the best search result.

What does Google do?

Google has an incredibly large database. All the content of all the sites in the world is in there. Google reads texts. By these texts, it decides what a particular site is about. So the content of a website is of particular importance. But, other parts are important too. Google likes websites that are fast and it likes websites that are linked to by many other sites. There are lots of factors that decide which websites are shown in high positions in Google and which websites are shown in a low position. But, they all boil down to the same thing: Google wants to serve the client the BEST possible result. SEO tactics should, therefore, be aimed at being that best result.

4. Give examples of SEO tactics

In the final step of explaining SEO, I usually sum up all the aspects you’ll need optimize and I’ll start with content as content is my thing. SEO means writing awesome content, content that people want to read, content that people like to read. Above that, your website should be fast and it should be user-friendly. People should be able to navigate a site easily, they should instantly know where to click. SEO also has to do with security, making sure your website won’t be hacked. Google does not like hacked websites. There are several on-page SEO tactics you can use to improve your site.

If you notice you’re explaining SEO to someone who responds really enthusiastically, you could tell them a bit about technical SEO. I usually skip that part. If you want a more entertaining touch to your story, you could tell them about buying links and Google penalties. That’s exciting stuff, but not something to use in your SEO strategy.


Explaining SEO to someone who’s pretty much clueless about the subject can be quite hard. SEO is something that changes over time, and that’s a different thing to different people. Even among SEO specialist, opinions on what is good SEO differ.

Read more: Holistic SEO »

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14 Responses to Explaining SEO to your grandparents

  1. bridge
    bridge  • 6 years ago

    SEO is also following the traditional business principles. It needs to satisfy the customer potential demands, such as through the outstanding content to attract targeted customers. The most difference between traditional campaign and SEO is the media.

  2. TechShristi
    TechShristi  • 6 years ago

    Awesome. I can relate this with my real life suitation. My wife does not know anything about Blogging or SEO and just few days back i was trying to explain her about SEO.
    I will ask my wife to read this article.
    Thanks for sharing

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 years ago

      That’s great! It does make it a lot easier to understand.

  3. deepika
    deepika  • 6 years ago

    nice post keep sharing

  4. Bartosz Gaca
    Bartosz Gaca  • 6 years ago

    Great info thanks for such a detaild stuff love it so much !!

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 years ago

      Thanks, Bartosz!

  5. Martijn
    Martijn  • 6 years ago

    While I agree that this is a straightforward explanation of SEO, I wouldn’t exlain it to my grandmother like this. The fact that ‘even my grandmother knows google’ is not enough. It would be better to use stories, metaphores. Perhaps it is because you guys work with SEO topics all day long, but for me the title of this post is not aligned with the content.

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 years ago

      Sure, there are many ways to explain difficult topics. We won’t say this is THE way to do it since we don’t know your grandparents. It does, however, give a good idea of what SEO is about for anyone unfamiliar with the subject.

  6. Skullboy
    Skullboy  • 6 years ago

    Since my day one in the SEO stuff, i have been finding it difficult to explain Everything about SEO to my workers and this article surely answer all the questions i received per day, thanks for this wonderful article.

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 years ago

      Good to hear, skullboy!

  7. Jarvee
    Jarvee  • 6 years ago

    Marieke, this is really straightforward and on point explanation of SEO. If someone who didn’t hear anything about SEO before reads this post, it will open their eyes.

    I would also mention importance of good keyword research to grandparents, if they become interested.

    Thank you!

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 years ago

      Yeah, keyword research is important and could be a good addition if you want to explain SEO.

  8. Joe Goldstein
    Joe Goldstein  • 6 years ago

    Awesome – that’s very similar to the approach I take nowadays. The one issue I have is that I’ve met several older/less tech-savvy people who have a hard time grasping how ranking well on Google can make you money. No, really – *that’s* the disconnect. So, you might have to walk them through really specific examples, or draw parallels between SERPs and the phone book.

    I’ve also had a lot of older people/less tech-savvy people ask me *how* SEO works, which is a lot harder to answer. I put together my best attempt as a blog post, but I’d love some feedback if you have any: http://www.contractorcalls.com/seo-works-plain-english-version/

    • Edwin Toonen
      Edwin Toonen  • 6 years ago

      Great addition, Joe. Yeah, the money part is pretty important!