How to Explain SEO to Your Mom

Jen Saunders

When I was in college I called my mom to ask if I could use the credit card to get my computer fixed; I explained it had a bad virus and required an expert to delve in and recover some papers. She gave me permission but warned that I avoid getting the virus myself. My mom was not joking. She had no idea what a computer virus was.

If you haven’t experienced it yet, the time will come when you get a client who doesn’t know what Google is except that (a) they need to appear on it, and (b) in order to do this they need to pay for something called SEO. These clients come with a number of challenges. Ultimately, they are short-lived because they don’t understand how SEO works, and if you can’t understand a service you pay for, you don’t see the value in it. When people no longer see value, they stop paying.

seo is a process

Start by Explaining that SEO is not Instantaneous

There are some clients who assume that SEO is a thing that works right away; they expect to be found on Google the day after signing your service contract, and they may even go so far as to think that customers will start blowing up their phone.

You need to explain that it’s a process requiring multiple steps, and it needs to be nurtured. Give an example of making a cake. The cake is not going to bake itself. You need to mix several ingredients together, coat the inside of the baking pan, pour in the batter, pre-heat the oven, and bake it. When enough time has passed, it can come out of the oven. But then it has to cool before you can add the frosting and eat it. Explain that an SEO strategy is almost identical. You need to mix ingredients to form the “strategy batter” consisting of the right keywords, a link strategy, on-site content strategy, removing toxic backlinks, correcting site errors, and creating a social media strategy. Then it takes time for the strategy batter to bake in Google’s oven until it is ranking and you can find yourself organically. Even determining the ingredients and their measurements is like putting together a puzzle. based on the site’s current health, competitor ranking, and your client’s goals, these ingredients in a search optimization strategy can vary from one client to the next.

Explain there is no magic switch to turn on SEO, nor is it on tap 24/7. It is a process worked by digital marketing experts using precisely measured ingredients, and it takes time for them to all come together and create a damn good cake.

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Website Authority Should be Explained in the Context of Old Lady Gossip

Teaching the digitally challenged how Google favors websites can be challenging. Your mom likely has a social group she hangs out with, and they probably gossip until the sun goes down. Ask mom (or your client with the same grasp on digital) to imagine they are sitting around a table with a group of six friends. One person asks the group to recommend a good hairdresser. One lady says to go to Moe’s Hair Salon. The second lady says that Moe’s ruined her hair and recommends Shears on Main Street. The third lady says she likes Shears but also likes Nancy’s Salon on 3rd. The 4th lady says Shears is the best, and the fifth confirms that Shears is her new favorite.

Although Shears didn’t get 100% of the vote, chances are high that the woman posing the question will go to Shears because the majority of the group spoke of the business favorably. Explain that Google works the same way: thousands of people go into Google and type search queries like “best hair salon near me”. Results come up and clicks are made. Google’s algorithm runs on machine learning and AI, so it can see which search results are favored by the most people who unknowingly recommend the answer to Google by spending significant time on the site and engaging with its content. This is how, in part. a site builds authority and credibility, and the more people recommend a search result, the greater the chances are Google will award it higher organic ranking.

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Backlinks do the Same Thing

Don’t forget to include off-site content and link building in your authority analogy. The client needs to understand that backlinks also work to organically rank a site. Go back to the example of the six ladies at the table talking about hair salon recommendations. Ask the client to predict which hair salon the lady would choose if two of the women were, themselves, award-winning hair stylists; one from Paul Mitchell and the other an instructor at Vidal Sassoon. These two women highly recommend Salon A. The other three women consist of one with no hair at all who only goes to salons for scalp treatments, a lawyer who gets her hair done wherever there is an opening, and a softball coach who gets the $12.99 special from the local strip mall. All three of these go against the experts and recommend Salon B.

Even though Salon B got more votes, the expert opinions carry more authority and therefore the person would clearly go to Salon A. Now transition back to banklinks. Convey that when you add content with a link to your website from a referring domain that has a high authority score and content directly relevant to your own, Google will view your relationship as proof that you too are an expert because the other party chose to associate themselves with your site. If one links to a site with a low authority score and its content has nothing to do with your business, Google will see no value at all.

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Speak their Language

When talking to your mom you likely communicate differently with her than you would your friends. You may have to slow your speech down, avoid using current slang, and not swear. If your client is daft to SEO, you need to slow down, use metaphors they can relate to, and make sure they see the value in the service through relatable metaphors. Anything can be put into a context that any type of person can understand including  electromagnetic field theory, quantum physics and even your neighborhood friendly SEO.

Did these Tips Give Clarity?

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About
Jen Saunders is the Director of SEO for WEBITMD bringing more than 15 years of search marketing experience. She spent 13 years in Europe earning her PhD while looking at lots of old neat stuff. Jen enjoys simple things, like trees, sunrises, and the delicate lull of a 16th century harpsichord. Jen enjoys meditating and studies Buddhism. She is a certified master scuba diver, dolls make her nervous, and she enjoys craft beer. Jen has two cats, Chairman Thaddeus Whiskers and Lord Joffrey Gaius Pitty-Paws. They are her heirs.


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