You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it. That blank faced, eyes off in the distance, nod of the head. Oh, SEO, that sounds cool. The usual reaction to “Hi, I’m Mark. What do I do? Oh, I work in SEO.” That’s often a conversation killer. The truth is, most people don’t know what we do. And the plethora of misinformation out there painting a negative picture of who we and about the profession we practice doesn’t do us any favors. For every well written explanatory piece about SEO in the mainstream media there are five NYTimes JCPenney SEO scumbag articles out there. Our profession’s sexy 3 letter acronym is sometimes seen as less inviting than some of the acronyms employed by the US military, like nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare (NBC).
The bottom line is that people don’t know what SEO is. They haven’t grown up with it, so they don’t just take it for granted. I’m sure most people don’t understand the intricacies of investment banking, but it’s an established profession going back hundreds of years (at least the banking part of things), and so we take it for granted when someone says they’re an investment banker. Our vague notion of what this actually entails is put aside by the familiarity and recognition we have of the legitimacy of the profession (or whatever is left of it after Bernie Madoff).
So what exactly is SEO? How do I explain to my mom what it is that I do? How do I tell my friends and neighbors, who use Google everyday, but don’t quite get what it is that I do? I usually tell people my job is to get websites higher up in Google. The usual reaction is – “oh, so you pay Google to be at the top?” If only it were that simple. It depends on what kind of search results they’re used to seeing, and if they notice the various ways that Google formats their paid ads, with ads often appearing at the top of the results and not just on the sides. I try to explain in just a few words how Google has to figure out which pages to rank at the top, and I try to improve the websites I work on so that Google will rank them higher and they’ll show up at the top.
For a short explanation, you can’t quite start getting involved in explaining terms like organic and algorithms. I wish there was a simple answer to what it is that we do – but any one line solution that I’ve come across usually involves complex terms and intricacies that are lost on the people who just want to know in one or two sentences what it is that I do. So, right now, that’s the best I can come up with – I help websites get higher up in Google, helping to get them found in the search engines and bringing more visitors and sales to their sites. If you’ve got something better, please let me know. It’ll definitely help, and I’m sure my mom will appreciate it too :).