Home » SEO in layman’s terms: a simple explanation

SEO in layman’s terms: a simple explanation

SEO in simple terms example

SEO is big business and not just for marketing companies.  Let’s explain SEO in layman’s terms so your company can score the top-spot in a Google search.


If your company owns a website that is not SEO optimised, you wasted a lot of money.

That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s true.

I have been working with SEO for quite a few years and I often get asked what I do. People are puzzled about SEO. To many, it’s just another acronym that distracts them from the work they have in front of them.

It’s noise. And who can blame them?

But SEO is big business and not just for marketing companies.  So, let’s explain SEO in layman’s terms.


The need for SEO


SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. When you talk about search engines, chances are people will think about Google. In simple terms, SEO is about optimising your website so it performs well during Google searches.

But that’s still a very vague answer that doesn’t tell you a lot. So, let’s meet Joe.


SEO in layman’s terms: Meet Joe and The Hiking Hobbit. 


Joe is a 30 something bloke who enjoys the outdoors. Joe is in dire need for a new pair of hiking boots.  But good hiking boots are a fairly big investment and Joe wants to do some research before he commits to a purchase. He opens his laptop and starts a Google search: ‘best hiking boots for men’.

The Hiking Hobbit is an outdoor equipment business. Amongst other things, they sell hiking boots. They recently became the proud owners of a website to keep up with the increasing trend of online sales.

After Joe presses the enter button on his search, chances are he will check out the first few websites that pop up.  But unless The Hiking Hobbit appears within the first 10 results, it is unlikely Joe will pay attention to this company.

In other words, to get any benefit from being on the worldwide web, it’s not only important for The Hiking Hobbit to have a website. They also need to come up as a top (or close to it) result during a Google search. If not, they might as well not exist. Ouch!

The obvious next question is: how does the Hiking Hobbit make sure they score a top spot? The answer is simple; they optimise their website for search engines.


What is SEO: Understanding how Google comes up with results.


When Joe started his search on Google, the Google Search Engine tries to come up with a result that is as close as possible to his needs. Joe is clearly looking for reviews of hiking boots for men, not a funny picture of gum boots for kids.  Humans get that. But how does a big computer know?

Google applies a complex set of rules that is used to scan its massive database of webpages. The aim is to look for indications that the website will provide a great answer to anybody looking for reviews of Hiking boots for men.

As Google applies a certain set of rules to decide, it’s easy to see why it’s important for The Hiking Hobbit to understand how the Google algorithms work.   Once they understand that, they can adjust their website to ensure Google recognises the company’s website as a brilliant suggestion for the best hiking boots for men. When done well, Google will rank The Hiking Hobbit on top of the list.


 How do Google algorithms work?


That is the ultimate question, and it is a highly guarded secret.  BUT… because of the amount of money involved in making sure websites perform well during Google searches, some companies have made it their business to get a good idea of the ways Google rolls.

The challenging bit is that Google does no less than 500 updates to its algorithms every year. That’s over one a day. Most of these are minor changes, but some have significant consequences to the rules of the game. It’s fair to say that keeping a website SEO friendly is a fast-moving target.  One that requires constant updating on the latest information. It’s a chess game with forever changing rules.

The current lay of the land?


SEO in simple terms: What are the rules in 2020?


The answer to that is two-fold.



As we established earlier, optimisation helps search engines to read (crawl and index) your content. Keywords are probably the best-known way in which that happens, but it doesn’t stop with that.

Google looks at whether The Hiking Hobbit’s website structure makes it easy to navigate the website. It considers whether there are HTML structure headings (<H1>, <H2>, <H3>, etc.) on each page, if the speed of the website is good, if it looks good on mobile, and if it has messy things like blocked areas. All of this makes it easy or difficult for Google to understand the content of The Hiking Hobbit website.

Lately Google really ramped up its game to ‘humanise’ its algorithm. It’s trying to get into a person’s mind.  With that we mean that Google looks at context (men’s hiking boots vs women’s hiking boots) and intent (whether Joe is looking for a review of men’s Hiking boots vs whether he wants to know how they are made).

But it’s important to point out that any visitor to The Hiking Hobbit’s website will appreciate the same easy reading approach. It’s not just Google.

Which brings us to point number two.



The optimization makes sure the Hiking Hobbits website has the foundation that makes the website straightforward for Google and Joe to read. But there is also the authority factor to consider.

This is about convincing Google that The Hiking Hobbit website is a top-quality website with valuable content.

Google looks at whether the website is dynamic with regular new and up-to-date content (blogs help with that). It checks whether the content on The Hiking Hobbit website is unique and not copied from another site.

But it also considers how people interact with the website.  Information like the amount and duration of website visits is collected.

The Hiking Hobbit’s online presence beyond its own website is also under the magnifying glass: business reviews, links and Social Media interaction are all on Googles radar when deciding The Hiking Hobbits authority.


Yep, SEO is big business.

A juicy detail to top it off: Did you know Google not only gives you a pat on the back for doing things right? It also gives you a good hiding for getting it wrong. Like too many pop-ups or buying links (cheeky!) or when your website is frequently down.


 Now that we explained SEO in layman’s terms, you should consider this. If The Hiking Hobbit is not SEO optimised, not only is Google (and Joe) going to have a frustrating experience with the website, it is also not going to come up in searches. Especially if The Wandering Dwarf, their biggest competitor, pays attention to SEO. 

So how is your website doing?