What is SEO, in Simple English

Sounds like a simple enough question, so what’s the simple answer? Since nothing is really simple about SEO, here’s at least a few straightforward scenarios to start to answer the question, what is SEO?

Your weekend plans will more often than not, rely on SEO

You’re planning a weekend away. Nothing too fantastic, and only a few hours drive. But you don’t know the area very well. So, while still at home on your couch, you pull out your laptop and open your browser. You type “things to do in…” and add the name of the town.

A bunch of links pop up on your screen. The one at the top looks like an ad. But the others aren’t. You click on the third one down because the description appeals to you. You read a bit on the website, book a hiking tour, and make dinner reservations for Saturday. SEO wins again!

Household purchases use SEO

You went away for the weekend and left the cats at home. They had food, water, and a litter box, and the neighbour checked on them a couple of times. Everything seemed fine until you got home and realized that one of the cats must have been upset with you for leaving!

He has left his mark in pretty much every room on every soft surface. You’ll have to do something quick!

You grab your phone and search for “carpet cleaners near me.” Since your phone knows exactly where it is, and by extension, where you are, it looks for options nearby. You find a few companies and save those. Then, you think, maybe we should just get a carpet cleaner. I wonder how much they are. You search again, and a Canadian Tire link for carpet cleaners comes up. You click on that and look at your choices.

In this case, SEO has provided you with the information you need to make a decision. Do you hire a professional to come over or buy a machine to do it yourself? You decide.

How does SEO marketing work?

SEO is useful to help consumers find anything they might ever want to buy. Retailers work to use SEO to help consumers find things to buy online and to research things they will come into the store to buy. While pretty much everything benefits from SEO, here’s a few common products that are targeted to consumers in Canada:

  • Appliances
  • Clothes, Shoes, and Accessories
  • Computers, TVs, and Other Technology
  • Cellphone Plans
  • Furniture
  • Pet Supplies
  • Household Services
  • Kitchen Gizmos
  • Food
  • Health and Beauty Products
  • Financial Planning and Insurance
  • Vehicles and Repairs
  • Government Services

Companies use SEO to find info, too

So far, it sounds like SEO is mainly used by Businesses selling things to Consumers (B2C). But businesses that sell to other Businesses (B2B) optimize websites so potential clients can find them, too. As a business owner or manager, imagine you need supplies or services like:

  • Accounting, Bookkeeping, or Tax Services
  • HR Benefits, Insurance, and Extended Health Plans
  • Logistics, Shipping, Customs, and Inventory Services
  • Office Equipment, Computers, Photocopiers, Office Furniture
  • Fleet Vehicles
  • Headhunting Services
  • Marketing Agencies

Chances are the first thing you do at work is the same as you would do at home. You sit in front of your computer, open your browser, and type in a description of what you want. And then SEO does the rest.

Which does rather explain what SEO does without really answering our original question.

What Is Search Engine Optimization?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Search Engines are the websites like Google and Bing where you type in what you want to find. They use bots to crawl around and find pages on the internet. Then they use complex algorithms to decide what the pages are about and if the page matches what you searched for.

That way, when you ask about Furniture Stores in Calgary, you don’t end up with a page of results telling you about the Calgary Stampede. Hopefully, at least.

But what is Optimization?

An “optimized website” is more likely to show up on the results page when someone requests information relevant to the content. Algorithms consider hundreds of aspects of the site. So now, you get only websites that are furniture stores in or near Calgary, but they are ranked.

The optimized sites show up high on the list, making it more likely you’ll click and go to that website.

On the top of the search page, you’ll probably find ads. Someone pays for those to show up there above the organic rankings. Paid ads do get clicks, but you can’t pay to get your web pages to rank higher on the page of organic results.

Organic results are just that. Natural results from the work your SEO expert does to attract attention to your site and stand out from the competition.

What is an SEO Keyword?

You may have heard the term keyword relating to SEO. This is a simpler answer. When bots crawl around on your website, they look for relevant content to the searcher’s search. The searcher types in a search term, which then becomes a keyword when it’s on your website.

But if you have too few relevant keywords, Google chooses another website for the searcher, thinking that site is more likely to be what they want. On the other end of the scale, if you have too many, Google is just like that person you never got to date in high school.

Trying too hard is simply not attractive, in a date or in a website.

So, SEO keywords are carefully balanced words in your website content that attract bots and please algorithms.

The elements of an SEO strategy combine to create SEO Marketing.

  • On-site SEO – Deals with the technical preparedness of the website
  • Off-Site SEO – Support from outside your website that also makes a difference to your rankings
  • Content Strategy – Incorporates topics the website owner publishes that align with the product offerings

Why use SEO marketing?

This is basically like asking, why use the internet? Sure, everything in the world is not actually purchased on the internet. But a huge fraction of purchases at least begin with an internet search, especially larger ticket items.

Can you imagine buying a car without looking on the internet first? Or a house? Or a fridge? A computer? TV? Well, what can you imagine buying you would not look for on the internet? Maybe some food. But if you want recipes or other products from that manufacturer, there you go! Off to search again!

Have you ever searched for something and ended up with irrelevant results?

You probably blame yourself for not using the right search terms! So, you try again, typing in something different and hoping for better search results.

SEO is so fundamental to digital marketing that we’ve trained users to expect the results they want when they search.

The buying process & SEO

Not every internet search is a clear step in the buying process. Some searches gather information about the weather – but then again, you should get your snow tires put back on the van. Some searches ask about dog behaviour – but the trusted vet or trainer who posted the info builds their credibility with you by doing so. To potential customers, it’s one more time they see your name.

So, as your potential clients search the internet for products, services, or information, it makes sense you want them to find you.

As search results evolve, users get better answers to the questions they ask. Search engines focus on taking your potential clients to the most relevant page, where they will spend the most time. Of course, this makes every search more valuable since conversions increase with more time on your site.

Your competition is out there doing everything they can to be listed higher up on the page than you.

Is SEO marketing everything you need?

Probably not. A comprehensive marketing plan uses SEO as a foundation, adding paid campaigns, social media, and offline options. Yet, what’s critical is that your SEO efforts sync with your other marketing.

Much like building a brand, SEO works synergistically with your other efforts.


What is SEO appears to be a simple question, but the answer is rather more complex. Mostly, it’s about getting expected results from a Google (or Bing, or another search engine) search, ensuring your website gets in front of your potential customers.

With the world using the internet to do everything from finding the best sandwich restaurant nearby to researching major purchases, sellers must put in the effort to stay on top.

No matter if you have an exclusively eCommerce site or rely solely on foot traffic, SEO marketing should be the foundation of your customer acquisition process.