Explaining SEO Made Simple



Why Explaining SEO Matters

What Does SEO Mean? Yes, it’s Search Engine Optimization (originally)!

Yet what does that really mean? Fixing websites for Google?

Do you still wonder what SEO is about? This article will help you.

You already know what the SEO acronym stands for? This article is also for professionals!

Why? SEO matters and explaining SEO to those who don’t know it yet also matters!

Why the SEO Acronym Failed

A while ago I have published a post on my biggest mistakes of a decade of SEO practice.

One of them was sticking to the cryptic SEO acronym itself.

Mere mortals still don’t know what SEO means let alone how it works.

Why don’t we just use common words everybody can understand?

Yes, there are some terms average people can fathom. Here they are!

Keeping it Simple

You may know me already. I don’t talk about re-branding as some kind of marketing.

Improving websites has always been more than marketing and sales.

Selling things is just one goal of many possible.

Of course people come up with things like non-profit marketing but that’s nonsense.

When people offer it at a market and get money with it it’s not non-profit. That’s a so called oxymoron. They contradict themselves.

It’s about simplicity. We need to simplify the whole discipline to allow it to enter the mainstream.

SEO (as in Search Engine Optimization) has been the domain of experts.

What we need in future is something that can be done by everybody without having to look up definitions in a dictionary.

Also it’s about openness and transparency. I’m not referring to the Google-type of so called transparency.

They penalize your site and tell you about it but not why and what exactly you can do to fix the problem.

Fixing Websites Means Pleasing People

Modern SEO is about the people. The first thing should be to make people comprehend it from the start.

As the Web is a “series of tubes” according to a politician who said so in plain English SEO practitioners are its plumbers.

That’s plain indeed. There’s more to it though. SEO is about more than fixing things. It’s about:

  • enhancing
  • enriching
  • fixing
  • improving
  • optimizing

Also it’s not only about making websites better but the Web as a whole while at it.

SEO also establishes links between websites and thus literally creates the Web while at it.

Using Existing Terms People Can Grasp

There are a few good but not yet commonly accepted terms people understand straight away without looking up definitions and reading books. There is

  1. findability
  2. visibility
  3. website optimization

the oldest and perhaps best term. Website optimization existed even before the acronym SEO has been coined.


Findability is often used by professionals in information architecture, librarians or government officials who shun the sneaky sounding SEO acronym.

Despite books like “Building Findable Websites” the term hasn’t been accepted by the search industry as it removes the aura of unexplained magic that surrounds search engine optimization.

When it solely comes down to findability why would people pay us outrageous hourly rates?

How does “findability consultant” sound? Awful!

Thus only people outside the SEO industry use the term that could be so easy to understand.


Visibility is such a common term that when SEO professionals use it they are keen to specify the actual use case by adding “online” so that we limit the scope to online visibility.

SEO is not about eye surgery or cleaning windows after all. I already hear the objection:

just because I see something online doesn’t mean it’s optimized!

This one may be too broad or too simple to get used by the majority of experts.

Website Optimization

Website optimization has been around almost as long as websites existed.

That was even before SEO came up.

Until a few years ago website optimization has been a separate discipline preoccupied with making websites load faster.

Then site speed has been officially declared a Google ranking factor and thus many progressive SEO practitioners have quickly adopted it to be part of their best practices.

Some die hard nerds have always optimized their sites for load speed but now both disciplines are virtually the same.

Most people won’t call themselves website optimizers simply because the term sounds a bit dated.

These days we don’t just deal with websites but also

  • apps
  • blogs
  • social media

These are essentially “Web sites” as well but on the other hand are viewed as different by the majority.

New Acronyms or SEO Definitions

I have already written a lot about how coming up with other new and even more cryptic acronyms doesn’t make sense.

Trying to change the meaning of the existing SEO acronym to Search Experience Optimization or the likes doesn’t work either because for most people SEO is spelled SPAM anyway.

My version of SEO – SEO 2.0 has not caught on either because it’s just making a cryptic acronym even more mysterious.

What Else Can You Say Then?

Modern SEO is about making websites, people and ideas popular.

In other words SEO is ultimately the popularization of

  • individuals
  • items
  • concepts

to name just a few common examples.

One of my most popular articles of all times here on this blog is the list of “101 ways to make your blog popular and successful”.

I could have written how to popularize instead and would have come up this way with the ultimate term to replace SEO years ago.

Instead I just discovered that it has been hiding all the time in plain sight. It’s quite self-evident!

While I was considering many words common people could live with I noticed that popularization is the obvious choice here for manifold reasons.

What is Popularization?

Popularization is SEO 2! No, just kidding.

I elaborate on popularization techniques and how to popularize ideas in other posts.

In any case it is a historic paradigm shift. SEO is not just for the experts anymore.

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* Creative Commons image by bryan