Explaining Your SEO Job To Your Parents [video]


It’s that time! Thanksgiving has passed and the winter holidays are right around the corner. While this is typically a time for fun, laughs, and to eat just a little too much pie, it can also be a frustrating one for many of us in the Internet marketing community. Because it now becomes our burden to go home and explain to our family, friends and loves ones what it is we do for a living. Again. For the millionth time.

I don’t know about you, but as I enter my 7th year in the industry, I’m getting a little tired of having the same old conversation. A conversation that always sounds exactly like this.

Stop me when it sounds familiar.

Explaining Your SEO Job To Your Parents
by: lisabarone

I know I’m not alone in the sheer horror of this. What tactics do you use to help your family understand? Does it work? At all? Please?

Your Comments

  • Mitch

    haha… great!
    Thats not a real job ;)

  • Joe Hall

    “And I watch bonanza” LMAO

  • Melissa Kammerer

    Lol! I wish I could help, but I haven’t come up with anything, either. Everyone I know insists that I ‘play with computers’ all day.

  • Jayme Westervelt

    Yep, that sounds like many conversations I’ve had, Lisa. I’ve given up and just let them think I play on the Internet all day. Let them think I’m a slacker and ponder how I can afford my life. It’s fun to watch the resulting smoke from their ears as the wheels in their head spin uncontrollably, unable to find an answer.

    • Lisa Barone

      Ha, yes. I’ve decided it’s actually kind of fun to let my family assume I’m poor and struggling to pay rent every month. I get such pitiful looks when my dad asks if I need help with my car payment this month or if I want to take a bottle of soda home with me. :)

  • Ryan

    I think all parents do that anyway. My parents do that soda stuff too all the time, even though they know I’m not even close to struggling.

    I just tell people I work in Marketing. Sadly, the whole concept of an “agency” is lost on many.

    • Lisa Barone

      The whole “i work in marketing” doesn’t work on my father. I tried. For some reason it always comes back to him thinking I’m someone’s secretary. I give up.

  • Lyena Solomon

    LOL. “Do you have money to eat?” – how parent-like! I get “you play on the Twitter all day” comment too. And “who are you tweeting now?” every time I look at my phone. We are cursed. :)
    There is no way to explain to our parents what we do. We might as well let them think we play on Twitter and Facebook all day and starve for a living.

  • Pam

    I was actually kind of disappointed with the video! I was hoping to hear YOU explaining this to your dad in your voice.
    But it was funny – I can imagine it must be hard to try and explain this stuff, over and over.

  • Maranda Gibson

    My father gets it pretty well… it’s my mother that doesn’t understand “the Twitter” and “that Facebook.” We were recently visiting family and she informed them that I play on the internet all day and then had to defend my career to people who will never understand for about thirty minutes. Sigh.

  • Eoin

    My family are unable to understand copywriting: “He’s a writer. Kind of. I think.”

  • Christina Gleason @ Phenomenal Content

    Hahaha. This made me laugh. I don’t have to explain the SEO part, but “writing for other people’s websites” doesn’t always get comprehended either.

    • Lisa Barone

      Yes, for me that’s usually where the conversation nosedives and it’s assumed I’m a secretary who takes dictation and why don’t I just get a job at a local newspaper?

  • Deidre Drewes

    Haha I love this Lisa! My family often thinks I’m a telemarketer (specifically my grandmother).

    • Leo Saraceni

      My father owned a restaurant for many years, and he sold it right before SEO was becoming mainstream. He got a couple of calls from India asking if he wanted to be on the 1st page of the “internet” and that freaked him out.

      To this date, he’s sure I call people like that too. Lol.

  • Keith

    I like to use words that everybody understands, instead of SEO just use Google. Instead of keywords, say people looking for Justin Bieber, and don’t even think about dropping language like SERP rankings.

    Or sometimes when I’m lazy I just say “I build websites”, even though development is not part of my job description. Even though that response usually leads to “Hey I’ve been looking for somebody to build me a website…how much do you charge?”. Yikes…

  • Gianluca

    Loved the video… even though it is my mom the one saying the same exact thing (adding: “You have two kids… do you have the money to take care of them?”).
    I usually say this: “Do you know when you are searching something in Google? Well, I am the one who let you find the best resource you are looking for there”.
    That worked with almost all my family, but still I have problem with mom.

  • Michael King

    Lisa continues to win life.
    I usually just say “You know when you Google something….I’m the reason why the thing that comes up first comes up first.” Then they say “Oh you work for Google?” Then I say “Never.”

  • Craig Fifield

    man I still struggle with this and its been almost 17yrs now.

    Although I’m a marketer as well, I usually reduce it to “I build web sites” most people seem to get that… but many don’t settle for that, they’ll then say something like — “oh, can you help me with” or “I know someone that needs” and I have to say “thanks, but I don’t take clients” that totally screws with people’s heads, and inevitably leads to “oh ok… but how do you make money then???” and I have to reply “well, I make money by building web sites for myself” and they of course reply “oh, then you CAN help me with…” and on and on and on…

  • Sophie

    He…he. That’s cute. I just tell them that I’m a consultant. What of? Anything related to computers and that, after a while, I end up becoming people’s sounding board because I help them look good, instead of walking around the office asking questions and looking like a fool. The average parent does understand that people pay for advice. Avoid using terminology related to your field and instead learn to speak in a language that they understand. You do it with your clients, well then, think of your parents, relatives and other as non-computer savvy clients.

  • Moosa Hemani

    lol… This was good Lisa!

    This is kind of a same reply that you answer when i interview you for Search Engine Journal :)

    My father to his friend: ‘He do something…not sure what! but good, obviously companies are not stupid enough to pay him for playing on facebook and twitter!’

    kind of sigh! but funny!

  • Melissa Alam

    This was amazing and so on point Lisa! Sounds exactly like my conversations with my dad haha.

  • Lori

    Hilarious. My MIL tells her friends we do something on our computers, probably for the CIA. Thanks for a laugh!

  • Doc Sheldon

    Hilarious, Lisa, but WAY too close to home!

    Most of the questions from from my wife’s family, most of whom do use the Internet, at least a little. Since my wife doesn’t really understand why people pay me for what I do, I just gave her this script:

    Q: So what is it that Sheldon does, again?
    A: Have you ever read a page on the Internet that was really interesting or made you want to buy something?

    Q: Sure!
    A: Then he, or someone like him, wrote it.

    Q: I’ve seen some pages that really sucked, too. Did he write them?
    A: No. Those were written by his competitors.


  • Winooski

    Heh. If Pops can’t understand “Marketer”, odd are he won’t understand “Internet Marketer” either.

    Loved the video. Did he really proffer a buck so you could eat, or is that poetic license?

  • Dr. Pete

    I recently made the mistake of telling someone I was a “content marketer” – that was a mistake. “Well, it’s kind of like blogging, except that I get paid” *puzzled look* “You know, Google!”

    My parents still say I build websites. They’ve finally accepted that their granddaughter won’t starve anytime soon.

  • Rebecca L.

    I tend to focus on the analysis side of it when explaining things. I do the whole “I help people find my company’s website by fixing it up so that Google likes it better” shtick, and if they still pester me, well, pop open a laptop, start poking around in Google Analytics and throw around buzz words like “trend analysis” and “data tracking” until their eyes glaze over. Even though they still don’t really get it, at least they don’t accuse me of playing online all day anymore. It looks like data and charts and MATH, and therefore it’s work and they’re not interested in knowing so much anymore.

    The result thus far has been that my Mom’s explanation for what I do is that “she works with websites and Google and I don’t really understand it all but she’s REALLY GOOD at it!”

  • Streko

    Love this video. From the one time I got the pleasure of speaking to your father via Skype when he insisted I was “Stalking you through your computer.” I can totally picture this conversation happening.

  • Julie Kosbab

    My mom understood. She was, however, an IT executive, so she would.

    Some other relatives do not. A few years ago, before her death, Mom told them my job involved looking at porn, pharmacy and casino sites for money. The dumb relatives have never asked again.

  • Suzanne

    Hilarious. Our parents come from a different era. Stores that you actually drive to and not surf to. A post office that you go to not a service that comes and picks up your packages. I still get a blank look when I tell people I’m a business coach. The only way I could convince my mum that I’m making a very nice living was to show her my bank statement. Then she got it!

  • David

    That was a riot! I’ve long since given up trying to explain to my family what I do. So instead I have some fun with it.

    “You know how if you get that email from Bill Gates where he gives you money for all the emails you send out?” It’s like that except for with Google… Oh….I see (confused look)

  • Brian Austad

    When my Mom runs into people I knew growing up and they ask about me, I asked her, cause I’m curious, “What did you tell them I do”? She always replies, “I don’t know what you do. I just told them your doing something with computers.”

    Thanks for helping me promote my services Mom :/

  • Melanie Nathan

    I’ve got the Internet Marketer/SEO conversation down pat with most of my family and friends (although many still don’t understand). What I really beat my head against the wall on, is explaining what a ‘link developer’ is/does. That’s just crazy talk to most people. Also, is Bonanza even on TV anymore??

  • Kenny G.

    Pretty cool video. Thanks for the post.

  • Wasim Ismail

    LOLLLL – “That’s why you play on twitter all day” – (when we were younger, it was “That’s why you play Computer Games all day”)
    Love it – It would take me ages explaining to my parents what I do. To help them understand better, I got them a smart phone, and signed them up to twitter and facebook and said, “Read what I post out” – I think it’s working. But I get a whole lot of weird (good for articles) questions on the dinner table.

  • Vanessa

    Oh, this is hilarious! Thanks for the laugh…I was starting to think that there was nothing funny about my parents/family totally missing the point when it comes to what I do.

    I mainly just say, ” I write for the Internet” or “You know when you search on Google and there’s allll of those websites listed on the page? I help people get their website listed on the top of that page”.

    Then I get the, “Ohhh….mhmm”, followed by a faint smile and look of concern.

  • Blake Waddill

    I tell people I fight robots. Usually they laugh and leave me alone.

    Shockingly, “online marketing” works just fine for me… then again, practically my entire family is made up of programmers.

  • Jenny Halasz

    I love the “I fight robots” answer too.

    I usually tailor my answer to their answer to this question: “Do you use Google?”

    If the answer is no, I say well I work with computers, but to explain more, I’d need an easel and some charts. Usually they just laugh and walk away.

    If the answer is yes, I say “well the order of the results is dependent on a lot of things. I study those things and help companies use that knowledge to get listed higher.”

    Both answers make me sound smart, and like I’m not in need of hand outs. ;-)

    I’m lucky because my parents understand what I do. But cocktail parties and more distant relatives are a challenge…

  • Colleen

    This is a perfect interpretation! I have this exact same conversation with my family members. I usually get a long blank stare and then they are quick to change the subject. I think they just like to pretend they understand.

  • Adonna

    *This* is hilarious. I can totally relate to this. I bet I’ve explained it 20 times to my family. Um.. they still don’t get it. The stares seem hauntingly similar to the ones that people get when they say they are going to be a Rockstar for a living. 0_o
    Thanks for the laugh!

  • Anthony Young

    LOL ==> “Do you have money to eat?” I get this question from my parents often… Thanks for the video – you made me laugh out loud in the office this morning. :-)

  • Danika Atkins

    I’ve thought about sitting them in front of the TV during a “Mad Men” marathon and explaining that it’s kind of like that, only on the internet and with half the booze :P

  • Fajr

    Hilarious! People still think I “design” websites and then ask me if I know that if you put “Beyonce” on your site, your site will rank high for “Beyonce”. I just blank stare and nod…

  • Stephanie Cockerl

    My nana tells everyone that I teach. She’s right, so I don’t even try to correct her.

  • Uncle Demotivator

    I tell people I mess with Google. Problem solved ;)

  • Nick Gowdy

    Whenever it comes up, I deflect onto my brother (Systems Architect). Rather than experience the pain of explaining Internet marketing, I get the hilarity of watching people’s faces glaze over as he explains things like N-Tier Application Architecture.

  • Susan Payton

    Ohh Lisa. That’s a little too close for comfort. Love it! I also get that because I work from home, clearly I’m not busy. Ever.

  • James Norquay

    Haha some one just linked me to this video, a good one that is for sure. My parents say the same things when I said I was making money from Google and SEO they thought I was up to something illegal.

  • Andrew Cao

    Great video to always come back to, will use it in my presentation next week!

  • Cassie Witt

    Ha! That was good!

    Being a Social Media Specialist really isn’t that different. I’ve had almost the same conversation with all my relatives at one time or another. It’s funny to see them say “Awww…” when you can tell they have no clue what I’m talking about!

    Ah, good times, good times.

  • Glennette

    That was hilarious Lisa! Thanks for sharing. I just tell family members that I “create websites and help businesses rank higher in search engines”. I teach a class at the local university and you’d think I’m a professor with tenure if you heard my Mom tell people about it. It’s sweet though and I’m glad she’s proud of me. :o)

    Glennette Goodbread
    Premium Web Design and Hosting