SEO in Plain English

SEO – what is it? It’s Search Engine Optimisation.  SEO in plain English!!

Um, OK, so what is it?   Many people will tell you that it is some stunningly complicated voodoo that you best leave to them to sort out for you, at some black magic prices. Well, here is our plain English guide where we hope to show you that it comes down to just two things. We’ll show you how to do them well – and how to avoid some all too common traps.

If people want to find something, they type into Google’s (or Bing or Yandex – we’ll just say ‘Google’ from now on, but this applies to all search engines) search box. If, for example they are looking for green Wellington Boots, then at the time of writing, this is what Google shows:


SEO in plain english shows how Amazon has best SEO for Green wellington Boots

Amazon has best SEO for Green Wellington Boots


There are many retailers selling green Wellington boots, but we can see that is top of the list. So why is Amazon higher in the list than the other companies? Is it because they have paid Google to place them there? No, in this case Amazon hasn’t paid Google a penny for the privilege of being top of the list. Amazon is there because Google considers them to be the result that you most want to see.

So how does Google come to that conclusion?  It uses a set of algorithms, or formulae, that it keeps top secret – because if they were known then everybody could do what was necessary to get to number one in the list…..and if everyone is number one, then nobody is (if you see what I mean) and we end up with a random list.  Google doesn’t want that, and neither do we actually. We use Google because it is really, really clever at what it does.

Note that last paragraph.  There are lots of companies that offer to improve your search engine rating, and some of them charge thousands of pounds – but if Google is keeping its secrets tight to its chest, how can these companies possibly know how to get you to number one?

The truth is, they don’t. They simply can’t guarantee that. However, there are a wide range of practices that it is widely accepted will improve your chances of ranking higher in the search lists.

All of these practices fall under two large umbrellas. Optimisation and Authority.

Search Engine Optimisation in Plain English

This is about making it as easy as possible for Google (or any other search engine) to find what a potential customer is looking for on your website.  Let’s take a look at the entry for Amazon above:

Amazon has a page on its website which has the title “Ladies and Men’s Green Dunlop Wellington Boots”.

This page has a URL (or address) which includes

and underneath is a description of the page, starting “Ladies and Men’s Green Dunlop Wellington Boots”

These three things make Google very happy. Amazon have optimised their page for Google (i.e. made it easy for Google to understand what the page is about). Now, you might be thinking ‘well that all looks pretty straightforward,  there must be a bit more to it than this’ and you’d be right. There are many more things that can be done to help Google (and again, paying them isn’t one of those things) but getting those three things right will make more difference to the O of your SEO than anything else.

OK, but if by chance you don’t happen to be a company selling green Wellington boots, then which words should you use in your own pages?  This is actually a much harder question than it might, at first, appear to be.  Our article on keyword research in plain English explains why, and is a recommended companion read to this SEO guide.

But wait! You actually are a green Wellington boot sales company (what were the chances?) , and you do those three things above, will you rank alongside Amazon? No! The reason why not is the second element of SEO, which is of course ‘A’ (!!).

Search Engine Authority in Plain English

When Google was in its younger years, people cottoned on to the above and crammed their descriptions full of the words that they wanted to rank for. If we look at the descriptions from the sites above, they read like “normal English” but a few years ago you might have seen descriptions such as “boots, green, boots, Wellington, boots, boots”  and so on, you get the idea.  Google wasn’t happy about this and so it changed its algorithm to do two things. First to move such sites down their list instead of up it, and two to factor in Authority.  Which sites were ones it could trust? The ones it trusted the most, it placed at the top of the search lists.

Gaining Authority

So how does a site earn Authority in Google’s eyes? For an organisation like Amazon it was easy. It’s a well-known company, it has extremely high volume activity and it has a good reputation in the world (tax issues aside). On top of which, thousands of other companies put links on their own sites that lead to Amazon’s sites, so each of those companies value a relationship with Amazon too. Google can see all those links and it likes that.  So, getting other sites to link to your site will help your Authority.  A word of warning though – those same companies that were stuffing their descriptions with “boots, boots, boots” also offer to sell links. They offer to link to your site from hundreds of their own – for a price. This is one of many tactics that fall under the label of Black Hat SEO.  Google wised up to this in 2015 and it doesn’t like it one little bit, and so it not only looks at the volume of links to your site, but it assesses the quality of the sites that are linked to yours.  If you are linked to by a high authority site such as Amazon, that confers authority onto your site and is a very good thing (note – we are talking about a link on Amazon leading to your site, not the other way round); however, if you are linked to from a site that Google doesn’t like then it won’t like you either. In SEO terms this is very bad news.  Choose your friends wisely!

Of course, getting high authority sites to link to your site is not easy – what’s in it for them? Well, there are ways to increase your chances. If you would like to know more please enter your details to get instant access to our guide on building authority.


  • SEO in Plain English, is Search Engine Optimisation. and is about improving the chances of your website ranking higher in Google or other search lists than if you did nothing.
  • Choosing your page title, page address and page description wisely will help your SEO.
  • Using spammy unnatural English in any of them will harm your SEO.
  • Having links to your site from high Authority sites will help your SEO.
  • Having links from low quality sites will harm your SEO.

If you would like help with your SEO, or your SEA, or indeed both, then take a look at the Roman Britons SEO package.  As ever, it’s in plain English.