SEO, or Search Engine Optimization is one of the most common terms in digital marketing. SEO refers to the concept of optimizing and manipulating your website to improve its visibility in search engines (like Google). Good SEO practices ensure your website shows up quickly when people search for terms related to your business on Bing, Google, and Yahoo.

SEO is an umbrella term referring to a number of practices used to appeal to specific aspects of search engine algorithms. To successfully engage in SEO, many companies need to invest in everything from backlinking, to keyword research, and technical site optimization.

What is SEO?

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the practices companies use to improve the positioning and appearance of web pages within organic search results. When you see a site ranked towards the top of the first page on Google, without an “Ad” description next to it, this is a sign of good SEO.

SEO is essentially because there are billions of pages available for users to browse on the web today. To determine which pages should be offered which searches, Search engines like Bing and Google use bots to crawl pages on the web, collecting information and placing it in an index.

The index is like a giant library, where Google can pull information from shelves around the world to help users find what they’re looking for. Algorithms analyze pages to determine where they should be placed when offered to searchers. There are various “signals” or ranking factors used to determine the order of pages in the search engine results.

How does SEO work?

Search Engine Optimization is a somewhat mysterious concept, as no-one knows for certain exactly which ranking factors hold the most weight at any given time. Evolving algorithms in search engines make it difficult to determine what might guarantee a top spot on page one.

Unlike with paid search ads, companies can’t pay search engines for a higher organic search ranking. Instead, the content on the page, the way it’s structured, and various other factors need to convince the search engines that a page is the best possible resource to present to a searcher in response to a specific search term.

There are a lot of different factors which go into search engine algorithms, including:

  • Domain-level link features
  • Page-level link features
  • Keyword and content on pages
  • Keyword-agnostic page features
  • Engagement and traffic/query data
  • Domain-level keyword usage
  • Domain-level brand metrics
  • Page-level social metrics
  • Domain-level keyword agnostic features

SEO experts use their knowledge of the various ranking factors to develop and implement strategies for improving a site’s organic position. Most strategies require a balance of off-page, on-page and technical best practices. There are also various tools which can assist with SEO factor tracking.

Is SEO important?

SEO is a foundational factor in achieving brand reach and awareness online. For digital marketing, SEO is essential to gaining potential growth, because people conduct trillions of searches all the time, often with the intention of finding information about services and products.

Over the last few years, search results have been evolving to give users more direct answers and information relevant to their specific needs. Achieving excellent SEO rankings have grown more difficult, particularly with the arrival of voice search, rich results, and knowledge panels.

However, without effective SEO, it can be difficult to stand out online.

Updated January 2, 2023

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