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What is SEO?(Search Engine Optimization)

What is SEO?(Search Engine Optimization)

SEO Search engine optimization is the science of boosting a website's visibility when consumers search for items or services. The more visible a website is on search engines, the more probable it is that the brand will capture business. SEO means the process of improving your website to increase its visibility in Google, Microsoft Bing, and other search engines whenever people search for:

  • Products you sell.
  • Services yoru provide.
  • Information on issues in which you have extensive knowledge and/or experience.

The higher the visibility of your sites in search results, the more likely they will be found and clicked on. Finally, the purpose of search engine optimisation is to assist attract website visitors who will become consumers, clients, or a returning audience.

How is SEO different from SEM and PPC?

SEM and PPC are two more terms you'll hear and read about a lot on Search Engine Land and in the general search marketing community.

Read more about both of these terms and how they’re related to SEO.


SEM stands for search engine marketing – or, as it is more commonly known, search marketing. 

Search marketing is a type of digital marketing. It is a catch-all word for the mix of SEO and PPC activities aimed at driving traffic via organic and sponsored search.

Simply put, search marketing is the act of increasing traffic and visibility through both paid and unpaid efforts on search engines.

So how do SEO and SEM differ? Technically they aren’t different – SEO is simply one-half of SEM:

  • SEO = driving organic traffic from search engines. 
  • SEM = driving organic and paid traffic from search engines. 

This is when things become a little perplexing.

Many individuals today confuse SEM with PPC (which we'll discuss in the next section).

This idea seems to undercut SEO. However, SEO, like PPC, is a form of marketing.

Here's the ideal way to think about SEO and SEM:

Imagine SEM is a coin. SEO is one side of that coin. PPC is on the flip side. 


PPC stands for pay-per-click – a type of digital marketing where advertisers are charged whenever one of their ads gets clicked on.

Advertisers essentially bid on certain keywords or phrases for which they want their adverts to show in search engine results. When a user searches for one of those keywords or phrases, the advertiser's ad will show towards the top of the search results.

So again, if we think of search marketing as a coin, SEO and PPC are two sides of the same coin – SEO is the unpaid side, PPC is the paid side. 

Another crucial issue is to never consider "SEO vs. PPC" (i.e., which is better) because these are complementing channels. It's not an either-or situation; always choose both (if your money allows).

As previously stated, the phrases SEM and PPC are used interchangeably in the industry. However, that isn’t the case here on Search Engine Land. 

When we use the term "SEM," we're referring to both SEO (organic search) and PPC (paid search).

Why is SEO important?

SEO is a critical marketing channel. First, and foremost: organic search delivers 53% of all website traffic.

That’s one big reason why the global SEO industry is forecast to reach a staggering $122.11 billion by 2028. SEO produces tangible commercial outcomes for brands, enterprises, and organisations of all sizes.

Whenever people want to go somewhere, do something, find information, research or buy a product/service – their journey typically begins with a search. 

But today, search is incredibly fragmented. Users can conduct searches on typical web search engines (such as Google and Microsoft Bing), social platforms (such as YouTube and TikTok), or shop websites (such as Amazon).

In fact, 61% of U.S. online shoppers start their product search on Amazon, compared to 49% who start on a search engine like Google. Also of note from that same research: 

  • 32% start on Walmart.com.
  • 20% start on YouTube.
  • 19% start on Facebook.
  • 15% start on Instagram.
  • 11% start on TikTok.

Trillions of searches are conducted every year. Search is frequently the key source of traffic for websites, therefore being "search engine friendly" on any platform where people can search for your brand or organisation is critical.

All of this indicates that increasing your exposure and ranking higher in search results than your competitors can have a beneficial influence on your bottom line.

SEO is also incredibly important because the search engine results pages (or SERPs) are super competitive – filled with search features (and PPC ads). SERP features include:

  • Knowledge panels.
  • Featured snippets.
  • Maps.
  • Images. 
  • Videos.
  • Top stories (news).
  • People Also Ask.
  • Carousels.

Another reason SEO is important for brands and enterprises is that, unlike other marketing channels, strong SEO work is long-term. When a paid campaign comes to an end, so does the traffic. Traffic via social media is unpredictable at best, and only a fraction of what it formerly was.

SEO is the foundation of holistic marketing, in which everything your business does is important.. Once you understand what your users want, you can then implement that knowledge across your:

  • Campaigns (paid and organic).
  • Website content.
  • Social media properties.

SEO is a channel that drives the traffic required to meet important business objectives (for example, conversions, visits, and purchases). It also creates trust - a website that ranks well is often viewed as authoritative or trustworthy, which are essential traits Google wishes to reward with higher rankings.

Types of SEO

There are three types of SEO:

  • Technical SEO: Optimizing the technical aspects of a website.
  • On-site SEO: Optimizing the content on a website for users and search engines.
  • Off-site SEO entails creating brand assets (e.g., people, marks, values, vision, slogans, catchphrases, colours) and doing things that will ultimately increase brand awareness and recognition (e.g., demonstrating and expanding expertise, authority, and recognition). trustworthiness) and demand generation.

You retain complete control over content and technical optimisations. That isn't always true with off-site (you can't control links from other sites, or if platforms you rely on close down or make substantial changes), but those activities are still an important element of this SEO trifecta of success.

Imagine SEO as a sports team. To win, you must have a powerful offence and defence, as well as fans (sometimes known as an audience). Think of technical optimization as your defense, content optimization as your offense, and off-site optimization as ways to attract, engage and retain a loyal fanbase.

Technical optimization

Optimisation of a website's technical elements is critical for SEO performance.

It all starts with architecture – creating a website that can be crawled and indexed by search engines. In a Reddit AMA, Gary Illyes, Google's trends analyst, said, "MAKE THAT DAMN SITE CRAWLABLE."

You want search engines to be able to easily discover and access all of the material on your pages (text, photos, and videos). What technological factors are important here: URL structure, navigation, internal linking, and more are all covered.

Experience is also an important factor in technical optimisation. Pages that load quickly and provide an excellent user experience are emphasised by search engines. Technical SEO considers elements such as Core Web Vitals, mobile friendliness and usability, HTTPS, and avoiding obtrusive interstitials.

Structured data (also known as schema) is another field of technical optimisation. Adding this code to your website can help search engines better understand your content and enhance your appearance in the search results. 

Furthermore, web hosting, CMS (content management system), and site security all play a role in SEO.

Content optimization

In SEO, your content must be optimized for two distinct audiences: humans and search engines. What this means is that you optimize the content your audience will see (what’s actually on the page) as well as what search engines will see (the code).

The goal, always, is to publish helpful, high-quality content. This is possible through a mix of understanding your audience's goals and needs, data, and Google's recommendations.

When optimizing material for individuals, be certain that:

  • Covers relevant topics with which you have experience or expertise.
  • Keywords that users would use to find the information are included.
  • Is unique or original.
  • Is well-written and free of grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Is up to date, containing accurate information.
  • Includes multimedia (e.g., images, videos).
  • Is better than your SERP competitors.
  • Is readable – structured to make it easy for people to understand the information you’re sharing (think: subheadings, paragraph length, use bolding/italics, ordered/unordered lists, reading level, etc.).

For search engines, some key content elements to optimize for are:

  • Title tags
  • Meta description
  • Header tags (H1-H6)
  • Image alt text
  • Open graph and Twitter Cards metadata

Off-site optimization

There are various activities that, while not technically "SEO" in the strictest sense, can align with and indirectly contribute to SEO success.

The activity most closely connected with off-site SEO is link building (the practise of collecting links to a website). Having a diversified number of links pointing at your website from relevant, authoritative, and reliable websites can provide significant benefits (e.g., rankings, traffic). Link quality triumphs over link quantity, and a big number of high-quality links is the goal.

And how do you get those links? There are numerous website promotion tactics that work in tandem with SEO efforts. These include:

  • Brand building and brand marketing: Techniques designed to boost recognition and reputation.
  • PR: Public relations techniques designed to earn editorially-given links.
  • Content marketing: Creating videos, ebooks, research studies, podcasts (or becoming a guest on other podcasts) and guest posting (or guest blogging) are some common options.
  • Social media marketing and optimization: Claim your brand's handle on all key platforms, optimize it completely, and distribute relevant information.
  • Listing management: Claiming, verifying and optimizing the information on any platforms where information about your company or website may be listed and found by searchers (e.g., directories, review sites, wikis).
  • Ratings and reviews: Getting them, monitoring them and responding to them.

Generally, when talking about off-site, you’re talking about activities that are not going to directly impact your ability to rank from a purely technical standpoint. 

However, again, everything your brand does matters. You want your brand to be found anywhere people may search for you. As such, some people have tried to rebrand “search engine optimization” to actually mean “search experience optimization” or “search everywhere optimization.

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