Search Engine Optmization: What is it?


Search engine optimization, abbreviated as SEO, is the improvement of the online traffic accumulated by a website.

Specifically, SEO aims to improve the quality and quantity of online traffic to a website which leads to subsequent brand exposure. Importantly, this is accomplished through ‘organic’ search engine results. A good SERP tracking tool is very important to keep track of your keyword rankings so you can monitor how much organic traffic each keyword is bringing in.

Organic refers to search engine results that are not paid or funded for, but appear as a result of well done SEO. In this day and age, search engine results pages (SERP’s) are crowded up with paid advertisements as well as organic pages. They often come in many forms such as clickable images or ‘People Also Ask’ boxes underneath articles, unlike the traditional blue links that clearly indicated that the sites were advertisements in the past. (This is still the case today, but advertisements have just expanded their marketing by optimizing new set up). The unconventional new look of paid SERP’s can allow for these paid kinds of pages to amass more online traffic than before because they don’t exactly appear to look like advertisements; this makes them more attractive. In conjunction to this, note that search engines make money from paid advertisements in comparison to organic SERP’s.

There are many ways to improve your website rankings such as building backlinks, creating more relevant and quality content or using website audits to fix issues and improve the structure of your website.

This invites the discussion – what makes SEO so important?

SEO improves the ranking of a website, which in turn enhances the website’s visits as it is more visible. This has to do with a framework in which all data is sorted into an information index. This is done by a process called indexing and crawling. Crawling is the process whereby a software programme (often called a bot) follows all links which open new ones, in order to store information into a search engine database. This could be compared to a non physical library, which a search engine picks from (acting as a librarian). Optimizing a site delivers better, more specific information to a search engine. This allows for a site to be better indexed and crawled for easier conveyance in search results.

There are multiple advantages to relying on ‘organic’ search engine results. Primarily, this is a more economical approach. SEO is unique as it is a marketing channel that allows for the payment of dividends over time, when efficiently initiated, and quality content traffic proliferates whereas paid SERP’s rely on continual funding. Moreover, other advantages include better credibility and a general popularity over paid SERP’s. Only 2.8% of people click on the advertisements of all US searches (Fishkin, Rand. “Is SEO Opportunity Growing or Shrinking?” SparkToro).

As with all things, there is a right and wrong way to practice SEO. These are known as ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’ SEO; abiding by rules versus spamming or fooling search engines. An example of the white hat principle is creating solid content that is helpful and engaging. An example of the black hat principle is creating automatically generated content or hiding links. There are specific guidelines for specific search engines such as Google or Bing. Each domain will have lists of SEO protocols which are important to follow to avoid penalization.