Search Engine Optimization: A marketing process that generates search engine traffic. It is based on getting high rankings in search engines, for a site’s chosen keywords. SEO is the acronym for search engine optimization.
There’s a lot of information in that definition. Let’s break that definition into its parts and simplify things to more easily answer the question, “What is SEO?“.
Search Engine Optimization as marketing: The goal of Search Engine Optimization is to generate sales. That is why SEO is a form of marketing, since marketing ultimately aims to sell.
SEO as a process: Traffic will not appear instantaneously. SEO requires sustained, ongoing effort for at least a few months. The more competition there is, and the more established it is in the search engines, the longer results will take to materialize.
Rankings in the search engines: Search engines are used to find information, which they display in the form of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Each SERP consists of 10 websites that are ranked from the top of the screen to the bottom according to how relevant they are to the search.
Chosen Keywords: Keywords are descriptions of the information people are looking for. For example, the keywords “Used Cars in Montreal” are a search engine user’s description of the information he’s looking for: secondhand cars in the city of Montreal.
So what is SEO?
It’s a promotional practice that aims to increase sales by raising a website into the top of the search results, where most people click.
Q: Why would improving a website’s rankings in the search results generate sales?
A: 90% percent of searchers only visit sites in the first 10 results, according to research.
That means that 90% of searchers only buy from the top 10 ranked websites.
Studies have also shown that the higher your ranking in the top 10, the larger the percentage of visitors that visit your site. This trend is only accentuating with time, as people get used to the top results being relevant, and sufficient to answer their query.
But how does search engine optimization work? How do you do SEO?
SEO works in three parts.
First, there’s keyword research to determine relevant keywords that potential customers will use. That is, we ask: “what would a customer type into a search engine to find this site?” And then this is applied to a Pay-Per-Click campaign to ensure that those keywords convert visitors to sales or leads.
Second, the website itself is edited to include keywords where search engines look for them. For example, title tags, header tags and alt tags in a website’s code, as well as the introduction and conclusion of the main body of text are typical places to use keywords. Of course, this editing is done in such a way as to maintain the existing meaning and style, simply making the changes necessary to achieve rankings.
Third, contacts are made with other website owners to ask them to link to the site. Search engines look at links from other websites as approval votes, in the same way a newspaper review might encourage readers to eat at a restaurant. The best links to get are those from authoritative, related sites. For example, in the hospitality industry, links from Frommer’s and Fodor’s carry a lot of weight.
The bottom line of search engine optimization is this: The higher you rank, the more visitors you get. The more visitors you get, the more sales you make.
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I hope this helped explain to you what search engine optimization is. Do you still have questions? Find out more from the SEO Frequently Asked Questions page (the category of SEO FAQ posts may also be of interest). You might also like to read the What is Search Engine Marketing (SEM) page, which explains what SEM is and how it’s different from SEO, or you can ask for some SEO tech support.