SEO: What is Search Engine Optimization?

SEO - Search Engine Optimization
A complete guide to what SEO is, hot to optimize your pages, and how to master it to rank well in Search Engine Results Pages or SERP
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What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization, commonly known as SEO, is a strategic process aimed at enhancing your website’s visibility across various search engines like Google and Microsoft Bing. This process is particularly crucial when people are searching for the products you offer, the services you render, or information on topics where you hold significant expertise or experience.

SEO involves a collection of practices that focus on improving the presentation and ranking of web pages in organic, or non-paid, search results. Organic searches are the primary avenue for individuals to discover and interact with online content. Therefore, an effective SEO strategy is not just about increasing the number of visitors to your website, but also about enhancing the quality of that traffic.

The ultimate objective of SEO is to boost the visibility of your pages in search results, making it more likely for your website to be found and clicked on. This increased visibility and traffic ideally translate into a higher conversion of website visitors into customers, clients, or a loyal audience that frequently returns to your site.

Why is SEO important?

SEO is an indispensable marketing piece of your digital marketing strategy. Primarily, it’s worth noting that organic search accounts for 53% of all website traffic.

This significant contribution is one reason why the global SEO industry is projected to skyrocket to an impressive $122.11 billion by 2028. SEO generates tangible business outcomes for brands, businesses, and organizations of all magnitudes.

Whenever individuals plan to travel, perform an activity, seek information, conduct research, or purchase a product/service, their journey usually commences with a search.

However, in today’s digital landscape, search is incredibly diversified. Users may conduct searches on conventional web search engines (like Google, Microsoft Bing), social platforms (such as YouTube, TikTok), or retailer websites (for instance, Amazon).

To fully grasp the significance of SEO, IT is important to break down the main components thatlet’s dissect our explanation into three components:

Organic Search Results

These are the non-paid listings that appear on a search engine results page (SERP) that the search engine deems most pertinent to the user’s search. While ads, particularly pay-per-click (PPC) ones, constitute a large part of many SERPs, organic search results are unique. They are ranked based on the search engine’s organic ranking algorithms, not on advertiser bids. In other words, you cannot buy a higher ranking in organic search results.

Quality of Organic Traffic

This refers to the relevance of the user and their search query to the content on your website. Attracting a multitude of visitors is pointless if they are misled to your site for the wrong reasons. For instance, if your website is about selling apples as a farmer, but Google directs users searching for Apple computers to your site, these visitors are unlikely to convert. High-quality traffic comprises visitors who are genuinely interested in what your site has to offer, be it products, information, or other resources. Effective SEO leverages the search engine’s ability to align a user’s search intent with the web pages displayed in the SERP.

Quantity of Organic Traffic

This is the volume of users who land on your site through organic search results. Users are more inclined to click on search results that are prominently displayed at the top of the SERP. Hence, employing your SEO strategy to rank relevant pages as high as possible is crucial. The more high-quality visitors you draw to your site, the higher the likelihood of increasing valuable conversions.

Another reason why SEO is vital for brands and businesses is its sustainability, a feature that sets it apart from other marketing channels. When a paid campaign concludes, the traffic it generated also ceases. Traffic from social media is, at best, inconsistent and a mere shadow of its former volume.

SEO forms the bedrock of comprehensive marketing, where every action your company takes is significant. Once you discern what your users desire, you can apply this understanding across your:

  1. Campaigns (both paid and organic).
  2. Website content.
  3. Social media platforms.


SEO is a channel that propels the traffic necessary to meet essential business objectives (like conversions, visits, and sales). It also fosters trust – a well-ranked website is generally perceived as authoritative or reliable, qualities that Google aims to reward with improved rankings.

How does SEO work?

Search engines such as Google and Bing employ crawlers, also known as bots or spiders, to collect data about all the accessible content on the internet. The crawler initiates its journey from a recognized webpage and navigates through internal links to other pages within the same site, as well as external links leading to pages on different sites.

The content found on these pages, along with the context of the links it includes, aids the crawler in comprehending the subject of each page. It also indicates its semantic relationship with all other pages in the search engine’s vast database, known as an index.

When a user inputs or voices a query into the search box, the search engine utilizes intricate algorithms to extract what it deems to be the most precise and beneficial list of results for that query. These organic results can encompass web pages filled with text, news articles, images, videos, local business listings, and other specialized types of content.

Numerous factors contribute to the search engines’ algorithms, and these factors are continually evolving to keep pace with shifting user behavior and advancements in machine learning.

SEO ranking signals

SEO professionals leverage their knowledge of these ranking factors to devise and execute search marketing strategies that incorporate a mix of on-page, off-page, and technical best practices. Any organization aiming to secure and sustain high SERP rankings, and consequently, attract a significant amount of high-quality user traffic, should adopt a strategy that emphasizes user experience, utilizes non-deceptive ranking methods, and adapts to the evolving behaviors of both search engines and users.

It’s worth mentioning that while other digital marketing practices such as conversion rate optimization (CRO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, social media management, email marketing, and community management often intersect with SEO, these tactics generally fall outside the purview and definition of traditional search marketing. If you’re keen on exploring any of these areas further, the Moz Blog offers categories related to all these topics and more.

How is SEO different from SEM and PPC?

SEM and PPC are two frequently used terms you’ll encounter here at Stedica® and within the broader search marketing community.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) are both strategies used to increase visibility in search engines, but they operate in distinct ways.

  1. SEO focuses on optimizing a website to appear higher in organic (non-paid) search results. It involves enhancing website content, structure, and external factors to make it more appealing to search engines. The primary goal is to attract organic traffic by ensuring the website ranks well for specific keywords or phrases.

  2. SEM, on the other hand, is a broader strategy that encompasses SEO but also includes other search marketing tactics, like PPC (Pay-Per-Click).

  3. PPC is a type of SEM where advertisers pay a fee each time their ad is clicked. Instead of earning traffic organically, as with SEO, businesses buy their way to the top of search results using ads. Advertisers bid on keywords, and when users search for those keywords, the paid ads appear alongside the organic results.

Continue reading to understand these terms and their relationship with SEO.


SEM, an acronym for search engine marketing, is more commonly referred to as search marketing.

Search marketing falls under the digital marketing umbrella. It’s a comprehensive term that encompasses both SEO and PPC activities, all aimed at driving traffic through organic and paid search.

In essence, search marketing is the strategy of attracting traffic and visibility from search engines via both paid and non-paid efforts.

So, how do SEO and SEM differ? In reality, they aren’t different – SEO is just a component of SEM:

SEO = attracting organic traffic from search engines. SEM = attracting both organic and paid traffic from search engines. This is where it can get a bit perplexing.

Nowadays, many people use SEM and PPC interchangeably (which we’ll discuss in the following section).

This notion seems to undermine SEO. However, both SEO and PPC are forms of marketing.

Here’s an easy way to conceptualize SEO and SEM:

Consider SEM as a coin. SEO represents one side of that coin, while PPC is on the opposite side.


PPC, or pay-per-click, is a form of digital marketing where advertisers incur a cost each time one of their ads is clicked on.

Essentially, advertisers place bids on specific keywords or phrases they want their ads to show up for in the search engine results. When a user searches for one of those keywords or phrases, the advertiser’s ad will be displayed among the top results.

So, if we consider search marketing as a coin, SEO and PPC represent two facets of the same coin – SEO is the non-paid side, while PPC is the paid side.

Another crucial point: it’s vital not to view it as “SEO vs. PPC” (i.e., which one is superior) because these channels complement each other. It’s not a matter of choosing one over the other – ideally, select both (provided your budget permits it).

As previously noted, the terms SEM and PPC are often used synonymously within the industry. However, that’s not the case here on Search Engine Land.

Whenever we refer to “SEM,” it’s because we’re discussing both SEO (organic search) and PPC (paid search).

SEO main concepts and techniques

Main SEO Concepts and Techniques

As I have explained before, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a dynamic field that revolves around enhancing a website’s visibility in search engine results.

By understanding and implementing a range of techniques, businesses can ensure they’re not only visible to their target audience but also offer value and relevance.

The following section delves into the core concepts and techniques of SEO, providing a foundational understanding of each and illustrating how they collectively contribute to a website’s online success.

Whether you’re new to the digital landscape or looking to refine your existing knowledge, this overview will shed light on the integral components of effective SEO.

Keyword Research

This is the process of identifying and analyzing the terms that people enter into search engines. By understanding these terms, websites can create content that aligns with what users are searching for.

Related content: Keyword Research: Unlock your SEO Success with ease!

On-Page SEO

This refers to optimizing individual web pages to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic. It involves tweaking elements like the title, meta descriptions, headers, and content itself to be more relevant for specific keywords.

Related content: On-Page SEO: A step-by-step mastery guide you will love

Off-Page SEO

This encompasses actions taken outside your own website to impact your rankings within search engine results pages (SERPs). Common techniques include building backlinks from other reputable websites.

Related content: Off-Page SEO: A step-by-step mastery guide you will love

Technical SEO

This focuses on improving the backend structure and foundation of a website. Elements like site speed, mobile optimization, XML sitemaps, and structured data all fall under this category.

Related content: Technical SEO: Unlocking the Ultimate Power for Search Dominance

Content Creation

High-quality, relevant content is essential for SEO. This content should provide value to users and answer the questions they’re asking search engines.

Related content: Unleash Your Potential: Revolutionary Strategies in Content Creation!

Link Building

This is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. A hyperlink (usually just called a link) is a way for users to navigate between pages on the internet. Search engines use links to crawl the web and establish a page’s authority.

Related content: Tips to enhance your brand with Link Building techniques

Local SEO

This is an effective way to market your local business online. It helps businesses promote their products and services to local customers at the exact time they’re looking for them.

Mobile SEO

With the rise of mobile device usage, optimizing websites for mobile search is crucial. This ensures that users have an optimal experience when accessing your site from a mobile device.

User Experience (UX)

While not a traditional SEO technique, UX plays a significant role in ranking. Search engines prefer sites that offer a good user experience, which includes fast load times, easy navigation, and mobile-friendliness.

Voice Search Optimization

As voice-activated devices become more prevalent, optimizing for voice search is becoming essential. This involves understanding and implementing keywords in a more conversational tone.

Main SEO strategies

As SEO evolves, so do the SEO strategies that are applied. These are the main trends in SEO strategies that you should consider for your website:

Voice searches

It is estimated that by 2020, 50% of searches will be done through voice, with technologies such as smart speakers or Google Assistant. This implies an important change in the way positioning is approached, since voice searches tend to be longer, more long tail and expressed in a more natural way.


Artificial intelligence is playing an increasingly prominent role in positioning. Therefore, instead of searching for keywords blindly, search engines are able to detect the intentionality of a user even if he expresses his search in different ways. Therefore, the focus should always be on usefulness to the user and quality content.

Google’s zero position

Increasingly, Google searches incorporate a “position zero” result, that is, it shows part of the content of a page as a direct answer to the user’s question. In order to appear here, it is critical to include rich data on your website.

Mobile first prioritization

It is a fact that for years Google has been deciding the ranking of websites based on their mobile version, not the computer version. Therefore, there is no excuse for not having a perfectly optimized mobile website, either through a responsive design or AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages).

Brand authority as an SEO factor

As Google’s algorithms get smarter, it seems that factors such as unlinked brand mentions could start to come into play. In the end, brand awareness and SEO are two mutually beneficial elements, so both need to work well together.

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