What is SEO?

What is SEO?

A brief explanation of what it is and what it is not

What is SEO? WebCie MTL Inc. sets out to answer this question in our second blog post. If you think SEO is simply sprinkling keywords into a website, read on!

The phrase “search engine optimization” and its accompanying acronym, SEO, have been thrown around with abandon over the last few years. So much so that many people who use the term often use it without truly understanding what it really means. More specifically, many use the term without truly understanding what SEO entails as far as defining the goals behind an SEO campaign, work requirements involved in and around a SEO campaign and monitoring the success of an SEO campaign.

What is SEO analytics graph image, WebCie MTL Inc.A simple versus detailed explanation of SEO

There is a nebulous sort of quasi-definition of SEO floating around in many people’s mind about what SEO is. However, real understanding of what it is, is still lacking for most. Maybe the simplest, non-technical way to describe the definition of SEO is to say that it is a process that over time makes it easier for internet users searching for your product, service or information to find your website (preferably before they find your competitors).

Another widely, wildly and overly simplified popular definition of SEO is the act of “sprinkling in a couple of keywords into a website here and there”. For many people, that’s all it is…sprinkling keywords into your website here and there. The rest of the accompanying work never really gets any spotlight.

Some people defined SEO as getting on page one of a search engine ranking page, that is the goal, but for some, that it in fact what it is. Many people as might agree with this definition and the definitions above, accept anyone familiar with the process of SEO would also be quick to point out that, it is not necessarily that simple.

Here’s a funny video that highlights the overly simplified ROI through SEO sentiment in popular marketing culture >>> Click here

Lastly, there is the more accepted definition of SEO which is the process of doing on-page and off-page work. This too is a little too dumbed down an explanation of what SEO in 2017/2018 is. It is far too broad a definition and does not really convey the work behind what makes up SEO..

So ultimately, defining SEO properly is defining a process and articulating the many steps involved in that process.

Defining the process of SEO and it’s many steps

SEO ultimately is the act of scrutinizing a website from top to bottom including, but not limited to scrutinizing; the websites make up and how it has been built, analyzing the competitors who are showing up nicely for the phrases and terms we would ultimately like the website in question to show up for, its current placement in search engines, the body of content currently in place on the site, setting up tools to monitor and measure any changes that may be made to the on-page work done to the site and to the off-page work done off of the site, assessing any supporting social media available to support the website in question and yes, getting some keyword search volume estimates for the words that must be “sprinkled in”.

With that said, the next thing to think about is how you will pull of the processes involved in applying good on-page SEO. “How” being the operative word. If you do not craft your website with SEO in mind to begin with – say you designed it or had it designed a decade ago – applying basic to advanced on-page techniques later can be a bit more difficult. Even if you do learn about it before you set your website up, there are a lot of bits and pieces that have to work together seamlessly in order to really optimize your site for a search engine.

Furthermore, in describing SEO as a process, you enter a bit of a rabbit hole in that once you begin describing what SEO is you inevitably fall into describing what SEO is not, what local SEO is and what things like video optimization and social optimization are.

For these reasons this is why many do not attempt to really describe it at all, rather categorize it as a simple little thing that can easily be done by almost anyone. What people commonly describe as SEO is really just the tip of the iceberg, which I suppose, you could argue sort of begins with “…sprinkling a couple of keywords into a site here and there” lol!

Understanding why a clear definition of SEO is imperative

If you have a product or service to sell, and you’re aiming to use your website to fuel growth, you will want the most potential customers to find your website when they are in the active process of searching. What the process of SEO does over time (time which can vary widely depending on the goals set) is make your website more susceptible to being favoured by search engines as it has built up many defining characteristics, over time, that make it more likely to contain the answer to what a searcher is looking for.

With that said, though, the next thing to think about is how that happens because the “how” is the operative word. If you do not craft your website with SEO in mind to begin with – say you designed it or had it designed a decade ago – applying it later is a bit more difficult. Even if you do learn about good techniques before you set your website up, there are a lot of bits and pieces that have to work together seamlessly in order to really optimize your site for a search engine.

What's SEO? WebCie MTL Inc analytics on Mac photoSEO in action

So what happens during an online search initiated by a user? We, as users browsing on the internet, use search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo as our questions and answers source. We “ask” the search engine our question by punching in a few descriptive words for what we’re trying to find, and the search engine “answers” by producing results in a listing (called SERP – Search Engine Ranking Page) that can sometimes go on for hundreds of pages. This process is like a waterfall.

When we ask our question, the search engine “spider” crawls through all the data available “out there” on the web, brings back what it sees as relevant and the search engine feeds that data into its index. The index goes through the search engine’s algorithm – like a mathematical equation x + y=z – and based on the algorithm’s parameters of what is most important to least important due to the strength or weakness of the indexed content, produces a listing of results for the searcher to view. All of this is happening in split seconds after the initial query is input from the internet user. It can boggle the mind that all this is going on behind the scenes when you ask Google something simple like “What is SEO?”.

The part of this process that most affects you, as a website owner wanting to get listed in those results, is the strength or weakness of your content. What the spider/crawler finds and brings back for indexing is of utmost importance. The content and set up of your website, from the domain name through to the written content on your pages and how they are connected, has to make sense to the spider in terms of the search. For example, if the search query is “how to bake bread”, and you’re website is all about baking bread so that “how” and “bake” and “bread” are properly implemented throughout all the website pages key meta area’s, then the spider can clearly understand that your website meets some of the criteria to rank well. Once your site’s content data is brought back to the index and is matched against all the other site’s that have similar content, then, in a fraction of a second that is where good SEO gets you ranked high in the results. Will your site’s content be strong enough to get to the top of the list, or will it get buried back on page five?

SEO – It’s NOT simply sprinkling keywords

Strong SEO, meeting all the criteria of the search engine’s algorithm means that your site can come out on top when matched against others, and your site gets pushed up in the rankings to the first page of search results. So when you think about SEO going forward, understand that if you don’t optimize your website so a search engine can understand that it should be included for search results and the index/algorithm do not see enough strong content to beat out others, you can’t land at the top of the list and get searchers to come to your website.

Feel free to add comments at the bottom of this post and let us know what you think of the article.

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