What Is SEO?

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of enhancing the visibility and ranking of web pages in organic search results. By optimizing a website’s content and structure, it’s possible to increase the quantity and quality of traffic from search engines. This is crucial for online businesses and organizations, as organic search is the primary way for people to find and access information on the internet.

Why is SEO important?

To fully grasp the significance of SEO, it’s helpful to break it down into three key components:

  1. Organic search results: These are the unpaid listings on a search engine results page (SERP) that the search engine deems most relevant to the user’s query. Organic search results are distinct from paid ads, as they are positioned based on the search engine’s organic ranking algorithms instead of advertiser bids.
  2. Quality of organic traffic: The relevance of the user and their search query to the content on your website. High-quality traffic includes only those visitors who are genuinely interested in the products, information, or other resources your site offers. SEO helps to match a user’s search intent to the web pages listed in the SERP.
  3. Quantity of organic traffic: The number of users who reach your site via organic search results. Users are more likely to click on search results that appear near the top of the SERP, making it essential to use SEO to rank relevant pages as highly as possible. The more high-quality visitors you attract to your site, the more likely you are to see an increase in valuable conversions.

If you’re an agency or in-house SEO looking for resources to educate clients or stakeholders about search marketing, we suggest using, personalizing and sharing this presentation on the basics and value of SEO.

How does SEO work?

Search engines like Google and Bing use specialized programs called crawlers, also known as bots or spiders, to scan and gather information about all the content available on the internet. These crawlers begin by visiting a known web page and then follow internal links to other pages within the same site, as well as external links to pages on other sites. The crawler examines the content on each page, as well as the context of the links it followed, to understand what the page is about and how it’s semantically connected to other pages within the search engine’s massive database, known as an index.

When a user types or speaks a query into the search box, the search engine uses advanced algorithms to select the most relevant and useful set of results for that query. These organic results can include web pages full of text, news articles, images, videos, local business listings, and other niche types of content.

The search engines’ algorithms are influenced by a plethora of factors, which are constantly evolving to keep pace with changing user behavior and advancements in machine learning. Here’s how a group of experts ranked their importance:

Search engine optimization experts use their knowledge of ranking factors to create and execute search marketing strategies that incorporate a combination of on-page, off-page, and technical best practices. An organization looking to achieve and maintain high search engine results page (SERP) rankings and, in turn, attract a large amount of high-quality user traffic, should adopt a strategy that emphasizes user experience, uses non-manipulative ranking techniques, and adapts to changes in search engine and user behavior.

It’s important to note 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 have a close relationship with SEO, these tactics generally fall outside the scope and definition of traditional search marketing. If you’re interested in learning more about these areas, the Moz Blog offers categories related to all of these topics and more.

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