What is SEO?

The short answer is search engine optimization. The world of search engine optimization is complex, but understanding even the basics can make a big difference in web traffic. From keywords, to links, and search engines, this blog will cover the basics of SEO.

Search Engines

Search Engine

Everyone knows what a search engine is. It’s Bing. It’s Google. It’s Ask Jeeves (apparently it’s just “Ask” now). These digital engines search billions of pieces of content and evaluate hundreds of thousands of factors to determine which content will answer your question. Search engines do this by cataloging everything on the internet, like a library. This process is known as crawling and indexing. Then, the engine orders content, or ranks them, into how well it matches your question.

Search Engine Optimization


SEO = search engine optimization. Moz.com says SEO is, “the practice of increasing both the quality and quantity of website traffic, as well as exposure to your brand, through non-paid search engine results.” Basically, SEO is understanding what people are searching for online, the words they use to search, and the content they want to consume. The point is to quickly provide users with the content they desire in the format in which they want it. Why should you care? Well, if you’re a business owner, you want your website to be at the top of their search results.

User Intent

When a person searches for something like, concert tickets or local pizza places, their desired content is called user intent. If a person searches for “pizza”, is their intent to find a local pizzeria, find a pizza recipe, or to research the origin of pizza?

Common user intent types:

  • Informational: Searching for information. Example: “What is the origin of pizza?”
  • Navigational: Searching for a specific website. Example: “Pizza Hut”
  • Transactional: Searching to buy something. Example: “good deals on local pizza”

Providing relevant and high quality content on your website will help you rank higher in search results. You can see user intent by Googling keywords and evaluating the results. Evaluate what content your top-ranking competitors are providing that you are missing.

What about paid listings?

Paid Listing

Paid advertising is great for generating traffic, but the majority of online traffic is driven by search engines. Of all US Google searches, only 3.4% resulted in a click on a paid ad/listing. Organic search results cover more ground and receive more clicks than paid ads. SEO is a marketing technique that can continue to pay for itself. If you can provide good content that ranks high in the right keywords, your web traffic can continue to climb. Whereas advertising and pay-per-click listings need funding to keep traffic on your website.


Every website is different, so you need to take time to understand you or your client’s business goals. SEO can help your website rank higher in search results and drive more traffic to your website. There’s not much use to ranking highly, if no one is actually clicking on your site. Setting goals will help you determine which areas of SEO you should focus on. Before trying SEO, make sure you’ve set your business goals and then use SEO to accomplish them!

Want to learn more? Check out Google’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide!

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