What is SEO / Search Engine Optimization?

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization SEO is the process of optimizing your website, using specific ranking factors, to gain visibility in organic (free) search engine results.  When developing a digital marketing strategy and plan, marketing managers must take SEO into account. Building a strategy and task list around these specific ranking factors isn’t easy because they change from year to year, and mistakes can trigger harsh penalties.

What are ranking factors?

Successful SEO relies on specific ranking factors that get optimized so that internet searchers can find your website in the organic (non-paid) listings when they type in specific words and phrases.

What are these specific ranking factors?

The latest version of the SEO Starter Guide from Google outlines these items as ranking factors:

  • Indexing & crawl optimization
  • Useful, helpful content
  • Optimize page titles and descriptions for search results
  • Optimize site structure and hierarchy
  • Image optimization
  • Mobile-friendly web pages
  • Website promotion (link building)

Based on usage statistics and research performed by the SEO community, there are a few more ranking factors:

  • Optimize content for voice search
  • Optimizing content for the buyer journey
  • Solicit reviews as Google loves reviews.
  • Improve click-through rate and time on page

All of these ranking factors can be divided into two categories: On-page SEO and Off-page SEO. Let’s dive into each category with specific, up-to-date optimization guidelines:

On-Page Technical SEO

While some experts refer to On-page SEO as Technical SEO, that’s not always the case. On-page SEO also refers to content optimization and keyword optimization; those will be covered separately.

Indexing and crawl optimization

Make sure that Google is indexing your website by performing a site:search for your home page. Type yourhomepageURL:search into Google; if you see results, you’re in the index. If your site is not listed, follow the “Help Google Find your Pages” under General Guidelines in Webmaster Tools.

Use Screaming Frog’s Log Analyzer to determine which URLs Google is crawling on your website. Once you have the crawl log, clean up and optimize all of the following:

  • Correct 404 errors with 301 redirects
  • If you have a very large site with pages that don’t need to show up in search results, consider blocking them using robots.txt
  • Consider implementing AMP and structured data if you have a large mobile audience


Make sure that all headings, title tags, and meta description tags have the correct HTML code.

Build, test, and release structured data on your most valuable landing pages.


Once the site URL architecture is complete and correct with the right HTML, create and submit an XML sitemap so that Google crawls and indexes every page on your website.

On-page SEO Content & Keywords


It’s important to Google that your website landing pages and blog posts are written for humans, not for search engines. This translates into several content optimization guidelines:

  • Eliminate duplicate content
  • Don’t “spam” keywords throughout the page
  • Don’t build pages with poorly written content or difficult navigation. In the long run, these pages will raise your bounce rate and hurt your rankings
  • Don’t “cannibalize” keywords; i.e. have pages with duplicate or near-duplicate keyword targets

When optimizing content for keywords, remember, without the right keyword placement in your online content and tags, your blog will never rank high on Google, Bing or any other search engine platform.

Off-Page SEO

When it comes to SEO mistakes, it’s difficult to correct off-page SEO. Move forward with caution and think of off-page SEO as a marathon rather than a sprint. If you sprint to the finish line but make errors or cheat, the penalty will come.

Pagerank is no longer a ranking factor, but experts agree that “trust rank” is important to successful SEO. Does Google trust your website? Your website will pass the trust test if the links that point to it aren’t spammy and are built with a white hat link building method.

Which link building methods fall under the white hat umbrella?

Brand mentions Encourage sites that mention your brand in news, events, and articles to link to your home page with your brand name anchor text.

Guest Posting Not all guest posting is created equal; make sure you’re only submitting guest posts to websites that are well-known and appeal to your industry and target audience.

News Articles Work with journalists to feature your company in the latest industry news and niche articles.

Podcast & Video Bloggers are excited to work with brands who can provide them with exclusive videos and podcasts. Develop a link building strategy around video and podcast creation and promotion.

Optimizing your content for voice search isn’t difficult. Build content pieces designed to answer questions and focus on local services or products. Virtual assistants


While you can’t build the reviews yourself, you can encourage your customers/clients to submit reviews. Use a combination of email follow-up and surveys to identify your happiest customers and ask them for the review. Give them a link to your Google and Facebook review pages to make it easy for them.

SEO is a combination of ranking factors that influence the likelihood of search engines returning your web page at the top of the search results for users. In addition to the technical side of SEO, it’s important that humans find your website helpful and useful. Search engines must trust your website to help searchers find the right information. As long as you focus on both on-page and off-page optimization, you’ll see an increase in website visitors and leads from your efforts.

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