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What is SEO? | A Guide to Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the technical process of optimizing websites and webpages.


Written by:
Natalie Steele


Updated on:
June 20, 2024

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing websites to increase a site’s visibility and organic search rankings on search engines such as Google Search.

By enhancing your website’s content to meet the criteria of these search engine algorithms, you can substantially increase your website’s visibility.

Leading to significantly higher volumes of organic traffic and improved conversions. SiteWired Web Solutions created this guide to search engine optimization will help you begin the journey.

One of the most important elements contributing to a successful SEO company is understanding how to target relevant keyword phrases. Without keyword research tools and tactics and a thorough analysis of how users search for topics related to your business, products, or services, it will be almost impossible for users to get directed toward your web pages from search engine results pages (SERPs).

Along with keywords, other on-page SEO strategies, such as URL structure, internal linking strategies, and structured data, need optimization. Additionally, effective internal link building practices should be strategized when looking at off-page SEO tactics. With SiteWired’s expert help in this article, you can learn how to optimize your website for success with organic visibility.

mozlows hierarchy seo

Is SEO Important?

SEO is a powerful tool that helps businesses of all sizes drive organic website traffic to their website. Then convert that traffic into high-value customers and reduce the bounce rate. SEO is an essential part of any online marketing strategy.

If you want your business to succeed online, you need to invest in effective search engine optimization practices.

Organic search accounts for over 53% of website traffic, making it the most critical source of visits to any website.

The global SEO industry is predicted to reach a staggering $122.11 billion by 2028. Making it clear that more companies are recognizing the potential return on investment that comes with optimizing their websites.

Depending on what niche you operate in, investing in technical SEO will help you be seen by potential consumers.

When searching for related topics or looking for specific keywords make sure your brand can beat out the competition.


Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) are both popular digital marketing channels.

They both help businesses increase website traffic by appearing in search engine results.

SEO is a long-term, organic search traffic approach, while PPC is an immediate but costly method of ranking higher. By utilizing both tools, you can gain an edge over other businesses and optimize your search engine presence overall.

seo vs ppc

Regarding SEO versus PPC, it is essential never to consider them exclusive options for driving traffic. Instead, these channels operate best when used together in a comprehensive strategy.

PPC will drive immediate traffic while strengthening your website’s organic ranking with SEO can maximize the visibility.

Optimizing your content will attract more qualified visitors from Google’s search results.

The combination of paid and unpaid efforts could ultimately result in a more significant return on investment for your business.


Search engine marketing (SEM) is an umbrella term for a combination of SEO and PPC activities.

They are meant to increase traffic through both organic and paid searches. SEMs can help guide potential customers to their desired products or services using best practices from both options.

  • SEO and SEM are two legs of the same stool.
  • SEO is the organic part, and PPC is the paid part.
  • SEO is designed to improve your web presence on search engines without paying for ads.

It focuses on working with content relevant to what people are searching for on search results pages.

seo vs sem

PPC involves advertising your business website through sponsored ads that appear at the top of search result pages.

With this type of promotion, businesses pay a certain amount each time someone clicks their ad.

Meaning they are actually paying for visibility instead of earning it organically.

While SEO and SEM may be two sides of the same coin in digital marketing, each has unique nuances.

Both should be considered when designing an effective digital strategy.

Through combinations of organic efforts, such as keyword optimization and technical improvements.

With paid efforts like PPC campaigns, businesses can drive more qualified website traffic and increase conversions.

What is the Process Behind Search Engine Results?

Search engines are a part of our modern lives and one of the most widely used tools on the internet. They provide quick, easy access to the information we seek and have revolutionized how people find what they need.

A search engine’s ability to provide relevant results depends on sophisticated technology that works like a “reading comprehension” machine.

As users type in their search query, these algorithms survey the information on millions of web pages.

Deciphering which sites contain what type of content and organizing it into the most helpful search results to display.

how search engines work

Once collected, it is prioritized for relevance to user queries. Considering factors such as relevancy, popularity, website credibility, etc.

This process is repeated to improve accuracy and ensure up-to-date search results are delivered whenever someone searches for something online.

Combined with artificial intelligence through machine learning technology, modern search engine algorithms are more adaptable and efficient than ever before.

If you want to increase your conversion rate, this practice is covered in this Tips On Conversion Rate Optimization guide.

Before that, let’s look at the tools to get there.

How Does SEO Work?

Search engine optimization, known by its acronym SEO, is optimizing web pages and content for search engines to index.

This process works with how search engines crawl and understand online content to deliver the best possible results.

By understanding the structure of websites and working to improve specific website elements such as:

  • Link structure
  • Metadata tags
  • Page title tags
  • Content relevance
  • Keyword usage, etc.
how does seo work

SEO helps ensure that a given page will appear more prominently in organic searches than it otherwise would have.

For your SEO efforts to be practical, your site’s technology must also be optimized.

This includes technologies such as data markup (structured data).

Structured data helps search engines better interpret the relevant information on a web page to display it contextually and meaningfully.

Showing an image alongside related news articles when responding to an image-based query.

Additionally, targeted web coding or server-side structures need to be constructed in a search engine-friendly manner. Allowing crawlers to easily understand the content on a website without getting lost or taking too long between each request.

Combining these two factors creates an environment where web searchers are served more relevant pages.

Relevant Keywords

The most important aspect of search engine optimization (SEO) is ensuring your content is relevant to users’ search queries.

This content is significant because Google’s top priority is to show users results as relevant as possible.

Ensuring relevance involves more than just providing the correct information when someone searches for a topic. It also requires satisfying their search intent.

how to find relevany keywords

Generally speaking, there are four types of search intent:

  • Navigational search intent – involves helping users find a specific website or web page, like “Spotify login.” It is vital to ensure that links lead users directly to the page they seek, not third-party websites or ads.
  • Informational search intent – helps users find more detailed information about a particular topic, such as product reviews or articles.
  • Transactional search intent – directs users toward actions such as signing up for a service or purchasing.
  • Local searches – help guide people to nearby shops, restaurants, and other establishments.

By understanding these different intents and providing relevant content, you can create an effective SEO strategy to increase.

Where to Start?

When it comes to creating and optimizing a strategy, knowing the right target keywords is a crucial first step.

But with so many available options, it can take time to figure out where to begin. That’s why SEO keyword research is vital.

You can identify the most valuable target topics through keyword research and using a keyword tool designed for this purpose.

Find keywords that will help build traffic and bolster search features and rankings.

Once you have identified your target keywords for your internet marketing efforts.

Use the information to ensure that your published content is relevant and fulfills the desired customer search intent.

This detailed, step-by-step guide on doing just that is an excellent resource for effective keyword research.

It will guide you in finding opportunities for targeted searchers by utilizing existing data sources. Then conducting thorough keyword research to understand your target audience’s needs better.

Doing this will go a long way in helping you craft content that drives results through organic search engine rankings.

The Anatomy of Search Results and Organic Traffic

The anatomy of search results, or SERPs (search engine result pages), comprises both paid and organic search results. Paid search results contribute to Google’s revenue.

Organic search results don’t. Organic results that appear are determined by ranking algorithms that assess the relevance in response to your search.

The volume and variety of ads on a specific SERP generally correspond with how specific users have searched for information.

When you enter a term like “shoes,” ads will likely be at the top before any organic content is displayed. If that is the case, you may need to scroll down further before seeing an organic result.

The structure of a SERP can differ depending on the type of query entered into Google.

Searching for something more specific than “shoes,” you might see maps or images next to the list of links. However, searchers often anticipate text-only SERPs.

Other results, like videos, might also be included if they are deemed relevant by Google’s algorithms.

The Role of SEO Strategy

Search engine optimization is a powerful online marketing tool that helps businesses achieve higher rankings in organic search results.

Companies can reach a wider audience and increase online website traffic by optimizing digital content for organic search engines.

It’s used to stay ahead of your competitors on major search engines like Google and Bing.

When engaging in SEO strategies, you should use the different practices below according to the search results you’re aiming for:

  • AdWords
  • Shopping Results
  • Local Search Results

It may seem like too many elements are taking up real estate on SERPs and organic listings get pushed down.

However, SEO maintains its importance with the potential for high rankings since Google processes billions of queries daily.

While this requires some up-front and ongoing investment to secure and maintain high rankings. All clicks from customers organically finding your website are entirely cost-free.

What Kind of Sites Does Google Want?

Google has perfected giving its users the best search results possible.

It delivers dependable results in response to any query someone might have, no matter how complex or specific.

To accomplish this, Google considers two key components – the user input and the output from their search.

All its search algorithms are designed with these two elements in mind when providing answers.

It is being able to fulfill a person’s curiosity quickly that drives Google’s mission as an all-in-one search engine.

For example, if someone searches for “Mailchimp guides and tutorials.”

Google understands that the user needs helpful information on Mailchimp tools and processes.

Its engine will then pull up the most relevant result for that query, which is likely MailChimp’s guide page.

Thanks to its reliability and accuracy, this top organic result satisfies both searchers and Google alike.

On-Page SEO Factors

On-page SEO is optimizing website content and layout to rank higher in search engine results. It’s a complex process requiring much research, planning, and optimization.

On-page SEO factors that can have a direct impact on your website rankings include:

  • Content structure and quality.
  • Coding language and HTML structure.
  • Text formatting such as heading tags, meta descriptions, and titles.
  • Keyword usage in URLs and titles.
  • Keyword density in content/pages for target terms.
  • Outbound linking to trusted web pages or websites with related topics to improve relevance for search engines.
  • Images with alt-tags allow search bots to recognize them effectively yet still provide helpful information for visitors.

Properly using these factors can improve visibility within the organic search results of major search engines such as Google.

All these on-page factors contribute significantly to the success of any online business.

They give a competitive edge over similarly matched competitors.

Off-page SEO factors are as important, if not more important, than on-page SEO factors when optimizing your website.

These off-page factors include:

  • Links from other websites
  • Social media interaction
  • Online marketing activities outside your website.
  • The number and quality of links pointing toward your site is an essential ranking factors. Every backlink is integral to improving your search engine rankings and should be taken seriously.
  • In addition to links, competition in your niche also affects your ranking in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

If there are a lot of competitors in your vertical who target the same keywords, it’s harder to compete.

Keeping track of what the competition is doing will help you stay ahead of the curve. You must position yourself as an authority in your industry.

Tracking social media engagement and other SEO key metrics can also give you valuable insights.

Try to understand how effective your campaigns are compared to rival businesses within the same market. Checking for broken links regularly is also a good practice.

How Does Google Search Make Money?

Google’s primary source of revenue comes from its search engine service. People trust Google as a critical resource in their digital lives. They provide reliable and results when users search for something.

In its advertising model, Google allows businesses to place an advertised listing at the top of any search result page.

These results are clearly marked with the word “Ad,” so they are easy to identify.

They appear separately from organic listings produced through a user’s query.

Through this pay-per-click (PPC) advertising model, Google generates revenue whenever searchers click on these ads purchased via AdWords.

It is incredibly lucrative for more generic queries in particular.

Google also earns money through other ventures such as Gmail, YouTube, Apps, and recent cloud computing services.

Google also makes money off other advertisement-based enterprises, like display ads on content sites across the web.

As well as customized ads using its DoubleClick technology.

This tracks users’ activity across multiple sites to enable better-targeted advertising. Many free tools like Google Search Console are also available for SEO analysis.

These additions and charges for marketing software tools further complement their primary source of income; PPC Ads.

How Do I Create High-Quality Content

Creating quality content is a significant factor in Search Engine Marketing and Optimization (SEO).

Finding the right keywords is only the first step. They must be well-placed for content to rank higher.

Content creation and optimization go hand-in-hand with SEO, as both are integral and irreplaceable parts of the process. J

John Mueller, a Google representative, confirmed this by saying that the most crucial factor to rank in high positions on SERPs is to create content that ranks among the top 10 on a topic.

Creating high-quality content is essential to ranking successfully for given search terms and undoubtedly has many advantages for any website.

To achieve this goal, it is necessary to produce unique and engaging content and optimize it correctly by optimizing keywords. Also with link building and internal linking with other related posts on their website (content clusters).

Moreover, your success is ensured if researchers discover their blog post is among the top 10 pieces on SERPs.

How Can I Start Creating Quality Blog Content?

Creating quality blog content is essential when optimizing a website for search engine rankings. If you want to rank in Google, it’s important to conduct keyword research and identify the best search terms to target to drive organic traffic.

However, it’s not enough to find the right keywords; you also need to create content that will rank for those keywords.

That means creating something valuable, relevant, and literally among the top 10 pieces on a given topic. This will help you secure one of those coveted spots on the first page of each SERP.

Google’s John Mueller recently highlighted the importance of quality content when answering a question about the most significant ranking factor: “To rank well in Google” is his answer.

Quality optimization involves finding effective keywords and creating quality content associated with those terms, increasing visibility and more people turning into customers or leads.

A great piece of content is timeless since its helpfulness does not fade over time, thus contributing positively to long-term SEO success.

Elements of Content

Successful content must accomplish two key elements: engaging readers and delivering a message. To ensure this, specific parts go into creating compelling content. Here are some of the most crucial aspects of successful content:

First and foremost, a solid structure makes for the best possible content. A Good page structure includes the following:

  • A catchy headline.
  • Short but impactful introductions.
  • Well-defined sections and subsections.
  • Thought-provoking questions or conclusions.
  • Organized transitions between topics.

A clear outline is essential for ensuring your readers can follow you as you present them with valuable information.

Clarity is also critical when it comes to achieving effective content. Not only will this help your audience better comprehend your points of view, but it also gives off an impression of professionalism and skillfulness as a writer.

Whether you’re writing blog posts or news articles, using simple words whenever possible makes all the difference in how anyone consumes your work.

Last but certainly not least, it’s essential to pair each piece with striking visuals to give off an aesthetic appeal and further enhance the overall effectiveness of your content.

Professional-looking images can help bring topics to life and add context for readers if done correctly.

High-Level Content Quality

Creating quality content is an essential element of any successful online business. A few years ago, a post could easily rank if it included “keyword stuffing” and provided some basic information.

However, quality is vital in today’s competitive landscape – posts must add value and solve problems to keep readers engaged.

Thankfully, businesses don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time; they can reference other pieces of content and build on these ideas, even if it’s from a different space or topic.

Taking quality content creation seriously is crucial for businesses looking for online success. Researching to understand people’s problems related to their product or service can help them create valuable pieces that appeal to their target audience.

By providing this level of depth and insight into their customer’s needs, businesses can rise in the ranks on Google Search – not just because of carefully chosen keyword phrases – but because they provide real solutions and answers.

Search Intent

Google has put a significant emphasis on user intent in recent years. It’s crucial for content creators to understand this intention so that their writing can answer any related queries and provide possible solutions.

For example, are they looking for information about a product or service, trying to purchase something immediately, or even just window shopping to see what’s out there?

By understanding the user experience and intent, content creators can craft relevant content which accurately answers their questions and provides value.

This means creating content tailored specifically to what the user is searching for and not spamming users with irrelevant marketing messages.

As a result, people will be more likely to trust your brand and find value in your website. Furthermore, creating quality writing that matches someone’s query will improve your search engine rankings as you provide solutions aligned with their needs.


Posting frequently is an integral part of any content marketing strategy. HubSpot set an example for others to follow when it showed that it could help with Google rankings. However, posting new content shouldn’t be the only thing you do to signal Google.

Content published already can still be valuable if reviewed and updated regularly.

Reviewing and revising existing information and double-checking all inbound links to ensure they are working correctly.

Additionally, replace outdated content with more relevant copy to prove it is still helpful today despite its age.

These steps show Google that your content is still worth displaying prominently in search results, making the most of the valuable resources established by your initial work rather than letting them go to waste.

Provide a Good User Experience

A user-friendly website is essential for search engine optimization (SEO) today, particularly regarding Google.

Ensuring the crawlability and indexability of your website is necessary as it helps your website meet usability standards to gain visibility within search engine results and Google search console.

Some technical aspects need to be assessed, such as site security, so websites use the HTTPS protocol rather than HTTP and ensure pages load quickly. Faster web pages are often ranked higher in search results by Google.

Google is committed to providing users with quality content and experiences, prioritizing websites that can fulfill this purpose. Factors include straightforward navigation structures, loading times, and clear and concise information about what you’re offering them.

Adhering to good SEO practices requires upkeep on behalf of web admins, but it contributes to creating a pleasant user experience that keeps visitors returning for more.?

Where to Start?

The first step in improving the usability of your website is to perform a thorough audit.

Semrush’s Site Audit tool makes this process easy and provides detailed reports on your website’s performance.

With this tool, you can check for over 140 different issues that could be limiting the success of your site, and you’ll even get helpful recommendations on how to fix them.

Ensure all critical factors as you analyze your website’s usability. To help make sure your audit is comprehensive, it’s a good idea to read a guide for performing an SEO audit. You’ll also gain tips on optimizing web pages and ensuring all content is up-to-date. Additionally, running an audit allows you to track progress made with improvements to see tangible results from your efforts.

Building Domain Authority

Link building is an integral part of any SEO strategy, as it can dramatically affect the visibility of a site’s copy in search engine results.

By obtaining links from other high-quality sites, websites can gain trust, or domain authority, with prominent search engines like Google.

In the eyes of Google and other search engines, these links can act as votes of confidence for your website. The more reputable links pointing to your site, the more authority your site will have and the higher it can rank in search engine result pages.

Google takes many different off-page signals into account when deciding how trustworthy and authoritative your website is. Backlinks are one of these critical signals.

When multiple high-quality websites link to yours, you build credibility as an authority on a particular topic or field. Meaning Google may be more likely to put your page at the top of its list for related search queries.

It’s, therefore, essential to focus on getting quality backlinks from relevant sources if you want to succeed with SEO. Otherwise, you won’t be able to compete against rival pages with better authority in key SERPs!

Domain Authority-Where to Start?

Backlinks are essential to any successful SEO strategy and can significantly improve your website’s visibility in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

You must find backlink opportunities for your site that your competitors might not have seen yet to give yourself a competitive edge.

Start by looking at your competitor’s backlinks to understand their strategies.

Using a tool like Backlink Gap will provide you with a comprehensive list of your competitors’ backlink profiles to identify what they have and what you don’t.

By analyzing these link profiles, you can pinpoint backlinks they’ve acquired that haven’t been targeted by other sites like yours and replicate them on your website to expand your field of links potentially.

This approach allows you to essentially “reverse engineer” the work done by others and boost your website rankings quickly and efficiently.

Truths About SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential element for digital marketers. It enables a website to rank higher in search results and attract more organic traffic from search engines to the site. As such, having a good understanding of SEO principles is paramount for any successful online venture.

However, it’s essential to realize some fundamental truths regarding SEO. Firstly, the goal of SEO isn’t to “cheat” or game Google but rather to create value and provide quality content that people are searching for.

Any attempt to artificially increase rankings through so-called “hacks” won’t work in the long run – what matters is content that resonates with users.

Additionally, keyword research, analyzing website analytics, and building backlinks are all crucial steps in helping your pages reach searches effectively.

The bottom line: invest time and energy into developing high-quality pages and optimizing them for the search engine trends that apply today – not yesterday!

Specialty SEO

While many people think of SEO as a single activity, it has several different specialties that require knowledge and strategies tailored to an individual website’s needs.

E-commerce SEO: 

This is distinct from regular SEO due to the need for additional techniques, such as optimizing category pages, product pages, internal linking structures, product images, and reviews, to optimize websites with large numbers of pages or products.

Enterprise SEO: 

Tailored strategies such as researching keywords based on your products and services while managing campaigns on multiple websites or brands simultaneously. Each specialty requires a unique approach when applying an overall SEO strategy.

Local SEO:

It involves optimizing to increase the visibility of local organic search results, including acquiring and managing reviews and business listings.

News SEO: 

It is vital to ensure that Google indexes news content in the quickest manner possible to maximize visibility across platforms such as Google Discover, Top Stories, and Google News.

Holistic SEO: A Long-Term Strategy

Many businesses focus on shortcuts and quick tactics instead of long-term strategies.

However, at SiteWired Web Solutions, we practice ‘holistic SEO,’ which entails a comprehensive approach to achieving the best search engine results.

Your primary goal when using this strategy is to build and maintain the best possible website experience for your visitors.

Instead of trying to manipulate or trick search engines, you invest your time and effort into creating content that will benefit you for years to come.

Creating a website that is user-friendly, fast loading, and easily accessible helps to improve your chances of ranking well in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).

Google’s goal is to provide their users with the best results for their query, and if you’ve built great content and have met all the necessary criteria, then you’re more likely to appear near the top of the SERPs.

You will get this done through regularly tracking metrics related to SEO, such as page speed, loading times, usability scores, relevancy of keywords, etc. This holistic approach requires dedication but ultimately provides incredible benefits in the form of organic traffic growth over time.

How Does SEO Affect Digital Marketing?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is part of digital marketing strategies, playing a vital role in ensuring that websites get found by their target audiences.

By optimizing webpages for better visibility in search engines, SEO increases organic traffic and brand exposure, two essential components for every successful digital marketing campaign.

Through proper keyword research and analysis, SEO experts can determine the best keywords to target based on the intent of their audiences, allowing them to tailor website content according to trends and user behavior.

While PPC ads give you immediate ROI, consistent organic traffic can be achieved through optimized website content provided by SEO professionals.

Also, off-site techniques like link building are used by many businesses to build backlinks from authority sites and generate more referrals, thereby increasing the overall visibility of their website.

When executed correctly with all these disciplines’ synergy in mind, integrating SEO into your overall digital marketing strategy can yield tremendous results that eventually increase leads and sales for your business.

Can I Do SEO Myself?

People considering hiring an SEO expert or agency usually wonder if they can do the same work independently. Fortunately, the answer is yes. Learning SEO is relatively easy, and countless sources available today can help you understand it and take advantage of it.

If you are willing to learn, investing time in understanding SEO best practices will pay off quickly, and you’ll be able to significantly improve your website’s visibility in search engine rankings.

You’ll be able to determine what content needs to be optimized, research high value, and longtail keywords for your industry, and create backlinks from other websites.

Monitor how your SEO efforts are working so you can make necessary adjustments as needed. These tasks can be accomplished with some know-how and the right tools.

In short, SEO isn’t something beyond your reach or requires expensive personnel or services; it is well within anyone’s capabilities as long as you are committed to putting in the effort to learn.

Of course, having a professional consult on more complex topics like optimization beyond the basics makes sense at specific times. Still, those without much technical knowledge should no longer feel intimidated by the subject “Of SEO.”

How Can I Learn SEO?

SEO is an ever-evolving skill that requires a comprehensive approach to learning. To get started, some great resources help you understand the basics. For example, this guide is a great stepping stone for your journey, as it covers the fundamental principles of SEO and provides guidance on how to put them into practice.

Further down the line, you should dive deeper into content optimization or technical implementation; Semrush Academy can be invaluable in these cases.

They offer dozens of 100% free online courses taught by some top industry experts – such as Eric Enge, Brian Dean, and Nathan Gotch – who provide a wealth of experience and knowledge. Whatever your goals might be in SEO, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn from the best with this fantastic platform.

Do I Need to Buy SEO Tools?

When optimizing any website for search engines, having access to accurate data from an SEO tool is a must.

An SEO tool can save you countless hours of manual research on analyzing competitor strategies, understanding website architecture, and other technical points that may otherwise prevent a website from performing well in organic rankings.

The right tools will always provide the insight needed to make informed decisions on how to drive organic traffic to your site and maximize its potential to be seen online.

Moreover, an SEO tool is a no-brainer choice if running an e-commerce store or other business that makes money or generates leads.

You’ll see exactly how much your growing organic visibility impacts your bottom line with detailed reports and analytics that many of these tools provide. Furthermore, the time and cost savings acquired from using such a suite are often enough for top-tier businesses to justify any associated costs quickly. If you’re looking for an SEO toolkit, Semrush offers both paid and free versions so you can try them before fully diving in – no credit card needed!