What is SEO – really?

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SEO’ is an overused acronym for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’. It is a method by which a business can achieve higher positions and increase their traffic onto their website through higher search engine positions and visibility. The problem with the term SEO is that not a lot of people really know what it means or what is involved, even those who should. Firstly, lets dispel common myths about what SEO isn’t and shouldn’t be before discussing what it actually is and how it can be achieved.

What SEO isn’t

Currently there is a problem in that there seems to be a lot of misinformation on what SEO actually is. This will often be exacerbated by the fact that a lot of web companies abuse the term and either haven’t kept up to date with what the modern day SEO means or they simply don’t know.

Two (of many possible) common examples of how the term is misused by those who should know better are summarised below:

  1. The term SEO is often used as a word in sales by web companies who feel they need to offer a checklist of what it is that they do. They will often tout SEO as a solution to online marketing offering SEO as a means by which they can build the website to have ‘good SEO’. Using standards based techniques to build a website then becomes all they do to check that crucial box. Unfortunately the true definition of SEO requires a lot more than this. This example is perhaps the most blatant misuse of the term and borders on lying, or at best ignorance. What they are really talking about is search engine visibility and building a website to be as visible as possible. This alone will only help to act as a foundation by which a business can reach online goals. To achieve good results actually requires a lot more work than this.
  2. The term SEO is also often used by marketers as a big stick to tell a business that in order to raise their profile online they need to have good SEO (in other words that company currently doesn’t). Whilst this may be true in a given case or scenario, this use of the term is often banded about without any research having been done as to whether it is really true or not. Effectively, jumping on a band wagon and hiding behind ’smoke and mirrors’ terminology. This leaves the assumption that there is some secret voodoo that the marketer does to the content on a website in order to magically force Google to rank it more highly. Fortunately, there are no magic tricks (especially with intelligence exhibited by modern search engines).

Don’t believe the hype!

Both of the above examples involve scenarios where web companies or marketers are abusing the term, perpetuating the misinformation of the term itself. They are only using facets of SEO which in isolation will do very little to improve a website’s standing. We are trying to dispel the myths and cut through general perceptions, so, let’s discuss what SEO really means.

So what really is SEO then?

Simply put, SEO is a means to improve a website and online marketing plan in order to achieve as much targeted traffic through the search engines (particularly Google) as possible. Essentially, the idea is to use a business website in a particular way to get as many interested people as possible onto that website through Google or other search engines.

Search engine optimisation can be defined as having three main components:

  1. Search engine visibility – a largely technical process to ensure that the content on a website is and remains as visible to the search engines as possible, thus, making sure that the likes of Google don’t have to work too hard to read and rank all of that content in their search engine.
  2. Content marketing – a practice to provide good quality and up-to-date content to a business’s target audience through their website and associated social media platforms. Producing new and targeted content on social media platforms and a business website should be happening on a very regular basis. This is a critical component of modern search engine optimisation. It is a little known fact that search engines will measure social media activity in order to ascertain the quality and authority of content in order to discern ranking.
  3. Engagement – the practice of measuring and improving the amount of engagement behind the content on a website. This includes whether other relevant websites or social media platforms are linking to your website and content (inbound links) and how much time people are spending reading your content. Other factors in engagement include levels of interaction with your content, such as social media discussions and comments on the website itself.

All of the above are modern day factors considered by Google when deciding search engine positioning (how high up you appear in their listings for relevant searches) and are important factors to consider in SEO.

As mentioned, the definition above is one of modern SEO. The methods to achieve strong SEO require a business to have a strong overall online marketing strategy. An SEO strategy should really be considered as part of an overall marketing strategy and not separate from it. Modern day SEO is so closely linked with overall online marketing methods that they can and probably should be merged into one topic – online marketing. This is why at The SeedMill we do not specifically offer SEO packages. It’s not that we don’t do SEO, we do – it’s just that we look at a wider online marketing strategy that includes SEO as a concise part of it.

Ray Dale

Brand Strategist. Web Designer. Web Consultant. UX Designer. WordPress Specialist. Creative Director. Co-founder of The SeedMill. With 20 years of commercial experience in web and design industries, Ray is fascinated with all forms of design and business strategy, whether that is web design, video or data driven design. Having worked for small design agencies and large corporate companies, Ray has seen all sides of the web design and marketing industries. With a head full of ideas & strategies and a skillset that is rare to find, Ray is extremely passionate about helping businesses to achieve growth online through strategy and design.