What is SEO? This common marketing term refers to the process of optimising a web page – or an entire website – so that it ranks as high as possible in search engine results for specific keywords or phrases – the words which people type into a search engine. SEO simply stands for 'search engine optimisation'.
What does SEO do?
With a sound SEO strategy, you can make your website and pages appear higher in the search engine rankings, driving increased organic traffic. We outlined a few of the most important things that SEO does here:
- Keyword-focused SEO will help you rank higher on the search engine results pages for specific search terms. Higher rankings generally mean increased traffic.
- A solid SEO strategy will help you drive more traffic to your website well into the future. Once you’ve gained a decent search engine ranking, visitors will continue to navigate to your site with minimal ongoing costs.
- Technical SEO aims to optimise things like page speed (the time it takes a page to load), metadata (data that's read by search engines), and your site’s code to boost your position on the search engine results pages.
- On-page SEO involves optimising your content: including targeted-keywords (the terms you want to rank for) and ensuring that all pieces are well-written and bring value to the reader.
- Off-page SEO is a little more complex, and it involves building backlinks and guest posting, among other strategies.
How departments can use SEO
The two main departments that will be concerned with SEO are marketing and IT. A solid SEO strategy will benefit all departments within a company, but it’s not usually a part of human resources, finance, operations management, or any other area.
Your marketing department will naturally have the most to do with SEO because it’s one of the most common digital marketing strategies. If you have a website or any sort of digital presence, you will want to have an SEO strategy to ensure that you’re driving enough traffic to your site.
Often, larger companies have a dedicated SEO team in charge of every step of the process. However, many marketing departments employ specialised SEO companies to take care of things for them. This is usually a good idea because a specific skill set is required for success.
If your company has a content team – also known as 'content marketing' – then their content should adhere to SEO best practice if it's to rank ahead of your competitors'.
In some cases, your IT department will be involved in your SEO strategy. SEO involves technical, behind-the-scenes optimisation, which can include significant changes to your site’s code and backend.
For example, your SEO score could be severely impacted if you're struggling with slow page speeds. Your IT team should be able to implement strategies to improve this, boosting your SEO efforts along the way.
Features and benefits of SEO
SEO is a long-lived marketing strategy
Most digital marketing strategies are relatively short-lived, with results only lasting for as long as your budget. However, a high-quality SEO strategy will help drive traffic to your site for some time into the future, even if you cease your optimisation efforts.
This is largely due to the nature of SEO. You will be putting your money toward achieving a high search engine rank rather than pushing ads to often-disinterested people. You should be able to retain a high ranking with minimal effort and monetary input once you've reached a satisfactory position.
Organic traffic numbers can be huge
To put it in simple terms, SEO can become a virtually unlimited source of visitors to your website. If you can rank well for even just a handful of popular keywords, you could see your audience explode. There’s no reason for it to end there. By continuing to build your search engine presence and rank for more keywords, you can continue to increase the amount of high-quality traffic to your site.
SEO targets a specific audience
With a functional SEO strategy, you will start to see your website feature higher on the search engine ranking pages. This will drive more traffic to your site, which is great. But even better is the quality of this traffic.
Since people will have found your site after searching for a specific keyword or phrase, they will almost certainly have at least some level of interest in the products and/or services that you’re offering. By targeting this interested audience, visitors to your site will engage more, leading to a higher conversion rate.
SEO will help improve the user experience
Many people don’t realize that SEO and the user experience are closely related. The major search engines monitor the ways that visitors interact with your website, and they will penalise you if these interactions aren’t positive. By implementing a strong SEO strategy, you will almost always improve your user experience.
SEO builds brand credibility
One of the hardest things for new brands entering the digital world is gaining a level of credibility. Anyone can create an online store or other website, and there are scammers everywhere. By putting in the work to ensure that your website ranks well on the search engine results pages, you can reassure your audience that your brand is indeed authoritative and reputable.
How much does SEO cost?
The cost of third-party SEO services will vary immensely between businesses and websites. It can depend on the size of your site, the popularity of the keywords that you’re trying to rank for, and the type of strategy that you decide to use. In short, you should be able to develop an SEO strategy that fits your budget.
At the lower end of the spectrum, small business owners and entrepreneurs often decide to perform SEO themselves. In these cases, the only major cost is time, although it could be worth spending a few hundred dollars here and there for apps and other tools.
However, you should expect to pay a significant amount if you hire a professional SEO team. Small, local SEO campaigns generally start at around £500 a month, but this figure can increase rapidly. Larger businesses or websites looking to rank for popular keywords may have to budget thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars per month.
How do you perform SEO for a website?
The general purpose of SEO is to help your website rank higher in the search engine results for relevant keywords. There are numerous steps involved in performing SEO for a website, and these vary according to the type of site that you have and what work has been done before.
Adding high-quality, high-value SEO-optimised content is usually a good place to start. Make sure your work is free from errors, and ensure that it’s useful to your readers. Work on improving things like your page speed and security to boost your technical SEO score, and build a strong backlink profile for even more success.
How do you do SEO properly?
The best way to properly do SEO is usually to employ a professional or a team of professionals who know the ins and outs of the industry. However, this sometimes isn’t viable due to budget and other constraints.
If you want to perform SEO on your own website, the most important thing is to make sure you understand the field and what’s involved. Consider paying for a short course, browse the web for informational articles, and watch videos on YouTube and other platforms. Don’t attempt SEO until you’re properly informed.
How many types of SEO are there?
There are three main types of SEO: technical, on-page, and off-page. A complete strategy will implement aspects of all three sub-categories.
Technical SEO is arguably the most difficult to implement. It involves behind-the-scenes optimisation to ensure that the user experience is as good as possible. Examples involve page speed and security optimisation.
On-page SEO refers to content creation and optimisation. Ensure that you use relevant keywords in a natural manner, and make sure your content is relevant and brings value to your intended audience.
Off-page SEO is a little difficult and generally involves building a strong backlink profile. This may be achieved through methods such as guest posting, commenting on forums, and listing your business in online business directories.
What are SEO tools?
An SEO tool is basically any app or program designed to help you with your SEO efforts. There are plenty of examples, including the various keyword research tools spread across the web.
Premium software is also quite popular, and this is generally designed to help you design and follow a clear SEO plan. If you’re using a content management system, such as WordPress, you can install plugins or other add-ons to help you optimise your site and its content.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO is designed to drive traffic from a particular geographic region to your website. By optimising for specific geographic keywords, adding your business address to platforms like Google Maps, and utilising targeted marketing, you can find clients in your area.
This is particularly useful for small businesses working in a specific region. Common examples are tradespeople, such as plumbers or electricians. Local SEO is also quite cheap, making it a cost-effective marketing method for businesses with a tight budget.
- SEO is one of the most popular and effective digital marketing tools for businesses, and it’s crucial if you want to achieve a high search engine ranking.
- SEO is a multifaceted discipline, involving everything from content creation and backlink building to performance and code optimisation.
- It’s possible to complete SEO on your own website in your own time, but it’s a complicated topic that often requires a significant amount of specialised knowledge.
- Hiring a reputable SEO team can be expensive, with prices ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of pounds a month or even more, in some cases.
- An effective SEO strategy can result in regular traffic being driven to your website with minimal ongoing costs, making it an attractive form of digital marketing.
More on SEO
To find out more, read about the ways that businesses are overlooking the importance of SEO in the modern world. Learn how to use international SEO for your business’s website, or discover five hosting factors that can impact your SEO efforts. If you're searching for hosting for a small business website, take a look at the best web hosting for small business.
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Daniel is a freelance technology and finance writer, whose scientific background in the natural sciences lends rigour and nuance to his informative, accessible articles. His reviews on website builders, web hosting and business web development grace the virtual pages of TechRadar Pro, WebsiteHostingRating.com, and HostingReview.com, as well as IT Pro Portal. Well-versed in blockchain, cloud computing and cybersecurity, Daniel takes a keen interest in all aspects of B2B and B2C tech.