What is SEO?

Marin Zenić

Analytics & SEO Manager

Learn what is search engine optimization and how does it work, in order to help you achieve your business goals. You will get specific answers to frequently asked SEO questions, along with the most detailed SEO mind map out there.

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1. What is SEO?
2. How do search engines work?
3. Why are keywords important for SEO?
4. What is onsite optimization?
5. What is offsite optimization?
6. How to measure SEO performance?
7. How can SEO help your business grow?
8. Conclusion
BONUS: How do we see SEO?

1. What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of making constant improvements on your website to gain better rankings in the search engine results page (SERP).
SEO includes different kinds of techniques and strategies you could use to optimize your website in order to increase website traffic. Traffic from search engines, also known as organic, is valuable because visitors are actively looking for something you offer and tend to convert more often, whatever your goals may be.

seo infographics

Outranking your competitors can be a challenging work and that's where search engine optimization kicks in. If you make it easy for Google and other search engines to read and understand your content, they can rank you higher in their search results. Before we explain in depth how to optimize your website to stand out, you need to know how search engines work.

2. How do search engines work?

There are lots of factors that determine website position in SERP, but the most important are relevance, authority and personalization. Understanding and optimizing those signals can help you improve your site because Google and other search engines want to deliver only the most relevant and authoritative results to their users. In some situations however, personalization can influence the final result. Some examples of personalization can be location awareness, user's search history, pattern match or social connections.

Here are a few practical examples and one imaginary scenario, that will help you to better visualize those differences. :)

You just launched a webshop in which you are selling new and used iPhone 6 online, and someone is using Google.

Relevance: Someone is looking to buy an iPad.
You are selling phones, not tablets, and this is where this story ends! Your webshop is not relevant and it will not be shown here, no matter how optimized your site is. Even if search is 'iphone 5', complex search engine algorithm understands the difference between similar phrases and can return results that best matches user's search query.

Authority: Someone is looking to buy an iPhone 6.
Does Google really want to show your website to their users? Are you trusted more than apple.com? I don't think so, but there are other positions you can target. First, get some votes from other websites that say your content is valuable enough. This is measured by links from other websites that point to your website, also known as backlinking.

Personalization: Your best friend is searching to buy an iPhone 6.
He already visited your website several times, you are obviously friends on social networks and he lives in the same street where your store is located. There is a good chance that Google will position your website really high.

Now let's get back to reality.
Every year, search engines make a few hundred changes to tweak their algorithms so they can provide searchers with even more relevant results. Some changes are big and affect a large number of sites, and some are small and you can barely see any difference in your search ranking results.

There were several major Google updates last year only, and you can read about them in MOZ's Google Algorithm Change History. We’ll talk about Google search in the first place below, but the principle is very similar for other search engines as well. Search engines are always trying to give you the most relevant links to the information you were searching for.

3. Why are keywords important for SEO?

Keywords are essential for your SEO strategy so you need to use an analytic approach. First, think about your potential visitor. What kind of query is he typing, what is he looking for? You cannot optimize your page for hundreds of different terms, just one or two. This is the reason why you need to be very specific and choose for what you're optimizing. There are 3 most important things to keep in mind: frequency, competition and relevance.

Keywords research process, KEI (keyword effectiveness index), is a relation between frequency (how often people search for something) and competition (how competitive the market is). KEI is one of the ways to find what keywords and keyphrases show the biggest potential and are more likely to help your site attract more targeted traffic. But, as always, you need to have a relevant term to user's search query.

When doing KEI, you are probably not searching for keywords, but for keyphrases instead. The most important keyphrase is the one that describes the content of your specific web page.

Let’s look at our practical example in action once again.

Example 1. User is searching for 'iphone'.
You might think this term is something that you want to rank for. This really is a very searched keyword, but it's also a very competitive one. Also, is your potential user looking to buy a new phone, looking for some information or just checking pictures? He probably doesn't want to buy a brand new iPhone 6 and you are not too relevant here.

Example 2. User is searching for 'where to buy used black iphone 6 32gb in london'. Now, this long tail phrase is not searched so often like the previous one, that's for sure, but is highly relevant and not so competitive. This means that you can probably rank higher.

Keyword research is one of the most important parts of the SEO process. It is all about conversions or what you want to accomplish with the traffic. You can have generic keywords and lots of traffic without any conversions (sales from iPhone example above). However, it is wiser to have the right keywords with targeted traffic because you can get a lot of conversions/sales. But this is some other topic – conversion optimization.

4. What is onsite optimization?

Like the name suggests, onsite optimization refers to the changes on the website itself. It is important to know how your content is shown to users. Typical SERP has a headline, a description and a website URL and those are first in line when you start optimizing your website.
Provide unique, descriptive title and description for every page on your website and be sure you have a clear and intuitive URL structure. Those are defaults, but can be extended with rich snippets. Rich and structured data can help search engines better understand and index your content which can lead to higher rankings.

serp factors

We won't cover every aspect (for that check our SEO mind map below), but here are some high priority factors:

  • provide fresh, great content with keyphrases in your mind
  • write quality, unique title and description tag for every page
  • do as much as you can (but don't overdo) internal link building with targeted anchor text
  • be sure you have appropriate use of heading tags (H1-H6)
  • make sure you have a clear and validated HTML code and site structure
  • is your website mobile friendly?
  • how fast is your website?

You can also check some design, technical and quality tips. All this can help you improve your rankings, and much much more.

5. What is offsite optimization?

Offsite optimization refers to all links from other websites around the world that point to your website. Backlinks are like votes – the more websites talk and link to your website, the better, especially if those websites are high reputation and authority sites.The higher the number of pages link to you,the higher will your ranking be. Backlinks are a strong SEO factor. However, backlinks are weighted, it's not the same if some authoritative, high PageRank website is linking to you, or your best friend that started blogging a few days before.

Best way you can do backlinks is the natural way. Provide great, unique, valuable content that will engage visitors to share it on social media. If you provide great content, others will recognize your content and link to you from their sites.

6. How to measure SEO performance?

There are many different data you could pull from Google Analytics to see how your site is performing from the SEO standpoint. When you measure performance of SEO efforts, these metrics that can help you understand if you are going in the right direction:

Channel grouping – How is your organic search performing compared to other channels like paid search, referral traffic, social media or email marketing?
Average position – What is the average ranking of your website for a particular query in the SERP?
Clickthrough rate – What is the CTR (number of clicks divided by the total impressions) your website gets for a particular query in the SERP?
Conversions – How many conversions are there compared to other channels? What is the conversion rate?
Behavior – What is the bounce rate of your organic visitors? How many pages per visit are there? What is the average time on site?

seo organic search

SEM, search engine marketing, can help you find out high performing keyphrases worth optimizing for in terms of return on investment (ROI). Instead of waiting for your results to rank higher enough to start seeing traffic from organic search, you could start an AdWords campaign and quickly see what keywords or phrases show the biggest potential. That way, you won't lose months of optimizing for wrong keywords that don't bring you conversions.
However, even when you find your targeted keyphrases, it is best to have those two channels aligned. Good SEO can help your AdWords campaigns by improving quality score which can lower your cost per click bid reduce the overall costs of the campaign and increase your chances for success.

7. How can SEO help your business grow?

Unlike promotional visits generated by forcing or suggesting your visitors that they should visit your website, organic visits are those generated by people who were actively searching for something you present on your webpage. SEO visits are high-quality visits: if your website content is well SEO-optimized, organic visitors will usually stay longer on your website, see more pages, have a lower bounce rate and contact you or buy your product more often than others!

Being a constant in top search results can make a great impact on your business, especially if you are a small business and you don't have big budget you can spent on other marketing channels. Right SEO strategy can help you spread a word about your product, offer or service and attract some of the most targeted visitors out there. Higher position in SERP can increase the number of site visitors and bring you more conversions. And the best part is, you are able to measure the effectiveness of your search engine optimization.

Here are some interesting SEO facts and figures you should be aware of:

8. Conclusion

SEO is not 'set and forget' type of business, you should regularly expand your content and provide your visitors with fresh, unique one. There are no guarantees for top spots on SERP since there are too many factors and variables that can influence the results, but if you choose right and white hat search engine optimization techniques, your SEO ranking should start to see positive improvements. You can't expect to see results immediately, it can take weeks or even months, but the quality optimization can be beneficial for you business and bring you a good income.

We draw your attention to SEO?
Contact us at seo@degordian.com and we will send you a list of questions that may help you when creating your strategy. Let us know your results, or just ask for our opinion! :)

[BONUS] How do we see SEO?

Although SEO is usually sold as a separate service, it can be rarely observed that way. SEO is highly involved into content creation, landing page optimization, analysis and paid marketing. You simply cannot properly do any of those activities without involving SEO specialist, because once you do, SEO will boost the quality of other work too. You also can’t do SEO separately from other promotional activities, as they all have to perfectly fit together.

Here is a mind map of SEO factors we consider here at Degordian. We love what we do and we love to help. :)

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Marin Zenić

Analytics & SEO Manager

Always smiling enthusiast with strong passion for developing, analyzing and optimizing web projects. Loves playing football or any sport with racket, good sandwich and sleepless nights on computer.

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Toni Anicic

Not bad for a Junior Traffic Manager. I expected to find a lot of beginner's mistakes, but other than "valid HTML" this article is actually very good. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to know what SEO is nowadays.

Marin Zenić

Hi Toni! Thank you for your comment, I appreciate it. With valid HTML I was referencing to check your HTML markup validity (with tools like validator.w3.org). Syntax errors can make it difficult for search engines to index web content, although they are already quite advanced. :)


Well, I guess it good to remind whats the basic again. :) Great because you make it simple, not over saturated with so many information.

Akhlinder Dani

Great article for SEO beginner! Thanks for Sharing. Keep it Up (y)

best SEO Company

super content, it is easy to understand everything, A well thoughtout SEO strategy encompases everthing from how the site is designed to how the content is written.

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