What Is the SEO Definition - SEO Explained
Updated · Mar 06, 2023
Search engine optimization can change your marketing game. It’s one of the best ways to build an audience, drive leads, and boost conversions. But let’s get back to the basics.
What even is SEO?
If you’re an SEO newbie or a business owner looking to grow their readership, this is the place for you to start. We at HostingTribunal will cover what SEO is, how it works, and why it's one of the best marketing investments for your business.
Read on for an SEO definition that doesn’t make your head hurt.
We’ll go through all the basics of getting Google to like your page—all in plain English with minimal technical jargon.
What does SEO stand for?
SEO means Search Engine Optimization and it’s everything you do to move your web pages higher in search engine results.
SEO marketing is about using rank-boosting strategies to hit business goals—e.g., drawing in potential customers.
Types of Traffic
SEO techniques help you boost traffic to your website. So before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s look at what traffic actually is.
Web traffic is the data visitors send and receive from your website. It’s pretty much equivalent to the number of users that come to your website.
And, depending on how these people reached your site, there are different types of traffic:
Organic traffic comes from users seeing your content on a search engine and deciding to pay a visit. It only counts for organic listings, not ads.
That is, pages Google crawled and decided they’re good enough to show to searchers—without you paying them for it.
Boosting this “natural” user flow is what most SEO management tools are about. The point is to convince the Google algorithm that your website is relevant and valuable.
This way, your pages can become organic listings and generate traffic without you paying a dime for ads.
Paid traffic refers to users that came from ads. It’s not usually in the scope of SEO work, though some SEO tools also have PPC (pay-per-click) functionality.
If a user types up your website name in their browser, that’s called direct traffic. It’s free and means you have excellent brand loyalty. However, once again, it’s not what SEO technology is usually about.
Apart from these three main types of traffic, your website could attract visitors through other means.
Under the category “indirect traffic” fall clicks from other websites, the fruits of your social media marketing campaign, and email-generated leads, among others.
How Search Engines Work
What is SEO marketing?
It’s a strategy for driving organic traffic. Granted, some of the SEO principles (e.g., building domain authority) will help with other types of traffic.
But the informal (yet accurate) SEO meaning is—it’s about impressing search engines. To do that, we first need to understand how they work:
A search engine uses a crawler algorithm, which goes through millions of pages every day. It starts with a list of addresses from previous crawls or sitemaps.
Alternatively, website owners can submit pages directly to the search engine. This is a clever SEO step to help search engines notice your page faster. While it isn’t necessary, it’s good practice for new websites.
When it encounters links, the algorithm follows them, paying special attention to broken links, new websites, and websites with recent changes.
Whenever you go to Google to search for something, the algorithm already knows what is out there and aims to offer the best answer to your question.
But getting on the search engine’s radar isn’t enough. You have to apply SEO techniques and make the robot notice and love you.
Here is the essential SEO information you need to achieve that:
Ranking Factors & SEO
Google wants to show users quality content. This is what keeps them coming back time and time again.
But how does it decide which website is better than the others? Short answer: it will never tell you the exact formula. It will, however, reveal the general ranking factors.
Get these right for your SEO website and you’ll be on page one in no time.
Older websites are usually more stable and reliable than new ones. So domain age (for how long the domain name has existed) is a ranking factor.
When you first start a website, things might be going slow, as Google is still unconvinced you’re safe.
Once those early days pass and your domain proves its trustworthiness, your ranking will likely improve. Follow the good SEO practices outlined here and after 3-6 months your views will shoot up.
How strong is your domain? How good a source of information is it? Is it popular?
That’s exactly what domain authority can show you. Having other reputable sites link to your content is a major factor here. After all, what is SEO without link building?
Here's what you need to know about backlinks:
Are other websites linking to your content? These are called backlinks and they’re essential to understanding SEO.
The more you have, the better it looks in the almighty eyes of Google. Adding internal links helps too.
These are the links between different pages and posts on your own website.
Tough to define, but the quality of content is the ultimate deciding factor. In the SEO process, you don’t want to “fake it till you make it.”
Providing consistently superb content is the best strategy to stand out from the rest and grow in the long term.
Speed is a direct factor only on mobile devices. The slower your page loads, the lower you’ll be in the Google search results.
However, loading speed (both on PC and mobile) affects rankings indirectly too. If a website takes forever to load, people abandon it.
This “click, stay for two seconds, go” stunt tells Google your page isn’t actually that useful, which damages ranking in the long run.
The good news is, you can easily speed up your website through optimization tools or just getting a more robust server like a VPS.
On-site or on-page SEO is everything you do on your website so that it ranks better. On-page SEO techniques are much faster and easier to manage than off-page SEO.
Here’s how it works:
Writing content that is good for robots and good for humans is essential. Start by looking at SEO metrics—keywords in particular.
Keywords are search terms people type into Google. So splattering the word around in your text lets the crawler know this is a relevant topic.
But to win people over, you also need to aim for clean article structure, easy skimming, and engaging content. This is what keeps people coming back again and again.
Adding a couple of internal links is one of the most basic but effective SEO search tips we can give you.
Try linking to your homepage, as it’s the one that usually gets the least traffic.
The meta description is what shows up on Google, right under the name and URL. Since it’s a ranking factor, you want to write it well.
Some tips? Here you go:
- Meta descriptions are brief summaries of the article—keep them short and to the point
- Add your main keyword
- Keep it around 135-160 characters long
- Have fun with it
Free plugins like Yoast will help you improve your meta descriptions and give you some additional SEO guidance about keyword density or article structure.
The title tags help the crawler (and humans) understand what your page is about. Write a title tag that you’d be proud of—and one that contains your target keyword, too.
To improve speed, make sure you’re using a caching app and compressing photos before you post them. It’s a common mistake, although large files increase loading times by a lot.
SEO web marketing goes beyond your own website. Here are some key off-site techniques:
Build backlinks by creating better content than your competitors or by personally reaching out to link builders.
You can also consider guest blogging and website databases, though the latter don’t look so good to Google.
Authority in the Niche
The more well-established you are, the higher Google will rank you.
How does SEO work here? It’s about the long game. Educate yourself, write high-quality content, get in touch with leaders in your industry, etc.
You won’t be an authority on day one, but through hard work and honest, quality content you will get there eventually.
Building a brand identity is crucial for any marketing campaign. Make sure you’re recognizable—whether it’s through visual identity, writing style, or even your preferred font.
SEO tends to focus on the content, but it’s no use if your website is unsafe.
Installing SSL immediately boosts ranks and keeping up with security checks is also essential.
Finally, SEO advertising might not directly involve social media, but adding that strategy to your arsenal won’t hurt.
Whether you use your website to drive followers or your followers for traffic to your website, a regularly updated social media profile is a must for any business in 2022.
White Hat vs Black Hat SEO
Here are the infamous hats of SEO explained:
White hat is playing by the rules. You research keywords, optimize your content, and try to build some links.
These don’t look suspicious in the eyes of Google and they’re what gives you long-term growth.
You can pay a company that delivers search engine optimization services to do this for you, or you can do it yourself.
Black hat is an SEO term for trying to cheat the system. For example, there’s keyword stuffing—adding a bunch of specific keywords, even if they don’t fit the context, to boost rankings.
Some people even do this and set the text color to white—this way, visitors can’t tell, but the crawler can.
We strongly advise you to refrain from using black hat techniques. Play around with this at your own risk.
The Google algorithm is getting very sophisticated at detecting these tricks. Once it does catch it, you might never recover from the penalty.
Grey hat, you might have guessed, is the middle ground. It’s pretty much trying to play the system without breaking the rules.
In theory, this should work. In practice, websites have been penalized for SEO practices in the grey area.
The line between what is correct and what is legal is very thin. We'd steer clear.
The simplest SEO definition is:
Gain Google’s love.
But this can be quite the feat. With a mysterious algorithm and ever-changing rules of the game, using multiple rank-boosting strategies is the way to go.
If you want your SEO internet campaign to take off, take your time to learn SEO and start putting the techniques into practice. It might not happen the first time, but eventually, it will. We promise.
- Familiarity with Google tools and the Google Search Console
- Keyword research
- Link building
- Technical SEO