As a senior SEO specialist, this is something I see being asked a lot (especially where I’m from, which at the moment is South Africa). Not many people know what SEO is, what it stands for, or what SEO actually does. My family and my friends, they know I specialise in SEO and they’ve heard I do SEO, they just aren’t really sure what it’s actually about, what it even stands for, what it involves, or the actual whole reason behind it. This first post will just explain the basics of SEO, and what SEO actually is, to help anyone out there who doesn’t understand what SEO might be, or have never heard of the whole concept of SEO.
So this is actually the first post of a series I’ll be releasing, explaining more about SEO and the basics of it to beginners. This first post is a bit more generalised, just to give you an understanding of what SEO stands for and what it is, but the next posts will each focus on a specific topic, to teach you what the carious parts of SEO are and how to do some of the basics of it. I’ve put together a list with a handful of the common questions that generally get asked (things that people ask me the most, and what I’ve just seen out there that people have been asking about).
1. What does SEO stand for?
So firstly and the most important, what does SEO stand for. The three letters “S” “E” and “O”, form an acronym which stands for search engine optimisation. A search engine is a tool you use to search for things online, such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Optimisation is the whole process of actually optimising websites. So that’s what SEO stands for, search engine optimisation. So of course that’s what SEO stands for, now for the next question.
2. What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or web page. SEO targets “organic” (unpaid/free) web traffic.
SEO involves considering what people search for (the actual search terms and keywords typed into search engines), which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience eg. Google, as well as how search engines work with regards to the computer-programmed algorithms that dictate search engine behaviour.
3. What are the benefits of SEO?
So here there are essentially three parts to this. Firstly, it benefits the users actually searching for things, so anyone who’s looking to buy something or visit somewhere. For users, it obviously helps them see exactly what they’re looking for, get the information they’re looking for quickly, and get the best information to help them the most. That’s how it helps the users.
Secondly it helps the website owners themselves, so the businesses out there with websites, it helps them. So a lot of big businesses, they pay for SEO Services because it helps their websites get the exposure that they need, so that people are aware of their businesses. For example, anyone searching for something like “ice cream near me”, the local ice cream stores will pop up in the results and then users will actually know where to go. The ice cream stores get business through that, so obviously it helps the businesses and the website owners. Sometimes businesses have huge SEO budgets (so they have money to pay SEO experts a lot of time) to make sure that specific businesses show up in the top results in Google. Google isn’t always happy about that, but there’s nothing technically wrong with that.
Thirdly it helps Google, so the search engines. So for search engines like Google, they use Bots (kind of like programs) that help them organise everything in the results, so essentially SEO helps these Bots understand what the different pages are to give the best results when people search for things, which helps people actually find what they’re looking for. Google wants you to be happy, and that’s where SEO actually helps them. So the actual benefit for Google is that people who do SEO on their sites help the Google Bots understand what their website is about, and it helps the Bots put an order to which businesses are the best based on how much they understand about that website.
So SEO benefits Google just by helping them understand all of the websites better, and be able to give you what you want in the best way possible. They want you to be happy, because they make money off of things like advertising, so if the users aren’t getting the results that are best for them, then the users are just going to go look for a different search engine. So if Google isn’t doing their job by showing the right results, users will start using Bing or Yahoo or other search engines like those. (Not that I’m in any favour of Google, it is just the most widely used search engine so that’s why you’ll hear me refer to them the most).
4. How does SEO work?
Okay question number four on our list ( there are six questions in total, so we’re nearly there). I know this post has a lot of theoretical information, but trust me they’re not all going to be like this. The next ones are going to be practical ones, with behind the scenes sort of things. I just needed to answer these questions to give you a clear understanding of what SEO actually is, and to give a bit more background information to first make sure the foundations are covered. For those who are wanting to take it further, our next posts will give more practical information, and behind the scenes tips, with each one covering a specific topic.
So to answer this question, I’m going to give a very very broad answer because there are so many different parts of SEO, with each focusing on different things. To give a broad answer, how SEO works is – people work on different aspects of a website, and those can be things on the website pages themselves. Things like just making sure that both Google and users really get the information they’re looking for on a specific page, and that the page relates completely to what that specific topic is about, to ensure that the users and Google don’t get confused.
There are so many aspects, but I’ll name a few broad ones. Essentially how SEO works is – the more work people do on specific pages, just to make sure that Google and the users get the information they’re looking for on that specific page, then the better that page will perform in the actual search engine, so if someone does a lot of SEO work (and not just any SEO work, good SEO work) on a specific page for a specific service, then that page has a better chance of showing up higher in the search engine results, so then when someone searches something to do with that page they’ll more likely be able to see that page show up on the first page of Google’s results. For starters, optimising the actual content on the page, like the writing (known as the copy). Here, SEO would involve making sure the wording is all appropriate for that specific page. So essentially how SEO works is that people do work to make sure a page shows up in the top results to get exposure, which also helps Google ensure people see the types of pages they’re actually looking for, and everybody wins.
5. What is SEO in blogging?
This is also just a small aspect which SEO focuses on. SEO is important for people who blog and who want people to actually see their blog posts and read what they’re writing about, because it helps people find the posts. Bloggers who use certain terms that people actually search for within their blog post, by including them in the content they’re writing (obviously in a natural way, not just stuffing random words in their posts that don’t make any sense, but actually including keywords that people are searching for) are more likely to be discovered by searchers. To explain what a keyword is, I’ll reference a hair salon. A keyword for a hair salon would be something like “hair salon in [city name]”. Writing a page or post which includes the keyword in the content is really important, because if none of those words are included in the content, then it’s going to be really hard for people to find it.
If you’re writing a recipe, then SEO optimisations would include making sure that the title of the recipe or somewhere in that actual blog post, or in that content, includes a few words that people would actually search for, because that’s what helps bloggers attract readers. So that’s the basics of the SEO side to blogging – using keywords which are words that people actually search for within that blog post, and in that content, which of course is just a small part of it, but that’s probably the most important part of writing blog posts.
6. What are keywords?
This sort of links into the previous questions we answered. Keywords, as we mentioned, are terms which people actually search for. A keyword doesn’t necessarily only have to be a word, so not just “hair”, it can be “hair salon in London” or it can be “hair salon with great stylist” which are what you would call a long tail keyword (when there are a whole lot of different words which make up that keyword). So a keyword doesn’t necessarily have to just be one word, it can be a few words which make up a phrase that people actually search for.
When people do keyword research, it’s essentially involves making sure that they find groups of words or specific words that people are currently searching for, and will actually type in their web browser, which ensures that the web page or the website as a whole is actually found. This helps people find the information they’re looking for, and the businesses get the traffic they need (web traffic as in people visiting their website, and then hopefully in-person businesses get real traffic from that, so actual people visiting the store after finding the results online).
There really is such a lack of free training for SEO – helpful, useful and valuable content, that can help people like you understand SEO better and grow your skills, and I’m on a mission to change that. We know many of you may have been wondering what SEO’s about, not really sure what people like me do, and hopefully this helped you understand what it’s about, the purpose of SEO, and that it’s not just a random tech phase that people say, there’s a whole lot to it. Of course some of you might not have any interest in doing SEO yourself, so we hope this post helped give you an understanding of what SEO is about, just to have more awareness.
For those of you who are interested in actually taking it further, even if you are a complete beginner who doesn’t know anything about SEO yet, my next few posts will help make that happen. Firstly I’m going to be providing basic practical ones, just giving a bit of training for beginners, and then I’m going to go a bit more in depth posts to give more advanced training.
For those just wanting to do SEO for their own websites, the beginner posts will help, but for those of you wanting to really scale your website or business, or also potentially earn money from taking on clients – by doing SEO for their businesses (which is of course what I’ve been doing for quite a number of years, getting paid to help businesses all over the world grow their websites, grow their businesses, and make a lot more money through something like SEO) – my next few posts will provide all the information you need to help you take things to the next level.
NB: This post has been transcribed from my latest YouTube video, “What is SEO and How Does It Work?”. Click below to watch the full video.