What Is Search Engine Optimization?

Definition & Examples of Search Engine Optimization

Colleagues discussing SEO strategies
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Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art and science of making web pages attractive to search engines. The better a website's SEO, the more likely it is that someone will come across the website when they're searching for information on the internet.

Here's what you need to know about SEO to improve your website's performance.

What Is Search Engine Optimization?

Search engine optimization is the act of trying to push a website higher up in a search engine's results. SEO seeks to tweak particular factors known to affect search engine results. Successful SEO can make certain pages more attractive to search engines than similar pages that are vying for the same keywords or keyword phrases.

The better a web page's search engine optimization, the higher a ranking it will achieve in search result listings. SEO can help a website beat out competitors offering a similar product or service.

  • Acronym: SEO

Someone who Googles a question like "How do I make an apple pie?" may try a few different results, but they probably won't dive deep into multiple pages of search results. That's why SEO is important—the earlier your website appears in the search results, the more likely it is to get high traffic.

How Does Search Engine Optimization Work?

Search engine optimization has evolved significantly over the years. In the early days of SEO, web designers would "stuff" keywords into web page keyword meta tags to improve search engine rankings. In response, Google began completely ignoring keywords meta tags in 2009.

Current search engine optimization focuses on techniques such as making sure that each web page has appropriate title tags and that the content is not "thin" or low-quality. High-quality content is original, authoritative, factual, grammatically correct, and engaging to users. Poorly edited articles with spelling and grammatical errors will be demoted by search engines. The technical aspects of the site—speed and coding quality—also weigh into SEO performance.

So-called "off-page" strategies are also important for SEO. Rather than examining just the webpage itself, modern search engines take into account other factors such as the number of links to a page. The more inbound links to a web page, the higher it will rank in the search engines. The most valued links are ones that come from quality, relevant sites.

Guest blogging (publishing work on other people's sites and blogs) is one method of link building that is safe and effective. Building links can also be accomplished by sharing content across social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. Content that has been extensively shared on social media is taken into consideration by search engines as an indication of higher quality sites.

Do not pay for links! This kind of practice can get your site banned from Google and other search engines.

Cataloging and Indexing Websites

Search engines find and catalog web pages through spidering (also known as webcrawling) software. Spidering software "crawls" through the internet and grabs information from hundreds of billions of websites. The information that's gathered is used to build search engine indexes. Unfortunately, not all search engine spidering software works the same way, so what gives a page a high ranking on one search engine may not necessarily give it a high ranking on another.

Rather than waiting for a search engine to discover a newly created page, web designers can submit the page directly to search engines for cataloging.

SEO Specialists

Businesses that want to improve the performance of their website may consider hiring an SEO specialist. These specialists keep track of all the changes in search engine operations so they can optimize pages accordingly. They also keep up with changes in the different search engine submission policies.

When you choose a designer to create a business website, you should ask them about search engine optimization, as SEO should be built into your pages. While it's never too late to optimize or tweak pages that have already been published, it's a lot easier to include search engine optimization when creating the page.

Search Engine Market Share

According to NetMarketShare, a group that tracks search engine use, Google is by far the most dominant search engine. Here's the full breakdown of the top five search engines by market share in June 2020:

  • Google: 83.94%
  • Baidu: 6.73%
  • Bing: 6.23%
  • Yahoo!: 1.45%
  • Yandex: 0.89%

Key Takeaways

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) is the act of improving a website's performance on a search engine.
  • A website with good SEO will appear higher on a search engine's results.
  • Features you might find on a site with good SEO include error-free copy, clean code, and many inbound links to the page from other reputable sites.

Article Sources

  1. Yoast. "What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?" Accessed July 31, 2020.

  2. Google. "Google Does Not Use the Meta Keywords Tag in Web Ranking." Accessed July 31, 2020.

  3. Google. "Link Schemes." Accessed July 31, 2020.

  4. Google. "How Search Organizes Information." Accessed July 31, 2020.

  5. Google. "Ask Google to Recrawl Your URLs." Accessed July 31, 2020.

  6. NetMarketShare. "Search Engine Market Share: June 2020." Accessed July 31, 2020.