What is SEO? A Comprehensive Guide For Beginners and Non-Marketers

What’s The Big Deal About SEO?

We live in an increasingly connected world today, with smartphones and personal home assistants now being everyday items which everybody loves. Now more than ever, people are searching for answers, solutions, and items to purchase online. This is why having good website traffic is crucial for your business. But how does one build such traffic?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the best way to attract traffic from search engines. The better you optimize your website, the higher the traffic you get from search results.

Understanding what is SEO goes hand in hand with actually practicing it; that is, employing all the necessary methods and techniques to make a website rank better on search engines.

What Is SEO?
Welcome to Our SEO Guide For Beginners

If you are new to this world, then this article is just for you. We decided to help jumpstart your journey into the industry with this handy, beginner-friendly SEO tutorial crafted for anyone who’s about to get involved with it for the first time.

Our goal is to define SEO and give you a simple and comprehensive introduction explaining the essential things you need to know to get Google to appreciate your website. We promise that this guide is not too technical.

Hopefully, by the time you finish reading it, you would have understood enough what is search engine optimization to start optimizing your site or at least get familiar with the basics.

What Are We Covering In This Guide?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a fairly extensive topic, but we are going to present you some of the essential concepts, such as:

  • Meaning and definition of SEO;
  • Why is SEO such a big deal?
  • What are some of the most important things you need to know about SEO?
  • How do you make your site rank better? What factors determine its rank on search engines?
  • What is SEO marketing? Is it part of digital marketing?
  • What do you need to get started with SEO?
  • Could you do SEO by yourself? Or is it better to hire a professional?
  • Where do you go if you want to learn more about SEO?
  • What are the best SEO practices for a small business?
First Things First: SEO Meaning and Definition

Let’s start with the basics – what exactly is SEO all about?

SEO is a set of practices used for optimizing a website’s content, structure, and other integral parts with the goal of manipulating search engines’ result pages. In other words, SEO practices are guidelines for changing your site so that it gets ranked higher in Google’s search results, for example.

If you do this correctly, you could expect more traffic to your site.

Many people believe that SEO definition contains two parts – SEO is both an art and a science.

It is science because one has to follow a specific set of rules, guidelines, and past experiences to do a proper optimization. However, this is not enough. A great deal of creativity is also needed to make these efforts appeal to everyday users while satisfying the requirements of the search engines. This is the artistic part because you need to be a true artist to achieve this balance.

A Word of Encouragement

Now that you have a general idea about the SEO meaning and why it’s such a big deal, here’s a word of advice – it might be a little intimidating at first, but we assure you that SEO is not rocket science.

The basic concepts are easy to understand. What will separate you from competitors is the amount of time, effort, and resources you will dedicate to do a proper optimization.

Remember that search engine optimization is a relatively new niche, only having been around since the mid-2000s. However, it has already evolved into an industry with plenty of experts around. Nevertheless, you should not be afraid or discouraged – with this search engine optimization tutorial you will be able to catch up on them fairly quickly.

The Raison d’Etre of Search Engines and The Key Players

You might be wondering what the fuss is all about? Why do search engines employ so many ranking factors; why is this story so complex?

The reason is pretty straightforward – search engines want to keep the web civilized. When people go about searching for answers to their questions, Google and other engines want to provide to their users the best possible experience by showing them the most relevant results they can find.

For this reason, you have to play by their rules. The only option is to optimize your site according to them, or else you will be invisible online. That’s where SEO Google experts step in. Hiring one to improve the site could significantly level up your business.

Speaking of the traffic share between search engines, Google still reigns supreme as king of all search engines. According to Statista, as of October 2018, it had around 90% of desktop market share only, followed by Bing with 3.82%, Yahoo with 2.76%, and Baidu with 0.55%.

It becomes pretty obvious why you have to adapt your site to Google’s ranking factors and do a proper search optimization. However, you should not neglect other search engines, especially if your target audience is China, where Baidu beats Google.

What Is SEO?
The Importance of SEO Today

For as long as people search anything online, the need for businesses to be easily found in search results is of utmost importance. This is why subjects like search engine optimization definition, best practices, and nuances of search engines’ algorithm continue to be a hot topic.

Marketers are always interested to find out what kind of search engine optimization Google prefers. This comes as no surprise because 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine. Add to this the fact that Google handles about 40,000 search queries per second, and you will realize why so many business owners and SEO experts want to stay updated with the latest SEO trends.

Regardless of any SEO definition or update out there, following the latest developments in the SEO industry is a crucial factor for the success of any business. You can offer the most amazing products and services, but if no one can find you online, you are unlikely to sell anything, and you won’t be in business for very long.

What is SEO in Digital Marketing?

Marketing is all about connecting and creating relationships with existing and potential customers. Digital marketing goes one step further by establishing these relationships online.

As you probably already guess, SEO plays an essential role in the digital marketing space. Since its major objective is to attract as much traffic to your site as possible, digital marketers cannot avoid SEO strategies.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach here. Depending on the nature of your business, a professional digital marketer will use different search engine optimization techniques. For example, if your business has an international character and appeals to all customers worldwide, she will design an SEO strategy that will address a global audience.

On the other hand, if you’re running a local brick-and-mortar store, you need a different approach known as local SEO.

Local SEO

Local SEO means optimizing a website for local search. It is a subset of the entire SEO practices.

Let’s assume you run a local pub. If you implement general SEO search engines optimization and appear in global search results, you would see no new customers. Since your business is located in Berlin, for instance, people looking for a pub in London would have no benefits from seeing you in the search results.

That said, optimizing for a local SEO is a must if you run such a business. People within your area would easily find your pub, and your efforts would pay off big time.

Could I Do All of This On My Own?

Perhaps your budget is restricted and you can’t afford a professional. You might be wondering if you could do the optimization by yourself.

Yes, this is possible, but first, you need to learn a lot about SEO practices. Additionally, you have to be well informed about SEO history and past updates by the particular search engine you are optimizing your site for.

The thing is, there is no check-list of requirements you have to fulfill to make your site SEO-friendly. For example, not a single person outside Google knows for sure how does its search algorithm work.

What experts know, however, is what has proved in the past as a good or bad practice. They have been studying and closely following Google SEO updates, which enabled them to have at least a general idea of what techniques and content the search engine approves.

This is why it is always a better idea to hire an expert if you are not quite familiar with the subject. She has most likely a good idea on what is SEO and how it works and would be able to help you out.

Getting the Job Done

Here are the most important things that are associated with SEO and SEO practices. These are the essential aspects that you have to understand to fully grasp the concept of website optimization and how to do SEO.

  • Keywords. A good set of keywords carefully selected for your brand will be the cornerstone of the SEO efforts. These will let users know what your site is all about but also help Google to rank it properly. The keywords should also be used in meta title and meta description for each page.
  • High-quality, original content. Having a top-notch content is pretty much appreciated by all search engines. You need to provide informative and engaging content to the users, with the goal of keeping them on your site for as long as possible. This can be achieved by combining text with relevant images, videos, downloadables, etc.
  • SEO Tools. There are plenty of SEO tools on the internet that you have to use while improving the site. For example, you could check SmallSEOTools to get an idea about which tools are essential for a successful SEO campaign.
What Is SEO?
SEO Basics: Core Concepts

Keyword Research & Strategy

When you type in something into the Google search bar, you are using a keyword. Generally speaking, keywords are search terms used by the ordinary, everyday internet users.

That said, people will find your site among the search results if its keywords match the query terms. For example, if you’re selling car parts, your store will pop up in Google search only if you use relevant keywords, such as “spare car parts,” “used car parts,” etc.

Providing general or irrelevant keywords will put your site at the bottom of the search results, and nobody will ever find you.

This is why finding and including the proper keywords is at the heart of what is SEO all about. It is necessary to learn how to do keyword research and find those that are most appealing to your business.

A solid SEO expert should be able to determine what are people searching for in relation to your business and recommend a sizeable list of keywords you should be implementing on your site.

Types of SEO

For SEO practitioners, search engine optimization meaning is twofold – on-site SEO and off-site SEO.

As the name suggests, on-site SEO refers to making changes on your site, such as improving the content, fixing its structure or architecture, adding an FAQ section, etc.

Off-site SEO, on the other hand, means leveling up your site’s rank by improving its authority through methods such as link building, outreaching to other sites or blogs from your niche, building social media presence, and similar.

It is required to focus on both categories because fulfilling only one of these is not going to be enough.

SEO Parameters: Factors Affecting Ranking

Bounce Rate

These days, search engines increasingly measure users’ satisfaction with your site. The best indicator that shows whether they are happy with it is how much time they spend browsing your pages.

If they spend a lot of time, Google treats your site as a valuable one, worth of assigning a better rank. On the contrary, if users quickly leave it and return to the search results, Google will believe that they didn’t find what they were looking for and thus deem your site poor or irrelevant.

The proportion between the number of users visiting more than one page and the total number of visitors of a website is called bounce rate. As you can guess – the higher the bounce rate, the lower the rank. That said, do your best to keep the visitors browsing your site for as much as possible.


Although backlinks don’t carry as much weight in ranking a site as they used to a few years ago, they’re still pretty significant. Consider backlinks as votes to your site by others – the more high-quality backlinks you have, the better.

There are a few ways to get this job done.

  • Outreaching. Do guest blogging, post articles to other sites, engage in debates on forums, etc. It is important to include a link to your site into these, but you should be extremely careful not to spam those places.
  • Spread the word through social media. As soon as you publish new content, make sure to spread the word about it on social media channels. If it’s good enough, people will notice it, and sometimes even include your link in their posts.
What Is The Ultimate Result of a Proper SEO?

Let’s say you have successfully implemented all relevant SEO tips and tricks. What comes next? Will your site immediately appear among the top search results for a specific keyword? Not at all.

There are two things you should keep your tabs on. First of all, Google is constantly updating and refreshing its search results. This means that your site is not going to be bumped to the top immediately after you’ve optimized it. You will have to be patient and wait for a bit.

Secondly, as we noted in the intro, Google and other search engines continually update their search algorithms. This means that you have to do the same with your site – it would be mistaken to forget about SEO procedures once you have implemented optimization. Yes, it might be daunting, but you simply have to follow the rules set by the search giants.

How Can You Tell If Optimization was Properly Done?

Since you can’t immediately see your site at the top of search results after a good optimization, you might be fearing if you’ve done everything correctly. Luckily, there are dozens of handy analytics tools that will show you various relevant data.


SEO and PPC are both forms of digital marketing used to increase web traffic. The only difference is that organic SEO definition means producing organic traffic, while PPC produces paid traffic.

In other words, organic traffic brings the visitors who found your site thanks to the unpaid search results.

Even though many marketers use both methods, it is important to say that 70-80% of users avoid clicking on paid links. That said, it is a good idea to invest all your efforts and funds into solid organic traffic, as it would most certainly attract more visitors.

What Is SEO?
How Do I Rank My Website in 2019?

Now that you are familiar with the basic SEO description let’s get down to business.

If you’re focused on Google, you should note that it uses about 200+ factors to determine a site’s rank on search results. As we already indicated, there’s no way of knowing all those factors. What we do know, however, is that Google appreciates the following:

  • High-quality content;
  • Mobile-friendly site;
  • HTTPS security;
  • Fast-loading pages;
  • A good backlinking strategy.
Recommended Next Steps

With most of the basics covered, you may now choose to go for a deeper dive into the wonderful world of SEO. Here are some of the steps you could take next:

  • Practice what you’ve learned by optimizing your website.
  • Consider taking online courses on SEO.
  • Start your SEO wiki. Experts like Moz’s owner Rand Fishkin create wikis to help other interested people. Perhaps you could write an SEO guide for your specific industry niche.

Join online communities and closely monitor all discussions, especially those related to Google’s updates.

Our Favorite Online Resources

If you’d like a more in-depth immersion into how SEO works, there are plethora of expert websites to learn and draw inspiration from. Here are some of the most famous ones:


  1. “By the Data: For Consumers, Mobile is the Internet” Google for Entrepreneurs Startup Grind: https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/mobile-is-the-internet-for-consumers/
  2. HubSpot’s “Introduction to Search Engine Optimization: Getting Started With SEO to Achieve Business Goals”: http://cdn1.hubspot.com/hub/53/Introduction-to-SEO-eBook.pdf
  3. How to Rank in 2018: The SEO Checklist: https://moz.com/blog/rank-in-2018-seo-checklist
  4. Top 7 Ranking Signals: What REALLY Matters in 2018?: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-guide/ranking-signals/
  5. Kotler, P., Armstrong, G., Principles of Marketing, 12th ed., Upper Saddle River, Pearson Education, 2008
  6. Drucker, Peter (1954). The Practice of Management. New York: Harper & Row
  7. “Definition of digital marketing”. Financial Times. Retrieved 22 August 2015: http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=digital-marketing
  8. “Digital Marketing”. Techopedia. Retrieved 22 August 2015: http://www.techopedia.com/definition/27110/digital-marketing
  9. The New SEO Definition Is Rooted in The User: https://linchpinseo.com/seo-definition/
  10. What is SEO: 5 Powerful Secrets That You Might Be Overlooking: https://www.digitalvidya.com/blog/what-is-seo/
  11. How Search Engine Optimization Works: https://computer.howstuffworks.com/search-engine-optimization.htm
  12. How Many Types of SEO Practices Exist in the Digital World?  https://www.digitalvidya.com/blog/types-of-seo/
  13. Why Wikipedia is top on Google: the SEO truth no-one wants to hear: https://econsultancy.com/why-wikipedia-is-top-on-google-the-seo-truth-no-one-wants-to-hear/
  14. Organic SEO Wiki: http://www.organicseo.org/book/
  15. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7451184?hl=en
  16. SEO Parameters: https://www.seoquake.com/guide/parameters/index.html
  17. 61 Analytics Quotes from the Experts: https://www.interana.com/blog/61-analytics-quotes-experts
  18. The 4 Best Google Analytics Plugins For WordPress: https://torquemag.io/2018/07/the-4-best-google-analytics-plugins-for-wordpress/
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