What Is Search Engine Optimization?

Search engine optimization – or SEO – is a term used to describe how websites can be as visible to search engines as possible.  More visibility tends to result in more website traffic, hence the importance of SEO.
Generally speaking, a visitor arrives at a website via one of three ways:

  • They type in the website’s url (called a direct entry);
  • They click on a link that leads to the website (called a referral); or
  • They search for a topic or keyword on a search engine (called organic search, or organic).

SEO seeks to optimize the third option and make a website stand out as much as possible to a search engine. This means that when a user types in a search, websites that are most relevant to that particular keyword or keyword phrase (i.e. whatever they typed into the search box) will appear at the top of the list.
Since the first spot on a search engine results page gets 48 percent of all clicks – and the top three get 68 percent – it makes sense to have a website as high on the results page as possible.
What Determines a High Search Engine Optimization Ranking?
Various search engines have different algorithms they use to determine the rank of a website, but generally speaking, all search engines reward websites that are unique, relevant to the keyword, and helpful and informative.
If you search for “bicycle repair” and you get websites that talk about the history of bicycles or even other forms of transportation, you will not be happy with the results and will be less likely to use the search engine.  Search engines have a vested interest in making their results as attractive to users as possible.
How SEO Builds a High Ranking
Search engine optimization seeks to capitalize on this by making a website visible to a search engine and hit on all the criteria the search engine uses, namely uniqueness, relevancy, and helpfulness.
There are many tactics and approaches webmasters can use to increase the chance that a search engine will rank their website on the first page and higher in the rankings.  Some are technical in that they deal with the structure of the website itself and the code that makes the website operate; some deal with the content that is contained on the page; some deal with certain indicators that algorithms use to “signal” to a search engine that this website is deserving of a high ranking.
For example, a website is viewed as relevant and helpful if people link to a website or web page from their own page or site. These links are called inbound links and are a strong source for search engines, since people tend to only link to other websites or pages that they find helpful or useful. Websites with an abundance of inbound links from credible sources tend to be viewed as “better” than other similar sites.
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