What is SEO?

May 10, 2023

Have you heard people talking about SEO and wonder what it is?

  • What is SEO?
  • Why is SEO important?
  • Why do we talk about it so much in the context of marketing and websites?

Maybe you know a little bit about SEO but you’re not sure you completely get it. If this sounds like you, you’re in the right place! We’ve put together a short and simple explanation of what SEO is and how it works.


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What does SEO mean?

The letters S-E-O stand for Search Engine Optimization. SEO helps your business show up on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) when someone is searching for your product or service online.

One quick note before we dive in: we’re going to predominantly focus on Google today. There are other search engines out there (Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.), but today we’ll talk about Google. Google is the most commonly used one and that’ll keep the conversation simple.

Here is a search engine result page for someone looking for tires.


Search engine results page (SERP)

Paid Ads come first

The first thing we want to look at is the top section. These top few results are actually paid advertisements. It’s very subtle but you can see that they are ads because they are labeled with small “Ad” text next to the web address.


Search Engine Marketing (SEM) ads


This top advertisement section is called Search Engine Marketing or SEM. That’s different than SEO so we’ll talk about that in another blog post.

Before we move on, it’s important to note that more than 70% of clicks on search engine result pages are clicks on the top three search results, with the top result receiving more than a third of those clicks. So if you want searchers to visit your website and convert into buyers, SEM is an important tactic to include in your marketing.

Local SEO and Business Listings

This next section on the SERP is showing the top Google Business Profile results for this search.


Local Search Engine Marketing (SEO) for local business listings


I want to pause here for a moment to be really clear about something: Google Business listings are extremely important digital properties. Every business should be the highest-level owner of their business listings and be very protective of who has access to them. It is completely ok to add a trusted contractor or vendor as an editor for these listings, but you must always maintain primary ownership of these. I’ve seen situations where companies or organizations did not obtain or maintain primary ownership of these (free!) business profiles and that can be disastrous, for several reasons:

People Trust Google

When customers or clients search for you online, they are assuming the information listed on your Google Business Profile is correct. If you are not the primary owner and actively managing this listing, it is likely that important details – like your hours of operation, your phone number, or your address – are not correct. Do potential customers call the wrong number? Are they going to the wrong address? Do they assume you’re closed and take their business elsewhere? Yikes!

Online Reviews can Make or Break Your Business

The second thing that’s really important about these business profiles are the online reviews. I’ve seen cases where these listings are gathering online reviews and the listings are not owned or managed, so the business is not notified the review was posted. These reviews, positive or negative, are tied to your business for potential customers to see. If there is a negative review, you want to know so you can address it!

Own Your Business. And Your Business Listings.

The third concern is pretty obvious, I’m sure. Whomever owns or manages your Google Business Profile can decide what is posted on it – with good intentions or with not-so-great intentions. This is where that primary ownership issue comes in. Make sure you know who has the keys to your business listing online.

Now that we are all in agreement that you’re going to own and be engaged with your business profiles, there is a lot of work that you can do within your Google Business Profile to make sure your listing is showing up above other Google Business Profiles in search results. This gives you a competitive edge and is an important SEO investment. 92% of SERP clicks happen on the first ten links of a search result. So, for the 30% of people who didn’t click on the SEM links at the top, chances are good they are going to click in this Local SEO section! Local SEO is a really important place to invest your marketing efforts.

Organic SEO on Search Engine Result Pages

This third section of the SERP, below Local SEO results, is the list of websites that Google believes best align with what the searcher is looking to find. This is where Organic SEO becomes important.


Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) results


Google uses many factors decide which website is most likely fit the needs of the person searching. So if someone’s searching for tires and there’s other websites that Google says, “Hey, these are probably the more appropriate or the best websites for this searcher,” they are going to put those websites above yours in this list.

However, there are a ton of things that you can do to optimize your website and indicate to Google that your website is the best site for these search terms. This work is really specific and can be complicated, so we’ll dig into best practices in another post.

There are a lot of companies who specialize in this work and can run reports to identify Organic SEO opportunities for your website, like us! This is a smart investment if your business relies on website traffic for brand awareness (which most businesses do) or online sales. Reach out to request a free SEO audit and get an actionable list of ways to improve your position on SERPs.


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